Do you ever use your brushes?


Senior Member
Hi all,
how many of you are comfortable with brushes? I think I hardly ever use them, playing in a rock band as I am. Just one slow swing tune on a studio session at one time in my forty years as a (hobbyist) drummer. Still I got the urge to learn brush playing more properly. I like the sound of brushes, I love watching Jeff Hamilton as well as Jojo Mayer play the brushes. I really don't know if I have the time though, I should spend the time I have with the sticks, I got so much to learn anyway, maybe I shouldn't start with something new. On the other hand, brush playing maybe would enhance my stick playing, what do you think? I bought a book with DVD, the Complete guide to playing brushes, I got some brushes as well as a spare Gretsch snare, so it's really all about the time, if it's wise to take some of the practice time an spend it with the brushes.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Not a pro, but the gigs I do have it's a lot. Brushes, rods, broomsticks...........

For soft gigs, if I'm doing only 4-5 songs I might not use the same tools even on two songs, but if I was to choose one it would be regular wire brushes.

I hardly ever play jazz. This is just mainly adaption to the situation and venue playing mostly standard modern pop/rock stuff.


Senior Member
All the time - have been working on my brush playing for jazz, and also use them for about a third of the songs in the lo-fi indie acoustic band I play with.


Gold Member
I use brushes all the time; some gigs I do are 80-90% brushes.

While brushes are mainly used in jazz and some of it's off shoots (Contemporary Improv, Third Stream, Creative Music), you can use it in any material where you want to be able to control the dynamic level and and different colors and textures.

If you are playing rockabilly, country, or bluegrass/americana you can use brushes to play the "train" beat, or to play a swing feel.

If you are playing Bossa Nova or Samba, you can use the brushes to not only hit the drums, but scrape as well for a cool effect.

As someone else said, lower tempo rock, and much of the indie stuff all uses brushes.

Celtic music sounds great with brushes, Jewish folk tunes, gypsy music, et cetera...


Platinum Member
I wish I was better at playing them, but I love brushes. I too have played entire gigs, even low-vol rock gigs with brushes only. We did a string of acoustic sets with one band a few years back, and I used brushes like sticks for almost all of it.


Platinum Member
Once in the morning and then again before bed :)

I wish I did knw how to use them better than I do.


Platinum Member
I use them all the time. If I'm playing jazz with a small group (3–5 pieces), I find I'm playing brushes more than sticks most of the time. For rock gigs, whenever we play something in the Americana/folk/acoustic vein, I use them for train beats.


Platinum Member
I gig with both a jazz band and blues band.

On the jazz gigs, it's about 50/50 brushes and sticks. There are quite a few tunes where I play both; switching to sticks for solos or something.

With the blues band, traditional Chicago blues, I've used them on only a couple tunes.

About half of my practice time is spent playing brushes. That's probably higher than it should be but I really enjoy playing brushes and I feel I have so much more to learn with them; such as finding ways to play Syncopation with brushes, cool Latin patterns, etc.


Gold Member
I like playing brushes around sunset as that beautiful sweet light filters into the garage and the twilight approaches and settles like a dark envelope outside my window pane and I remember Sandburg...

"The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on."

as my brushes hiss and clatter against the coated head, east to west, coast to coast across the snare I stare off into the sky outside my window pane...


Silver Member
Highly recommend Forian Alexandru Zorn's videos. He has a bunch of content on his YouTube channel but his DVD's are very helpful crossing over from the 'normal' ways of brush playing (straight ahead jazz, jazz bossa nova, country train beats, etc.)

I have 'The Brush Secret' and 'The Brush Revolution'. I like the first one slightly better but both are really good for exploring different approaches to using brushes in modern contexts.
Here's one of his YouTube videos:



Silver Member
Why not start out with whatever your your warm up is, playing brushes as a substitute for sticks?

No sweeping or trills; just play them the same way you normally play sticks, just to get use to the response and feel. Later on, you can work them into chops building exercises. If you use a snapping motion, flicking the tips at the head for a staccato sound, it will help with articulation and stamina when you go back to sticks. They'll give you a better workout than sticks, lower volume and you can play them on a piece of cardboard or newspaper almost anywhere.

It's not a substitute for studying brush artistry in depth. But at least you'll have them out on a regular basis and they'll be comfortable in your hands. And because they are brushes after all, even without focusing on conventional sweeping patterns, you may accidentally move a brush to the side and like the sound. You'll try to recapture it and before you know it- you're hooked!


Platinum Member
The band I'm in does acoustic gigs in a small cafe sometimes. Acoustic guitar, acoustic bass guitar, keyboard, 2 piece kit, no amps, no foldback - just plug the instruments into the small PA along with the vocals. Same cover band songs as usual, but softer and slower.

For these gigs I mostly play with brushes in the same way I'd play with sticks - on hi hat and snare. Sometimes I'll play the hihat part on one side of the snare and play backbeats with the left hand. (plus off-beat hihat foot)

Brushes are good for train beats and songs like "You gotta have faith, faith, faith.." and shuffles like "Bad Moon Rising" and "Lookin' out my back door"


Senior Member
I love using different brushes, rods, brooms and whatever, trying to find different sounds for different songs. Really fun playing trainbeats, bossas, "tribal" tom beats or just a simple 2-4 with brushes instead of sticks.

Unfortunately my swing-sweep chops really really need some practice (and probably a good teacher), but I can usually fake my way through a jazz gig.

You should try it. It's really fun!


Senior Member
I play often with a piano trio, so my brushes get used frequently. But, I figured I should respond to this thread given a weird venue last night.

It was a corporate gig - some small oil related company giving out some awards for its employees after a fancy dinner. We were largely "wallpaper" ... background music to be neither seen nor particularly heard. However ... the bloody room was glass on two sides, tile behind me, and marble floors. The ceiling was a million feet up and metal. Ugh. (there was no "third" side ... just open to a cavernous lobby)

100% brushes on the gig ... and we were still asked to be quieter. I really, really, could not play softer. They really should have piped in some muzak. That said, we were grateful for the well paying gig.... lol ...



Senior Member
Well, I'm on it, started out with the Florian Alexandru Zorn book/DVD. Awkward to say the least but I'm going to stick to it :).