How to improve jazz drums

Fritz Frigursson

Senior Member
Coming from intermediate level drumming. Learned some rock grooves and beats and decided to give jazz a listen. Wow, the drums sound amazing and the drummers have really cool technique! Maybe I should've started earlier... got some inspiration from Whiplash (movie). Awesome movie for me.

So what kind of exercises should I try on my kit and pad? I would like to learn Caravan by John Wasson as soon as possible because it sounds sooooooo good. Not expecting to learn the solo anytime soon though since I'm probably going to die of exhaustion. So how should I practice and could you recommend some other cool jazz songs?

Thanks!
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
Half of it is really just listening to good jazz drummers and getting reference to what sounds good to you. I like to copy licks and fills and swing patterns from a lot of different drummers, so by the time I finish one song I'll have applied several things I've learned from several different songs.

It's also good to learn different styles of swing, bop, Latin, big band, blues, funk, fusion, etc.

Some fun drummers that I like to play along with in practice are Dannie Richmond, Nathaniel townsley, buddy rich, Bryan carter, walfredo Reyes jr, Harvey mason, the list could go on forever really but listening a lot to good drummers will improve your drumming more than you know
 

Big Stu

Member
Coming from intermediate level drumming. Learned some rock grooves and beats and decided to give jazz a listen. Wow, the drums sound amazing and the drummers have really cool technique! Maybe I should've started earlier... got some inspiration from Whiplash (movie). Awesome movie for me.

So what kind of exercises should I try on my kit and pad? I would like to learn Caravan by John Wasson as soon as possible because it sounds sooooooo good. Not expecting to learn the solo anytime soon though since I'm probably going to die of exhaustion. So how should I practice and could you recommend some other cool jazz songs?

Thanks!
I would recommend the John Riley book "The Art of Bop Drumming" for technique. It's also important (I believe) to understand where Jazz drumming came from to where it is now. There is a nice series of radio interviews on the link below (you can also download the audio for each track and the track listing for each of the eight interviews). Have a listen to those to see how the drumming evolved (and there may some tracks you identify to suit your needs now and when they change)
http://www.skidmore.edu/~flip/Site/History_of_Jazz_Drums/History_of_Jazz_Drums.html
In terms of what to practice... spend time just on the ride, with nothing else and listen (record yourself).. the feel of the ride pattern is the most important element. Read this article
https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/blog/learning-jazz/drums/jazz-drumming-mastering-ride-cymbal-part-1/

Hope that helps
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I lean more towards the listening advice. You MUST be listening to the greats, because all we really do is emulate the masters. But if you're not aware of what the masters have said, you won't know to say. But of course, you should also be playing as much as you can too, so it's all good advice.

I say listen to the Big Band jazzers, like Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Mel Lewis, etc.,...then also listen to the small group jazzers, like Ed Thigpen with Oscar Peterson, Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck, Philly Joe Jones with Miles Davis....come forward a bit and listen to what Steve Gadd did with Chick Corea in the 70s, Peter Erskine should also be listened to a lot. There are so many.

Thankfully, you have YouTube now and you can basically see and listen to performances for free. When I was a kid there was only one jazz radio station in my city, and everything else I had to buy!

But there's such an education to be had in just listening to the music and finding out who played on what. That's just a small sampling of who to listen to. There are SO MANY great ones out there you can't list them all! Good luck and keep it fun!
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Not a bad article, but it's not advisable to accent the ride on beats 2 and 4. As is clearly stated in The Art Of Bop Drumming, better to accent ALL of the downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4) at medium tempos, and when first learning independence and technique. Don't bash 2 and 4 -- a common tendency among rock drummers -- unless you've got a good musical reason for doing so.

Never too soon to start listening to jazz, and you may as well start with tunes you're likely to play.

www.playalongjazz.com

www.learnjazzstandards.com
 

newoldie

Silver Member
Not a bad article, but it's not advisable to accent the ride on beats 2 and 4. As is clearly stated in The Art Of Bop Drumming, better to accent ALL of the downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4) at medium tempos, and when first learning independence and technique. Don't bash 2 and 4 -- a common tendency among rock drummers -- unless you've got a good musical reason for doing so.

Never too soon to start listening to jazz, and you may as well start with tunes you're likely to play.

www.playalongjazz.com

www.learnjazzstandards.com
Thanks, brentcn! I'm all over those 2 web sites and absorbing new info for ongoing jazz education.
 

taiko

Senior Member
I agree with the general theme of listening--a lot. And youtube really is great for this. You can find some wonderful jazz drummers who are less familiar, such as Larry Bunker (who played with the Bill Evans Trio). He had amazing brush technique. And that's another point here--spend a lot of time listening to and emulating brush work. Thigpen was a master of brushes. Clayton Cameron is another. If you want to play jazz, you are likely to have to do a fair amount of brush work. Here is a fantastic example from Buddy, playing with a trio formed out of his big band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgU5qZi2TOs

Joe Morello's Master Studies is a very good book if you are looking for exercises.
 

Bonzo_CR

Silver Member
Hi Fritz,
I did just what you're doing, about 3 years ago. Wanted to develop some basic jazz vocabulary after years of playing rock, pop, funk etc.

Lots of good advice here, and I would concur:
1. Get John Riley's 'Art of Bop Drumming' book to develop some basic phrasing and 'jazz independence'.
2. Listen, listen, listen! If you're lucky the jazz will grab you, and this part will be a wonderful voyage of discovery of this great music.

As to WHAT to listen to, Art of Bop includes a recommended list of 6 albums, and that's a great place to start. The ones I can remember (and in the order I would listen to them) are:
Art Blakey: Moanin'
Clifford Brown/Max Roach: We Three
Thelonious Monk: Monk's Dream
Miles Davis: Milestones
Art Pepper: Plus 11
 

MJD

Silver Member
Listen to a lot of jazz. Gene Krupa, Chick Webb and of course those already mentioned. try to match the feel(easier said than done). Learn a bit of music theory so you can follow what's going on musically. Have fun!
 

taiko

Senior Member
Listen to a lot of jazz. Gene Krupa, Chick Webb and of course those already mentioned. try to match the feel(easier said than done). Learn a bit of music theory so you can follow what's going on musically. Have fun!
This is a great point. A good jazz drummer needs to have at least a basic understanding of music theory. Understanding changes and understanding what the other musicians in the group are talking about when they say things like dorian mode or when they discuss what's going on in the changes in a tune can be quite helpful. I played jazz piano long before I played jazz drums and I think that experience has always informed the way I approach the drums and think about my role in a group.

I would also add to think not only rhythmically about the drum set, but melodically. Learn to tune the drums to notes and the entire set to a chord. This helps to blend in better with the rest of the group, particularly in small groups like trios. It also helps you to bring a feel of the melody into your playing and your soloing. While we cannot entirely play melodies on the drums, we can develop a feel of the melody and bring that into our playing. Guys like Morello were masterful at this. Listen to something like Castillian Drums and you can actually hear the melody in his solos.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Jazz is a big world. When I was a beginner and taking a big band class, the instructor gave me a book on jazz independence and interpretation eg how to swing.

You have to learn the songs though, so a book with sheet music might help. The real books come to mind get the C version, so you don't have to worry about transposition.
 
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