One Drop drum pattern[1][2] Play or Play steppers variant.[3]
One Drop drum pattern, sixteenth-note variant[1] Play or Play rockers variant.[4]
One Drop drum pattern, half-time variant[3][1][5] Play. Also typical ska pattern.[4]

One drop rhythm is a reggae style drum beat.

Popularized by Carlton Barrett, long-time drummer of Bob Marley and the Wailers,[6] the creator is disputed, and it has been attributed to drummers including Barrett,[7][8] and his brother Aston,[9] and Winston Grennan.[10][11]


The backbeat is characterized by the dominant snare drum stroke (usually a click produced by cross-sticking) and bass drum both sounding on the third beat of every four, while beat one is left empty. Thus, the expected hit on beat one is "dropped," creating the one-drop effect. Dropping out the bass on the "one" of the measure further accentuates the downbeat of the drums creating the rhythm.[12]

This may be seen in the drum notation for the typical rock drum pattern:

    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

and the one drop:

    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +


The rockers rhythm is the one drop with a steady bass drum on every eighth note, though one drop is slower than a ska pattern, and rockers is often slower than one drop.[4]

The steppers rhythm is essentially the one drop with a steady bass drum on every quarter note.


An instructive example of this drum beat is Bob Marley and the Wailers' song "One Drop" which talks about this rhythm.

Examples of songs using the one drop from Bob Marley and the Wailers' album Legend, with Carlton Barrett on drums, include: "No Woman, No Cry", "Three Little Birds", "Get Up, Stand Up", "Waiting in Vain", "Stir It Up", "One Love/People Get Ready", and "I Shot the Sheriff".[3] Other examples include Peter Tosh's "Legalize It", Steel Pulse's "Higher Than High", and Bob Marley's "Exodus".[8] Also The Upsetters's "One Step Dub" (1976) and Bob Marley & The Wailers's "Crazy Baldhead" (1976).[13]

Examples of songs using the steppers from Legend include: "Is This Love", "Exodus", "Buffalo Soldier", "Satisfy My Soul", "Jamming".[3] Other examples include Burning Spear's "Lion".[8]

The one drop style has also been used and referenced in numerous non-reggae songs, including "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up" by Frank Zappa, "The Spirit of Radio" by Rush, and "You Enjoy Myself" by Phish all placing their own twist on the one drop rhythm.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Strong, Jeff (2011). Drums For Dummies, p.163. ISBN 9781118068618.
  2. ^ Veal, Michael (2007). Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, p.32. Wesleyan University. ISBN 9780819565723.
  3. ^ a b c d Thomakos, John (20g10). Drum Set Styles Encyclopedia, p.60. ISBN 9781610652193.
  4. ^ a b c Strong, Jeff (2011), p.165.
  5. ^ Berry, Mick and Gianni, Jason (2004). The Drummer's Bible: How to Play Every Drum Style from Afro-Cuban to Zydeco, p.55. ISBN 9781884365324.
  6. ^ Sunday, April 03, 2016. "Feel it in Carlie's One Drop", According to Rolling Stone Magazine, "Barrett popularised the music's signature 'One Drop' rhythm in the Wailers and Bob Marley's solo band." Accessed: 7 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Carlton Barrett", "Carlton 'Carly' Barrett was the originator of the one drop rhythm, a percussive drumming style...'My Cup (Runneth Over)', 'Duppy Conqueror', 'Soul Rebel', and 'Small Axe'. These songs became part of a double LP set that Perry released: Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution, and formed the early foundation of the one drop sound." Accessed: 7 September 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Schlueter, Brad (July 21, 2011). "The Greatest Reggae Beats On Record", "Carlton often credited with creating the one-drop groove." Accessed: 7 September 2016.
  9. ^ Perone, James (2012). The Album: A Guide to Pop Music's Most Provocative, Influential, and Important Creations, unpaginated, n.8. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313379079. "The rhythm was pioneered by the Wailers' rhythm section, Aston 'Family Man' Barrett and his brother, Carlton 'Carlie' Barrett."
  10. ^ David Katz (8 November 2000). "Winston Grennan – Background musician with foreground players". London: Retrieved 15 September 2011. "Grennan developed for rock steady the one-drop rhythm that was marked by a prominent snare drum stroke on the third beat of every measure. It was this hard beat on the third, he explained, 'that would cut the beat in half'." Accessed: 7 September 2016.
  11. ^ Pareles, Jon (4 November 2000). "Winston Grennan, 56, Jamaican Drummer". The New York Times. "The one-drop rhythm is a sparse, unhurried beat with a bass-drum accent -- the one drop -- on the third beat. ... Mr. Grennan notched down the speed of rock steady with the one-drop rhythm, which became established as the core of reggae." Accessed: 7 September 2016.
  12. ^ Murphy, Bill. "Bass Culture: Dub Reggae's Low-End Legacy." Bass Player Nov 1996: 40-42, 44, 47, 51, 94. Print.
  13. ^ Prior, Helen (2016). Music and Familiarity: Listening, Musicology and Performance, p.244. Routledge. ISBN 9781317092537.
  14. ^ "20 Crossover Hits." Modern Drummer Aug 2012: 64. Print.