From DRUM! Magazine’s December 2017 Issue | By Daniel Glass
Far beyond a repetitive ostinato, the ride pattern is responsible for creating the “feel” of jazz, a style of music that was originally designed to make people dance. As such, the way you play the ride must generate forward momentum, but it should also feel relaxed. It must be compelling without being nervous; it must be cool without dragging.
Strip It Down
To capture the nuances of this complex pulse, start by simply playing quarter-notes on a pad. Think about what happens when you bounce a basketball. After each bounce, you respond to the upward motion of the ball before pushing down again. In essence, you move with it.
The same principle applies when working with a drumstick. Each stroke must include both an “in” and “out” element. By learning to react to the motion of the stick instead of trying to control it, you can begin to understand how a minimal, well-placed amount of downward force can “drive” the time without making it feel rushed.
Sync It Up
Once you can feel this dual-purpose motion, play your quarter-notes along with a favorite jazz or blues recording. Doing so offers the chance to lock in with a real drummer who is creating a real-time feel. Two favorites I use with my students are Miles Davis’ “Freddie Freeloader” (from Kind Of Blue) and Art Blakey’s “Moanin’” (from the CD of the same name).
Build It Up
The next step is to upgrade your pattern to the full jazz ride pattern or a shuffle, keeping in mind not to interfere with your commitment to the pulse. In producing a flow of notes that have forward momentum while simultaneously staying relaxed, you will be marching in the footsteps of your forebears, and taking a very big step toward speaking the rich musical dialect of jazz.
Daniel Glass has played drums with the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Royal Crown Revue. He hosts The Daniel Glass Podcast and created the award-winning DVDs The Century Project and TRAPS: The Incredible Story Of Vintage Drums. Go to danielglass.com to hear audio versions of “Moment In History.”