Reviews – Books

Getting the most out of the Groove Essentials system

Since about 2010/2011, I’ve been using the Groove Essentials Play-Along Series books 1.0 and 2.0 for my own practice and as lesson/musical material with my students to hone their drumming concepts. That gave me about 8 to 9 years of so-called qualitative research into the effectiveness of this system developed by renowned drummer, drumming teacher, and author, Tommy Igoe (Groove Conspiracy, Tommy Igoe Big Band, Art Garfunkel, Lion King Broadway Musical etc).


The Groove Essentials system started with a poster of 47 of what are considered to be important drumset grooves from around the world that every serious drummer and working drummer should know. It’s based on the demands and requirements of  performing live music in concerts, clubs, bars, weddings, events. Popularity and demand ensued,leading to the a DVD production of Groove Essentials 1.0 based on that original poster. Popularity in sales and demand again ensued, which led to Tommy producing the play-along package, 1.0. The same pattern occured for the sequel to the Groove Essentials 1.0 DVD and Play-Along package. Thus we now have 100 drumset grooves that every serious drummer and working drummer should know.

My own experience with the system:

In the last 8 or 9 years, I had many students who bought either 1.0 book and/or DVD, or both volumes in the book and DVD formats. I’ve never seen in my entire time so far being a drummer and teaching, a more intelligently produced and organized system to learn musical fundamentals including sight-reading charts, and developing a great groove as well as musicality on the drumset. The DVDs themselves are inspiring. Not only do the DVDs show Tommy masterfully explaining and breaking down the grooves, which are categorized into genres, and which progress linearly along the spectrum of simple to complex, he plays those grooves with self-produced live band play-along tracks with such passion and enthusiasm.

How to get the most out of Groove Essentials:

In my opinion, to get the most out of the Groove Essentials system is to get the complete DVD and Book package. You could start with 1.0 first, but do get both the DVD and the play-along package. It’s also great and highly recommended to go through this material with a teacher face-to-face, to gain insight into several ways of approaching the charts. Then, you can use the DVD at home as a complimentary learning-aid to gain further insight from Tommy himself. I sort of think of the DVDs as study-guides that we use in universities, which help us to organize and focus our learning from the textbooks.

Of course, the DVDs do the impeccable job of being stand-alone instructional materials. Students who are capable independent learners and have a strong foundation in the drumming basics – technique, rudiments, time-keeping, co-ordination – can delve into Groove Essentials on their own. Even then, I strongly caution against getting too caught up with one’s own ability to learn independently that one completely dismisses the value and benefits of getting face-to-face lessons. This is because face-to-face lessons not only help the student gain immediate feedback on his/her progress, but gives the student the platform to discuss and explore with a professional other ideas and concepts that could be applied to this material. How Tommy presents the material on the books and DVDs are only one of the many ways to do it.

Expanding on the above paragraph, it’s also important to note that the Groove Essentials system is not one which teaches you how to play fill-ins. As the title implies, that’s obviously not the focus of the system. One can choose to play the charts in the book or play-along with Tommy’s demonstrations on the DVD without any fills. That’s fine. In my lessons, I do expect my students to be able to execute at least simple fill-ins for the purposes of setting up new sections in the chart, and setting up ensemble figures – rhythmic patterns played and articulated exactly by the entire band. Tommy has some wonderful fills that he lays down in his demonstrations and you can “steal” ideas from there. Ultimately, you have to have a vocabulary of fills authentic to different styles of music which you can readily pull out as and when required of you. This is where face-to-face lessons come in very handy.


The priority of the Groove Essentials will always remain on the Grooves and how to groove like the pros. Like Tommy said in his introduction in the 2.0 DVD, students should be using the Groove Essentials system for the purpose of developing the drumming and musical competence to play on gigs with other musicians. So if your aim is to be able to play in your first band in a year or two from now? The Groove Essentials system is without parallel as a starting point.

What students past and present have said:

The feedback I’ve gotten from my students over the years so far is that the Groove Essentials system is an essential building block to their drumming development. I’ve witnessed the positive growth of students who really stick with it for a long period of time, and it’s very heartwarming to see some of the things that they can pull off such as make the grooves feel good, the groove variations they can weave in fluidly, and some “chops” along the way in their fills or embellishments to the grooves. I’d love to post videos of many of my students working through the Groove Essentials material, as that is the best form of evidence. I however opted to not do so out of respect for their privacy. From time to time, however, I will share some really outstanding ones here on this site, with the students’ permission. Hopefully, they will allow me to!


In my next post, I will discuss Jim Riley’s Survival Guide For The Modern Drummer, another excellent work in drumming instruction, and how it can be used alongside the Groove Essentials System.

Method Books For Drumset: My Personal Buying Guide For Building A Core Library of Drumming Reference Material

Hello once again. I hope all of you had a good start to the week and I wish you have a productive time.

In this article, I wish to touch on a very common subject in music education and share my thoughts thereof. It is in no way a must-follow guide but I do hope you can get some ideas that can help you with your selection of the appropriate method books to build, as the title states, a core library of reference material that will give you years upon years of effective practice material.

Method books are categorised as follows with examples of titles in each category:

1) Technique (Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, Master Studies I and II by Joe Morello, Double Bass Drum Freedom  by Virgil Donati, Bass Drum Control by Colin Bailey e.t.c)

2) Co-ordination (The New Breed by Gary Chester, 4-Way Co-ordination by Marvin Dahlgren and Elliot Fine, Future Sounds by David Garibaldi, Syncopation by Ted Reed e.t.c)

3) Sight-reading (Benjamin Podemski’s Standard Snare Drum Method, Portraits in Rhythm, Alfred’s Drum Method 1 and 2, Syncopation by Ted Reed, Groove Essentials 1.0 and 2.0 by Tommy Igoe e.t.c)

4) Styles (Groove Essentials 1.0 and 2.0 by Tommy Igoe, The Total Rock Drummer by Mike Michalkow, The Art of Bop Drumming by John Riley, The Drummer’s Bible by Jason Gianni and Mick Berry, Afro-Cuban Rhythms For Drumset by Frank Malabe and Bob Weiner, Future Sounds by David Garibaldi, Double Bass Drum Freedom by Virgil Donati e.t.c)

Note how some of the method books appear in more than one category  simply because these address more than one element of drumming skill sets.

Your basic library of method books should have at least one title from each category, and better still, if the book addresses more than just one aspect of drumming skill. This is especially helpful to those of you who are on a budget and do not have the luxury of storage space to house a number of method books that can easily fill up the National Library of Congress.

I will share the perimeters that guide my decision in purchasing a drumset method book.

1) A great drumset method book should be timeless. It should be relevant today as it was when it first came out. Such books will last you a lifetime’s worth of great practice material that will challenge you at every phase of your drumming development.

2) A great drumset method book gives you not just challenging material to work with but leave enough room for creative manipulation and application of those material.

I shall list 5 examples from the books listed above and explain how each book fulfills the above perimeters:


FUTURE SOUNDS (DAVID GARIBALDI / ALFRED PUBLISHING – Intermediate level to Advanced evel)

-This is one of my all-time favourite books dealing with drumming in my favourite style of music, Funk. David shares his hugely innovative and highly advanced approach to the way he develops groove patterns as applied mainly to Funk but can also be applied to other styles such Pop and Rock, if the situation can allow for such rhythmic exploration. That is already a good example of the sort of cross-disciplinary learning that I want to get across.

The exercises in Future Sounds are grouped into two main sections, “Permutation Studies” and “Groove Studies”. In the Permutation Studies section, David writes out one groove pattern and in the subsequent exercises, the student will learn to create variations based off of that same groove pattern by way of beat displacement. Depending on the note value, you can create as many variations of the groove pattern based on that note value, An 8th Note groove pattern will offer 8 different permutations and a 16th note groove pattern will offer 16 different variations.

In the Groove Studies Section, David then presents a basic groove motif to start off with and the student will then get to explore variations by displacing notes or substituting one of the voices on the kit for another (eg. a foot hi-hat note in place of a regular hi-hat note played by hand). You are then working on different ways to orchestrate a certain groove motif.

David touches on the techniques involved to execute the exercises at the beginning of the book under the concept of the “Two-Sound Method”. This method is a way of distinguishing the accented notes from the unaccented notes in the following ways:

– Where and how you hit the drum/cymbal. For the snare drum, an accented note would be a rim shot, and the unaccented note a ghost note at a a very low stick height employing a light tap stroke.

– For the Hi-Hat, an accented note would be played using the shoulder of the stick struck against the edge of the hi-hat, and an unaccented note would be played using the tip of the stick striking the top hi-hat cymbal at a low stick height.

– For the bass drum, the distance of the pedal beater from the drum create the different volumes in much the same as you do with sticks.

The above description shows why Future Sounds continues to be widely used by drumset students and teachers, maintaining it’s relevancy with today’s type of drumming styles. Working out of  Future sounds also helps you achieve greater control over your limbs for greater precision, improves your touch and sound, improves your syncopation, improves your contorl over accents, achieve a better balance of the individual dynamics of the kick drum, snare drum, and hi-hat, and shows you very effective  and time-saving ways to widen your rhythmic vocabulary via permutation and voice substitutions.


SYNCOPATION (TED REED / ALFRED PUBLISHING – Advanced Beginner level to Advanced level)

A book such as the timeless Syncopation by Ted Reed offers an invaluable in-depth study into the mechanics of syncopation via progressive reading exercises which can be first mastered on a snare drum or practice pad, and then progressively orchestrated around the kit to generate vocabulary for grooves, fills/solos, and in the case of Jazz drumming, comping.  Thus, in this one book, you are working on reading and co-ordinating the rhythms herein between your 4 limbs. Get together with a good teacher to help you find ways creative ways to use the book and apply the stuff to actual musical situations.



These books are required in my private drumset course. T0 simply get your hands together, understand how various note values work and your introduction to rudiments, the Alfred Drum Method books are a logical place to start at ground zero. Each lesson is tightly focused with 8 different exercise variations on a certain note value, combinations of 2 or more note values, a certain rest symbol, combination of 2 or more rest symbols, or a certain rudiment. There is a solo piece at the end of every 3 or 4 lessons that combine all the rhythmic concepts covered in those lessons into very musical performance contexts complete with dynamics and other traditional notation.

Again, get together with a good teacher who can show you creative ways to practice the material in the book and apply these to musical situations.


GROOVE ESSENTIALS 1.0 and 2.0 (TOMMY IGOE /HUDSON MUSIC PUBLISHING – Beginner to Advanced level)

A modern classic package in every sense. These books (and the DVDs which  the books are companions to) provide the sort of training you need to be battle ready as a working drummer.

Categorised in to Rock, Funk/R&B, Jazz, and World, each section contains a good number of play-along tunes with professional charts that will kick your behind and spur you onto work harder at improving your GROOVE, authenticity, and sense of time across the widest variety of styles of music ever presented in book of this nature.

The well produced play-along tracks come with no click tracks for the most part making you listen and dig deeper into the feel of the band on the tracks. It therefore helps you to find your place in the music. It also leaves a lot of room for experimentation as to where you can lay down the pocket and what the results might be, good or bad. In other words, it trains you to be a highly sensitive, aware, and musical drummer. The charts are professionally written and it will come as a surprise to you what a professional chart actually looks like in the real world if you have not seen one yet. I will leave you to find that out on your own :-).

No library of drumming reference books will be complete without the Groove Essentials package. Do check out the great deals on it on



Those of you who are fans of Dave Weckl’s playing would have probably heard him mention the name of Gary Chester and his legendary book many times in interviews and on his own excellent instuctional material (he mentioned the book and Gary on his acclaimed debut instructional video, Back To Basics). Gerald Heyward, a long-time stellar figure in the world of R&B/Hip-Hop/Gospel drumming, also mentioned in his backstage interview included on the Modern Drummer Festival 2006 DVD of working through the book.

I finally decided to get a copy of The New Breed after a student of mine got hers but did not know what to do with it. To cut the long story short, after working through some of the “systems” (which is Gary’s term for ostinato patterns between three limbs) with the “melodies” in the progressive reading exercises (to be executed by either hand or either foot), I was blown away by how much it challenged my co-ordination. It was the book that I definitely needed to take my co-ordination to a whole new level of sophistication as my interest in polyrhythmic drumming increased.

The New Breed covers reading and co-ordination in one wholesome package that has never been surpassed since. A wealth of creative inspiration awaits you in the pages of this book! Also, do check out the interview with Gary conducted and taped by one of his famous students, Danny Gottlieb, and is included in the accompanying CD, for a great insight into the man’s concepts and philosophies.



I hope this article gives you some helpful ideas on purchasing drumset method books. When a drumset method book combines 2 or more skill sets, it saves you some cash and library space. Well, that is how I think at least! Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. If you have any questions or would be interested in my drumset lessons, kindly send an email to