Breaking New Ground With Old Ideas – Nick Schlesinger

In this article, London-based drummer Nick Schlesinger covers his unique take on creating great new grooves and patterns using old and seemingly simple concepts (in this case, showing how far you can take a six stroke roll). You’ll see the drum transcriptions for each part of this lesson throughout the article below, or you can download the transcriptions all in one (as a PDF).

This lesson is based on one of Nick’s video lessons, which you can check out here:

Breaking New Ground With Old Ideas

By Nick Schlesinger

Let’s level the playing field for a moment. As drummers we’re all in the same boat, always looking for ways to develop ourselves. We want to be better players and musicians, be it for teaching, performing, recording purposes, for our self-esteem, YouTube views, etc.

As a full-time drummer, getting better at the drums means being better at my jobs: teaching and doing remote sessions.

So when learning something new, no matter how complicated that thing might be, it helps me in the following ways:

  • To get better at playing simple things: Because as a session drummer, artists mainly want a boom chack boom-boom chack that just feels good
  • To better explain things to my students: Going through the process myself helps me better understand things that I can then relay to students effectively.
Nick Schlesinger

That said, whatever it is we’re learning, we should always focus on the 5 pillars of drumming:

  • Time
  • Technique
  • Coordination
  • Musicality
  • Reading

Bang For The Buck

With that in mind, I’ve always been into the idea of getting the most juice out of what I already know. I mean, think about it, you’ve mastered, say, the Single Paradiddle (i.e. RLRR LRLL) and got a couple of cool grooves out of it and think “OK, what’s next?”. To me, that’s not value for money… I’ve spent all this time learning the Paradiddle just to get a couple of grooves and fills out of it? No way! I want my money’s worth.

How do we do this? By going deep. So I wanted to share a few creative concepts to this end. You’ll be able to use these to turn something you already know into something unexpected with just a little creativity!

In this example, we’re going to turn the six stroke roll into a funky groove. If you’re not familiar with this rudiment, have a look at the following transcription:

Now, the focus here is to understand the concepts and process rather than the specific groove we’re creating. This will help you apply these to other things too!

It’s worth mentioning that I’m basing all of this stuff on content from my book Concepts, which has tons of great ideas for you to apply to your playing. You can get a copy here.


The concepts and ideas we’re going to use in this lesson are the following:

  • Changing subdivisions
  • Swing vs. Straight feel
  • Permutation
  • Musical thinking
  • Out of Place

Changing Subdivisions

This is a great way for you to approach something you’re familiar with and look at it differently. What I mean by changing subdivisions is, in essence, changing a sticking from, say, eighth notes to sixteenth notes, or perhaps from sixteenth notes to triplets, etc.

For the purpose of this lesson, I have taken a six stroke roll in its sextuplet form into straight sixteenth notes (see below). Note that I also decided to keep the result as one bar long. Why? Why not! It’s just an idea I had at the time.

Six stroke roll as sextuplets - drum transcription
Six stroke roll as straight sixteenth notes - drum transcription

Again, the point here is to let your imagination take you somewhere new!

As a side note, and not necessarily directly related to this example, but another idea similar to changing subdivisions, for instance, is to try things both with a straight feel as well as with swing. Rudiments, stickings, grooves, etc will sound and feel completely different depending on how you play them!


The next concept I decided to apply in coming up with this groove is Permutation, a concept Tower Of Power’s David Garibaldi is well-known for. The great thing about permutation is that it lets you explore the same idea from, in this case, sixteen new different perspectives.

Put simply, permutation in this context means changing the order of the sticking we’ll be playing.

This is great because we’re getting more deeply acquainted with something we’re already familiar with, and really squeezing a lot more juice out of it. You can apply this to your favourite licks/chops too. My suggestion would actually be to write the permutations down, as this is a great way to internalize them, but also to use a reference and keep track of things.

Notice how the accents move with every permutation. This makes for exciting possibilities when it comes to orchestrating our groove.

Let’s explore the notation so far.

Six stroke roll permutation - drum transcription

Let’s give the groove shape by orchestrating it moving the right hand to the hi hats.

Six stroke roll permutation with hihat - drum transcription

Musical Thinking

With regards to our hands, however hard we may work at making them even, we’ll always have a dominant one. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. That, to me, helps me pay attention to rhythms that each hand creates within a sticking, and that in turn helps me think musically. Based on those “melodies” I start hearing music in my head… And from there, a groove starts forming.

This, to me, is the stage where I start thinking about how I’ll shape a groove. In this case, as I heard funk in my head, that’s what dictated where I should be playing the bass drums. This also shaped the decision to turn the groove into a call-and-response 2 bar phrase, because I thought it important to start the groove strong on beats one… We want people to “shake they booty”.

What we get is the following as the original groove (the “call” bar):

Six stroke roll permutation with hihat and bass - drum transcription

And the second, “response” bar is as follows:

Six stroke roll groove - drum transcription

The two bar phrase then sounds like this:

Six stroke roll groove - two bar phrase - drum transcription

Out Of Place

So you’re probably thinking that’s nothing new, and that’s fair enough. However, once you’ve thought of your groove, why not try and hear the same musical idea in a different genre? How does that affect the groove you’ve come up with?

This concept of placing something where it doesn’t belong is a great way to think creatively. So, the Funk groove in this example… How would it sound in a Drum and Bass song, or a Heavy Metal track? Sticking to the same sticking and accents, where would you, for instance, play the bass drums, what tempo would you play it?

Wrapping It Up

Now imagine what you could do if you started applying more concepts to the groove… How far could you take it? That question in itself is where great practice and creative development lies.

For more creative concepts to help you break new ground with old ideas, why not check out my book Concepts? It’s a neat guide full of inspiring ideas and resources for you to help make the most from your drumming.

Biography – Nicholas Schlesinger
Photo - Nick Schlesinger

Nick Schlesinger is a professional musician and drummer based in London, UK. He has a successful private teaching practice, and experience teaching students of wide-ranging skills and ages as well as neurodiverse students. He also records drums remotely for artists all over the world. Nick has published articles in magazines such as Modern Drummer, his book Concepts is published by Hudson Music, and also is the creator of the CHOPZzz pillowcase which has sold worldwide.