Welcome and Introduction



Reggae has a very distinctive sound. Although it feels natural for a Jamaican, it can be quite confusing to musicians across the world. 

All instruments are in balance in a unique and unparalleled way.

Each instrument has a very specific rhythmic role that contributes to the sound of Reggae. And then most importantly there is the  ‘feel’. Reggae music has a specific feel to it, indigenous to Jamaica. 

Let’s look at how the rhythm section in Stir It Up works together. We will analyse the drums, rhythm guitar and bass guitar.

Listen to the song. See the link below. When listening, try to ‘isolate’ each instrument. Focus on one instrument at the time. For the drums, listen to the hi-hat, snare and kick. Then listen to the guitar and then the bass.

To notate the drum grooves on the percussion clef, we need to know a few notations.


  • Many of the examples that follow can be notated with 16th notes. Many drummers would prefer it to be notated with 16th notes because that way the counting of the beats is half as fast and therefore more relaxed. For reading purposes I chose to use 8th notes throughout the course. 
  • All the songs used in this course are available on Youtube or other digital platforms. Listening is the key.

A Quick Analysis of Stir It Up 

We will analyse the drum pattern, rhythm guitar and bass guitar in the chorus of Bob Marley’s Stir It Up.

Bob Marley - Stir It Up

Bob Marley - Stir It Up (Live)


The drummer plays a rhythm called One Drop. One Drop is a typical reggae drum pattern. The kick is played together with the snare (cross stick) on the third beat. 

The hi-hat has a simple pattern. It is the feel and dynamics that make it sound special. The hi-hat on the 2 & and 4 &  is played softer. The ‘1’ is the weakest beat of all in the One Drop rhythm. The emphasis has shifted to the third beat. 

On beats 2 and 4, the hi-hat plays two 8th notes that coincide with the rhythm guitar shown below. 

Rhythm Guitar:

The rhythm guitar plays 8th notes on beats 2 and 4. It uses the same dynamics as the hi-hat. The second 8th note is played a little bit softer. It is played as an upstroke (↑). In Reggae, the chords are strummed in a short percussive, slightly muted way. 

When we add the drum part, we can see that the guitar part coincides with the hi hat on beats 2 and 4.

Bass Guitar:

The strong beats in the bass line are 1 and 3. Remember that the third beat has the kick and snare (cross stick). 


The rhythm section works like a perfect mechanism. 

The heavy accent is on beat 3 which is played by drums and bass. This is counterbalanced by the guitar and hi-hat on beats 2 and 4. Unlike most other music styles, the ‘one’ is not stressed.