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    Second Line Drumming
    Second Line / Street Beats

    What is Second Line?
    Have you ever been asked to play a "second line" beat on a particular song? I know I have. Usually I cringe and realize that, although I basically think it involves a marching style on the snare drum, I really don't have a clue as to what to play. Luckily my experience and musicality got me by for many years. I learned how to fake things "very" well. :)

    Well, I asked around a bit and was surprised to learn that the history of second line is a bit cloudy. Nobody can seem to agree on how it evolved. I heard stories about there being a line of musicians and staff that marched behind the mourners (second line) at a funeral parade in New Orleans. Apparently the musicians would play funeral marches on the way to the funeral and more livelier pieces on the return home. Some would say that it's a secondary rhythm section (second line) that answers the calls of a "first-line" rhythm section in a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade. The first line would play a rhythm and the "second line" would respond to it. Others will tell you that it's just something that comes from New Orleans music and involves a marching snare rhythm. They'll admit that they don't know where it comes from but they're quick to show you an example of how they think it's played.

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    Depending on who you ask, you're sure to get some very interesting answers. I think the most important thing is; What are we supposed to play when someone asks us to play a "second-line" rhythm or a second line funk beat? From a little research, here's what I've learned so far about second line drumming:

    #1: Second line drumming is associated with the city of New Orleans. It seems to have originated there and developed in many forms through the years.

    #2: Second line drumming involves simple cadence type (marching) snare beats.

    #3: Drummers like Zigaboo Modeliste and Johnny Vidacovich mixed second line with syncopated funk, developing a style called "second-line funk drumming". This style was popularized in many famous bands that came from New Orleans like the Meters (see below).

    #4: Second line drumming often involves a 3/2 son clave not disimiliar to the Bo Diddley beat although it doesn't necessarily always follow that rule.

    #5: Second line beats are also called "Street Beats".

    So after reading up on things and listening to a handful of second line drummers, I've determined that although there are a lot of variations of second line you can play, most follow a specific feel and style. The best way to get started would be to play a simple Bo Diddley beat, mixing in an occasional double stroke roll at the beginning or end of the phrase. Play the bass drum with the accents or simply play "4 on the floor" (straight quarter notes). Listen to some of the examples below and check out the other resources listed.



    New Orleans Jazz and Second Line Drumming Book and Cd - by Herlin Riley and Johnny Vidacovich

    Street Beats - Modern Applications
    New Orleans Drumming - Johnny Vidacovich, Herlin Riley, Earl Palmer & Herman Ernest - DCI

    Tommy Igoe - Video sample, 2nd line variation (online - DrummerWorld.com)

    New Orleans Second Line Drumming - Street Parade (online - YouTube.com)

    Johnny Vidacovich - Going between Jazz and Second Line (online - DrummerWorld.com)

    Popular Second Line Drummers:
    Zigaboo Modeliste - The Meters (original drummer)
    Johnny Vidacovich - Astral Project
    Stanton Moore - Galactic
    Ricky Sebastian - http://www.strdigital.com/ricseb.htm
    Earl Palmer - Big on the NOLA recording scene in the 50's. Little Richard, Fats Domino, etc.
    see more here.

    I hope this has been helpful and that you have a little more insight now into second line drumming. We will be adding more to this page as time goes on. We invite everyone to submit their comments, media, or other resources.

    For more drum lessons and articles please visit our lessons page here.

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