Sugarfoot’s 3 Legendary Drum Grooves (Study The Greats)


Hey, what’s up guys, Austin Burcham here. Welcome in to another episode
of Study the Greats on Drumeo. So, when you look back
the history of drummers who’ve had really illustrious careers playing with big name artists, does it really get much bigger than being the drummer for Michael Jackson? Because, I can’t really think of anything much bigger than that. But, that was the longtime gig for the drummer we’re gonna be studying today, Mr. Jonathan “Sugarfoot” Moffett. Jonathan Moffett, also
known as “Sugarfoot”, is most known for being the longtime drummer for Michael Jackson, but, he has also performed
with other big names such as, Madonna, George
Michael, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and many more. His playing style is characterized by precise, funky grooves, combined with impressive showmanship, and today we’re gonna be
breaking down three grooves from his performances
during his visit to Drumeo. So let’s begin with the song, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'”. One thing I learned when I was trying to
figure out these grooves, was that they’re definitely not as easy as they may seem at first. Even though they’re pretty
straight ahead, 4/4 pop grooves, he has a unique way of playing them that is tough to recreate, especially at the speeds
that he plays them. So, if we take a look
at this first groove, you can see that it’s based around alternating hand-to-hand 16th notes on the high-hats, which means that the right hand is gonna come down to make the backbeats happen on 2 and 4. He adds in a couple little hi-hat openings on beat 2 and the ‘uh’ of 3. And one of the thing he does that’s pretty tricky, is he plays a double left going into beat 2 to create that hi-hat opening with the backbeat, which is something you don’t see very often, but, it totally works for this groove. The bass drum pattern is really busy. It’s tough to lock in with the hands, especially at full-speed, but I’ll give it a shot. I’ll try to demonstrate this for you slow, so you can see how it all works, and then I’ll try to bring it up to speed. You can see there’s a lot of stuff going on there, so it’s definitely not an easy groove to play, by any means. And the fact that he has to play that groove, for that entire song is really impressive, in terms of endurance, and concentration. So, give that one a shot
when you get a chance, and see how you get along with it. But, let’s go ahead and move on to the next example, and that is the groove to the song, “Smooth Criminal”. This is a pretty interesting groove, because it has kind of a choppy vibe to it, because that’s
what the song calls for. So, if we take a look
at the notation here, you can see that it actually starts on the upbeat 8th note of beat 1, which can kinda mess with
your brain a little bit. And on beat 2, he adds in some quick little hi-hat openings with some double stroke embellishments to kinda spice things up a little bit. So that’s kind of the
tricky section as well, but the main structure of this groove is built around a driving, straight, 8th note fill on the hi-hat. But, again, like in the first groove, he brings the right hand down to play the backbeats, and fills in the hi-hat
with the left hand, which is just kind of a
unique part of his style. So, here’s what this all looks like slow, and then up to speed. There’s a lotta challenges
in that one too. The hi-hat openings and the quick little double stroke embellishments, are tough to execute cleanly, and it’s kinda tough to keep the timing right with those
choppy rests on the upbeats, but it’s a really interesting pattern, and it demonstrates how he can take a pretty straightforward groove structure, and add little things into it to make it a little more
interesting and entertaining. But, now, let’s go ahead and move on to the last one here, and that is the groove to the song, “Jam”. Now this one’s a little bit easier to play than the first two grooves, but again, the little embellishments he adds in there make it
deceptively difficult. So, if we take a look at it here, you can that it’s a two bar pattern, and it starts with two big crashes right on beat 1, and the rest of the groove is built around a driving, straight 8th note feel. He adds in some hi-hat openings on the “uh” of 2, in both measures, and those are kinda tricky to pull off. And on the very last note
of the second measure, he adds in another hi-hat opening to lead back in to the crashes on 1. But, this groove has a
really nice feel to it, and it’s pretty fun to play. So here’s what that looks like slow, and then up to speed. All right, guys, hopefully that gives you a little more insight into some of the details of those grooves, and the little things he adds in that are unique to him, but make the grooves a little more interesting
and entertaining. Jonathan’s had an incredible career, playing with some of the
biggest artists in the world. So it’s really cool that Drumeo got to bring him in to perform, so we can see what he does that makes him one of the greats. But, hope you enjoyed this one. Thanks for watching, and
I’ll see you in the next one. Take care.

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100 thoughts on “Sugarfoot’s 3 Legendary Drum Grooves (Study The Greats)”

  1. out_run_radio says:

    Austin himself! Love the way this guy breaks down things.

  2. CANGA anton says:

    always admire him.. one of the BEST drummer in the world.

  3. tdrum21 says:

    Nice one. Great content & good to see you back 👌🏽🎶

  4. 3 name changes allowed every 90 days. says:


  5. jojhow arte says:

    Please, put subtitles in Portuguese Brazil please.

  6. Nick Kentros says:

    What a great collab between Drumeo and Austin. Great stuff

  7. red ruM says:

    I've watched that specific Drumeo appearance featuring "Sugarfoot" (and many others 😁) a couple three times. Excellent tutorials & THANK YOU for always sharing knowledge. Many, many techniques involved – we sure appreciate the lessons 🎼

  8. Victor Santos Silva says:


  9. ddGrandahl says:

    I don't know if you were already affiliated with Drumeo, but congrats regardless

  10. Ales Kozelj says:

    Hell yes! Austin and Drumeo

  11. Try Harder says:

    Austin, which snare are you using? It looks like bronze, is it pearl? It's the sound I'm looking for. Thank you very much.

  12. Matt Alan says:

    I play drums for a busy Jackson tribute. Always listening & watching sugar foot for inspiration & stage presence 👍

    Great lesson

  13. Bobby says:

    That snare sound is so perfect

  14. Marccus Alves says:


  15. Austin Burcham says:

    Hey Drumeo crew, hope you guys dig these episodes!

  16. Hüveyda K. says:

    Good job

  17. Diogo Fonseca says:

    Austin is on Drumeo! Congrats man!

  18. Elliot J Harris says:

    Love this video!!!

  19. Fiscalvids says:

    very clean

  20. onesong2001 says:

    Sugarfoot is pretty good considering he played for Michael Jackson

  21. VW5767 says:

    Great explanation!

  22. Da Bx says:

    I can't take any drummer who still uses left hand traditional grip, seriously.

  23. BionicleSaurus says:

    My brain broke for a second when I saw a "Study The Greats" posted by Drumeo lol

  24. 음악가황지원 says:


  25. Spriest Player says:

    I don't even have drums but I love watching these videos 😂

  26. Doug Arnold says:

    6:05…no wonder I could never understand those rhythms!

  27. antonburger01 says:

    Sugarfoot! What I love most about his grooves is the lack of "flash"; he plays that which drives the song – steady confident grooves – without any selfish desire to draw attention to himself and the drums by throwing in unnecessary embelishments that disrupt the drive and groove. And he's virtually a living metronome! Thanks Drumeo for making the effort and investments to bring huge names like JSM to aspiring drummers like us to learn from!

  28. FanaticalDrummer says:

    I feel like drummers need to listen more to learn, and less sight reading. Reading something wont translate the feel or swing in the tempo.

  29. BurnedDestroyer says:

    What is that Hihat Clutch? It is looking quite interesting

  30. Blake Raustad says:

    Its stressing me out the way he is holding the stick

  31. skele boi says:

    here we are 1 mill!!☺️

  32. Oliver Jones says:

    You at Drumeo should cover the amazing drummers of funk and disco ,not just michael jackson's drummer but also the incredible ew&f cerrone chaka khan kool and the gang rick james prince gap band change and tocn of others.

  33. donkeyfacekilla1 says:

    Excellent video. Excellent drumming. Thanks for a great lesson!

  34. A E S T H E T I C _T E C H N O P A T H says:

    Are you guys adding Austin to the Drumeo roster?!

  35. I'm Charming says:

    In through the nose, out through the mouth.

  36. George Muirhead says:

    World-class analysis, decomposition and explaination, by a world class communicator of a world class drummer!.
    I wonder how many world tours he completed with Michael Jackson?
    I would of thought he must be pretty comfortable by now.
    I see him as being the epitome of what one can achieve as a professional drummer primarily working in the mainstream genre of the rock/pop music industry.

    Excellent stuff Austin!

  37. MexTubu says:

    Traditional grip? 🙂

  38. dede malvina says:

    Damn that snare sound so tight man…, Adding rim shot makes more uggghhhhh…..

  39. Crazy 8s Drums says:

    The Sugarfoot videos from Drumeo have been my favorites. TY Drumeo! He is a powerful player with masterful command of time and groove!

  40. Shin says:

    Wow, he is definitely a drum machine

  41. Chris L says:

    Matt Halpern ain't got nothing on Sugarfoot's deep-V.

  42. Watashi no namae wa Sensei says:

    I would appreciate it more if you make a tutorial about the fills in those grooves

  43. Marvin Hanson says:

    Do Ringo!

  44. George Rhone says:

    Good Stuff!!!

  45. Evan R says:

    Great job!

  46. Jon Joni says:

    So this is Terry Crews' daddeh hahaha.

  47. Alastair Sweetman says:

    Aaron!! Great vid dude ! Drumeo keeps going from strength to strength :)))) am I seeing things or is sugarfoot playing double tipped drumsticks?? And if so, surely that makes the stick weighting really weird and requires a completely different brain, like breathing 3/4 rather than a full breath?

  48. Johan Wilen says:

    I am getting crazy. I know he is damn good. But why do I always think he is not playing tight? Always after on the snare for example. I know it sounds stupid. Is it just me hearing that? Its "laging". Its not spot on.

  49. Michael Lang says:

    Sugarfoot has as the underpinning of his style the ultimate confidence and power while playing anything. he has mastered the Inner Game of Drumming. We can play his grooves all day long, but in front of millions with the King of Pop depending on your groove. Great stuff. How would you feel it differently in from of 100,000 people.

  50. Ross On Drums says:

    Is there anything better on any instrument than an awesome drum groove?!? 🎵 🥁

  51. TannerJamesGaughf says:

    I love how the first two grooves left the first downbeat of each phrase alone giving them an extra funky feeling. Brilliant drumming.

  52. David Espinel says:

    Sugar Foot is just amaizing!! Thank you Drumeo for thsi video!!

  53. DiabetiX T1D says:

    Amazing drummer – no mistakes

  54. Finley Thompson says:

    I know Moffet is a great drummer but wasn't JR Robinson the drummer that recorded in the studio and Moffet was the live drummer? Tell me if I'm wrong though

  55. John Fortuna Jr. says:

    Dude great snare and kik sound!

  56. TomWrightTheDrummer says:

    I hesitate to criticise a very well put together tutorial, but if you're going to make something so clinical the details must matter. You're 'tripletising' the 32nd notes of the second groove which is different from the transcription you provide. That said, personally I still prefer the way you play that part of the groove when compared to Moffatt's somewhat scruffy equivalent.

  57. Louie With An E says:

    The metronome uses sugarfoot to practice

  58. Tomáš Kampf says:

    I need to my feet Is sugar too 😅

  59. Chris Tyler says:

    yep thanks drumeo from chris here in uk norfolk 2019

  60. Spider mite 805 says:

    You sure Jonathan played all those notes? What about the pause(s)? I am stoned, but legally so.

  61. Douglas Turner says:

    Love this dude !

  62. Rythym Section says:

    Dude! You're a drum nerd! You are awesome! Thank you…

  63. M.Z. C. says:

    It would be great if you could have Roger Taylor on your studio❤️

  64. handy1 arnwald says:

    I wonder if sugarfoot has got a cybernetic right foot……

  65. SoundScientist1 says:

    @1:40– WHO in the hayle thinks these MJ grooves are "easy?" HaHa. Nuts.

  66. MyCatFooed says:

    Nicely done!
    Breakdowns are simple — for the layman … and, it works!!!
    New subscriber…

    Domari Nolo

  67. Christus Terran says:

    Change your footnote pic please

  68. trident3b says:

    I find it totally impossible to play with the stick held in the left hand the way he does. Many drummers do that… I just can't. I have no strength or control of the stick in that way and it feels hellishly unnatural to me, in fact it flies out of my hand with harder or faster hits or doesn't strike properly. Strange. Just one of those things. I have to hold it the way Moffet does,

  69. brodie659 says:

    The drum track on Smooth Criminal at 5:39 kind of reminds me of the opening groove of No Excuses by Alice in Chains. Until I heard an isolated drum track, I didn't make the connection. Definitely not note for note, but it sounds similar to me.

  70. G Honda says:

    Well done.

  71. wolffi90123 says:

    There is a song which I used to listen to which has the same metronome sound as Drumeo uses… But can't remember who the artist or what the song title is.

  72. さわちん says:


  73. Didier Mukendi says:

    Q is this
    Are MJ’s studio song recorded with him playing or drum machines?

  74. Tecla SAP com Ulisses Carvalho says:

    Sweet! Thanks, Austin and Drumeo!

  75. philip mcevoy says:

    Concentrated awesomeness – sugar

  76. mikeanaro says:

    Who cares? he never recorded those MJ songs.

  77. DIAMOND PrAnKs says:

    Very nice sir

  78. John Martin Cantorne says:

    I watched his drum solo. The guy can do double pedal sounds with just a single kick pedal.

  79. Raul Chan says:

    Suban la dr Belli jean

  80. argh666 says:

    To understand how unique and exceptional Sugarfoot is, when they play the beats on full speed here it doesn't sound much like the way Sugarfoot plays it or it is on the MJ records…he is THAT good!

  81. Flavio cardoso says:

    Toca muito

  82. Wen Ricky says:

    are his legs just really skinny or does he have a prosthetic one, and if he does how does he even play

  83. mickavellian says:

    Funny thing me the groove is just a FAST disco groove . I haven't a clue as to what that entails technically but it is part of my repertoire . On the kick drum however he embellished (very subtlely ) the bottom and it and it adds a presence . that no other disco groove has (Bee-Gees) Now ! "Criminal" is just HIS groove and it is magnificent.

  84. Brendon Kelly says:

    Time to do/try Danny Carey. Anything by him. Good luck. Lol.

  85. Notha says:

    4:13 "MMMMMMMMM" TASTY! 😀 😀

  86. JAMES HELGESON says:

    Is his right leg doing good?

  87. MR Entrémattor says:


  88. hey its me ,jeremy says:

    What do you call a white man with a big dick?

    …Michael Jackson😂😂

  89. Rio Mariucci says:

    Dude…your snare sounds amazing!

  90. Gagarin Lee says:

    When I first listened to Jonathan playing, I thought “hmm, sounds easy, right?” Then I see your transcription, I know my hearing is bad now. Lol

  91. Tim Pedzinski says:

    Great video! That said whats up with the ragged drum sticks? when you were talking and holding the sticks up it looked like a logger had been chopping away at them.

  92. Kevin Nahai says:

    The teacher is way better than sugarfoot

  93. 011- Jaja says:


  94. Eduard Khil says:

    just came here to re-calibrate my watch

  95. Stefan M. Faust says:

    I really don`t understand why drummers wear earphones while playing drums. Can anybody explain me that?

  96. DrumrGal4Christ says:

    U do pretty well urself. I met Johnathan In person when you came down to Miami and he was working with Cameo; he gave me his drum sticks and personalized them-signed them. He told me how When he played for Madonna she was very serious about every beat…

  97. Vinz A. says:

    he does utilize a lot of those hats huh

  98. emjfotografi says:

    The great ones always make it look easier than it really is

  99. David Baines says:

    I've no shame in saying I will be stealing that Jam drum riff. Cool vid.

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