Quite possibly the most sampled drum beat of all time, this break has made appearances in almost every modern musical style, ranging from N.W.A’s “Straight Out Of Compton” to Slipknots “Eyeless”, it has also made countless appearances as background music in TV commercials and shows. Most notably however is that Jungle and later Drum and Bass as a musical style was completely developed around the Amen Break, producers took the original loop and sped it up, dissected it and rearranged the notes and added a Reggae style bass line at normal speed over the sped up drum break.
So where exactly did this drum break come from? It came from a 6-7 second drum break by G.C. Colman in the song “Amen Brother” which was on a B-side to the 1971 single “Color Him Father” by the Winstons.
The Winstons were not a huge success, they did have two songs hit the Billboard top 100, “Color Him Father” hit #7 in 1969, and “Love of the Common People” hit number #54 in the same year. If it wasn’t for “Amen Brother” the Winstons may not be remembered at all, unfortunately G.C. Coleman, nor the band has ever been paid any royalties for the use of this break, though they have never pursued it either.
As a drummer, if you are interested in hip/hop or any form of electronica style music this is THE foundation beat that you must learn, without this you will not be playing authentic. Here is the original break:
The original tempo from the album is 136 BPM, it is vitally important to learn this an nail it at the original tempo, set up your metronome and have at it, it’s a busy pattern so make sure that the spacing of your subdivisions are spot on, paying attention now will pay huge dividends as we speed this up. To truly own this the way that it is used today, you need to be able to speed this up to approx. 170 BPM, you also need to be able to cut this into fragments. Modern DJ’s are taking this groove and starting it on different beats as well as repeating 1 or 2 beats from over and over to give it a stuttering effect.
Here we will take a look at beats 1 and 2 of the first measure, you should play through the original pattern at tempo, then at the end repeat the new fragmented beat for 1-2 bars going back into the original pattern. Fragment #1
Once you are comfortable with this, take a look at beats 3-4 from the first bar, the practice procedure is the same.
It’s important for you to learn each 1-2 beat phrase as a fragment, you should also be able to start the fragment at any point within the original groove. To play this stuff authentically you must think like a DJ or producer, not like a drummer as most times that you hear this break it was laid out by a non-drummer.
Learning the “Amen” break as I’ve laid out will increase your coordinated independence as well as tune your ears to this style of playing and increase your creativity. Take your time with it, but most importantly have fun with it!