One drop rhythm

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The One drop was popularized by Carlton Barrett, long-time drummer of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

The original creator of the pattern is often disputed, and many reggae drummers have taken credit.

One Drop drum pattern[1] About this sound Play  or About this sound Play steppers variant .[2]
One Drop drum pattern, sixteenth-note variant[3] About this sound Play  or About this sound Play rockers variant .[4]
One Drop drum pattern, half-time variant[2][3][5] About this sound Play . Also typical ska pattern.[4]

One drop rhythm is a drumset playing style of reggae.


The backbeat is characterized by the dominant snare drum stroke (usually a click produced by cross-sticking) and bass drum both sounding on the third beat of every four, while beat one is left empty. Thus, the expected hit on beat one is "dropped," creating the one-drop effect. Dropping out the bass on the "one" of the measure further accentuates the downbeat of the drums creating the rhythm.[6]

This may be seen in the drum notation for the typical rock drum pattern:

    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

and the one drop:

    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +


The rockers rhythm is essentially the one drop with a steady bass drum on every eighth note, though one drop is slower than a ska pattern, and rockers is often slower than one drop.[4]

The steppers rhythm is essentially the one drop with a steady bass drum on every quarter note.


An instructive example of this drum beat is Bob Marley and the Wailers' song "One Drop", which talks about this rhythm.

Examples of songs using the one drop from Bob Marley and the Wailers' album Legend, with Carlton Barrett on drums, include: "No Woman, No Cry", "Three Little Birds", "Get Up, Stand Up", "Waiting in Vain", "Stir It Up", "One Love/People Get Ready", and "I Shot the Sheriff".[2]

Examples of songs using the steppers from Legend include: "Is This Love", "Exodus", "Buffalo Soldier", "Satisfy My Soul", "Jamming".[2]

The one drop style has also been remastered and referenced in numerous non-reggae songs, including "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" by Frank Zappa, "The Spirit of the Radio" by Rush, and "You Enjoy Myself" by Phish all placing their own twist on the one drop rhythm.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johnston, Richard (2004). How to Play Rhythm Guitar, p.73. ISBN 0-87930-811-7.
  2. ^ a b c d Thomakos, John (2010). Drum Set Styles Encyclopedia, p.60. ISBN 9781610652193.
  3. ^ a b Strong, Jeff (2011). Drums For Dummies, p.163. ISBN 9781118068618.
  4. ^ a b c Strong, Jeff (2011), p.165.
  5. ^ Berry, Mick and Gianni, Jason (2004). The Drummer's Bible: How to Play Every Drum Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco, p.55. ISBN 9781884365324.
  6. ^ Murphy, Bill. “Bass Culture: Dub Reggae’s Low-End Legacy.” Bass Player Nov 1996: 40-42, 44, 47, 51, 94. Print.
  7. ^ “20 Crossover Hits.” Modern Drummer Aug 2012: 64. Print.