Jazz drum exercises are an important part of mastering Jazz on the drums. This is because Jazz drumming requires a high level of technical and musical skill. One of the biggest reasons for this is the interactive conversational approach of Jazz music.
In this article, I’ll share some tips for Jazz drum exercises that can help improve your playing and get you conversing with the other musicians.
Practice Jazz Drum Exercises with Steady Time
Table of Contents
Having solid time is near the top of the list for Jazz drumming skills. Time simply means the ability to play at a steady tempo.
To improve your time, it’s good to get comfortable working with a metronome. A metronome is a tool that helps you keep time with a steady clicking or beeping sound.
As drummers in training, we need a solid time reference so we know when we are speeding up and slowing down in our Jazz drum exercises. A metronome will do this for us.
You can use a metronome different ways for your practice. My recommendation is not to use it to play quarter notes for you. Instead assign the click to either counts 2 and 4 or only count 4.
This will take some getting used to and you’ll need to make a mental shift in how you hear the click. The more you do it though, the easier it will become. Check out my video below on how I use a metronome to practice my Jazz drum exercises.
I also recommend that my you practice all of your Jazz drum exercises very slowly with a metronome. Remember, it’s not a race, it’s about really getting any new drumming skill into your body and out in your playing.
Drumless Track Practice
Another really useful tool is a bass only drumless track. This is a recorded bass line played by a pro bass player that you can use instead of a metronome.
The advantage to using a bass only track is that it will train your mind and body to actually play well with other musicians. At the end of the day, we really need to be able to sync our playing with the other band members.
While you’re improving your time you’ll also be blending your drumming with the bass. This way of practicing Jazz drum exercises will also lead to much better feel.
Work on Your Timing
Timing is crucial for Jazz drumming and it isn’t only about having steady tempo to your playing. It’s also knowing when to play an accent, drum fill, change of grooves and many other things in response to the music.
A drummer needs to hone these skills to make great music with the other musicians in the band. One way to work on this kind of timing is to practice playing along with recordings of famous Jazz music.
Try to match the timing of the drummer on the recording as they play comping (accompanying) rhythmic patterns, play drum fills or change grooves. Notice what they play to transition from section to section in the song form.
Also listen to what the other musicians are playing when the drummer plays these things. Listening to the other musicians will help you learn much more about drum timing than just focusing on the drums alone.
Drumless tracks can really help you out here too. My Almost Jazz Standards drumless tracks are perfect for this kind of drum practice. Great Jazz drummers always respond in a musical context and learning to hear that context will help you become great too!
Drumming Rudiments Are Great Jazz Drum Exercises
Drumming rudiments are like the words we use to create rhythmic sentences on the drums. The more we feel comfortable with rudiments, the more we can speak.
Drumming rudiments are simply patterns of single and double strokes, flams and ruffs that help you develop your hand speed, control, and coordination.
Rudiments can be practiced on a practice pad and a drum set. Some common rudiments for Jazz drumming include paradiddles, flams, and ruffs.
Here are 3 rudiments I use a lot and I know will help you “speak” better on the drums. I’ve written out the stickings for you too:
1. Single Paradiddle-Diddles – RLRRLL or LRLLRR
2. Flam Accents – lRLR rLRL (Ghost notes are small l and r)
3. 5-Stroke Rolls – RRLLR or LLRRL
I actually use 17 drumming rudiments regularly in my playing. To learn these and how to play with drum brushes, check out my Brushes Mastery Course!
Play with Different Dynamics
Dynamics are the volume of your drumming. Jazz drumming requires a wide range of dynamics from soft and subtle to loud and powerful.
Practice all of your grooves, drum fills and drum solos at different dynamic levels. You can also practice playing with brushes or mallets to create different textures and tones at quieter volumes.
Using dynamics effectively gives shape to the music. So practice all of your Jazz drum exercises at many dynamic ranges. This will help you to feel comfortable using dynamics in your performances.
Learn Different Styles of Jazz Drumming
One of the goals of Jazz drumming is to become as versatile as possible. Our versatility helps us to fit many musical situations and increases our creativity. Simply said, the more we can play the more we can create.
You can even learn all of the styles I listed above and more right here at Jazz Drum School!
Jazz Drum Exercises to Improve your independence
The one thing that trips up most drummers is drum set independence or coordination. Jazz drummers have a super high level of limb independence.
This is because we want to really immerse our limbs in the music and respond in musical ways. If our drumming coordination is holding us back, we’ll always feel limited in what we can play.
To get there, you’ll need a system of drum independence exercises that rewires your brain. There are many out there but only a handful that really free up your coordination quickly.
Check out my Jazz Drumming Patterns Course to learn all 8 of my Jazz drum exercises for independence. By the end of the course, you will be a different drummer!
Jazz drumming requires a high degree of technical skill and musicality. It’s a bit harder to master than most other styles of drumming but the more effort you put in to your Jazz drumming exercises, the more ability and creativity you’ll have on the kit.
By practicing these Jazz drum exercises and following my practice tips, you can improve your time, timing, hand technique, dynamics, versatility and drum set independence.
Remember, these skills are only the means to the end. We learn them to speak on the drums and be a part of the musical conversation. When you get them down, the real fun begins! Keep swinging my friend!