BY STEWART JEAN
As drummers we are always looking for new ways to support a song and create parts for the artists we work with. Sometimes a song needs atmospheric changes from the drums to accommodate harmonic and melodic developments and variations. Often, especially in singer/songwriter, contemporary Christian/gospel, and contemporary jazz/fusion we are directed to “float” or play “colors.” What this means, in technical terms, is to play light time and rhythms somewhat randomly, primarily on cymbals. Having a go-to technique when asked to “float” is good practice for all drummers at all levels. We explore this here in part one of our four-part series on changing the atmosphere of a song with the drum set.
Here’s my default “floating” technique.
Start with a basic eighth-note pattern on the ride cymbal with slightly accented downbeats (Ex. 1).
Next, get the left hand involved by playing the e’s and ah’s with subtle accents on the ah of 1 and 3 (Ex. 2), but avoid being too repetitive.
Add 5-stroke rolls, diddles, and drags (Ex. 3).
Splash the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4 (Ex. 4).
Add the bass drum, lightly, on beats 2 and 4 (Ex. 5).
Mix in, cymbal bells, subtle crashes, light toms. Most importantly, experiment in order to develop your own voice and go-to method when asked to “play colors” or “float.”