on jazz drumming

Learning to Play the Drums - Winard Harper


Learning to Play the Drums, Winard Harper, On Jazz Drumming

I recently discovered the great playing of jazz drummer Winard Harper. He’s played with some of the greats including Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, and singer Betty Carter, but perhaps not as well known as he should be. Doing some research, I came across this video on YouTube of Harper giving a jazz drum master class at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in 2012, and thought it might provide some insights and inspiration.

There are a couple of things to highlight from the video. The first is Harper's discussion of rudiments and the ideas he gives for using them to build your chops. He suggests five key rudiments: the flam, the flam tap, the flam accent, the paradiddle and the ratamacue, which I think give a good introduction to rudiments. He demonstrates some ways to add them into time playing.

The second insight is into playing melodically, especially while soloing. The key point Harper emphasises is knowing the melody of the tune and using that to develop and underpin your soloing. He plays a couple of great examples of this with “Now is the Time” and “All the things you are”. This echos an exercise that the great drum educator Alan Dawson did with his students of soloing while singing the melody of the tune. It highlights the need for drummers to know the tunes they are playing, and playing melodically is the best way to play musically.


Basic Rudiments - Winard Harper

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