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  #1  
Old 06-27-2010, 06:40 PM
JimmySul20 JimmySul20 is offline
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Default What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Hello everybody. I'm new here. I've been playing drums for about 4 years now. I'm in a rock band with some friends, but I've recently become interested in learning jazz. The thing is, everybody keeps telling me that it's a lot more difficult than rock drumming. Why is this? I figured this would be a good place to ask. What's different about jazz drumming that makes it more difficult than rock? Also, will I have a hard time transitioning if I started out as a rock player? Who are some good jazz players to study? Any help and advice is appreciated.
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  #2  
Old 06-27-2010, 07:07 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

The very best things in life are difficult. I can't offer any jazz advice, but I will say follow your heart and never be discouraged by what others say or think. If it resonates with you, that's all the validation you need.
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Old 06-27-2010, 07:20 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

To a certain extent, rock is kind of like the good looking but dumb baby sibling that went out into the world and got rich. In a way, the primal music that was the blues got sophisticated and smartened up becoming jazz, and then dumbed down again to spin off rock. Various attempts to smarten up rock (prog, fusion, shred, etc) haven't done all that well. The basic apeal is that it is good looking and fun, but not so smart or heavy as to make anyone work at it.

Some people approach jazz like classical music (the Wynton camp). Studied in conservatories and kept pure. To these people, rock is that simpleton step child and one needs to go though all that they've been though to get to jazz.

There is an element of truth to all this. Jazz does take a little more than going out and buying an instrument, learning a couple of chords and pounding out your angst.

But music is music, and if you love music and immerse yourself in it, you will invariably end up with jazz as part of your vocabulary. Even if you don't study or play it outright. There are many facets to jazz, just as there are several to rock. By drawing on so many world influences, from African to Middle Eastern, to Latin America, jazz is a pretty broad palette and often more complicated than four on the floor.
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Old 06-27-2010, 07:25 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Not all jazz is more difficult than rock.
A lot of jazz is quite straight forward AABA , 8bars , easy swing groove... Miles' Kind of Blue, is a beautiful classic album to learn from.
But then of course there is difficult stuff you're referring to - stuff like Mike Clark's Blueprints of Jazz, everything in a great jazz drumming record. Now this stuff is way harder than most rock drumming.
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:04 PM
JimmySul20 JimmySul20 is offline
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Thanks for the replies so far. I'll have to check out those albums that you mentioned Big Foot. I'm not very familiar with jazz artists at all, although I've certainly heard of Miles Davis. I'm just not familiar with his music. One of my friends mentioned styles like bebop and hard bop. Are these styles more difficult than say swing/big band? Right now I'm most interested in the swing/big band style of jazz. Who are some good swing/big band drummers to check out?

BTW Thanks for the advice Larryace :)
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:33 PM
Michael McDanial Michael McDanial is offline
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Originally Posted by JimmySul20 View Post
Who are some good swing/big band drummers to check out?
A few good ones to start:

Gene Krupa:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9J5Zt2Obko

Sonny Payne:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IVX8BayOCA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gk24TONTsM


Jo Jones:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5uROxVUkA4

Louie Bellson:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54odm5e9Vpo
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  #7  
Old 06-27-2010, 08:48 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

For some Big band & Miles check out,

Porgy & Bess (drummers Jimmy Cobb and Philly Joe Jones)
or
Miles Ahead (drummer Art Taylor)

Also, if you have a concert band at school talk to the music teachers, they'd be happy to help (if yer in the band or not).
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:46 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

The first thing I would recommend is getting a teacher to take you through one of the basic books. There are a number of books out there that lay the foundation, which will include swing and uptempo swing, a fistful of Latin grooves that are essential to the jazz language, and so on. Your teacher will have one s/he likes to work from.

It is more difficult that rock, but if you enjoy practicing, like the music, and get a charge out of accomplishing new things on the kit, you'll pick it up pretty fast.
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  #9  
Old 06-27-2010, 09:53 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Your swing is one of the ways that makes jazz difficult. It takes time to develop your swing.
play along to a lot of jazz tracks to help your swinging.
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:54 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Jazz is a completely different bird than any other kind of music. It requires full emotional involvement with the music at all times, and constant awareness of what everyone else is playing. You need to be able to improvise on the fly (and in odd time), while still keeping the backbone of the song in motion. Picture jazz as a living breathing animal. Picture most other kinds of music as a theater production. Both are great in their own ways, but they're vastly different.
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  #11  
Old 06-27-2010, 10:17 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

I think it's hard to learn because it's hard to hear live. Where I live I can't hear jazz live. Very rarely. I can hear classical music live way, way more often then jazz live. I think it's easier to learn when you have a first hand live experience you can attend regularly.
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Old 06-27-2010, 10:23 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Is there a summer Jazz fest near you that you can attend?
Aside from going to a major city, That's a great place to hear real jazz being played even though there may only be a few bands playing it there.
Even Jazz Fest's have been infiltrated by Fusion, Funk, etc
You didn't specify where you are from so board members can't direct you to places in your area to hear Real Jazz performed live.
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Old 06-27-2010, 10:29 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Real jazz is about improvisation. Yes a swing helps but learning how to mix it up and never play it the same way twice is what makes jazz interesting.

Dan
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  #14  
Old 06-27-2010, 10:30 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Jazz can be quite difficult. You aren't learning parts so much as creating spontaneously to interact with what the other instruments are doing. You can hear Neil Peart recreate his exact parts from the Rush albums, but if you do that in jazz, you've missed the mark. You can play the same songs over and over, but they should be different performances each time with new content.

Interacting with other musicians can be quite demanding depending on the level of ability in the group. I would encourage you to listen to recordings that feature Brian Blade on drums. He is a very intense player who support the other musicians remarkably well. One of my favorites with him is Pursuance by Kenny Garrett, which was a tribute album to John Coltrane.

There is an expectation in jazz that drummers outline the forms of songs, play texturally and with a wide dynamic range, develop a vast repertoire of songs, and interact extensively with soloists and rhythm section players. It isn't so much that rock drummers don't do this, but they don't do it as often or to the same extreme. To play jazz drums professionally means having mastered a wide range of musical considerations.

For recordings (since big band is your thing), I would recommend that you listen to the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. Lewis is known for having applied a more small group/bebop concept to big band jazz, which has defined modern-era big band playing. I would start with:

The Definitive Thad Jones: Live From the Village Vanguard, parts 1 and 2

I would also make the effort to become familiar with Duke Ellington's recordings.

Newport 58 is a good one, as well as Ellington Uptown, with Louie Bellson

While it may not be popular to say, be careful of listening to too much Buddy Rich Orchestra. So many drummers get so caught up in the open solo showcase that they miss so much about the genre. The strongest part of Rich's drumming (to me) is how he supported his bands, but no one listens for this.

Remember also, modern jazz is a small group form. If you really want to understand what jazz is about, you need to investigate this. It won't be as easy on the ears as big band or rock/pop/rap, but once you give it a real chance and begin to hear what it is about, it will be easier to learn to play. You have to hear what it is about first and understand how to identify with it.

Some current favorites of mine:

Brad Mehldau Trio, w. Jorge Rossy
Chris Potter, w. Bill Stewart
Keith Jarrett Trio, w. Jack DeJohnette
Kurt Rosenwinkel, w. Jeff Ballard
Mark Turner, w. Brian Blade

Check them out on YouTube. You may find DeJohnette to be especially impressive.
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Old 06-27-2010, 10:36 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Jazz, like drums, is a lifetimes' exploration. Don't expect to master Jazz, but don't be frightened of it either. When you learn to swing it feels the most natural thing in the world. Take it in small steps. Find a tutor, play something really basic and then move on one step at a time. Good luck.

Davo
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  #16  
Old 06-28-2010, 12:04 AM
JimmySul20 JimmySul20 is offline
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Thanks to everybody that replied for all of your help. I'm only a few miles out of the city limits from Chicago, so if you could recommend some good jazz clubs around Chicago that would be great.
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  #17  
Old 06-28-2010, 12:12 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

I live in Madison, not too far away. Check this link:

http://www.chicagojazz.com/clubs-and-restaurants.php

I just found it in a quick search, but looks ok. Checking out the music personally will be a big advantage for you. Chicago is a good "jazz city."
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  #18  
Old 06-28-2010, 12:28 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Something only seems difficult if it is unfamiliar to you. If you've only ever been 3xposed to rock music then Jazz presents some startling differences which seem daunting at first.
If you were born in to a family of Jazz lovers/musicians and that's what you're exposed to during your formative years then the sound will be second nature.

Given that, Jazz will seem less difficult or alien the more you expose yourself to it, listen to as much and as a varied a selection of Jazz as is possible.
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Old 06-28-2010, 12:53 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimmySul20 View Post
Thanks to everybody that replied for all of your help. I'm only a few miles out of the city limits from Chicago, so if you could recommend some good jazz clubs around Chicago that would be great.
OMG you're in Chicago? Major Jazz mecca. Check out www.allthingsbass.com, hit the link at the bottom of the menu for "Links for Chicago Area Bassists", and you'll see a list of venues. You're in a perfect place to take up Jazz.
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Old 06-28-2010, 01:04 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Originally Posted by madgolfer View Post
While it may not be popular to say, be careful of listening to too much Buddy Rich Orchestra. So many drummers get so caught up in the open solo showcase that they miss so much about the genre. The strongest part of Rich's drumming (to me) is how he supported his bands, but no one listens for this..
Well, said! The entire post is excellent, but that really hit home.
Listen to how Buddy could be complimenting his band musically one-second and just plain soloing the next moment while they played behind him.
He was a master at both complimenting and soloing to the umpteenth degree.
He flowed back and forth so easily between them that the tendency is to not notice his comping.

It's the subtle parts in Jazz drumming that you don't first notice that are the real nuts and bolts.
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Old 06-28-2010, 01:15 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Originally Posted by JimmySul20 View Post
Hello everybody. I'm new here. I've been playing drums for about 4 years now. I'm in a rock band with some friends, but I've recently become interested in learning jazz. The thing is, everybody keeps telling me that it's a lot more difficult than rock drumming. Why is this? I figured this would be a good place to ask. What's different about jazz drumming that makes it more difficult than rock? Also, will I have a hard time transitioning if I started out as a rock player? Who are some good jazz players to study? Any help and advice is appreciated.
As somewhat of a jazz player, it's not just the music that's hard. I notice when dance halls have big bands and attempt to teach "swing dancing" - that's alot harder for the dancers than when they have latin night and learn how to cha cha or mambo. I think it might be the improvisation factor.

There are alot of things that don't get covered in books or in school, and literally, who you are comes out of the instrument moreso than just re-stating what was in the pop/rock song on the radio. You have to have a sense of history of the music before you can play it well.

Not sure if that helps, but that's what I think....
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Old 06-28-2010, 04:57 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Really great comments here. I will just add that in the end it is all about people, and the human connection. Therefore, even as a beginner jazz-man, you can have enormous fun playing with people that you get along well with. So just go for it.

Casper
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Old 06-28-2010, 08:49 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

My earlier comments aside, techristian hit it on the head. Jazz is about improvisation. Even if you're doing basic Real Book straight ahead standards with basic swing beats, the drummer is expected to complement the improvising soloists. In that kind of music, the bass player is actually the rhythmic foundation. To play drums in that situation, you need some appreciation for the vocabulary of the soloists. Listen to as much jazz as you can. There's bound to be plenty around Chicago. There's a radio station out here operating out of a local college that plays jazz round the clock with no commercials. KCSM. You can stream them at http://kcsm.org/jazz91/listen.php

As you develop an ear for what the rest of the musicians might do, you can also learn the vocabulary of reactions that various drummers make to that. It's a never ending learning process. But totally engaging and fun every step of the way.
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:55 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Jazz is a completely different bird than any other kind of music. It requires full emotional involvement with the music at all times, and constant awareness of what everyone else is playing. You need to be able to improvise on the fly (and in odd time), while still keeping the backbone of the song in motion. Picture jazz as a living breathing animal. Picture most other kinds of music as a theater production. Both are great in their own ways, but they're vastly different.
I like that response. The degree to which players must tune in ... the constant syncopation ... ever-changing and adjusting to the others' playing at every moment. It requires a great deal of coordination and limb independence. In rock, most of what would appear to be limb independence is actually "apparent independence" where different limbs have different roles in playing an overall pattern but not so many rock drummers have true independence where they can be given four distinct rhythms to play at the same time - one with each limb.

The classic bop approach is spangalang on the ride with the hi hat playing 2 and 4. The right foot and left hand then noodle around, creating constant subtle variations and accents (known as comping), strategically placed to enhance the soloist's efforts - unison, counterpoint, finishing phrases, rising and dropping in intensity as the drummer tracks the moods of the soloist.

Then there's dynamic control. Rock often involves a free and natural swing - bang! Cool :) But in jazz, you often have to play very fast and very quietly ... yet still retain the energy (swing/groove). Not easy! There are regular fine adjustments of volume throughout many of the tunes - and, of course, the occasional explosion (and don't lots of us love that? :)

Then there's tone. You need fine control of rimshots snare and toms, not just big fat rimshots but smaller, more subtle pingshots. You generally have a small kit with few drums so you need to use all the subtle variations of each drum, striking in all sorts of different ways.

You're not just playing beats and locking in but you have to have total immersion in the moment, ready to stop and change at any moment.It's like being able to tell a story straight off the top of your head - no stumbles, ums and ahs, no long pauses for breath, just straight out.

Jazz drumming is very difficult, requiring much skill and control. I am not a jazz drummer :)

If this sounds scary, remember jazz has evolved a great deal over the years. For starters, I'd suggest listening to the old guys like Gene Krupa and Art Blakey. What they do is still really scary at times, but they also play some more manageable things. Starting point for jazz is spangalang with hats on 2 and 4 played at different tempos, getting that to always swing ... swing is not some mystical jazz thing ... it's basically the same as grooving, just with a jazz bounce. The idea is to keep things moving along, feeling good and never sounding clunky or awkward.

My 3c worth ... sorry, I had a rare [sic] attack verbal diarrhoea ....
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Old 06-28-2010, 10:07 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Why is jazz hard?

First and most improtant thing is the improvisational aspect. And that is completely separate thing from the technical ability to play. I have seen many many technical wonder kids struggle with improvisation in a band setting. Then there's the emotional involvement. Both of these things can be learned to a degree but they can't be learned by practicing technique or cover songs.

The swing, or any other kind of means to distort the rythmic grid. These days you only hear really quatized music on the radio. That's why people have difficulties feeling anything other than straight 4/4.

Which brings me to the next suggestion, listen to A LOT of jazz, even the bands that you don't enjoy that much at this point. And start practicing improvising, asap.

Watch the Keith Jarret documentary The Art of Improvisation for inspiration.
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:15 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Hey guys, this thread has really scared the bejeesus out of me. If Jazz drumming is such a thing of honor because it is so difficult, does that mean the fun of rock is inferior? I respect Jazz drummers a whole lot, but i now feel bad that i enjoy rock music because it is "easy".
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Old 06-28-2010, 11:31 PM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Hey guys, this thread has really scared the bejeesus out of me. If Jazz drumming is such a thing of honor because it is so difficult, does that mean the fun of rock is inferior? I respect Jazz drummers a whole lot, but i now feel bad that i enjoy rock music because it is "easy".
There's no 'honor" in jazz drumming. Some of us just ended up playing jazz, that's pretty much all there is to it. Rock is in no way inferior nor is it necessarily easy.

I can see how the leap from rock drumming to jazz drumming could seem difficult at first because you're talking about two competely different musical cultures with completely different axioms, so to speak. But it's all learnable, there's no secret to it. It's just a matter of immersing yourself in that culture and learning the language.
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Old 06-29-2010, 01:42 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Hey guys, this thread has really scared the bejeesus out of me. If Jazz drumming is such a thing of honor because it is so difficult, does that mean the fun of rock is inferior? I respect Jazz drummers a whole lot, but i now feel bad that i enjoy rock music because it is "easy".
That's crazy talk man! To execute music in ANY genre requires conviction and practice. Yes, it is true that jazz players find it easier to 'chameleon' into other styles, but that's it. In college I played alot of jazz, but didn't know how hard country was until I got to gig and had to play it. I consider that hard, because there are specific things the singer wants and you have to know what those are too. It was an evening of getting the evil eye all night! Thankfully they liked what I was doing enough to call me back.

Same thing with alot of other styles, latin, reggae. If you listen to all kinds of music, that's 80% of the battle right there. Knowing what is required of each style is imperative. I do't consider any one of them "harder" than the other. And you shouldn't feel that what you like to do is "too easy".
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Old 06-29-2010, 02:32 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Originally Posted by Migaluch View Post
Hey guys, this thread has really scared the bejeesus out of me. If Jazz drumming is such a thing of honor because it is so difficult, does that mean the fun of rock is inferior? I respect Jazz drummers a whole lot, but i now feel bad that i enjoy rock music because it is "easy".
LOL - Mig, you can't feel bad about liking rock! Well, you can but it's not logical. We like what we like - who cares how easy or hard it is? Degree of difficulty is way, way down in most people's list of importance when it comes to what we enjoy, often not even on the radar.
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Old 06-29-2010, 02:33 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Originally Posted by Migaluch View Post
Hey guys, this thread has really scared the bejeesus out of me. If Jazz drumming is such a thing of honor because it is so difficult, does that mean the fun of rock is inferior? I respect Jazz drummers a whole lot, but i now feel bad that i enjoy rock music because it is "easy".
Don't be silly. When I first started playing music I was playing blues and rock, and I still enjoy playing those styles, and funk as well. Nobody should ever feel bad about playing something that they enjoy! How can the fun of rock be inferior to the fun of jazz? That doesn't make any sense. If you enjoy playing it that's all that matters. I enjoy playing Irish folk in my spare time, and I find it just as enjoyable as playing jazz, blues, rock, or funk.
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Old 06-29-2010, 02:49 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Anything new is scary. Oftentimes new things are difficult, just because they are different than what's in our muscle memory.

Jazz is a different vocabulary and skill set than rock. I've known lots of very good jazz drummers who thought they could play rock but it was a '60s boogaloo and something like a ZZ Top shuffle (as close as a shuffle is to swing) was completely beyond them. Maybe if they cared and applied themselves, but to just hear it and try to play it off the cuff, no way. The feel is usually all wrong, and they aren't versed in the vocabulary of the genre, so they are going to sound like a jazz drummer trying to play rock. Just as a rock drummer dipping their feet into jazz is going to sound like a rock drummer playing jazz.

Sounding genuine in any genre takes dedication to that genre. You can't start at the top, you have to work at any genre.

The more skill you have, the easier it is to adopt new things. But at whatever skill level you are at, adding new vocabulary only makes you a better musician.
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Old 06-29-2010, 03:12 AM
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I live in Madison, not too far away. Check this link:

http://www.chicagojazz.com/clubs-and-restaurants.php

I just found it in a quick search, but looks ok. Checking out the music personally will be a big advantage for you. Chicago is a good "jazz city."
Andy's is a great spot to see some live jazz. If I remember correctly music starts at five and there is no cover before 7.The drinks are pretty pricey though, so if you plan on having a few, be sure to bring enough cash.

The Green Mill is another great spot, and if you are interested in learning big band style jazz then I highly recommend going there on a Thursday night. They have a 15 piece big band that plays there every Thursday and they are very good. They play 3 one hour sets starting at 9 and ending at 1 with half hour breaks in between. Cover on Thursdays is only $6 and drinks are not as expensive as Andy's.

There's also the Jazz Showcase, which has a lot of big name players that come there. It's usually about $15 to $20 for cover, but the musicians you'll see there are top notch. If he comes through town again I would highly recommend going to see Roy Haynes. Not only is Roy an amazing musician, but getting to see him right up close in a small club is more than worth the $20.

Good luck on your journey! :)
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Old 06-29-2010, 06:00 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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Anything new is scary. Oftentimes new things are difficult, just because they are different than what's in our muscle memory.

Jazz is a different vocabulary and skill set than rock. I've known lots of very good jazz drummers who thought they could play rock but it was a '60s boogaloo and something like a ZZ Top shuffle (as close as a shuffle is to swing) was completely beyond them. Maybe if they cared and applied themselves, but to just hear it and try to play it off the cuff, no way. The feel is usually all wrong, and they aren't versed in the vocabulary of the genre, so they are going to sound like a jazz drummer trying to play rock. Just as a rock drummer dipping their feet into jazz is going to sound like a rock drummer playing jazz.

Sounding genuine in any genre takes dedication to that genre. You can't start at the top, you have to work at any genre.

The more skill you have, the easier it is to adopt new things. But at whatever skill level you are at, adding new vocabulary only makes you a better musician.
This a very good common sense and to the point post, Aeolian.

And I know exactly what you mean about some jazz drummers attempting to play rock. "A'60s boogaloo and something like a ZZ Top shuffle." Hah! Yup, I've heard that myself.
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Old 06-30-2010, 04:19 AM
JimmySul20 JimmySul20 is offline
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

Thanks everybody for all the help. I'm definitely going to take evrybody's advice/recommendations to heart. This site has been very helpful and the members here are very knowledgeable. Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you guys. I've been pretty busy the last few days. Thanks again for all your help. Exploring jazz seems like it will be a lot of fun!
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Old 06-30-2010, 04:31 AM
Stefan Brodsky Stefan Brodsky is offline
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

The sophisticated poly-rhythmic stuff can be scary. So start with the basics. Listen to some good early piano jazz--Ramsey Lewis, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, that kinda stuff. Get the feel for what the drummers like Issac "Red" Holt (w/Lewis) and Kelly Martin (w Garner) were doing, whether w/brushes or sticks. Keep in mind, jazz sticks, which I still often use in playing R & B, are lighter than rock sticks. But they're easier to control, when playing cymbal patterns, or quick syncopated bounce rolls or off-beats. Try and follow the bass players with these cats. Eldee Young, who began with Lewis, was amazing, and should give you a good feel for how you can play to this kind of stuff. Don't forget about Ray Brown, either, one of the best of all time. Just because a lot of these guys aren't around anymore, doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to them. Then you can move on to more difficult stuff. Good luck.
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Old 06-30-2010, 04:57 AM
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

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The sophisticated poly-rhythmic stuff can be scary.
Example.

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Old 07-03-2010, 04:34 PM
Stefan Brodsky Stefan Brodsky is offline
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Default Re: What Makes Jazz So Difficult?

The da da da-da cymbal riding, accompanied by offbeats, often syncopated by a quick Hi-Hat just before the two (of the two and four) for one. Or the Latin, some say Afro-Cuban rhythm on the old Ray Charles' "Wha'd I Say". Playing that cymbal bell beat, while playing the quick sixteenth notes on the toms on two and four. Do you want more? There's tons of stuff.
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