Top tips for funk drumming
Sheffield-born Pete Ray Biggin’s funk and soul drumming virtuosity has won him an enviably crammed session and touring career, nailing grooves for Incognito, Level 42 and his own outfit, PB Underground, amongst others. Here he shares five pearls of drumming wisdom.
1: Find your fingerprint
Groove is number one, you can’t teach feel, you have to find your own. You need to find your own fingerprint, everyone has a different fingerprint and everyone should sound different. It’s good to find your own. It’s fine to copy other drummers but that’s not your fingerprint. Everyone has a different laugh, a different tone in their voice, you need to find your individuality.
2: Know your role
The main thing to do is just hold it down for the band. You can still play, but you have to keep the time and groove nice for everyone else in the band to talk over.
3: Get gigging
I did all of my practising and technique stuff when I was young but how I got my funk grooves was just through gigging and gigging and working with better players than me that you look up to because they will help you progress. You need to let them speak on their instrument rather than playing over them.
4: Listen to the masters
Check out guys like David Garibaldi [Tower Of Power]. There’s a guy I looked up to when I first moved to London called Richard Bailey [Incognito] who is another great funk drummer. Also James Brown’s drummers; Jeff Porcaro was funky; Dennis Chambers. You also need to listen to all of the musicians you look up to and take their advice. Listen to advice, go and watch people, go and learn.
5: Don’t be scared
Never be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re playing in a security blanket you’ll never progress. If you’re not scared of making mistakes you’ll learn from the mistakes you make. If you’re on a little gig in a wine bar and you want to do a double pedal solo, that’s probably not the time to do it! You take something from each gig, think about what you did wrong that night and then don’t do it again the next night!