Playing beats where your ride hand has nothing to do


Platinum Member
Say you're playing the section of a tune where there's just quarter notes on the bass drum, or maybe a money beat on bass drum and snare, but with no hi-hats.

What do you do with your free hand? Tap eighth notes quietly on your leg? Or let the free hand that's not being used just hang there doing nothing?

I've been playing a lot of pop music lately, and sections where the drums drop out except for a steady four-on-the-floor from the bass drum are very common. I played a show last weekend and noticed that I wasn't doing anything with my right hand during those passages. But during rehearsal last week, I was tapping eighth notes on my leg. So I'm not even consistent about it.

Curious about what others do.


Platinum Member
No shame in tapping your leg, or even thin air as I do sometimes. I find that it helps the other players sometimes if you visually keep a subdivision with that hand with nothing to play.


"Uncle Larry"
I let it hang, or do nothing and melt into the moment.

Sometimes, I sign the lyrics for the hearing impaired. :\

And there's loads of shame tapping your leg. :p

It's almost as bad as twirling your stick :p :p

Wait, which stick are we talking?

Anon La Ply

Arne, I'm thinking that the sound of cowbell isn't quite the same as silence but maybe I'm just not getting the Zen of cowbells? :)

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I alternate the backbeats, hit 2 with the left hand, hit 4 with the right hand :)

I keep moving the left foot in 8 notes as the time keeper.


Senior Member
Favorite thread of the day. I scratch all of those itches that have been building up. Discreetly, of course.

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I use those sections to play patterns on the hats or rim quietly. It's cool to play a catchy pattern, or syncopate or suggest other time signatures or subdivisions and doesn't sound too busy if it's played on a quieter instrument so you can go nuts with it, pretty much play a quiet solo.

But.. playing nothing with the right hand does test the independence and timing of your other limbs so it's a good challenge and no surprise if you feel a bit exposed. I don't tap on my leg, I just take my right hand away and really focus on sounding in time with the rest of my body. I think after some experience I'm able to sound good without the right hand ticking away and keeping things in order. It's actually changed the way I feel about playing hats and now I am sort of working on playing layered patterns with kick and hats while keeping a constant backbeat, I'd like my hihat to be just as expressive as my bass drum and have some interweaving patterns going on between them.