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‘Hot for Teacher’ drum sticking idea

For nearly three decades, Alex Van Halen’s drum intro in Hot for Teacher has been a source of debate among even the most accomplished drummers. Is it the bass drums? Is it triggers? What’s going on?

During a 20-year reunion hang last night, drummer Gary Ponder loosely demonstrated a cool idea for the right hand in the Van Halen classic. This right hand pattern is most apparent when played on the ride cymbal when the groove gets to 4/4. But when you apply the idea to the floor tom in the Harley intro (in 3/4), it all starts making sense.

In this approach, the trick isn’t with the feet. The feet are simply shuffling on the bass drums throughout. (L-R L-R L-R L-R…) Get that boogie tight. Then try this pattern with the right hand on ride cymbal during the 4/4 part; triplet feel:

XX- X– XX- X | XX- X– XX- X– | etc.

Then, working backward, play that idea on the floor tom in 3/4. Work the left hand into the mix with a 2 against 3 feel, and you’re probably getting close.

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I love this idea for the right hand. Years ago, while tooling around with this song, I was applying Gary’s right-hand notes to the left hand. I wrote it down here.

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