Ah, Christmas, what a wonderful time of year. And what would it be without the music?
In this Christmas mini-course we will cover:
- Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)
- Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee)
- Merry Xmas Everybody (Slade)
- Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid)
- Lonely This Christmas (Mud)
- Fairytale of New York (The Pogues)
Even though we can only play these songs for a month each year, the patterns we learn are universal and can be played with many other ‘evergreen’ tracks, all year round.
Okay, let’s get started!
The Swing Jazz Pattern
Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)
Tempo: 120 bpm
This track uses a simple swing pattern. You can play it on the hi-hat during the verses and on the ride during the choruses.
The above groove is played at 80. When comfortable, slowly move up to 120 bpm, the full speed of the track.
Here are two fills to use when playing the track.
This is the intro fill that recurs throughout the song. It brings the groove back in after each stop:
Here is a simple fill you can use when transitioning from the hi-hat to the ride for the chorus:
If you’re playing on a kit with three tom-toms, feel free to play the mid-tom instead of the snare on beat 3.
[These fills can also be used with the following track, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree]
Play Along With The Track
Once you’re comfortable with the main groove, search for ‘Bobby Helms – Jingle Bell Rock’ on your favourite streaming service and play along with the track.
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee)
Tempo: 144 bpm
This track uses the standard swing ride pattern we have already learned.
The above groove is played at 80 bpm. When comfortable, gradually push the tempo up to 144 bpm, the full speed of the track.
If it is difficult to keep pace with the track, it might be best to drop back to a simple two-beat, quarter note hi-hat pattern instead:
The above groove is played at 120 bpm. When you feel comfortable, move up to 144 bpm, the full speed of the track.
Play Along With Track
Once you’re comfortable with the main groove, search for ‘Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ on your favourite streaming service and play along with the track.
Marching On The Snare Drum
Merry Xmas Everybody (Slade)
Tempo: 128 bpm
This is the pattern that plays all the way through the original recording of the song. It is a two-handed shuffle played on the snare and is grounded with a four-on-the-floor bass drum pattern.
Start slow (the pattern below is at 80 bpm):
The full tempo of the song is 128 bpm. When you’re ready, play along with the pattern below.
Main Groove Variation
Here is a slight modification of the main pattern to play in the Verses of Merry Xmas Everybody. It resembles a march and builds upon the pattern that is played on the original recording.
Observe the sticking carefully in the above example. It makes things easier by aligning the right hand and right foot on all four beats.
Try it out slowly, then move up to playing it at the full speed of the track (128 bpm):
We can use an alternate sticking for the fill in this track (RLLRLLRLLRLL). Similarly to above, this fill sticking allows the right hand and right foot to align on all four beats.
It is possible to play the fill with alternate, hand-to-hand sticking (RLRLRLRL) but you might find it harder to synchronise with the quarter note bass drum. If this is the case, the simplest thing to do is leave the bass drum out for the fill.
This fill plays for all the major transitions in the song (verses to choruses, end of the choruses at the end of the song). The above example plays at 80 bpm. Once comfortable, slowly push the tempo up to 128 bpm, the full speed of the track.
Play Along With The Track
Once you’re comfortable with one of the patterns above, search for ‘Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody’ on your favourite streaming service and play along to the track.
Broken 16th Note Hi-Hat Pattern
Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid)
Tempo: 120 BPM
Unlike the previous tracks, this song is played with a straight groove.
This song can be played with a straight, basic rock groove.
You can add four-on-the-floor if you like.
Or you can play the groove below. It features a two-handed 16th note hi-hat groove which gives the track more energy:
The groove above is played at 80 bpm. You’ll want to build up a bit of fluency with the metronome before attempting it at 120 bpm with the track. Take it slow at first and as you build speed, keep your hands relaxed.
Play Along With the Track
Once you feel comfortable with the main groove, search for ‘Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas’ on your favourite streaming service and have a play-along with the track. Make sure to choose the original version from 1984.
Lonely This Christmas (Mud)
Tempo: 66 bpm
Lonely This Christmas uses a 12/8 pattern throughout. The groove is relatively slow, but is interspersed with double-time fills on the snare and toms. These add a little bit of challenge to the piece.
Here is the main groove played at 66bpm:
The song follows a straight-forward verse-chorus-verse structure. It is worth pointing out that the song slows and the drums stop just before the 2nd chorus. This might take a couple of run-throughs to smoothly come back in for the chorus.
As mentioned above, the fills on the original recording are generally double-time. Here is a fill idea based on the pattern that leads between the first verse and chorus. It occurs at 0m43s on the original recording.
Play Along With The Track
Once you have a grasp of the main groove, the best thing to do is play along with the track and get a feel for the structure.
Search for ‘Mud – Lonely This Christmas’ on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube or your favourite streaming service.
Fairytale of New York (The Pogues)
Tempo: 77 BPM (The tempo fluctuates between 74-78 bpm over the course of the track)
Just like Lonely This Christmas, Fairytale of New York is played with a 12/8 groove. It is a bit faster, and the actual groove is a little busier, but we can start off playing along with our simple 12/8 pattern from before:
Once you’re comfortable with the 12/8 idea above you can start to add on to make the groove more interesting.
Here we add some more bass drums to strengthen up the rolling shuffle groove.
Here we add some ghost notes on the snare to give the groove some more momentum.
Here we shift the ghosted notes to the hi-hat by moving the left hand up in-between the backbeats. As with all the grooves, start slow and build up to the full speed of the track.
Here we combine all the ideas together to achieve something approximating the pattern heard on the track.
It’s probably overkill to play this pattern over and over. Far better to chop and change the ideas to create your own variations and phrases.
Most of the fills are 16th note triplet patterns and are quite fast to pull off at the full speed of the track. Start slow and build up.
[Note: Fill 2 is easier to play than Fill 1]
Fill Example 1
In this idea we play 4 notes on the snare, followed by 4 on the hi tom and 4 on the low tom.
Fill Example 2
In this example, we slow things down and play a simple 8th note triplet fill on the snare and toms.
Play Along With The Track
Once you’ve got a handle on the main groove above, search for ‘The Pogues – Fairytale of New York’ on your favourite streaming service and have a play along with the track. Start off simple and get used to the structure and changing sections. Aim to play the hi-hat for the verses and the ride cymbal for the choruses.
Once you’re more comfortable, experiment with some of the groove variations above and maybe even a few fills!
The patterns displayed above are designed provide drum students with a rough approximation of how to play each song. If you represent the copyright holder and do not feel the publication of these exercises is appropriate, please voice a takedown request via the contact page and the material will be removed within 48 hours.
Note to students: The patterns displayed on this page are designed to be approximations of what you hear of the track and do not represent an exact transcription of the drum parts. If you would like to work from an official transcription, please search ‘[song title] drum transcription’ on Google and you should be directed to a suitable online marketplace where a purchase can be made.
Happy drumming and most importantly, Happy Christmas!