Mike Clark: The Godfather of Linear Funk

mikeClarkAAAs I cross the border from Canada into the U.S. for the start of a 6 week American tour, I’m hoping to use the long journeys for some overdue transcription work, starting with a drummer I’ve been a fan of since my early teens: Mike Clark.

First coming to prominence with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters in the 1970′s, Clark pioneered a revolutionary school of linear drumming (i.e. no two voices hitting simultaneously) influencing many of the modern day greats, such as Zigaboo Modeliste, Stanton Moore, Bill Stewart and others.

On a recent YouTube browsing session I came across a video titled ‘Mike Clark – The Godfather of Linear Funk‘ (a title I doubt Clark takes particularly seriously). The improvisation (from 0:58) demonstrates his ethos perfectly so I thought a transcription was in order.

from 0:58:


Mike Clark - The Godfather of Linear Funk Video - Full Score



  • Keep the right hand on the hi-hat and left hand on the snare unless otherwise stated.
  • Play each bar on a loop until it feels comfortable and grooves well. Work through each bar individually until you feel confident enough to play the whole page continually.
  • I’ve divided the snare drum hits into three volume categories. A small note-head indicates a ghost note, a normal sized note-head indicates a medium mezzo forte dynamic and an accented note should be played at a louder forte with rim shot. Executing these three volume levels correctly is vital for achieving the Mike Clark sound.

Next time, we’ll look at ways of coming up with our own Clark esq. rhythms by understanding the ‘Core Groove’.

1 Comment

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One Response to Mike Clark: The Godfather of Linear Funk

  1. Michael

    There is some great work here in your transcriptions Sam – Mike Clark doesn’t get the recognition he deserves
    Mike G

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