bo diddley

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The "Bo Diddley" Beat

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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 respective countries.
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 on Drums

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 play
"4 on the floor" (bottom line). Guitarist and/or bass player will play simultaneous
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, it is:
1 (2) and (3) 4 - (1) 2 3 (4)

23clave.jpg (7512 bytes)
The 3/2 Son Clave
For more information on clave, see


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 on drums.

Examples / Songs

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

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* If you have anything to add to our Bo Diddley Beat page, please let us know.
We welcome feedback, variations, interpretations, and any external resources.


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