The Bo Diddley Beat came from the artist himself,
blues legend Bo Diddley (Ellas McDaniel).
A good number of his songs incorporated this jungle-like rhythm and
helped distinguish his sound
through the years. Numerous artists crossing many genres have since
patterned their songs
after this man and his beat. Though some credit Bo for originating
the rhythm, it actually stems from
early forms of latin and afro-cuban rhythms (clave) derived from their
It's important to note that this rhythm was also used for years as
the playful music knock,
"Shave and a Haircut",..."Two Bits".
How to play it:
Another simple beat to learn but important to make it swing! Play
singles from hand to hand on
the floor tom accentuating the clave (top line) below. Bass drum can match the clave or
"4 on the floor" (bottom line). Guitarist and/or bass player will play
lines so it is important to keep a steady tempo to be in sync with them.
Use the afro-cuban son clave below as your foundation. For those that don't read,
1 (2) and (3) 4 - (1) 2 3 (4)
The 3/2 Son Clave
For more information on clave, see http://www.drumsdatabase.com/index.htm#Clave
Many drummers play this beat on the floor tom as mentioned above.
Others play it as a rudimental snare groove (New Orleans style) and still others play
the Bo Diddley beat within a standard, syncopated rock groove.
Not Fade Away Buddy Holly, Rolling Stones
Willie & the Hand Jive Johnny Otis Show, Eric Clapton, Grease Soundtrack
I Want Candy Bow Wow Wow, Strangeloves
Women are Smarter Grateful Dead
Magic Carpet Ride - Steppenwolf
Magic Bus - The Who
She's the One - Bruce Springsteen
Faith George Michael
Desire - U2
to the Drum Lessons Database
* If you have anything
to add to our Bo Diddley Beat page, please let
We welcome feedback, variations, interpretations, and any external
Mike Flack writes:
I was just reading about your explanation of the Bo Diddley beat.
To be more precise ... it is one step past the "Shave and a haircut"
It is what we used to call a 'drag' in drum corps language.
For example: The first measure would be a pure drag.
The second measure is always on counts 2 and 3. Shave and a haircut
is too square.
It is the root beat of the Bo Diddley beat, however, it is not the
true Bo Diddley beat.
Once a drummer or percussionist perfects the single drag in the first
then the idea is to spread those drag attacks out as far as the music
Make them sound more "phat"! Four sixteenth notes prior
to beats 2 and 3
being played in the 2nd measure will also set up those accented beats
on beat 2 and 3 more so, also.
I describe these notes as "lead-ins".
They are played only on beat 1 of the 2nd measure.
Another possible flair is a fast 5 stroke roll lead into the first
It gives it more a of a 'rumble' beginning. And to enhance beats 2
of the 2nd measure just make those beats flams. Now you got something!
- Mike Flack (40 years of playing "Shave and a haircut, two
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