Learning Jazz

Hello Jazz Gurus,
I've been interested in learning jazz for quite some time, and I'm even more intrigued now that I'm taking a Jazz Combo class in High School along with doing Jazz Band in the winter. I have a solid foundation in rock and anything non swung and jazz related and understand the basic jazz pattern (i.e. The tah tah tahtah tah tahtah with the kick on 1-4 and hi hat on 2 and 4)

I can also add some rather random snare hits in there thr sound somewhat ok. The issue right now is that I have no clue where to go or what to do as this seems to be a whole different type of drumming (at least it does to me), and seems to require me to start back at the basics. When I learned drums (Rock etc) there were plenty of songs I could just learn from and videos online that teach you simple all the way to complicated beats along with a variety of cool fills. The issue I'm running into here is that any jazz video I've found only teaches the typical beat that I mentioned above earlier.

I've tried listening to some jazz but find it to typically be way too difficuly to understand what the drummers are actually playing. I know that jazz is its own beast and is felt much more than any other genre, however I do need some help on how to at least get started, not to mention once I get that far. Any help would be much appreciated

Thanks so much you guys (and gals)!
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Jazz is the biggest bag we put music into.

There is a tendency even after someone has played various pop, rock stuff, grown up listening to it, gone through many artistic phases we still want to condence jazz into a few theoretical concepts and a ride pattern.

As in other types of music we need to hear and understand what's going on. We didn't start with the most complicated prog stuff playing other styles, we started with good old rock tunes and that's nwhat one has to do.

Everyone sortof reommends Kind og BLue which is cool, so is all the stuff Miles and Wayne Shorter did around that time.

You want to educate yourself on the history and learn how things evolved. The Ken Burns series is in no way complete, but it is a good introduction to where things started.

If you wanna play jazz, you gotta do it for the right reason, because you love the music.

We live in a time today when you have access to most recorded music on the fly, so get yourself a Real Book and dig up the original recordings.

Fins a drummer or a few you like and sart invcstigating their style and evolution as you would with any other drummer you've been influenced by.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
Listen to and watch videos of tunes from the Real Books 1 and 2. Watch videos of Art Blakey, Max Roach, and other great drummers of the 50's and 60's. Listen to early Miles Davis cuts. You will slowly catch on as you listen to the Bop era greats.
 

Stefan Brodsky

Senior Member
I did the opposite. Learned to play jazz first, then taught myself rock drumming. Since I played in a piano, bass & drums trio, I listened to a lot of piano jazz. There were a host of good players out there whose videos and MP3s are still available online, which may help you get a good feel for what their drummers are doing. Ramsey Lewis--early--with drummer Red Holt, Oscar Peterson, with Ed Thigpen, Erroll Garner, with Kelly Martin, and Ahmad Jamal, with Vernell Fournier. Gene Harris also came along with a group called "The 3 Sounds" and then later went on his own. Try to find some Ray Brown stuff as well. He played with Peterson and Gene Harris, among others. He was perhaps the best jazz bassist of all time. Once you get a sense of where the piano and bass are going, you'll be able to rhythmically find your place to fit in. BTW, Garner, Jamal and Ray Brown, all came from Pittsburgh, PA, which has a rich jazz heritage. I was fortunate to have grown up in that region. Here's a good one to start with -Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, doing Peterson's "C-Jam Blues". https://youtu.be/NTJhHn-TuDY
 
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WhoIsTony?

Member
something I learned a long time ago ... you don't "learn" jazz ... you live it

if you dabble and maybe get a Riley book and learn some figures and maybe gain some facility from it you are definitely improving your drumming ... but you aren't "learning" jazz

to do it properly you go to as many live performances as humanly possible ... check out the greats who are still with us.

seek out every available gig and try to get on it ... jump into jam session and stick around for the hang ... the hang is where the gigs come from ... and the gigs are where you learn to communicate ... where you learn to have that conversation

listen to the music constantly ... pick up the vocabulary ... if you don't love to listen to it to the point where you are seeking out records that all the players you love played on and feel desire to emulate what you hear as if it is an addiction I'm telling you right now it is just a phase.... and there is nothing wrong with that
... every musician goes through his "jazz phase"

all that being said ... get Art Blakey Moanin' ... sit with nothing but a ride cymbal and play quarter notes to it for about a week ... I'm dead serious .. that will get you started
 

Stitch Kaboodle

Senior Member
Maybe start with some hard bop.

As far as the drumming goes it's fairly expressive with plenty of great albums and before things started to go totally 'free' (not a bad thing, but intimidating and often off-putting to new listeners). Also there's the the smaller band size compared with the 30s and 40s, and better recording techniques.

Seek out some Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey & Mingus of that time to get a feel for what the drummers were doing back then.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
You could also look into taking a jazz appreciation class at a local community college or university if available. Don't forget about the wealth of free information and recordings at public libraries. This would help you gain knowledge of the various styles, history and important players of the genre.
I believe spending a considerable amount of time listening will help you understand the new language better.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
There's already a lot of good advice in this thread, so most of what I have to say is just repetition. But here goes anyway.

Learning how to play jazz really comes from listening a whole lot more than anything else. When I came through school that meant a lot of buying and borrowing albums, but now you can get access to audio and video (for free!) of pretty much anyone or anything that you could hope for.

So I'd suggest picking a drummer, or an album, or a bandleader, and spending some time on YouTube and seeing where the suggest links take you after each one. If you are doing this in a classroom setting it would be good to get some ideas from your teacher. There's such a wide variety in what constitutes jazz and most people have definite favorites. You might spend all of your time listening to big band only to end up playing three-horn combo charts or vice versa. Both have something to offer but both have fairly different mindsets needed to play convincingly.

Being able to mechanically reproduce the traditional swing beat is the most basic of starting points but when you're listening it's important to focus on what the whole band is doing as opposed to being too caught up in what the drummer is playing specifically. Also, if you're coming to jazz from a rock perspective it's important to remember that in broad terms jazz drumming is more about taking a "less is more" approach as opposed to feeling like you have to constantly fill up every bar with stuff or play the swing beat like a human metronome.

Once you actually start playing I think the two most important things to keep in mind are restraint and dynamics. Most of the time the drums aren't the main thing, and even when it is time for the drums to be more prominent it's often more about using your dynamics to stand out and not about sheer number of notes you could play.

Also, don't forget to have fun!
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Nothing else I can add to what's already been said.

Just reemphasizing... Listen, watch and observe. Don't be afraid to go back through time to see / learn the evolution if you latch onto the genre.

You don't learn jazz or any other style from a book. Books offer an opportunity to enhance/develop technical proficiency.

Books are not music. Playing is the music.

My dad was a jazz drummer and all I heard growing up was the music. I had no idea any other genre existed until I was about 10. It was on all the time in my house and I was able to watch him practice and play with others. That was how I learned the music on the surface and when I started digging into it even deeper it became more ingrained. He took me to every.single.concert. that came to our city. I was in awe then and even more in awe now thinking about who I actually saw in person.

None of this involved a book. Of course that came after once I wanted to expand on coordination, etc... but that is entirely separate from the music itself.
 

StaggerLee

Silver Member
Honestly, the first thing i will say is grab a metronome, and then practice basic 3/4 waltz, 5/4 and then a basic 4/4 swing. Get that nailed and solid under your belt. I went to a clinic with Peter Erskine and he pointed out that 90% of the time you can get through any jazz gig knowing just how to do those 3. And he managed one gig without hitting his snare once and just staying on the ride. It needs only be as complicated as you make it.
 

Derek

Silver Member
something I learned a long time ago ... you don't "learn" jazz ... you live it

if you dabble and maybe get a Riley book and learn some figures and maybe gain some facility from it you are definitely improving your drumming ... but you aren't "learning" jazz

to do it properly you go to as many live performances as humanly possible ... check out the greats who are still with us.

seek out every available gig and try to get on it ... jump into jam session and stick around for the hang ... the hang is where the gigs come from ... and the gigs are where you learn to communicate ... where you learn to have that conversation

listen to the music constantly ... pick up the vocabulary ... if you don't love to listen to it to the point where you are seeking out records that all the players you love played on and feel desire to emulate what you hear as if it is an addiction I'm telling you right now it is just a phase.... and there is nothing wrong with that
... every musician goes through his "jazz phase"

all that being said ... get Art Blakey Moanin' ... sit with nothing but a ride cymbal and play quarter notes to it for about a week ... I'm dead serious .. that will get you started


Great advice here Tony. Oh, I wish I were a jazz drummer, but like you said, doing some of these things will make a better drummer of you, and that's a good thing.
 

Jhostetler

Senior Member
You mentioned your high school jazz band. I'm assuming this is a big band from my experience. In addition to all the above comments I would recommend that you also listen to some of the great big band leaders. Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich are 2 that you'll find a lot of material on. Swing bands are totally different from jazz combos. It's exciting dance music. This type of jazz is a better beginning teacher of the style due to its constant 4/4 feel. The drummer maintains a steady pulse throughout to help the dancers.
 
Thank you all for the awesome suggestions! I'll start listening to jazz, specifically to the artists that were suggested. I wasn't too sure on what to play with others but the comment from StaggerLee, Peter Erskine being able to get through an entire gig without hitting the snare, somewhat reassured me that it comes with experience and that I'll just have to start with the basics and let the playing with others and listening to the greats teach me!

Thanks again guys!
 

radman

Senior Member
All good suggestions in the thread - listen and learn from the greats.

Two things to mention:

1 - don't get carried away with the solo fireworks a la Buddy, Louie, Weckl, Elvin, etc. ... get the basics down as was mentioned - the feel, swing, dynamics will get you gigs and callbacks. KISS works. (Prob the #1 mistake of "newbie jazz drummers" is to get too happy with their left hand comp'ing, IMHO.)

2 - I don't think it was mentioned in the thread, but remember to learn some latin beats too - bossa, clave, samba, etc. Again, the other players will expect some latin tunes to be played.

Hope it helps!
radman
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
something I learned a long time ago ... you don't "learn" jazz ... you live it

if you dabble and maybe get a Riley book and learn some figures and maybe gain some facility from it you are definitely improving your drumming ... but you aren't "learning" jazz

to do it properly you go to as many live performances as humanly possible ... check out the greats who are still with us.

seek out every available gig and try to get on it ... jump into jam session and stick around for the hang ... the hang is where the gigs come from ... and the gigs are where you learn to communicate ... where you learn to have that conversation

listen to the music constantly ... pick up the vocabulary ... if you don't love to listen to it to the point where you are seeking out records that all the players you love played on and feel desire to emulate what you hear as if it is an addiction I'm telling you right now it is just a phase.... and there is nothing wrong with that
... every musician goes through his "jazz phase"

all that being said ... get Art Blakey Moanin' ... sit with nothing but a ride cymbal and play quarter notes to it for about a week ... I'm dead serious .. that will get you started
Yeah. This.



......
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
The main thing to always remember is that Jazz is personal to the players whom are present and it seizes the moment. By this I mean that you and the band play what you all feel collectively with the band as a whole at the time and place that you play it in. Your Jazz is Your Jazz, My Jazz is My Jazz. Our Jazz is Our Jazz. Here is some of My/Our Jazz. You may, or may not like it but it is My/Our Jazz and not Your Jazz.
https://youtu.be/Sknm1ZCRhfY?list=PLcXhoJG2az1vw5gWhZQ2ECxLAZYjyOJ0N
 

sciomako

Silver Member
I DON'T even have a strong foundation in rock but I have been having the aspiration to play jazz. Along the way of fooling around, I learned a couple of critical things (to me at least) that are seldomly mentioned:

- The historical root of jazz: e.g. the root of syncopation, call and response and "weird" chords. I'm not talking about learning them as theories. It's a bit like you will have a different level understanding and appreciation of "To kill a mocking bird" if you know the history. This book teaches kids jazz with this orientation in an unconventional way. If kids can learn it, we can. "Now's the Time: Teaching Jazz To All Ages"

- That we have to think like a horn player with their aticulation. Once I realised when I hit the snare I had to imagine in my mind (and sing it) it was a long note (as in "do, Baaaa..."), patterns from Riley suddenly became meaningful, no longer random. A good starting point: https://www.halleonard.com/dealers/bin/PromoBandOrchestraEejazzsampler.pdf
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I DON'T even have a strong foundation in rock but I have been having the aspiration to play jazz. Along the way of fooling around, I learned a couple of critical things (to me at least) that are seldomly mentioned:

- The historical root of jazz: e.g. the root of syncopation, call and response and "weird" chords. I'm not talking about learning them as theories. It's a bit like you will have a different level understanding and appreciation of "To kill a mocking bird" if you know the history. This book teaches kids jazz with this orientation in an unconventional way. If kids can learn it, we can. "Now's the Time: Teaching Jazz To All Ages"

- That we have to think like a horn player with their aticulation. Once I realised when I hit the snare I had to imagine in my mind (and sing it) it was a long note (as in "do, Baaaa..."), patterns from Riley suddenly became meaningful, no longer random. A good starting point: https://www.halleonard.com/dealers/bin/PromoBandOrchestraEejazzsampler.pdf
I'm going to check that first book out. Sounds very interesting.

On your second point, you may be interested in investing in a copy of The Essence of Jazz by Jim Blackley. He takes the same approach with singing figures plus a lot more.
 

sciomako

Silver Member
I'm going to check that first book out. Sounds very interesting.

On your second point, you may be interested in investing in a copy of The Essence of Jazz by Jim Blackley. He takes the same approach with singing figures plus a lot more.
Thanks. I saw it mentioned before. But it looks like it requires special order.
 
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