Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Music Honours


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Supervisor

Nick Abbey


Nate Smith is a highly acclaimed contemporary drummer, songwriter, and composer who displays virtuosic facility and pushes the boundaries of creativity within the contemporary funk and jazz- fusion drumming landscape. In performances with dynamic funk band The Fearless Flyers, Smith uses an uncommon, simplified drum set-up comprising just the kick, snare, and hi-hat (termed the ‘two-piece drum kit’), which introduces a range of challenges around maintaining creativity and the listener’s interest through just three distinct voices. This study investigates Smith’s approach to improvising on this restricted kit through transcription and analysis of six improvisations from selected studio and live performances with the group.

Observable melodic drumming techniques in Smith’s playing were identified and categorized into five groups: compositional elements, motivic development, recurring sticking patterns, subverting expectations, and timbral manipulation. In exploring Smith’s approach with the band, the research provides transferrable insights into drum-kit performance on the unique set-up, as well as contributing to knowledge regarding Smith’s drumming – an area that has not been the topic of an academic research paper before. This study is fuelled by interest in creativity within restriction and informs my practise as a drummer, as well as the practice of other drummers operating within the contemporary domain, encouraging a deeper comprehension of the many nuances and complexities the drum kit has to offer.



Access Note

Some images are not available in this version of the thesis due to copyright considerations.