Jazz is one of the most artistic styles of music around, especially for drummers. Jazz gives the drummer the opportunity to show their true colors and skills. The problem is most drummers do not take the time to learn how to play jazz drums; which is a big problem. Playing jazz drums is not too hard theoretically; however, most drummers are used to 4/4 rock drumming. Jazz is played with a lot of triplets. It has a totally different feel than rock, and the drummer has a different job. So let’s take the time to learn how to play basic jazz on the drums. Alot of jazz includes fast drumming, so make sure you check out this article on boosting your stick speed. Also, jazz is a very unique style of music that requires perfect timing, so make sure you check out this article on developing your timing!
The first thing you need to learn when playing jazz is the basic jazz swing groove. A jazz drummer’s main job is to keep time for the rest of the group. You never want to overpower the rest of the band. To do this, simply use your hi hat and ride cymbal. Let’s start with your hi hat. With your foot, step on the 2 and 4 count. It is VERY important to keep this groove over top of everything you play in jazz. Although it is only you’re hi hat, it is very important for the swing groove. Next we will add the ride cymbal. This is played with a triplet feel as you will see in the sheet music provided. Take your time to master this groove.
Jazz drums are sometimes very subtle compared to the rest of the band. This being the case, the bass drum shouldn’t be too dominant. Make sure you do not play the bass drum to loudly at all. A good technique for this is heel down bass drum playing. This way you can control the volume of the kick. A technique jazz drummer’s use is feathering the bass drum. This is done by lightly tapping the bass drum on the quarter, or eighth notes. Usually the bass drum will follow the bass guitar player, so try and determine what kind of progression the bass player is playing and try to follow him. Make sure you cannot hear the bass drum too much but rather feel it.
This is the basic jazz swing groove that you will hear most commonly in jazz music. The hi hat and ride cymbal are very important, so make sure you have a solid groove developed with those before moving on. The bass drum should be more of a feeling and not an over powering thump like in rock drumming. As for your left hand, this is totally up to you depending on the song. The snare can be used to help accent the rest of the band, or can be used to play straight quarter notes. It is all personal. Try learning how to play the shuffle pattern, this is another variation of jazz that is very fun to play! Check out this article on Drum Soloing to give you some ideas for adding in some jazz solos nad fills. Also, the Moeller Method has become very popular with this style of music. So take your time and develop this jazz swing groove, and you will be playing along with the pros in no time!
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