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The Importance of Jazz Drumming

The Importance of Jazz Drumming

The art of jazz drumming has proven to be the most essential and important style I have studied as a drum teacher. It has challenged me to approach my drum style with more nuance, complexity, and emotion. Through studying jazz drums, I have embedded a deeper understanding of playing “in the moment”, also known as improvisation. This blog will outline how jazz drumming has developed my playing and its role in advancing multi-limb coordination.

My upbringing in playing drums began through listening to my father’s thrash punk band, The Fanatics. I began learning really fast beats from bands such as Green Day and Metallica. This set the precedent for my drumming for the next few years. It wasn’t until high school when I first listened to Elvin Jones, a prolific jazz drummer from the Bop Era of the 1950’s and 1960’s. His drum solo on the piece “Gingerbread Boy” compelled me to become more
immersed into the jazz arts, and I quickly realized how complex yet exciting jazz drumming can be. Be sure to give it a listen (or 20!) and you’ll soon find yourself dying to be more like Elvin!

The complexities are mostly seen in the multi-limb coordination it takes to play a basic swing pattern: your left foot presses down on the hi-hat on beats two and four while your right hand maintains a swing pattern on the ride cymbal. This element to playing jazz drums is a stark contrast to rock drumming, which emphasizes beats one and three with the right foot. Learning contrasting beats in your drum lessons, such as a jazz swing and a rockbeat, can significantly help develop that multi-limb coordination.

Once I had practiced jazz drumming thoroughly, I began to notice my improvisational skills grow. Listently intently to be-bop jazz drummers like Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and Art Blakey made me understand how to play in a more improvised manner. For example, learning a melody from a favorite song of yours and being able to create how that melody could be played on the drums can really improve your improvisational skills. (Ask your drum teacher to help you with this in your drum lessons!) It also forces you to think of drums as a delicate and lyrical instrument, rather than just a time-keeper for other instruments. Check out this article by Drum Magazine to begin discovering ways you can improve your coordination and improvisation through jazz.

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