top of page

Playing Funk on Drums!

Every drummer I have ever known loves to play funk! For many drummers, funk grooves are the first beats that they learn. These funky beats are fun to play, sound sophisticated, and make people dance, which is the essence of good drumming. 

Funk drum beats are the core of hip-hop. For example, James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” (groove by Clyde Stubblefield) and “Amen Brother” by The Winstons (drumbeat laid down by Gregory Coleman) are the two most sampled drum beats in hip-hop. Likewise, funk drumming can be found in music of some of the most iconic bands/artists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruno Mars, The Weekend, and many more. 

So, how do you play funk on the drum set? How do you elevate your funk drumming? How do you incorporate funk into other styles? Well, that is the point of this article; so, let's get into it. 

How Do You Play Funk on Drum Set? 

The essence of funk drumming really comes down to two feels, which are straight funk and funk shuffle. Most grooves fit into the straight style, but there are a lot of tunes that require a little bit of swing to make it fit. That is why it is essential to know both types. 

The difference in knowing and being able to play both the straight vs shuffle funk grooves is dire to sounding like a pro, as this subtle difference really transforms the groove. Here is an example of how to play funk in both styles. 

How Do You Elevate Your Funk Drumming?

Here are a few ways you can mix up your funk drumming to make it sound funkier, add complexity, and/or change the overall feel. 

One way to make your drumming a bit funkier is to add hi-hat patterns with the left foot. Specifically, adding upbeats with the hi-hat while still playing a funk groove is a great way to add some syncopation to amp up the groove. 

Independence with the Hi-Hat

Second, you can change up your sticking patterns to make the groove a little more complex. Using rudiments like paradiddles, double paradiddles, flams, drags,or what ever can add a great deal of complexity for you (musician) and the listener. 


Rudiments and Sticking Patterns

Last, you can change the overall feel by making the groove halftime. This slows everything down, but makes it funky. However, it is important that this matches the tune. 

Halftime Groove

How Do You Incorporate Funk Into Other Styles?

Two of my favorite drummers that incorporate funk styles into non-funk genres are Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Carter Beauford (Dave Mathew’s Band), as they both masterfully add funk drumming into their music. It fits perfectly and is reimagined. Here are two ideas to get you started with adding funk elements into your own grooves. 

One idea is to offset or displace the snare drum in a groove, which gives it a funky feel. 

Off Set Snare

Another idea is to play funk and other variations using brushes, as this subdues the drumming and fits into a number of styles. Plus, it adds a whole new timbre to the style. 


Now, go challenge yourself by getting funky with your drumming. If you’re just starting out, learn some funk grooves. If you have been playing for a while, try and elevate your funk drumming by changing it up and/or adding complexity. If you are a seasoned drummer, see how you can add funk drumming elements into your own drumming in new and unique ways.

So, go get your funk on and keep drumming. 


For more drum grooves, check out Tactical Drumming: Groove Survival Guide, which will show you a number of shuffle variations and other grooves. This can be found at or on Amazon at

By John Owens, Ph.D (Author, Drummer Educator). For John's bio go to


bottom of page