Painting the walls in your house is undeniably boring. Stroking a brush up and down a wall until your fingers are numb and your wrist is cramping isn’t anyone’s idea of an enjoyable pastime.
Then, when you have finished, and your hand feels like a ten pound block attached to your forearm by little more than sheer stubbornness, you have to clean your brushes, inevitably getting paint all over your sink, countertop, and floor.
Although I can’t promise that it will be easy, brushes in jazz drumming are a lot less pain inducing, and as an added bonus, require no maintenance or cleanup. Jazz brushes are either plastic or wooden gripped brushes with retractable wire bristles. They can give your playing a whole lot of flavor, making it more unique and appealing to both casual listeners and musicians alike.
Now that you know what they are, you may want to know what they do. Brushes in jazz drumming create a fuller sound. The brushing technique can be heard in songs such as the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Christmas Time is Here which was part of the jazzy soundtrack the Trio made for the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.
Brushing does not involve striking the drum. Instead, you gently stroke the drum, most commonly the snare, with the brush.
The first step in mastering the use of brushes for jazz drumming is to learn how to hold the brushes. The best part is that you already know how to do this. You hold the brushes with the wired bristle end (head) towards the dream, as you would any other drum stick. Any of your favorite grips can be applied to the brush.
Unlike drum rudiments and strokes, the brushes are al about feel. There is absolutely no power involved in jazz drum brushing. Brushes can be used on any voice, including cymbals and toms, although I have yet to see a drummer reach under their kit and brush stroke their bass drum!
The next step, inevitably, is technique. When using brushes in jazz drumming, be sure to keep your wrist loose. The technique as fairly simple; simply lay the bristles flat against the drum head, and make a slow, gentle circular motion, covering the entire center ring of your drum. You will notice, as you may have heard in many jazz songs, that the sound is almost like that of a person walking and shuffling their feet.
Use a metronome to keep your pace, completing each circle in time with the clicks. Unlike most drum techniques, this using brushes not only started off slowly, but will remain slow. The technique is used to add a delicate touch to your piece, not to speed it up.
When using brushes, be creative; try brushing different voices, use different stick holding forms, let the bristles slide slowly off of your cymbal.
Now that you know how to master brushes in jazz, the final step is to practice. Try incorporating brushes into some of your favorite pieces to add extra dynamics. Once you are comfortable using brushes, you can add an entirely new level of emotion to your playing. Have fun!
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