How To Understand The Jazz Cymbal Pattern
by Tim Lake
In jazz drumming everything flows and follows from good cymbal time - something I have to keep relearning, so it is essential to spend the time working on getting the sound and feel right. Something a lot of books neglect to focus on.
This is one simple way to start to approach learning the jazz cymbal pattern.
You should focus on the crotchets or quarter notes - this is where the pulse is. The first two lines are essential the same - the top line shows how it is written whereas the second line shows how you should count the space between the quarter notes, as triplets.
Spend time on this, just playing steady quarter notes and counting, and feeling, the triplets.
Next you can add the "let" or skiplet or skipnote, as seen in line three. It shouldn't have the same weight as the quarter notes yet it should give the pattern forward momentum. Think of the quarter notes as accents and the "let" almost as a grace note. If you want to think in terms of types of stroke, the "let" is an up stroke, with the following quarter note a down stroke.
Finally add the hi-hat on 2 &4. The final line.
It is worth spending time practicing all three of these variations. Think of each as an exercise in itself and not just as an intellectual understanding of how to put together the basic pattern/
Start all these exercises at crotchet = 40bpm, aiming to play consistently for 2 ~ 3 minutes at least.
Once you are comfortable, try playing along to a slow blues such as "Blues to Elvin" or "Blues to Bechet" from Coltrane Plays the Blues, playing several choruses of each exercise.
This was originally posted on "Jazz Drumming Blog" and in the "Ideas for Jazz Drumming" e-book (no longer available).
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Coltrane Plays the Blues
Blues to Elvin