Left hand swish timekeeping with brushes


Platinum Member
After years of playing in rock bands I am now in a gentle jazz blues outfit, and we're doing some of the old standards like Cry me a River, You Don't know What Love is and Love Me Or Leave Me. My brush technique is primitive but I'm not worried, as long as my simple execution keeps the swing going.

One thing I've struggled with is keeping an even swish with my left hand when timekeeping, which means breaks in my (and consequently the music's) momentum. The beat runs smoothly for a while and then gets sloppy, then I pull it back and again and so on.

I practice daily, either on a drum or the top of a pide box. Yet the evenness I'm looking for is not coming as quickly as it should and I suspect that's because I'm a bit tight. I feel this should be automatic so I can focus more on the music and RH accents.

Any ideas offered for me to improve my LH technique will be appreciated.


Silver Member
Several good books/DVD on brush technique are on the market. Buy one and take the time working on snare,bass and Hit Hat for using brushes. Also I found that learning the motions without and brushes(just hands helped). Using brushes is an art that takes times..practicing with CD's(songs) is needed...also recording yourself and listening to ply back. TX Denis


Pioneer Member
By swish I assume you're talking about the clockwise sweeping motion. To get that smooth it's important to ensure you're making an even rotation to every beat: envisage an imaginary clockface, start the sweep on beat 1 at 9 o'clock, and then make sure you're rotating so that you hit 9 o'clock on top of the beat.
Getting that motion smooth and automatic unsurprisingly is going to take a fair amount of practice.


Platinum Member
Thanks Jones (I'm an Uncle Frank fan too). I've been looking at a lot of YouTube instructional videos and especially like Zack Albetta's one. Steve Gadd's and Ed Thigpen's vids are great but out of my range.

My natural downbeat accent seems to come at around 2 o'clock. I find that when I start I'm relaxed and all goes smoothly for a while but then I start tightening up and the pulse gets sloppy.

Denis, yep, I've been doing pretend-brush sweeps on my thigh. Do you think air-brushing helps? (no pun intended, at my age it would definitely help!).

Hmm, this talk has given me an idea - maybe start work on a figure-eight pattern as well, so then circular motion will seem easy by comparison. Yes? No?



Platinum Member
I would recommend using a metronome. After all, you do for sticks (you do, right?) why not use it for brushes as well? Make a circle with your left hand making sure you always end up at the same point on the 'One'.
I don't think it's very critical that it be at the 12 o'clock position or 9 o'clock or whatever as it may vary from person to person, as long as it is at same point on the drumhead and you hit it consistently. Don't be afraid to start this at a slow tempo. Once you get it down, try several tempo ranges. Oh, once you increase the tempo, your circle will become progressively smaller...and may become more of an egg shape at higher tempos. Good luck!!


Platinum Member
Great link, Jeff! That's the first instructional vid I've seen with that finger-closing method on the LH using trad grip. I gave it a go and my sweep was immediately more even. Something to work on. Thanks very much.

Quote=Brady: "I would recommend using a metronome. After all, you do for sticks (you do, right?)"

Uh, yeah, sure I do :D

Brady, I've tried, really I have, but I find metronomes so dull! My approach to practice is more akin to Steve Gadd's (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk2ko6ATAV0) - just mumbling and humming a song as I play. Of course, that's where the similarities between Steve's and my playing end :)

The slow tempos seem harder to keep things even and clean (we're playing Cry me a river), I guess, because subtle variations in sweep speed stand out more. We're more blues than jazz and I doubt we'll play any swinging stuff faster than Love me or leave me.

wy yung

Try playing very slowly. Set a metronome to 30 bpm counting 16ths and practice doing both a half and complete circle on the 1/4 note. Try keeping the brush as even as possible and spend time. The brush is an art in itself and it takes time. Practice one hand and record yourself. Listen back and check the evenness. Then incorporate the ride hand and record that. Check to see if one hand throws the other off balance. Then work slowly to clean your technique up.

Remember, be patient. It will come but it wont be right away.