The art of playing brushes is more than just patterns. To play brushes successfully on the bandstand, you need to connect those patterns to music.
Legendary drummer “Papa” Jo Jones said it best, “The hardest thing for a musician to learn is how to play WITH people.” Playing brushes is 100% about performing with other musicians. The drum brushes have a wide dynamic range. This allows them blend more easily than sticks and play WITH other acoustic instruments and vocals.
THE ART OF PLAYING BRUSHES
It’s always been interesting to me that we reserve “the art of playing” for brushes and not sticks. A great player, using sticks can certainly be mesmerizing. They can wow us with their speed and chops.
There is something more artistic though, when it comes to playing brushes. It really does feel like painting with a paint brush on the drums. The sound and feeling of dragging my brush across the drum head is deeply satisfying. It’s painting with sound.
WHY IS PLAYING BRUSHES SO HARD?
I think another reason we say the “art” of playing brushes has something to do with the effort required to learn and play brushes. For every hour you practice with sticks, you’ll need a separate hour for brushes. That’s based on my 35 years of teaching and performing experience.
The reason for this is because of the fine motor (small muscle) skill required to move and manipulate brushes across the drumset. Brushes use very little gross motor (large muscle) skill. They are almost entirely fine motor motions. Fine motor motions take longer to learn than gross motor. I believe this is why many drummers shy away from playing brushes.
STYLES OF MUSIC THAT USE BRUSHES
Jazz music is probably the most well-known music associated with playing brushes. I use brushes often when performing Jazz Swing. Bossa Nova and Samba music styles also work well with brushes. Some other styles I play brushes in are, Light Pop, Country, New Orleans Second Line, Rhumba, Bolero, Brazilian Baião, Funk and Hip-Hop.
My practical and sometimes flashy approach to playing brushes allows me to play brushes in almost any musical situation in the recording studio, on stage or at rehearsals.
Sometimes I use one brush and one stick or one brush and one hand. I also often transition from brushes to sticks and back to brushes. The music always tells me what I should play and how I should play it. I use brushes for a unique texture and feeling in contemporary music. Also, when the music needs a soft texture and quiet dynamic, brushes are my choice.
LEARN THE ART OF PLAYING BRUSHES
I have many brushes instructional videos on my YouTube channel Von Baron Drum Lessons. My brushes instructional videos are my most popular. This year, I decided to take all of my brush playing and create a step-by-step course for drummers.
It’s called the BRUSHES MASTERY COURSE and it goes way deeper than simply teaching you a few patterns and fills. It also teaches you how to connect your brush playing to the music and use them in real musical situations.
MASTER YOUR SOUND
“Papa” Jo Jones, Ed Thigpen, Jeff Hamilton, Vernel Fournier, Joe Morello and Peter Erskine are some of my favorite brush players. I’ve studied and played along with their recordings for many years. Each of them has their own unique style and sound.
Brushes more than sticks, give you an opportunity to develop and master your own unique sound on the drums. Playing brushes can also be very visual. You can add some flare to your playing and make the brushes look like drumming wizardry.
In my BRUSHES MASTERY COURSE, I teach you everything I do with brushes and guide and encourage you to develop your own unique sound and style. See the preview videos below. They’re listed in order starting with the most recent.
BRUSHES PATTERNS AND FILLS
Jeff Hamilton, one of my first Jazz brushes teachers, taught Swing patterns he uses and three decades later, I teach my own patterns. We all have patterns that fit our hands better than others.
Brushes drum fills are the same. I have a collection of rudiments and fills that I use in a variety of playing situations. To this day, I haven’t heard anyone else play brushes fills or patterns the way I do. I think this is the goal for playing brushes. Be your own personality with brushes. Let them be an extension of your voice.
Looking for some great drum brushes? Here’s a blog post about the brushes I use.
LEARNING BRUSHES CAN BE PAINLESS!
Even though, brushes require a lot of fine motor skill, I have a way of teaching brushes that helps you over that hurdle. For example, one of my patterns (and 5-minute warm up as well), will actually help you develop many of the motions you need for playing almost any other pattern with brushes.
In the BRUSHES MASTERY COURSE, you also get to practice your new brushing skills with top-tier Jazz musicians in a unique video format (see below). You can see and hear every note they play. The advantage of this is that you can more easily see how your patterns and fills fit with the other instruments’ parts. This also just makes learning a whole lot more fun!
SO WHERE DO YOU START?
When you’re ready to add those pesky brushes into your playing, go check out the BRUSHES MASTERY COURSE. I’d like to take you from the basics to the bandstand and help you achieve your brushing goals. It’ll be easier, more fun and less expensive than you probably expect. I hope to see you in there!
PREPARE FOR YOUR JAZZ GIGS. Download high-quality, effective DRUMLESS TRACKS. Improve your time, feel, comping and soloing. Learn to play better with real musicians.
For fun and free YouTube JAZZ DRUM LESSONS.
Also check out my BEYOND DRUM BEATS PODCAST. If you are pursuing a career in music and drumming, this podcast is a valuable resource.