Tag Archives: Mike Clark

Mike Clark: Communicating the Core Groove

220px-Mike_Clark_(musician)After last week’s Mike Clark Transcription exercise, we’re going to look at ways to break down his apparently complex method and explore how we can develop our own linear rhythms. 

Firstly, we need to be aware of the Core Groove: namely the essential elements of each bar with all of the embellishments and ghost notes removed; the basic message that Clark is trying to convey.


Here’s Bar 1 of last week’s exercise:

bar1 - Full Score

We can strip this back to a more simplified version (The Core Groove):

bar1 - Full Score copy

This bar is much easier to grasp and will probably be closer to the phrase that Clark is singing in his head as he plays. Below are all 14 bars of last week’s video transcription broken down into their simplest form:

Mike Clark - Godfather - Core Grooves - Full Score


Firstly, work through each bar slowly, then start playing the more complex original phrase, making sure to continue singing the Core Groove in your head.

Stripping back intricate grooves in this way will not only help you un crack the code of these complex beats, it will also help you to improvise linear patterns of your own. To do this, start by looping a simple groove. Once that feels comfortable, add a ghost note or embellishment. Continue to add more complexity without losing emphasis on the original groove. The key is for your patterns to sound complex and intricate whilst still retaining the groove of the initial simpler pattern.



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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’.

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