BY STEWART JEAN
There are endless applications for brush playing that span numerous musical styles. Whether its be-bop, country, folk, rock, pop, reggae, Brazilian, avant-garde, indie, movie soundtracks, or perhaps you just need to play at a lower volume, rudimentary to intermediate brush skills are essential for all working drummers. In addition to adding new ways to create sounds, brushes also give drummers another way to elongate notes.
One way to develop technique with brushes is to simply play your basic rudiments with them. This will help to develop touch and control, but you should also practice the sweep. One great way to develop sweeping technique is to practice slow grooves that require longer notes from the drums. A great vehicle for this is a slow 3/4 ballad feel, where you must be able to convey time and subdivision but with slow and controlled motions.
Place the right hand brush near the rim of the snare and slide it towards center on every downbeat in a slight arc pattern. This groove is played with a swung eighth-note, thus the brush should return towards the rim of the drum on the ah of every beat. The same can be applied to the left hand also moving toward the center of the head.
For the purpose of this lesson we will now flip the left hand to play on all of the upbeats. On the ah of the beat, the brush should be propelled towards the center of the drum with a slight flick of the wrist.
The left hand customarily would play a more broken pattern. Practice these basic rhythms (Exs. 1-7).
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.