Jazz drumming is great; stick flailing, is not.
All great drummers know the importance of stick control in any genre, and in a genre based almost completely upon improvisation, jazz is absolutely no exception.
In this lesson, we will go over a few things that will help you to get control over unruly drumsticks.
First off, stick height. Stick height is the number one cause of awful, out of control stick catastrophe. Here are a few rules of thumb that will help you to get control of your drumstick height:
When you play a grace note on drums, your stick should never be more than three to five inches from your drum head. In some cases, it is best to keep your stick closer. The less distance your stick has to travel, the easier it will be to make clear distinctions between your grace notes and your regular notes. This will help prevent your notes from all blending as one.
When performing a regular note, your stick should be no more than eight to ten inches from the drum head. The further your stick has to travel for a regular note, the more chance there is of the note becoming off. There is also a further chance that you will elicit more power than necessary when you stroke. This causes your notes to jumble into one another, and will make it hard for listeners to distinguish between your regular notes and accents.
When accenting a note, resist the urge to point your stick to the sky or raise it back like a hammer; a single foot of distance (twelve inches) is more than enough to generate the proper amount of power from your wrist.
Don’t feel the need to be a he-man behemoth; get enough distance to generate the proper amount of force, but don’t overdo it. The further your hand is from the drum, the more distance you need to cover in a shorter amount of time, and the more chance there is of your note coming late to the tea party that is your jazz drumming piece.
The only way to master stick height and distance is by practicing. Instead of having a free for all jam session in your room, take some time and practice your notes. When you think your note heights and values are perfect, make a recording of them, and then view them with foreign ears. This will allow you to hear what your listeners hear.
Be honest with yourself. If you have even the slightest trouble telling the difference between your notes, or if you have even the slightest problem with discerning your note values, your listener will have at least three times that amount of trouble. Keep this in mind; it will help you to better yourself as a musician.
In the end, control is all up to you. If you are willing to put in the proper amount of practice to fully develop your drumming skills, you will soon be on your way to having clear and accurate pieces. Good luck, and remember to have fun.
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