Jazz Drumming, First Steps

Step One
Jazz drumming is a massive subject, simply by virtue of the breadth of the genre itself. But by that very token, it is a genre of drumming that is not only fantastic fun to play, but in learning the skills to do so, offers more benefits that cross over to all other styles in more ways than any other style of drumming can. The internal clock, the pulse, feel, improvisation, dynamic command, technical precision, playing over bar lines, odd time, polyrhythms – the list goes on, but these are just a few of the skills that learning and playing jazz will add to your current set, and improve exponentially the more you use and practice them!

So, we’re going to approach this subject at a nice steady pace, to ensure each skill is understood and mastered before moving on – this will ensure that your understanding of the jazz genre is genuine, and thus your playing is authentic and well rounded.

In this section, Step One, we are going to look at the entire basis for the jazz feel – the triplet.

The following idea is very simple in itself, and in a musical sense, but it is the foundation for understanding and playing with the swing feel, the feel that lies at the root of all jazz.

So – Triplets…

Shuffles, swing, jazz, bebop, gospel, and so on, are all derived from the triplet. In it’s basic form, it is a group of three notes played together, often with an accent on the first note (but not always).Firstly, we need to become familiar with playing straight triplets, to then later be able to feel the right pulse and swing when playing the variations that give us the jazz styles.

Firstly, play the following with no accenting at all, just for a few minutes:

Triplets Jazz Lesson

Now we are going to begin to feel the triplet pulse. By playing an accent on the first partial of each triplet. At once, you will hear the difference – you will hear the triplet feel as we emphasise each first note, ensuring that the remaining two partials of each triplet are soft and even. That accent is what breathes life into the triplet.

Jazz Drum Lesson

You must now practise the triplets at all tempos, preferably using a metronome. Try to get the flow as fluid as possible, and internalise that swing feel as it emerges from the accented triplet sound.That’s all you need to do for this step – like we said, slow and steady – it’s all about feel so we don’t want to rush forward without having that feel developing inside us!

Once you’ve mastered the above, move on to Step Two, which will be posted soon.

Author: Steve Rigg

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