Jazz drumming is more than just playing a few drum beats and drum fills. Jazz drummers are a part of a musical conversation from the start to finish of every song.
Learning how to play this way requires us to change our thinking when we sit behind the drum set. In this article, I’m going to share 4 things that will help change your thinking and make you a better drummer.
Typical Drum Set Lessons
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When we take our first drum set lessons, we usually get taught some Rock drum beats, drumming rudiments and basic drum fills.
This way of learning has two HUGE limitations.
- Our Rock drumming independence will not allow us to easily play many other styles of music.
- We will not learn many of the skills we need to know to play well with other musicians.
Our goal in learning how to play drums should be flexibility. We need flexibility in our drumming to allow us to create music with the people we play. This is why I always encourage drummers to learn Jazz drumming first and everything else second.
Jazz drummers are the most flexible and adaptable drummers on Earth. This because we have strong drummer independence between our limbs and know how to play well with almost any other musician.
In fact, playing well with other musicians is actually harder than the drummer independence. Interestingly enough, this is also taught the least in online drum lessons.
At my online Jazz Drum School I am changing all of that. I want all drummers regardless of style, to learn core concepts or “Secrets” of Jazz drumming. Knowing these secrets will not only improve your drumming, they’ll get you many more playing opportunities.
In my Secrets of Jazz Drumming Course I share over 100 drumming secrets that have helped me to be a successful Jazz drummer. I also share drum grooves, drum fills and specific techniques for playing with drum brushes, drum sticks and your hands on the drums.
Let’s dive into 4 of those 100+ power-packed secrets now. I promise, #3 is really going to be a shocker.
Jazz Drumming Secret #1 – Simplicity
With the great drumming skills you master learning Jazz drumming, also comes great responsibility. Just because you have the ability to play something complicated doesn’t mean it will fit the music you’re playing.
I can’t tell you how many times in my career, I played something complicated when all I really needed was one hit on the snare drum. I know I am not alone and many, many drummers suffer from overplaying. As drummers, I think we do this for 2 main reasons.
- We are excited to play the drums.
- We try to cover up the insecurities in our drumming.
Playing Drum Set
Certainly, playing drum set is very exciting and that’s why we chose this instrument. If we get too excited though, it starts to clutter the music and dilutes our groove.
As drummers, we need to think about drumming feel and tempo first. If we play simply with occasional more complicated drum fills, our drumming will always be rock solid.
One thing I notice in a lot of beginning and amateur drummers is they play many notes on the drums. In a drum lesson, if I ask them to just play a quarter-note Rock drum beat or swing quarter notes on the ride cymbal, they can’t.
They have inconsistency in the spacing of their notes and their playing speeds up and slows down a lot. Playing many notes may cover some of this up but it will not fix these basic problems.
Time and Feel are the two most important goals in playing the drums. If we lack one or the other, we won’t get called for many gigs. Taking time to focus on your drumming time and feel rather than fancy drum fills, will fix many of your playing problems. It’ll also get you more gigs!
Check out my article on Drumming Time and Feel.
The video below shows me playing simply on a gig. Notice how it’s a simple Jazz Shuffle groove and only at the end of 8 measures I play a drum fill. I also teach this exact drum fill in my Secrets of Jazz Drumming course.
Jazz Drumming Secret #2 – Repetition
Repeating great rhythmic phrases is an easy way to connect musical ideas. I think in Jazz music, there is an expectation that we have to keep changing what we play. This is especially true during drum solos.
If you can actually do the opposite and repeat cool rhythmic ideas, you will positively impact the music in the following ways:
- Other musicians will know where you are in the song form as you play your drum solo.
- You will not get lost as easily during drum solos.
- You will hook the audience in and make them listen more.
- You’ll actually play musical phrases like sentences rather than random noise.
As I said in the beginning of this article, playing Jazz on the drums is a conversation from the start to finish of each song. Drum solos are also a part of this continuing conversation.
When we use repetition in our Jazz drumming, we can play cool ideas with more intensity and it helps us think about what we can play next. This kind of playing gets us out of autopilot drumming and really makes us focus on every note we play.
The video below shows me using repetition on a drum solo while trading fours.
Jazz Drumming Secret #3 – Don’t Listen To The Drums
So, were you shocked? We spend so much of our time listening to ourselves while learning to play drums. In Jazz drumming and any drumming, we have to listen differently though, when playing on stage.
Check out my article about how I listen on stage.
Listening to everyone else in the band first and yourself last will help you to know exactly what to play in any musical situation. If you only listen to yourself, you won’t be able to connect your drumming to what the other musicians are playing.
In my Secrets of Jazz Drumming course I use real playing examples of how I listen on a gig. I encourage you to enroll in my course if you want to learn this valuable skill.
Stepping outside of your own drumming and focusing intently on what’s being played around your will make your music making so much more enjoyable. It will also again, get you many more playing opportunities.
The video below shows how I am listening to every note the guitarist is playing. My trading fours drum solos are a continuation of his musical ideas while adding some of my own.
Jazz Drumming Secret #4 – Leave Space
Leaving space in your drumming is also related to playing simply. If we leave some space, we allow other musicians to be a part of the musical conversation.
I will sometimes cut out completely at the end of phrases during bass solos or piano solos. This let’s them finish their solo phrase without my drumming cluttering things up.
It also resets the music and gives it some contrast. Contrast is enormously important in music and if you can leave some space here and there it makes the music so much more interesting to play and listen to.
Leaving space in your drum solos will also give your playing that contrast. It let’s you think of interesting things to play and takes the audience on a little creative journey.
Space can also be leaving out your snare drum or kick drum on a groove. Just taking out something that you would normally play can create some nice space to let the music breathe.
The video below shows me leaving space with a repeated sax phrase. It’s pretty cool when this happens with the entire band.
So the 4 secrets again are:
- Don’t Listen To The Drums
- Leave Space
There are of course more than 100 secrets that I share in my Secrets of Jazz Drumming course so I hope you’ll enroll to learn those too.
Jazz drumming involves both physical coordination and musical sense. Most of the time, drum lessons focus on the coordination or drummer independence and don’t teach the musical sense.
This is too really too bad because the musical sense is much more important in becoming a successful drummer in any style of music. My Jazz drumming lessons at Jazz Drum School will help you develop musical sense and all of the drumming skills you need for success.
I hope to see you over there too. Keep swinging my friend!
Were you shocked by #3?
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