Uncovering the Heart and Soul of Jazz Drum Beats

Jazz drumming is of course an essential part of the Jazz genre. Jazz drum beats, in particular, are known for their rhythmic complexity and subtlety.

If you are a drummer looking to learn more about Jazz drum beats, this article is for you. I’ll cover some of the important Jazz drum beats, their history, and how you can start learning them today.

Knowing Jazz drum beats allows you to play almost anything else in music.

Brief History of Early Jazz Drumming

Jazz drumming has its roots in African-American music, specifically in the rhythms of West Africa. In the early 1900s, Jazz music began to emerge in New Orleans, Louisiana.  It was during this time that the first drum sets were used in Jazz music.

Early Jazz drummers, like Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton, played an important role in developing the Jazz drumming style. They focused on creating rhythms that were syncopated and swung, which is still a fundamental aspect of Jazz drumming today.

The Basic Jazz Swing Jazz Drum Beats

Jazz drumming is all about feel and improvisation. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to playing Jazz drum beats, but there are some important common rhythms.

Let’s start with the most used Jazz drum groove, the Swing beat. In its basic form it’s a 4/4 triplet-based rhythm played with a swing feel Ride cymbal pattern.

A way we often verbalize this pattern on the ride cymbal is SPAN-GA-lang. If we count in triplets like “1 and a, 2 and a, 3 and a, 4 and a”, The SPAN is on count “2”, the GA is on the “a” and the lang is on count “3”. It then repeats again starting on count 4. 

Add an accent to the SPAN and sometimes the GA but not on the lang.  Just repeat this over and over and this is your basic Jazz ride cymbal pattern and feel. 

Next play your hi-hat with your foot on counts “2” and “4.” Add your cross-stick on count “4” and play your bass drum lightly on all counts “1, 2, 3, 4.” Now you’re up and swinging with the basic Jazz drum beat!

Enroll in my Intro To Jazz Drumming Course today, to go deeper into the Swing feel, learn essential Jazz independence exercises, very useful drum fill patterns and how to trade fours (soloing).

Learn basic Jazz drum beats in my Intro to Jazz Drumming course.

Bossa Nova and Samba Jazz Drum Beats

Bossa Nova and Samba are other styles of music from Brazil that heavily influenced Jazz drumming.

The Bossa Nova genre emerged in the late 1950s, with its gentle, swaying rhythms and delicate melodies. Jazz musicians, such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, were instrumental in introducing Bossa Nova to American audiences, and the style became hugely popular in the 1960s.

Samba, on the other hand, is a more upbeat and energetic style of music, with its driving rhythms and syncopation. Samba has been an essential part of Brazilian culture for decades also influencing Jazz musicians around the world.

Jazz drummers who use Bossa Nova and Samba in their playing essentially learn how to play four percussion instruments at the same time.  Brazilian grooves like Afro-Cuban grooves which I’ll talk about next, are challenging for drum set independence. 

Good news though, I’ve got a Brazilian drumming Course that’ll teach everything to you step by step.  I’ll have you grooving like a Carioca (resident of Rio de Janeiro) in no time!

Afro-Cuban Latin Beats

Afro-Cuban beats have been vital to Jazz drumming since the 1940s, with musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker incorporating the rhythms in their music.

These rhythms are characterized by their use of polyrhythms and syncopation, creating a complex and layered sound. Like Bossa Nova and Samba, Afro-Cuban grooves are imitating the sounds of 4 percussion instruments (one for each limb). 

The Mambo and Cha-Cha are the two beats we use the most in Jazz drumming and are known for their syncopation and forward-moving feel.  To learn both of these and many more important Latin drum beats, enroll in my Afro-Cuban Latin Drumming Course

Afro-Cuban Jazz drum beats have been important from almost the beginning of Jazz music.


Jazz drumming is a complex and nuanced art form. Jazz drum beats like Swing, Bossa Nova, Samba, Mambo and Cha-Cha are known for their syncopation, limb coordination and massive influence on Jazz music and drumming. They’re also a lot of fun to play!

If you are a drummer looking to learn more about Jazz drumming, you came to the right place. Jazz drumming is all we do at Jazz Drum School and I’d like to help you enjoy Jazz drumming as much as I do. I hope to see you in a course soon! Keep swinging my friend! 

Do you want to play Jazz on the drums?

Hey, I’m Von Baron. I’m determined to help you become an AMAZING Jazz drummer.  My only question is, are you ready?

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