If you’re just starting out, it’s a very good idea to learn the basics of Jazz drumming. To really get into Jazz drumming, there are some key concepts that will be helpful.
If you’re new to it all, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin. In this article, I’ll cover some of the Jazz drumming basics.
Understanding Jazz Drumming
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Before we dive into the basics of Jazz drumming, it’s important to explain a bit about it. Jazz drumming is a style of playing that uses mostly improvisation with loads of syncopated (off-beat) rhythms.
In comparison, Rock drumming is about holding down a static drum beat with occasional drum fills. Jazz drummers on the other hand, need to improvise their drum parts often and respond to the other musicians’ playing in the band.
Rarely do Jazz drummers play a precise drum beat from the start to finish of a song. Everything we play in Jazz drumming is in response to the music that is being created spontaneously with the other musicians in the band.
It’s a musical conversation in the same way that we have conversations with others in our daily lives. We don’t always know what we are going to say but we try to stay on the topic of the conversation.
Jazz Drumming Basics
If you’re just starting out with Jazz drumming, here are some basic concepts to keep in mind:
Time – Jazz drumming relies heavily on time or playing consistently with different tempos. It’s helpful to practice playing with a metronome or drumless tracks to develop a strong sense of time. This will help you stay in sync with the other musicians in the band and support their solos.
Syncopation – Jazz drumming uses syncopated rhythms, which means playing off the beat. This creates tension and release in the music.
For example, Rock drumming focuses a lot of the groove and drum fill time on beginning and ending on counts 1 or 3. In Jazz drumming, our focus is on counts 2 and 4. We also emphasize the “ands” (or off-beats) a lot. Syncopation gives Jazz music lots of forward motion.
Swing – The Swing feeling is a crucial element of Jazz drumming. It’s a triplet-based rhythmic pattern that also contributes to the forward motion of the music.
A lot of this forward motion comes from the Swing feel we have on the ride cymbal. Even without syncopation, it’s important to be able to swing your quarter notes on the ride cymbal. To learn this, check out my Intro to Jazz Drumming Course.
Improvisation – Improvisation is the biggest reason Jazz drumming is so different from any other style of drumming. We never play a song the same way twice. Jazz drummers make up their drum parts from the beginning to the ending of every song.
A great way to work on your improvisation is by practicing your drum soloing and drum fills and grooves with drumless tracks. I’ve created hundreds of Jazz drum practice tracks that will help transform your drumming.
Practicing Jazz Drumming Basics
To get good at Jazz drumming, you’ve got to practice. There’s no short cut to Jazz drumming success. In fact, I think practice should be fun and frustration free. Here are some solid tips for practicing Jazz drumming basics to make it fun!
Start Out Slowly
Start slow – When learning a new rhythm or pattern, start slow and gradually increase the tempo. I always say, “You have to play it slow to learn it fast.”
Also try taking everything one count at a time, out of time. Focus on playing everything that falls under each individual count without the pressure of playing in time.
This will help you develop muscle memory and improve you drum set independence faster than any other method. This approach will help you play things correctly every time and avoid unnecessary frustration.
By the way, this is exactly how I teach all of my courses at Jazz Drum School.
Practice With a Metronome
Use a metronome – Practice playing to a metronome with improve your timing and accuracy. You can also use those drumless tracks I mentioned above.
We need a time reference when we practice so that we can catch ourselves when we are speeding up or slowing down. There are 3 ways you can use a metronome effectively for your drum practice.
1. Use the click of the metronome for every quarter note of a measure. For example, if you are counting in 4/4 or 4 beats to a measure, every count would get a metronome click. Use any tempo for this practice.
2. Assign the click of the metronome to counts 2 and 4. In this case, every time you hear a click it would go with count 2 and 4. Start at about 60 BPM for this practice.
3. Assign the click to only count four. This way will super-charge your time because of all the space in between the click. For example every time you hear a click it would be for count 4. Start at about 35-45 BPM to use this practice.
Record Your Playing
Record yourself – Recording yourself during practice and at performances can quickly help you identify areas that need improvement. It’s humbling and sometimes frustrating but the recording doesn’t lie!
I regularly record myself at my gigs and have for years. In fact, if you haven’t seen my YouTube shorts, take a look. Lot’s of video from my performances over the years.
Play With Musicians
Play with other musicians – Playing with other is the fastest way to improve your Jazz drumming skills. It helps you learn how to connect your drumming technique with the music and other musicians in the group.
Get together with friends to work on Jazz Standards, find a Jazz jam session in your area or heck, start your own jam session!
Resources for Learning Jazz Drumming Basics
If you’re interested in learning more about Jazz drumming, there are many resources available. Here are some of the resources I have for you:
Online lessons – I have hundreds of Jazz drumming lessons here at Jazz Drum School. They’ll take you from Jazz drumming basics all the way up to advanced skills.
The great thing too, is you don’t have to pay monthly for access. Everything here is one-time payment for lifetime access.
Private lessons – I also teach private lessons using a video conferencing platform called Forte that’s designed for music lessons. It’s wonderfully easy to use and all of my private students love it.
YouTube drum lessons – I also have many Jazz drumming lessons on my YouTube channel. All of these connect back to the techniques and concepts taught here at Jazz Drum School.
I use the same 4-camera setup for both my Jazz Drum School courses and private lessons.
Jazz drumming takes some practice and dedication but it’s incredibly fun to play. By learning the basics of Jazz drumming, including time, syncopation, Swing feel, and improvisation, you’ll be well on your way to making some great Jazz music.
Remember, the journey of a thousand beats begins with a single stroke – so grab your sticks and get practicing like there’s no tomorrow! Keep swinging my friend!