Practice Pad LessonsHere are some methods to develop your jazz ride cymbal control at fast and very fast tempos.

I like to use a paradiddle exercise I got from Joe Morello, who would have me play multiple paradiddles with each hand, with and without accents. Ex. 1 illustrates one measure of single strokes and the paradiddles, Ex. 2 illustrates a double stroke roll and the paradiddle variations, and Ex. 3 illustrates four rights, four lefts, and the paradiddles. If you work these paradiddles up to tempo, you are really working on a fast jazz ride cymbal beat with the right paradiddle, and a fun, fast lick with the left (Ex. 4).

To do this without tension, hold the stick in a “natural” way, leaving a space between the thumb and first finger with no squeezing. Hold the stick in a balanced position and start at a certain level above the drum, making one downward motion (no up before the down) and allowing the stick to bounce back to the starting position.


The next step is comping with the full drum kit, including the bass drum. Ex. 5 illustrates an eighth-note bass drum grid and Exs. 6–9 give hand and foot comping examples.

There are a couple tricks employed by some of the greats to achieve these fast tempos. For example, Mel Lewis often played with a New Orleans feel, playing the cymbal accent and the bass drum together to break up the time even at a fast tempo (Ex. 10). And you don’t have to play the full ride rhythm all the time — you can break it up, let the cymbal ring, hit beats that are not on 1, play figures around the time, etc. (Ex. 11). This can be heard in the space and wide dynamic range in the playing of Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, and Roy Haynes. And Harold Jones plays a fast tempo by playing only the first part of the jazz ride rhythm (Ex. 12), which keeps the time super solid and really highlights the quarter note.

Danny Gottlieb has performed with Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, and Gil Evans, and is currently the drummer with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. He has won four Grammy Awards and is a professor of jazz studies at the University Of North Florida in Jacksonville.