One of the trickiest parts of Jazz drumming is knowing how to play with the other musicians. In this article I’m going to share some music without drums for practice that will help you learn this important skill.
Real playing situations
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When I started drumming, I had a drive to be a better drummer every day than I was the day before. Practicing hand technique, foot technique, hand patterns, grooves and Jazz drumming coordination were daily activities.
It was confusing though, knowing how I was actually going to play Jazz drums with other musicians. I didn’t know exactly how to connect all of the drumming exercises I was learning to real musical playing 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.
Jazz music is human
When we play Jazz music with other humans, the tempo is not perfect. In fact, it often “breathes” or constantly changes. It goes a little faster or slower at times, than the original count-off tempo of a song.
This is the human aspect of Jazz 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 Jazz music performance business. The only way to learn this skill is to play with other people.
How playing with others makes you a better drummer
When we play Jazz with other people we are playing with their musical ideas. Sometimes they play a few notes, sometimes they play many. They play fast, slow, loud, soft, in different styles and with various rhythmic phrases.
This is what makes Jazz music, music. Learning to listen, interact and respond to this spontaneous expression of sound makes you a better drummer.
I do a lot of playing with Phillip Strange – piano and Tetsuro Aratama – bass, pictured above. In this photo, they were recording video practice tracks for my drum brushes course. These video practice tracks also became the “Almost Jazz Standards” backing tracks for drummers I share more about below.
Phil and Tetsuro are on the highest level of musicianship. Playing with them always pushes me to listen more and play better. Like me, whether you are practicing or performing, playing with skilled Jazz musicians is essential to get better on the drums.
When we’re starting to learn about Jazz drumming hearing all of the musical ideas swirling around can be 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.
Through listening we begin to understand more of what is being played. It gradually becomes clearer what we need to play to contribute to the music in a constructive way.
Down time can make you a better drummer
If nothing else, a pandemic 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.
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 and support my fellow drummers in keeping their skills sharp too.
I’ve been composing and arranging music for a long time. It was time to use those skills to produce music that could help 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 also called drumming backing tracks are simply music without drums so that drummers can practice their parts. I’ve produced many backing tracks for drums and 100% of them are recordings with real musicians.
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.
All of the tracks give you 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 performance feeling improves your Jazz drumming much faster than playing with computerized music or music loops. My music without drums for practice, train your brain to respond quickly to changes in the music and prepare you for live performance.
Some drumming backing tracks recommendations
Practice trading fours and eights
Practice trading fours and eights. If you’re not sure what this is, check out my article, The Secret To A Great Jazz Drum Solo. It will help understand this common Jazz drum soloing format.
To improve your Jazz drums trading fours and eights, I recommend my Jazz Swing and Bossa Nova and Samba Trading Fours and Eights Drumless Tracks Bundle pictured above.
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 sheet music) to help you improve your music reading.
Having Swing and Bossa Nova-Samba styles in this bundle is really helpful to prepare you for soloing over other swinging and straight-note feels.
Practice all of your Jazz drumming skills in many styles
My other recommendation is a bundle of three individual drumless track collections. These are re-arranged Jazz standards.
As I mentioned before, the Almost Jazz Standards series drumless tracks are masterfully performed by Phillip Strange: piano and Tetsuro Aratama: Bass. They’re two of the top Jazz musicians here 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 energy of the musicians’ playing.
- Jazz Swing
- Bossa Nova
- 3/4 Swing
- Fast Swing
- Straight 8ths
- Partito Alto/Samba
- New Orleans Second Line
- 12/8 Blues
- light Pop
- 5/4 Swing
This music without drums for practice, will help you quickly develop your ability to play with other musicians in real musical situations. Every track also has a drum chart to help you with your drumming notation reading.
Getting better at Jazz drumming is more than just technique and the physical ability to play drums. The most in-demand drummers, also know how to play great with the other musicians in the band.
My music without drums for practice is an invaluable way to develop this skill. I hope you’ll check them out and add them to your practice routine.
Always wishing you always the very best in your drum practice. KEEP ON DRUMMIN’ my friend!
Do you use music without drums for your drumming practice?
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