When I started drumming, I had a drive to be a better drummer every day than I was the day before. I was working hard on hand technique, foot technique, patterns, grooves and advanced coordination.

I remember, one of the trickiest parts of drumming to learn, was how to play Jazz drums with other musicians. I didn’t know exactly how to connect all of the drumming exercises to real musical playing situations.

Real musical situations

Things got clearer when I began to play more often with other musicians in high school and college. I would rehearse with other players, sit in at jam sessions and play a few gigs here and there. The key to being a better drummer was playing with real musicians in real musical situations.

My senior year in high school, I started sitting in at a Jazz Jam sessions in my hometown Kansas City.

I wanted to be a much better drummer and eventually make a living with my spang-ga-lang (Jazz Swing ride cymbal pattern). I realized to do that, I needed every opportunity I could find to play with other human beings.

Better drummer not perfect drummer

When we play with other humans, the tempo is not perfect. In fact, it often “breathes.” I mean, it fluctuates. It goes a little faster or slower at times, than the count-off tempo of a song.

This is the human aspect of music. Even in the recording studio we deviate from the click (studio metronome) a little here and there. Every musician does this, not only drummers.

Being able to adjust to this constant incremental change in tempo is one skill we need if we are going to succeed in the music performance business. The only way to learn this skill is to play with other people.

Music makes you a better drummer

When we play with other people we are playing with their music. Sometimes they play a few notes, sometimes they play many. They play fast, slow, loud, soft, in different styles of music and with various rhythmic phrases.

This is what makes music, music. Learning to listen, interact and respond to this spontaneous expression of sound makes you a better drummer.

Phillip Strange – piano and Tetsuro Aratama – bass, recording video practice tracks for my Brushes Mastery Course. These video practice tracks also became the “Almost Jazz Standards” drumless tracks I talk about below.

At first, hearing all of this musical expression is disorienting and mentally tiring. We don’t really understand what’s going on in the music but we can hear there is a lot to digest mentally.

Gradually, we begin to realize that we can be a better drummer by listening and understanding more of what is being played around us. It then becomes crystal clear what we need to play to contribute to the music in a constructive way.

Pandemics can make you a better drummer

If nothing else, COVID-19 taught us that we could be productive with loads of down time. It gave us a golden opportunity to get caught up on our drum practice.

Set goals for your drum practice. Check out my blog about goal setting and make your drum practice more productive and powerful.

We dove into our drum books, watched drum instruction videos and took some ZOOM drum lessons. We practiced more than we had in a long time.

One thing was missing though, playing with real musicians.

The need for real drumming practice

As most of my gigs got cancelled in 2020 and 2021, I had more time on my hands and I began to reflect. I started thinking about how I could keep my performance skills sharp. I also thought about how I could support my fellow drummers in keeping their skills sharp too.

I was always a composer and arranger and thought it was time to use those skills to produce music that could help us drummers stay on top of our game.

Whether we were in a pandemic or not, I felt it was important to practice “real” drumming. Drumming practice that could prepare us for gigging full-time or as a side-hustle.

Drumless tracks that transform your drumming

Drumless tracks are simply music without drums so that drummers can practice their parts. I produced 230 drumless tracks in the past year and a half. Almost 100% of them are recordings with real musicians.

You get that slightly imperfect tempo and musical playing that I spoke about above. Almost every track has the real feel of being in a live music situation.

This real feel transforms your drumming much faster than playing with computerized music or music loops. My drumless tracks train your brain to respond quickly to changes in the music and prepare you for performing live.

I have a variety of drum practice backing tracks that help with your Jazz comping (accompanying), time, feel, playing musical kicks (music hits), chart reading, trading Jazz fours and eights, soloing and playing in a variety of styles we use in Jazz music.

Some drumless track recommendations

Be a better drummer in your Jazz Swing feel, time and comping with these drumless tracks.

Focus your practice on developing solid Jazz Swing time, feel and comping with my first and still popular Drumless Tracks Jazz 4/4 Swing collection.

In this collection, you also have two mixes for each song. One with piano and bass and one with bass only. Bass only mixes help you learn how to lock in with the bass player.

To hone your Jazz drums trading fours and eights, I recommend my Jazz Swing and Bossa Nova and Samba Trading Fours and Eights Drumless Tracks Bundle.

These collections have 3 mixes. One with the full band (no drums of course) and bass playing during the fours and eights. This is great to help you stay in time during your solos.

The second mix is with the full band and no bass during the fours and eights. This one is the most challenging mix and really helps you develop solid time during your soloing.

There is also a third mix with bass only. This is great for crafting longer drum solos and working on your musical phrasing.

All of the drumless tracks in these collections also have drum charts (drum scores) to help you improve your music reading.

Having Swing and Bossa Nova-Samba styles in this bundle is really beneficial to prepare you for soloing over other swinging and straight-note feels.

My final recommendation is a bundle of three individual drumless track collections. These are re-arranged Jazz standards. The Almost Jazz Standards series drumless tracks are masterfully performed by two of the top Jazz musicians in Japan.

There are two versions of many of the drumless tracks. You can practice your time, feel, comping, trading fours and eights, and soloing. You’ll feel musically inspired by the intensity and energy of the the musicians’ playing.

These drumless tracks will help you quickly develop your ability to play with other musicians in real musical situations. They also have drum charts (drum sheet music) to help you with your drum notation reading.

Concluding thoughts

Being a better drummer is more than just technique and the physical ability to play drums. If we want to be better, more in-demand drummers, we have to also know how to connect our drumming to the music we are playing.

Drumless tracks are an invaluable way to do this and can be a very powerful part of your drum practice routine. Wishing you always the very best in your drum practice and Jazz drumming. KEEP ON DRUMMIN’ my friend!

Learn to play Jazz brushes in the THE BRUSHES MASTERY COURSE. It’s the most complete online drum brushes course ever created.

Get ready for your Jazz drumming gigs. Download high-quality, effective DRUMLESS TRACKS. Improve your time, feel, comping and soloing. Learn to play better with real musicians.

Book some private ZOOM DRUM LESSONS to take your Jazz drumming to new heights.

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