A blast-beat is a drum beat consisting of rapid alternating or coinciding strokes on the snare and hi-hat or cymbal. The snare drum and hi-hat/cymbal forms the focus of such a beat, with bass drum often played beneath the snare to create a 'wall of sound'. The hi-hat or a ride cymbal is often played simultaneously with the bass drum or with the snare drum; however, crash cymbal or china cymbals can often be featured as well, for an even heavier, "wall of sound" effect. Bell accents on the ride cymbal are often employed in the same manner as accents in funkier drumming styles in order to give the beat an emphasised 'push'. Diverse patterns and timings are also frequently used by more technical players, such as Alex Hernandez or Flo Mounier. Alternative styles of blast beats include using a two strokes on bass drum followed by one stroke of the snare drum, such as played by Pete Sandoval, or using scarce strokes on the bass drum, which are frequently played by Max Duhamel.
Blast beats have their roots in hardcore punk - most notably D.R.I's "Makes no Sense" on their first LP (1983). Another example is the hardcore punk band Neon Christ. Thrash metal also has some credits towards the blast beat, however in modern standards the snare work is frequently comparable to established snare patterns in jazz. Blast beats are a prominent feature of death metal, black metal and grindcore, although they make appearances in other genres from time to time, to increase the speed, density, and percussiveness.
The original use in metal music is generally attributed to Dave 'Grave' Hollingshead of Repulsion, Charlie Benante of SOD and Mick Harris of Napalm Death, Grave having taken most of the credit for the "single footer." Benante showcased the technique by a double-handed blast beat in the track "Milk" on the album Speak English or Die, later it was played properly single-handed on the live album Live at Budokan. Harris started using it as a fundament of Napalm Death's musical compositions.
Early blast beats were generally quite slow and less precise compared to today's standards. Nowadays, a blast beat is normally played in tempos from 160-180 beats per minute upwards, with so-called "hyperblast beats" existing in the range of 240-260bpm with few higher. There is also what is called a "gravity blast" which implements a one-handed roll, called a gravity roll, a relatively recent invention which uses the rim of the snare as a fulcrum on which the stick is rocked back and forth, allowing two snare hits with each full arm motion (one on the down motion, and another coming up, essentially doing the work of two hands with only one).
Typical and the most common blast beats consist of a 8th note patterns between both the bass and snare drum simultaneously with the hi-hat or the ride synced. Variations exist such as displacing hi-hat/ride, snare and bass drum hits and/or while also using other cymbals such as splashes, crashes, chinas and even tambourines for accenting when for example using odd time or playing progressively. While playing 8th or 8th note triplets some drummers choose to play in sync with one foot while others split the 8th notes between both feet.
Examples of blast beat notation:
H- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-| H- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-| H- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-| R- x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|
S- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| S- -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o| S- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| S- oooooooooooooooo|
B- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| B- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-| B- oooooooooooooooo| B- o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-|
These are considered the most used to the least used.
Nicholas Barker (Dimmu Borgir, Lock Up, Cradle of Filth, Old Man's Child)
Charlie Benante (Anthrax, S.O.D.)
Jan Axel Blomberg (also known as Hellhammer) (Mayhem)
Dave Culross (Suffocation, Malevolent Creation)
Mick Harris (Napalm Death)
Alex Hernandez (Immolation)
Danny Herrera (Napalm Death)
Max Duhamel (Kataklysm)
Max Kolesne (Krisiun)
Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy)
Ken Owen (Carcass)
Derek Roddy (Nile, Aurora Borealis, Hate Eternal, Today Is The Day, Malevolent Creation)
Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel, Terrorizer)
Mike Smith (Suffocation)
Trym Torson (Emperor, Enslaved, Zyklon)
Andy Whale (Bolt Thrower)
D.R.I. invented the blast beat, not Napalm Death.
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