Jazz drumming in a band is incredibly exciting. As the backbone of the rhythm section, you have the power to drive the music and set the tone for the entire band.
However, to be a great Jazz drummer, you need to communicate effectively with your fellow musicians, interact with their playing, and provide musical support.
In this article, I’ll explore these three important elements of Jazz drumming.
Communication and Drumming In A Band
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Communication is key when playing Jazz. Unlike any other style of music, Jazz drummers communicate like speaking through their instrument. It’s like having a conversation with the other members of the rhythm section, the soloists and vocalists from the beginning to the ending of a song.
One of the most important ways we communicate is by guiding the musical conversation of the band. One powerful way we do this is through marking the melody on the form of a song.
For example, if a tune has an AABA song form, we might play “in 2” on the hi-hat for the A’s and move to playing in 4 on the ride cymbal for the B section. Just this subtle difference, changes the feeling of the song and gives it contrast.
As drummers we can set the tone in this way by where we play on the drum set. We also communicate through dynamics, space, playing fewer or more notes, playing kicks and so many other ways.
Here’s another great article about how to play with other musicians.
Interaction and Drumming In A Band
Interaction and conversation are the top priority in Jazz music. As a drummer, you are the foundation of the rhythm section. Your playing supports the other musicians in the band in the same way they support you.
You need to be able to anticipate the needs and ideas of your bandmates and respond quickly to changes in the music. That could be for a shift in feel, a key change, a new melodic idea and many other ways.
To catch these changes in the music, you’ve got to listen carefully to what’s happening around you. You need to be aware of what the other musicians are playing and be able to adapt your playing to support them.
Examples of this could be adjusting your dynamics to support a soloist, or playing a subtle drum fill to transition between sections of the music.
Dive deeper into these important elements and over 100 more in my Secrets of Jazz Drumming Course.
Support and Drumming In A Band
Finally, playing Jazz on the drums requires a willingness to always play only what supports the music. This means that you’ll have to pass up on playing ideas that are fun but maybe won’t make the music sound great.
Our goal is always to support the overall sound of the band. This means we can step back and let others take the spotlight.
As a drummer, your support can take many forms. You might keep your groove simple to lock the band together and give a solid foundation for a soloist. You might also give the soloist a push to increase the solo energy with strong drum fill or a change in grooves.
Giving verbal feedback and encouragement to other musicians at rehearsals and performances, is yet another way to offer support.
Playing Jazz drums is incredibly exciting because we never know what’s coming next. Because of this unknown, we need strong musical communication skills. We’ve got to converse with our bandmates, and provide support when it’s needed.
By developing these skills, you can not only create some awesome music. You’ll also get a heck of a lot more work as a Jazz drummer!
With great communication, interaction, and support, you can become the busiest drummer in your town! Keep swinging my friend!