Brush Pulses - Where's the Beat?

prokofi5

Junior Member
If you're playing the standard 4/4 jazz ride pattern with brushes you're sweeping some pattern with your non-lead hand and generally adding a pulse on two and four or on quarters. My question is if there's a "correct" or consensus placement of that swept accented pulse in relation to time. You can start the sweep on the beat, stop it on the beat, or sweep through the beat. If you're playing a side to side pattern you can only either start or stop the pulse on the because of the hard direction change. To give examples of what I mean, in Ed Thigpen's Essence he mostly plays his side to side patterns with it starting on the beat while in Mel Brown's video demonstrating Philly Joe Jones book he mostly stops it on the beat. Considering the importance of good time it seems odd that this isn't something pointed out for students to be aware of for consistency purposes. How are the brush people here playing this?
 

MrPockets

Gold Member
For the Mel Brown video, are you referencing the "Traditional" stroke? If so the left hand's purpose in each example is different.

In the Ed Thigpen video the left hand is providing the smooth underlying sound. In the Mel Brown video the left hand is accenting the 1 and the 3.


Both are valid, although the style Ed Thigpen shows is more accessible to first time players.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
If I'm adding a pulse with the left hand, it's usually pulsing on the &s-- esp & of 1/& of 3. If I'm not careful it can turn into a shuffle rhythm. More of a lateral motion than circular. I don't find it easy to do a circular motion with matched grip.

There's no one correct answer as far as I know-- if you check people out, and know the sound you want, and play a lot of time with brushes, it should start falling in a natural way. It's hard to avoid it.

You can call Mel for a lesson. I don't have his number, but I'm pretty sure @eddypierce does.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I play rudiments like Joe’s killer exercise. I use a loose matched grip with my index finger extended to aid in lateral motion. I pop them like a stick and then brush it out too. I use Louies side motion a lot and alternate which hand swishes snd accents. It’s great for fast stuff but the circular motion works super good for slow stuff. My right has a better natural circle but practicing rudiments with both has helped. With the extended index finger while in circular motion you can easily twitch an accent or buzz sizzle the wires real fast like a rattlesnake tail- like Ed Thigpen does on a DW video. I play a lot of brushes since my wife has been working from home. The most progress I’ve ever made.
 

jazzin'

Silver Member
I think it’s a bit similar to anything...once you get into it there really won’t be any set way you accent (maybe a few go to sweeping patterns) but it’ll be determined by the context you’re using it in. Just like most areas, you’ll probably want to practice to be able to accent differently based on style, tempo etc with different sweeping patterns to create whatever feel you’re after. At the very least you’d want a nice open legato feel to your basic pattern with a very gentle pulse on 2 and 4 and build on it from there. That would be like your clean ride pattern ala Jimmy Cobb I guess. A great starting point.

But just like you’d learn different ways of playing and accenting the ride pattern based on the context, you’d want to do the same for your brush playing. Check out lots of great brush players and cop their feel just like you’d do for the time feel, comping and soloing of Elvin, Tony, Philly, Haynes etc etc. I don’t think brush playing is any different to any other area of your playing.

You may want to check out a book by Clayton Cameron called ‘brushworks’. It’s an incredibly thorough look at everything brushes and goes through all this stuff you’re talking about in excellent detail. Really good, definitely worth checking out from what I remember of it.
 
Last edited:

Auspicious

Well-known member
I play rudiments like Joe’s killer exercise. I use a loose matched grip with my index finger extended to aid in lateral motion. I pop them like a stick and then brush it out too. I use Louies side motion a lot and alternate which hand swishes snd accents. It’s great for fast stuff but the circular motion works super good for slow stuff. My right has a better natural circle but practicing rudiments with both has helped. With the extended index finger while in circular motion you can easily twitch an accent or buzz sizzle the wires real fast like a rattlesnake tail- like Ed Thigpen does on a DW video. I play a lot of brushes since my wife has been working from home. The most progress I’ve ever made.
😄
 

Sonorfan

Well-known member
When you watch the classic drummers you’ll notice a lot used what is considered today a total sweep with both hands, some even using a criss cross motion. But then Krupa used brushes more like sticks. On the YouTube videos of the the 1938 Benny Goodman Quartet, Gene was very active with his brushes even on slower numbers like Moonglow. Watch Jeff Hamiltons YouTube on brushes. He uses the traditional sweep with the left hand and accents with his right. He also states that if one wants L.H. definition do it on 2 & 4. I’ve been playing for 65 plus years and changed from the old style sweep to his style. My original teacher made us master brushes so I’m always amazed by the number of decent rock drummers I meet who can’t or won’t use brushes. But, there’s really no right or wrong method as long as the sound is good and in time. And the new partial sweep method allows for left hand rolls and fills.. and of course I’m right handed so speaking from that perspective.
 

prokofi5

Junior Member
If I'm adding a pulse with the left hand, it's usually pulsing on the &s-- esp & of 1/& of 3. If I'm not careful it can turn into a shuffle rhythm. More of a lateral motion than circular. I don't find it easy to do a circular motion with matched grip.
It sounds like what your doing with an upbeat pulse is similar to the "upbeat swish" this guy is describing at 2:30.
It's what I was describing as "the sweep ending on the beat" and is actually the only way I was taught. I've been recording myself off and on for years wondering why I wasn't getting a traditional sound, but it makes sense if my go-to brush technique was geared towards a quasi-shuffle. Oh well, the hazards of trying to learn jazz while I was in remote bluegrass country.
 

TMe

Senior Member
My question is if there's a "correct" or consensus...
When I was looking into brush technique, I got the impression that it tends to be very idiosyncratic. Everybody has a different style and there isn't much consensus about any standard approach.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
Emulate what you hear

Generally speaking in a traditional 4/4 brush beat the left (stirring hand) represents the sustain of a cymbal while the right marks the articulation... grabbing consistent pulse accents with the stirring hand to me makes the beat jagged and stiff

again ... that is a very general statement pertaining to the most basic of brush beats

there are many ways to achieve a feel and brush work is the most personal of all aspects of drumming
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
If you're playing the standard 4/4 jazz ride pattern with brushes you're sweeping some pattern with your non-lead hand and generally adding a pulse on two and four or on quarters. My question is if there's a "correct" or consensus placement of that swept accented pulse in relation to time. You can start the sweep on the beat, stop it on the beat, or sweep through the beat. If you're playing a side to side pattern you can only either start or stop the pulse on the because of the hard direction change. To give examples of what I mean, in Ed Thigpen's Essence he mostly plays his side to side patterns with it starting on the beat while in Mel Brown's video demonstrating Philly Joe Jones book he mostly stops it on the beat. Considering the importance of good time it seems odd that this isn't something pointed out for students to be aware of for consistency purposes. How are the brush people here playing this?
When ET demonstrates the left hand, he does start and stop very deliberately on the beat, even counting the inner subdivisions as the brush moves across the head. But, when he puts both hands together, we can see that his left hand motion becomes a bit smoother and more circular, and not really stopping at all.


In the MB video, yes, the strokes stop, rather than start, on a beat. The sound of the left brush is really pronounced right after the downbeats.


These two patterns don't sound quite the same, and that's okay; both are valid. MB's pattern sounds a bit more jagged and aggressive; ET's is a bit smoother and mellower.

To further confuse things, in Art of Bop Drumming, John Riley teaches the left hand moving through the downbeats, in a very circular motion. This way, the loudest part of the "swoosh" defines the downbeats. It's obvious where the beat is, even if your right brush isn't playing anything at all.

TL,DR: Nope, there's no consensus. But there are three good ways to start.
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
@brentcn

Thansk for the video suggestion, the full Ed Thigpen video especially, I am going to spend time listening to it entirely during my vacation. I am sure it's going to be well invested time.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Took me awhile to get this one. But it's the buzz thingy I mentioned-in beginning of video. Sounds freaking awesome though doesn't it. Ed has a unique grip for sure-but it works well for him to say the least.
 
Last edited:

Sonorfan

Well-known member
It sounds like what your doing with an upbeat pulse is similar to the "upbeat swish" this guy is describing at 2:30.
It's what I was describing as "the sweep ending on the beat" and is actually the only way I was taught. I've been recording myself off and on for years wondering why I wasn't getting a traditional sound, but it makes sense if my go-to brush technique was geared towards a quasi-shuffle. Oh well, the hazards of trying to learn jazz while I was in remote bluegrass country.
Just like our Army fellow says, there are multi ways to use brushes. Like you or him, I started doing the full swish with the left hand never leaving the drum as that’s the way brushes were played in the early 50s when I started. Over the years and studying drummers, especially Krupa with Benny Goodman Quartet circa 1938, I saw how he added so many different accents and licks like left hand rolls while still maintaining the swish, while the right hand does ride cymbal patterns. Now that I’m old that style really suits me as less exhausting on my Osteo hands and wrists. And to me it adds more appeal. Saying that, when working on a slow Blues or Jazz number with a vocalist, I keep the left hand on the drum while he/she is singing.. no accents on 2/4, then Go back to accents during instrumentals parts. So far no one has complained or hit me with a horn or guitar, but one has to concentrate to keep in time.
 

prokofi5

Junior Member
When ET demonstrates the left hand, he does start and stop very deliberately on the beat, even counting the inner subdivisions as the brush moves across the head. But, when he puts both hands together, we can see that his left hand motion becomes a bit smoother and more circular, and not really stopping at all.


In the MB video, yes, the strokes stop, rather than start, on a beat. The sound of the left brush is really pronounced right after the downbeats.


These two patterns don't sound quite the same, and that's okay; both are valid. MB's pattern sounds a bit more jagged and aggressive; ET's is a bit smoother and mellower.

To further confuse things, in Art of Bop Drumming, John Riley teaches the left hand moving through the downbeats, in a very circular motion. This way, the loudest part of the "swoosh" defines the downbeats. It's obvious where the beat is, even if your right brush isn't playing anything at all.

TL,DR: Nope, there's no consensus. But there are three good ways to start.
That's an excellent breakdown of what I was talking about. This concept seems like it would be something introduced early on when teaching brush playing since it has a big effect on sound and even choreography, but I understand the teaching process for brushes is less standardized and pretty much impossible to accurately notate.
 

Sonorfan

Well-known member
That's an excellent breakdown of what I was talking about. This concept seems like it would be something introduced early on when teaching brush playing since it has a big effect on sound and even choreography, but I understand the teaching process for brushes is less standardized and pretty much impossible to accurately notate.
Less standardized is a great description. Although I’d stayed with Jazz/Swing I lived the last 40 years on the Canadian prairies and a band
”just had to play Country”. Luckily, my last band played mainly Classic style so I could still use brushes. When Diana Krall came along (She’s Canadian eh) I first noticed Jeff Hamilton in her band. I was super impressed by his brush work even using them on Bossa/Latin numbers.
Note: Diana credits Jeff with teaching her how to really work with a drummer.
I looked at Jeff’s video on YouTube on playing brushes and as he says, there are a multitude of styles. He studied with both Ed Thigpen and Mel Lewis and borrowed from both styles but he definitely has his own style which is like the Krupa .. busier.
I was playing a similar style but one thing I picked up from Jeff was the advantage of keeping one brush on the drum at all times and using a side to side right hand motion rather than up and down. It produces a softer, fuller sound. Check out Jeff’s video.
Happy Holidays
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
That's an excellent breakdown of what I was talking about. This concept seems like it would be something introduced early on when teaching brush playing since it has a big effect on sound and even choreography, but I understand the teaching process for brushes is less standardized and pretty much impossible to accurately notate.
I think the constantly sweeping/swirling motion is more "standard", since I see more players doing it, and more books and videos demonstrating it. The staccatto back and forth thing is less in-fashion. Very rarely does a book or video talk about stopping on a beat. Quite the opposite: many videos deliberately discuss sweeping on a beat. The "sweep" is the "note" -- not the start or the end of the sweep. So things are pretty standardized. You just found a video that's a bit unusual.

 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It sounds like what your doing with an upbeat pulse is similar to the "upbeat swish" this guy is describing at 2:30.
It's what I was describing as "the sweep ending on the beat" and is actually the only way I was taught. I've been recording myself off and on for years wondering why I wasn't getting a traditional sound, but it makes sense if my go-to brush technique was geared towards a quasi-shuffle. Oh well, the hazards of trying to learn jazz while I was in remote bluegrass country.
It is similar to that-- I'm doing it matched grip, and I don't dance around with the right hand.

The thing I noticed about playing brushes, though, is that the moves will happen naturally if you just play a lot. On my old boat gig I had a week where I had to play an extra three hours every night with some dixieland musicians-- playing only snare drum with brushes. Moves I hadn't practiced would happen on their own through trying to make a groove in that setting. Which is where the techniques came from in the first place.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
I'm not a great brush player by any stretch ... but I have things that just seem to come out when playing a tune.
They all come from things I've heard either Vernel Fournier or Philly Joe etc. do not knowing what they were actually doing but knowing what sound I wanted to produce.

Brushes more so than any other aspect of drumming for me morph based on what I'm listening to at the time.

About a month ago someone sent me a recording of a group playing live in 2010. I really dug it but I wasn't sure who they were .

When I asked who was playing he responded ... " you, idiot!"

It was basically unrecognizable to me and actually sounded like a better brush player than I am currently ... strange ... but I was clearly listening to a bunch of Philly Joe at the time

I made this video recently while practicing and upon watching back I noticed my right hand making a completely different motion than I usually make ... it really caught me by surprise and I was actually happy about it in a weird way.

I guess my point is you have to know what sound you want and you find out by listening

brushes change so much for me so often that I don't think I'll ever have one way of doing anything ... and that reason is ... it is really all about the sound for me .

I'm not thinking about HOW only thinking about WHAT

I think in legato and staccato and not in this technique or that technique ... my hands do what they do and I don't really care about what that is

 
Last edited:
Top