BY STEWART JEAN
There is one big rule to remember in order to free your left hand from the right hand ride cymbal pattern in jazz drumming. If the snare lands on the ah of beat 2 or 4, it will play along with the right hand on the ride cymbal. Conversely, if the snare lands on the ah of beats 1 or 3 that note will be independent from the ride pattern.
The swing in jazz music is created by the placement of the upbeats based on the eighth-note triplet. Triplets in this lesson are counted as 1 & ah, 2 & ah, 3 & ah, 4 & ah with the ah being the upbeat. This is the first real exercise that will begin to unlock your independence skills.
To start, make sure your jazz ride pattern is in good form with all notes sounding big and smooth (Ex. 1).
Now, play the snare drum on the ah of beat 2, paying close attention to how the ride and snare drum line up (Ex. 2). Notice that the ride cymbal plays on the downbeat of 3 but the snare drum does not. Then switch to the ah of beat 4 and you will see the same situation.
Next, put the two together and play on the ah of beats 2 and 4 (Ex. 3).
Play the snare drum on the ah of beat 1 (Ex. 4), making sure that the snare drum plays alone here. Then switch to the ah of beat 3 and notice the same circumstances.
Put the two together and play on the ah of beats 1 and 3 (Ex. 5).
Finally, play the snare drum on all upbeats (the ah of beats 1, 2, 3, and 4) under the jazz ride pattern (Ex. 6).
These exercises may not seem too challenging, but they are the most fundamental building blocks to develop jazz independence. In the next lesson we will look at creating short rhythmic phrases under the jazz ride pattern. Happing swinging!
Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.