Skip to main content

You are here: Home > Reviews > Paul Wertico Trio - Turn The Beat Around


Welcome to!

Book Review:

Paul Wertico - Turn The Beat Around


Modern Drummer

Inside Methods
Paul Wertico’s Turn the Beat Around
by Martin Patmos

Paul Wertico long ago established himself as a creative force. He’s a drummer with excellent technique, great feel, and a strong sense of texture and color. Yet he’s also a drummer who makes observations, asks questions, and inevitably comes up with unique approaches and fresh solutions.
Wertico came to widespread attention during his stint with the Pat Metheny Group, a gig that lasted from 1983 to 2001 and earned him seven Grammys. Wertico is not only a skilled performer, though, he’s a respected teacher. Based in Chicago, he’s an associate professor of jazz studies at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, and his main goal is to challenge his students’ ideas. The drummer’s new book, Turn the Beat Around, exemplifies his penchant for thinking outside the box.
And what about those observations, questions, and fresh ideas? Turn the Beat Around fully demonstrates Wertico’s predilections, with the premise being: What if the backbeat were placed on 1 and 3, rather than the usual 2 and 4? In his introduction to the book, Wertico makes the astute observation that the backbeat has developed a stronger emphasis over time. Early jazz, for instance, didn’t emphasize it as strongly as modern styles do. Similarly, rock, R&B, funk, and other forms of backbeat-driven music grew from emphasizing it to really emphasizing it. In some cases, Wertico posits, certain types of music can become overly defined by that backbeat.
So, has it always been this way? Does it have to be this way? What happens if the backbeat is not on 2 and 4? Taking a look back, we can find examples of backbeats on 1 and 3, the downbeat—or as Wertico sometimes refers to it, the “frontbeat.” Perhaps the most famous instance is Ginger Baker’s playing on Cream’s classic track “Sunshine of Your Love.” Other examples can be found as well, including future Foreigner drummer Dennis Elliott’s playing with the band If, and John Bonham’s approach to Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.” Tony Allen, Shelly Manne, and Roy Haynes have experimented with emphasizing 1 and 3 at times as well.
As Wertico developed this line of thinking, Turn the Beat Around began to take shape. Designed to be used in an open-ended manner, it offers exercises with quarter-note, 8th-note, 16th-note, and triplet grooves, followed by variations on snare, bass drum, and ride patterns. In this way, the exercises and concept can be approached by players at any level. In practice, these beats sound familiar yet unexpected at the same time. They might seem to reference some lost African or samba groove and bring some new interpretations to the beat.
Yet Turn the Beat Around is about more than simply the mechanics of 1 and 3. “Books should not only help you technically but also conceptually, and make you more aware of things that you might not be aware of,” Wertico says. “In writing this book I really wanted it to not just be about frontbeats but about improving drumming overall. I’ve been using it with students, and when they go back to the backbeat after working on the frontbeat, their 1 and 3 on the bass drum is so much fatter and more pronounced. The intention is not to replace everything necessarily, but to strengthen people’s time and feel, and that seems to be working.”
In essence, then, it strengthens the time, feel, and playing of the backbeat by increasing awareness of the frontbeat, while developing a new creative avenue for the player as well. “Beyond a drummer, an arranger or composer can use this concept to start thinking differently,” Wertico says. “Why does it always have to be on 2 and 4? Not only the drums [could be affected] but the way the whole rhythm might section work. You displace it, and all of a sudden you’ve got a different arrangement of something you’ve always played the same way.
“I’ve done it on some gigs now,” Wertico continues, “and the look on people’s faces is like, Wow, what is this! Musically it can work—it seems to make it a little more urgent perhaps. I’ll tell [the band] I’m going to do it up front, though. You want to make sure at first that they’re aware you’re going to do it, but it creates really interesting results.
“Expand your concept, expand your hearing,” Wertico adds. “That’s what this is about.”

Now Wertico has been involved with numerous high-level projects and released many albums as both a sideman and a leader. AfterLive, the latest release by the trio Wertico, Cain, and Gray, involves an improvised performance—“one hundred percent made up on the spot,” Paul is quick to point out. Truly open ended in their thinking, Wertico, David Cain (sax, voice, keys), and Larry Gray (bass, cello, flute) mix a range of styles and sounds both acoustic and electronic, referencing everything from art rock to free jazz. Wertico can be heard creating and navigating textures, playing with drive and spontaneity, and keeping the performance fresh—never an easy feat in completely on-the-spot composition/performance situations. “You don’t want to be boring, or vague, or just noodle,” Wertico says. “You’ve really got to come up with the goods.”
Study Suggestions
“A lot of times I’ll suggest to students to practice with a song,” Wertico explains. “It’s great to practice with a metronome, because you’re going to work with a click, but if you practice with a really good-feeling track, you’re not only working on feel, you’re also learning a song and you’re working on form.
“Find some really great tracks that groove—an Al Green track, for example—something with a really good feel, and play along with that while trying the frontbeats. Try the frontbeat, try to do fills, try to do the coordination, and then go back and play it the way Al Jackson Jr. did, normally, and see the difference in how that feels. I think it’s pretty enlightening.”
For more information on Turn the Beat Around, visit

Not So Modern Drummer

Paul Wertico's "Turn The Beat Around" now available from Alfred Music
December 7, 2017 David Barsalou Alfred Music, the leading publisher in music education since 1922, announces the release of Paul Wertico’s, Turn the Beat Around, A Drummer’s Guide to Playing “Backbeats” on 1 & 3.
Turn the Beat Around breaks decades-old routine by examining “backbeats” in a whole new light, asking the questions: “Why are backbeats always played on beats 2 & 4?” and “What about playing them on beats 1 & 3?” By delving into this inquiry, Paul Wertico provides drummers with innovative ways of expanding groove vocabulary, solidifying time, and mastering coordination and limb independence. Wertico has even coined a new word for these types of reversed beats—frontbeats.
Hailed in the press as “One of the most versatile and musical drummers in music today,” Paul Wertico gained worldwide recognition as a member of the Pat Metheny Group from 1983 to 2001. During his tenure with Metheny, Wertico played on ten recordings and four videos, appeared on numerous television shows, and frequently toured around the world. He also won seven Grammy Awards (for “Best Jazz Fusion Performance,” “Best Contemporary Jazz Performance,” and “Best Rock Instrumental Performance”), magazine polls, and received several gold records.
“I wrote this book to help drummers explore an alternative way of thinking and grooving, and the book is for all drummers, since it runs the gamut from simple to complex, regardless of their musical style”.
Here’s a brief description:
Habits and traditions are often hard to change, but discovering new and creative ways of rearranging and rethinking established norms is what distinguishes a great drummer and provides endless challenge and possibilities. TURN THE BEAT AROUND breaks decades-old routine by examining "backbeats" in a whole new light, asking the questions: "Why are backbeats always played on beats 2 & 4?" and "What about playing them on beats 1 & 3?" By delving into this inquiry, Paul Wertico provides drummers with innovative ways of expanding their groove vocabulary, solidifying their time, and mastering coordination and limb independence. Wertico has even coined a new word for these types of reversed beats: frontbeats.
Last, but not least, Wertico Cain & Gray are releasing their new CD entitled AFTERLIVE.
 Turn the Beat Around is available for $19.99 at music retail stores, online retailers, and
Great podcast interview with Paul Wertico and chock full of info. Paul has a revolutionary new book out called Turn the Beat Around and he discusses the concept, along with his 6th CD with Wertico, Cain and Gray. Paul is one of those guys who has so much knowledge to impart...which I guess is why he's an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago...take a listen.
Moulder Gray Wertico

PAS Percussive Notes

Paul Wertico’s Turn the Beat Around
by Jason Baker

Grammy-Award-winning drummer Paul Wertico will challenge your independence and understanding of groove with this interesting and forward-thinking method book. Breaking from tradition, this text focuses on using beats 1 and 3 as backbeats, instead of the regular 2 and 4. Wertico begins the book with a detailed explanation of his reasoning, as well as musical examples where "turned around" beats have been used.

The exercises begin at an elementary level with quarter-note figures. These progress into eighth note, sixteenth note, and triplet patterns, all with the snare drum playing on beats 1 and 3. Exercises developing independence and elaboration of ride cymbal, bass drum, and hi-hat are given. Wertico encourages the reader to practice the exercises both open-handed and "crossed over." The second half of the book provides pages of separate ride cymbal, bass drum, and hi-hat patterns that can be played in conjunction with each other in a manner seen in Gary Chester's The New Breed. While the book begins rather innocently, the sophistication of the material accelerates and would prove demanding for even a seasoned professional.

While the "backbeat" in music is generally accepted as beats 2 and 4, the material in this book presents opportunities for students to challenge their preconceived notions of feel and groove. Whether for musical applications or developing technical independence, Wertico's book will test the hands, feet, and mind.

TURN THE BEAT AROUND is available at

You are here: Home > Reviews > Paul Wertico Trio - Turn The Beat Around