How does one even beginning practicing playing time the way someone like Brian Blade does?


Active Member
There are some modern jazz drummers such as Brian Blade who almost never sound like they’re playing a groove or pattern. They’re constantly reacting to what’s happening around them.

Obviously Brian is playing the jazz swing pattern here, but the focus is on accompanying Kenny during his solo.

How do I begin practicing playing time like this?


First of all, it is important to listen to more music in a similar vein.
As for practice material, John Riley's "Beyond Bop Drumming" is a good place to start, as it deals with historical development and music, not just exercises.
Bob Moses' "Drum Wisdom" is also inspiring.
But listening to this music and having the opportunity to play in this style is the most important aspect.
So find musicians who want to hear this style of playing from a drummer, try it out until it becomes part of your language and it comes naturally to you.
It's not something you can practice at home and then apply perfectly right away.


Silver Member
Stick Control Rudimental foundation and
Immersed listening to Tony Williams circa 1963
also Art, Elvin, Max same time period 1958-
add 4-5 years time and you'll be beboppin
sticks close to head conversational volumes with high accents
awareness of the quarter note's speed
He's in Tony 1965 - Jack Dejohnette 1970- mode there
Immersed listening to absorbing those original legendary cd's are key
some video;
Lps CD's YT's
Out to Lunch- Eric Dolphy
Seven Steps to Heaven- Miles Davis
Live-Evil- Miles Davis
Spring- Tony Williams
Percussion Discussion- Art Blakey and Max Roach
that's scraping the surface there's many many more and similar too many to list here
but good start plan on 4- 5 years and don't let up

he's pushing freely -equal with all band members- still conscious of his instrument- against and within a time barrier
his right hand is holding the time- they're all aware of the quarter-note
and he's free to participate make own decisions not a slave it's a co-op co-operation
with trusted responsibility among the members to each other that's pretty much modern jazz.
Freedom with responsibility. Individual artists collective.

After that, why anyone would want to play or just, state 2&4 is beyond me. Kidding .I know why.
There's 2& 4 in there it's just been liberated collectively.

It's almost like a 1962 John Coltrane piece called "Impressions"
check that out
also "Milestones" by Miles Davis Philly Joe Jones

this is what makes drums worth living
as a daily bread
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C. Dave Run

Gold Member
I cant tell you how to play like Mr. Blade. I can tell you that constantly playing with a click will get your time in order.


Active Member
Huge Blade fan. I think you get to Brian Blade status by carving your own path, feeling the music as passionately as possible, and centering the drums in your life.

He grew up in gospel churches and was a string player early on, so he's VERY rooted in the melodic content of the music. Picking up an instrument and beginning to not only study what's going on melodically, but also hearing and feeling it is going to be paramount. The guy also had a master teacher early on that pushed the jazz classics on him, so becoming well versed at playing in the style of and directly transcribing the works of the jazz masters with a focus on the style and feel of each might help. Lastly, he bathed himself in the New Orleans tradition and has that that tradition soaked in his veins, especially in his snare/kick dialogue. Johnny Vidacovich is a notable individual in the circle of individuals that helped steer his ship,

At the core though, he's a monster technician with massive ears and seems to prioritize using his instrument and phrasing to elevate the ensemble rather than his individual voice as a player. Some things you can't train like a


Platinum Member
Can't add a lot to Griener and JDA's excellent answers. Practice/listen/play a lot and know the vibe you're going for. Play with people who are going for a similar vibe-- like find an ambitious saxophonist and play duo a lot. Listen to the other guy more than you listen to yourself, more than you think about what you're playing.
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Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
This isn’t my favorite kind of jazz, but these guys are all tight and listening well.

My advice is to mess around a little with all styles, but immerse yourself mainly in whatever music made you passionate about drums to begin with. If that’s this stuff, then listen to it and play along all the time, as much as you feel like. You’ll get there eventually, it just takes a few years.


Gold Member
Love the answers here. Steve Smith's words in a video come back to me. Stating that he listens to highly evolved players and his analogy of getting to the top of a mountain by jumping up in one huge leap won't work. He states that it will take little steps day after day to reach his goals and over time get his desired results. His words really inspired me..maybe you to?. Keep at it grasshoppah.


Silver Member
Sounds like imagination and a musical conversation. Either part doesn't really make sense in isolation, it belongs together. I see no substitute for actual playing experience with other players assuming doing your homework and development on the side. The heart of it to my ears is the musical dialogue though, a book or teacher of dissecting it on an academic level really can't replace how an improviser makes choices at particular moments here IMO, assuming you can find killer players to play catch with and have some intellectual to exchange. Not saying doing all the homework of transcription or book or whatever is useless...not at all, just the concept in question can't be done in isolation, at least that is how I hear it.


Platinum Member
When I hear Brian play, I hear music, not just drums. He’s as intense a listener as he is a player.


Diamond Member
being a drummer who also plays bass, when I try to do this kind of playing, I really, really sink into the feel of the bass players walking lines first. I am NO WHERE near Blades, and never expect to be, but if my bass foot and right hand swing pattern are gelling with the bass, I feel more confident on getting to the next level with the rest


Apart from everything mentioned here, also check out Gary Chaffee's podcast called Jazz Time, it's episode 8. He mentions having his students transcribe the ride rhythms of two songs, one played by Tony Williams and one by Elvin. And then using these varied ride patterns as starting points to include the other comping voices.

Edit: I listened to episode 8 again, which explains how to work with an improvised ride rhythm, but he continues on in the next episode where he expands on it and talks about transcribing the Tony and Elvin ride rhythms.
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Silver Member
wow excellent
I didn't know he had a podcast
It's kind of nice to hear his voice I had an entire year of private lessons with him in 1979.
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Platinum Member
Immersion, lots of practice, patience of a saint, will power and time!


Platinum Member
Update, I elaborated on the following a little bit in a blog post.

It's easier to make sense of what you're hearing if you follow the chart-- through the solo and everything. He's not just playing a lot of stuff, he's playing the form. That would be your first concern playing this tune, is to play the form. So you can see how he does that, and what he does beyond that.

Solo form is sort of of ABC-- A: 6+6 - B: 4+4 - C: 3+ 1 bar 3/4 +4

If you pull up the pdf of the chart below, they play the head twice, with the first and second ending, and go to the horn solo.


  • delfeayos-dilemma.pdf
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Junior Member
Another tip (there are many answers to the question) is to start by listening to a lot of Elvin Jones, especially the records with John Coltrane. Much of Brian's concept is rooted in Elvin's style. THAT's the drum book. Wayne Shorter once said, "You can't get what Eric Gravatt and Brian Blade have from a drum book." The books are important. But the SOUL of the thing is musical.