Punk drums 4 life

ur intro to the world punk drums

Welcome back to another issue of “Did you know Zach loves drums?” If you haven’t already, please share the drumZine around with your friends, rivals, family, coworkers, bosses, employees, bandmates, strangers, noisy neighbors, your weed dealer, your partner, and anyone who enjoys sipping cold water on a hot day.

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[First off: After a a tense past few days/weeks/months, it feels nice to be able to breathe a little deeper now. After a four year tension headache, we’re finally on our way towards a more civil discourse with our elected government. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but getting that child out of office was a great start. Congratulations to everyone who fought for what was right.]

We are well into fall now and, as we welcome the colder weather [not very cold recently. It seems like the weather is warming on a global scale. If only there was a scientifically proven way to stop this…], I’d like to take this time to reflect: I began playing drums because of Rock Band (yes, the video game) and quickly fell in love with them. I quite literally spent every summer during high school playing Rock Band all day with my friends. In 2011, I got my first drum kit and began taking lessons. What started out as a fun obsession with a game soon evolved into a heated love-affair when I was introduced to punk music. In this issue, we will explore some must know punk grooves, drummers, techniques, and more… If you enjoy this week’s read, check out Part 2 (4 Punx Who Can’t Get Enough). I dig deeper into the concepts discussed here, and also include an interview I did with Jeff Berner (producer, mixing, mastering; Psychic TV) about recording drums.


This issue’s focus will be on punk music, but it’s not an exhaustive history. There are much more talented people than myself who have done a great job doing just that. Here are some recs to get you started:

How Does SoCal Kyle Do It?

What’s in a genre? What do “punk drums” sound like? Should these questions be asked? In my opinion, the short answer is yes and no...(wow, so helpful, right?) Rhythms, and drumming styles, aren’t exclusive to one style of playing. What IS important about playing in specific genres is your ability to listen to the music and play what the song calls for. I don’t mean to say that musical genres don’t have rhythms that are commonplace in that field, because that simply isn’t true. Saying the words “punk drums” surely leads one to think of this classic beat played at a fast tempo:

What makes this beat synonymous with punk music? When learning a specific style of music, it’s important to understand the driving forces/sound sources (i.e. rhythms, drums/cymbals) behind the grooves you are playing.

In this video, Matt Johnson considers what sound sources are “leading” when you are playing a groove. For example, the ride cymbal is a driving source in jazz music. In South American and African music, the clave rhythm holds extreme importance. Applying this principle to punk music, we can see that the kick and snare hold a similar weight. If you take out the hihat from the above beat, you still get a similar feel. Knowing what the driving forces are, you can start crafting your grooves to match the style you are playing. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but they help you get started. Another key concept introduced in this video is the idea “mixing live,” which requires an understanding of what sound sources are leading the groove, and letting them take prominence both in volume, timbre, and pitch. Knowing the standard ways of playing a certain kind of music gives you a base to build on top of when you’re writing your own parts. And please, break these rules. They are here to get you started, not control everything you play.

Drummers to Check Out

Travis Barker

  • His playing is highly influenced by marching snare. Listen to the bridge section of any blink song and you’ll hear what I mean. What makes his playing unique (other than his blazing fast speed around the drum kit) is his use of the cymbals as elements of his drum fills (check out this video) and his use of these marching rhythms across multiple cymbals.

    • If you’re a fan, check out his autobiography Can I Say for more background into his life/playing style.

  • Some of my favorite drumming of his is on the Box Car Racer self-titled album. Check out: Cat Like Thief, All Systems Go, Elevator.

Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine)

  • Influences: The Kids Are Alright [album] (The Who), David Garibaldi, James Brown, 60’s/70’s soul and r&b

  • His drumming slaps. Brad plays some of the grooviest hard rock drumming I’ve ever heard. In an interview with DRUM! Magazine, he describes David Garibaldi’s influence on his playing: “[Garibaldi] really taught me to focus on what’s going on between the beats,” Wilk says. “The stuff that’s kind of felt, less heard.” Sure – space, right? “Not necessarily space, but the feel of ghost notes, if you want to call them that. The feel in between the kick and the snare drum and where exactly you put that, really has everything to do with what makes you different from other drummers...For Wilk, that means a very special emphasis on the approach he takes to playing – or not playing – the 1 in a measure or phrase. “Heavy on that 1 – coming down on that big time...I think that’s everything. That all goes back to James Brown and George Clinton. If you listen to P-Funk, a song like ’Downstroke,’ and listen to just how heavy and slightly late he’s coming down on that 1. He’s waiting for everybody, so everyone’s going to get it and know where they [are]. That to me is deep in the essence of that style of funk.” [DRUM! AUG 2011 by: David Weiss]

  • Check out: Bombtrack, Vietnow

Nolee Morris (Trash Boy)

  • Trash Boy are one of my favorite “local” (local to Philly) punk bands. Not only are they all such nice people, but they have a great sense of humor with their songs. You can tell they are having a blast every time they’re playing. This is, in part, due to Nolee’s driving, crisp, and buoyant playing style.

  • Check out: Cool Kids, Fuck New York, 40s and Blunts

Rachel Zisette (QWAM)

  • Do you need a lesson in speed and consistency? Seeing QWAM play live, I’m always left baffled. Rachel’s endurance and energy is seemingly unending. One listen to the song Valentine (off QWAM’s self titled LP) and you’ll know what I mean.

  • Check out: Valentine, Mall, Everybody Wants To Watch

Dylan Teggart (A Deer A Horse)

  • Watching Dylan play live is like watching a carefully controlled explosion. You’re left on the edge of your seat wondering when his drums are just going to crumble underneath his power (Anyone who’s seen them live has probably shared the same experience when watching his cymbal stands lean back-and-forth when he plays them). But it doesn’t look like he’s exerting that much energy. In fact, he always looks completely relaxed behind the kit. It’s like he’s painting a delicate piece of art and it’s the sticks that choose when to be loud or soft.

  • Check out: Cold Shoulder, Smokejumper

TECHNIQUE - The Moeller Stroke

To keep up with the fast tempos of punk, it’s important to remember that a relaxed approach is key. As your playing speed increases, any excess motion, or tenseness, is amplified. That’s why, when you watch seasoned punk drummers play live they make it look easy. If they weren’t relaxed they wouldn’t be able to make it through an entire set safely (fatigue/injury is common if you don’t have a solid technique).

One approach often used to maintain speed and power is called the “Moeller Stroke.” Focusing on the full range of motion of your arm, its goal is to get the most output (power/number of strokes) with the least amount of work.

To explain it in use, check out this series of videos that my drum instructor (Colin Hinton) made in the Murderhands Online! F*cebook page. [If you want some more exercises and patterns to stretch your drumming vocabulary, consider checking out the Murderhands page, created by Alex Cohen (progressive drumming extraordinaire).]


  • The Key to this groove is getting comfortable with those swung sixteenth notes and keeping those ghost notes on the snare “felt” rather than heard. Another way to play this groove is by omitting those ghost notes entirely. Try both and see what feels good to you!

Drummer Notes

Learning a new song can sometimes be daunting, whether it be for a last minute gig, an audition, your band is covering it, or whatever the case. Learning how to read and write drum music has helped me immensely over the years. Understanding the written language of the drums allows me to articulate what I’m hearing (or playing) and gives me the tools to document it for further use (check out these explanations of rhythmic values and meter). You should come up with your own short-hand, so you can learn songs quicker!

For more on my process of chart writing, check out this week’s paid issue!


  • Last month, the #indiedrummercollective covered protest songs on Instagram and y’all should check it out. They release a new set of covers each month, so follow that hashtag to get your regular dose. Some drummers you might recognize: Tucker Rule (Thursday), Rosie Slater (New Myths), Luke Garro (Piebald), Ron Marschall (Christie Front Drive), and many more.



  • The Rizzo’s - Excited for Christmas

  • Cold Wrecks - Boring Story

  • The Kills - I Put A Spell On You (Remastered 2020)

  • Proper. - Do Over (TRT Remix)

  • Answering Machine - The Promised Land

  • PUP - This Place Sucks Ass

  • Tricot - 10

  • Ghost Funk Orchestra - An Ode to Escapism (Nov. 13)

  • Kissed By An Animal - Stoned Eagle EP


  • This Ain’t No Picnic - The Minutemen

  • Killing In The Name - Rage Against The Machine

  • Civilization’s Dying - Zero Boys

  • Body War - Show Me The Body

  • Cool Kids - Trash Boy

  • Valentine - QWAM

  • Guilt Trip - PUP

  • Kawasaki Backflip - Dogleg

  • Sift - Bighand//bigknife

  • Cat Like Thief - Box Car Racer

  • Smokejumper - A Deer A Horse


That’s it for this week! I hope you were able to find value in this issue. For more fun tips, resources, transcriptions, and some recording advice from Jeff Berner (of Studio G), check out Part 2: 4 Punx Who Can’t Get Enough.

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Thanks for checking out The drumZine. I’ll see you in a couple weeks!