I worked hard with top-tier musicians to re-arrange well-known Jazz Standards into powerful Jazz drumming practice tracks. In this article, I’m going to share about these tracks and how they can help transform your Jazz drumming.
I’ve learned over the years that 50% of Jazz drumming is patterns and the other 50% is connecting patterns to music. My main goal in making these Jazz Standards drumless tracks was to help drummers connect to the music. Without the connecting to music part, Jazz drumming patterns are often unmusical.
Backing tracks for drums with the help of my A-list friends
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A few years ago, I moved from Honolulu, Hawaii to the Kobe area of Japan. Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to work with some of the best Jazz musicians in the country. Two such players are pianist Dr. Phillip Strange and bassist Tetsuro Aratama.
We play a lot together and when I was planning to create these new Jazz Standards for drummers, I knew they would be perfect.
Both Phil and Tetsuro have solid time and astounding musicality on their instruments. They are also two of the easiest guys to work with. They have super positive attitudes. You can read about the importance of attitude in professional music here.
Making video drumming backing tracks
These Jazz backing tracks for drummers started as video tracks. In my Jazz brushes course, the Brushes Mastery Course, I wanted to do more than just record audio drum practice tracks. I wanted to make video tracks so that drummers could actually see the musicians playing their instruments.
As much as possible, I wanted to create a feeling that drummers are playing with these superb musicians.
I used two GoPro Hero 8 cameras for the video and a Zoom H2N Handy Recorder for the audio. My setup and recording process was quick and easy without the fuss of multi-track recorded audio. I was pleasantly surprised with the result.
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Here’s a sample of one of the tunes we recorded for the course.
Avoiding copyright issues
Most Jazz standards are recorded with the original melodies. Using the melodies of copyrighted songs then requires licensing fees which can get quite expensive.
To side step all of this, Phillip Strange and I worked out our own melodies to the chords of famous Jazz Standards. We are using the same chords from many tunes we know and love but with reimagined melodies.
This allowed us the creative freedom to match the feeling and mood of the original Standard. Through this arranging process, I came up with the name Almost Jazz Standards for the drumless tracks version of these video tracks. They’re Jazz Standards but with a twist in the melody.
Phil and Tetsuro are pros to the core. They came in and knocked out 22 takes in no time at all. As you can hear above, their playing is on a very high level. They also recorded songs in 3/4 (Jazz Waltz) and 5/4 (like Dave Brubeck’s famous song Take 5).
As drummers, we want to constantly seek out musicians who are better than we are. Their skill will then pull us up to another level of ability on drums. When playing with Phil and Testuro and the Brushes Mastery Course video tracks or with the drumless tracks, your playing will expand.
You will be able to hear and play things you couldn’t before. Practicing with this level of musicianship will prepare you to play with most any player in the Jazz world.
Tetsuro Aratama and Phillip Strange recording Almost Jazz Standards.
3 volumes of Jazz backing tracks for drums
As a drum teacher for over 20 years, I wanted to create Jazz drum practice tracks that could really prepare drummers for playing live music. Connecting our drums to the playing of the other musicians is how we get gigs!
I also wanted to create drum practice tracks that covered the many styles of music we get asked to play in the World of Jazz drumming. The 3 volumes of the Almost Jazz Standards 23 drumless tracks or video tracks in the Brushes Mastery Course include, Jazz Swing, Bossa Nova, Samba, Afro-Cuban, Pop, New Orleans Second Line and many more styles.
We actually recorded 15 different Jazz Standards with many songs having 2 versions. Extra takes give you more opportunities to practice responding to and interacting with the music.
Another bonus is that all tunes have drum charts too. I think drum charts, also called drumming sheet music, is helpful. Drum charts are simply road maps to a song. Once you have the road map, you know where the music is going. This will help you to know what to play and when to play it.
Any drummer wanting to learn and play Jazz music, will encounter Jazz Standards. They are foundation of Jazz music. Learning Jazz Standard tunes structure will help you learn the language of Jazz music.
The language of Jazz is like any other language. When you can hear it, understand it and speak it, you can really express your ideas. Jazz is a musical conversation. You’ll be a part of this conversation from the beginning to the ending of practice song.
To learn this language, you need to practice listening to and playing with musicians who are fluent in Jazz language. Phil and Testuro’s fluency is easy to hear and understand. Their playing will greatly improve your own Jazz language fluency.
What are your favorite Jazz backing tracks for drums?
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