The Groove Secret That's "Not Difficult" (Feeling 2 Against 3)

Find your groove

There are a handful of secrets that will catapult your sense of groove and time forward. A few that come to mind are:

:point_right: Learning to feel 4 and 8 bar phrases

:point_right: Learning to count quarter, 8th, 8th note triplets, and 16th notes

:point_right: Using the “Yardstick of the Groove” to visualize 16th note patterns

:point_right: Learning to play in the pocket (a.k.a. Not Rushing)

Today I want to share another power principle. Learning to feel 2 against 3 . This is a cool trick for all you intermediate folk out there (for you beginners check out JP Allen’s rhythm lesson to get you started)…

What does feel 2 against 3 even mean? I’m glad you asked. If you play ¼ notes, ⅛ notes, or 1/16 notes, those are all divisible by 2. Those are the “2” feel. And as you probably guessed, triplets are the “3” feel. Don’t worry if that all sounds like gibberish, I’ll explain more in a moment.

Have you ever been riding a bike on a paved road, and then it turns to a dirt or gravel road, and all of a sudden the bike does a little shimmy as if to say, “whoah, I need to re-calibrate to this new surface”?

That’s kinda how it feels going from playing 8th notes to 8th note triplets, or from 8th note triplets to 16th notes The feel of 2 and the feel of 3 are like two separate universes unto themselves. It’s like, ummm…… huh?

To “feel 2 against 3” means you can tap ⅛ notes with one hand and ⅛ note triplets with the other hand AT THE SAME TIME!

One of my best friends is a drummer named Russ Mckinnon. He’s eked out a living touring with little acts like Joe Cocker, Tower of Power, and Barry Mannilow.

Russ’ mom was a church organist, and he tells the story of how she taught him as a young boy to feel 2 against 3. “Oh it’s simple, Russ, “ she says, “All you need to know is not difficult, not difficult not difficult ’” as she taps a pattern on her legs.

Here’s the pattern her hands tapped on her legs: Together - Left - Right - Left, Together - Left - Right - Left, Together - Left - Right - Left.

Not Difficult Pattern

Confused? I got you… Here’s a rough n ready video of what that sounds like.

Try this until it’s comfy. Once you can do it, focus on your left hand.

The 3 Side

The challenge is now to see if you can count along with your left hand “ One -trip-let Two -trip-let Three -trip-let Four -trip-let”. That’s the 3 side. Here’s a quick demo of that.

If you lose the pattern go back to saying the composite rhythm “Not difficult, not difficult” until it feels easy again. Rinse and repeat.

Once you can count along with the left hand while keeping the pattern, notice that the hands come together when you say the numbers, and also that the right hand lands exactly halfway between your left hand’s taps on the words “trip” and “let”.

The 2 Side

The final frontier is to try paying attention to the right hand and counting “ One and Two and Three and Four and.” That’s the 2 side. Here’s a quick demo of that .

Whenever it falls apart, go back to speaking the composite rhythm: “Not difficult, not difficult…”

When you can count along with either your left or right hand without losing the pattern, you’ve begun to internalize the feel of 2 against 3, and that, my friend, is a great accomplishment!

If all of this is confusing the heck out of you, check out my super-short video pulling all this together.