Rock Drumming System

Learn how to play the 5/4 jazz swing

Playing 5/4 jazz is one of the most popular styles of jazz to play. There is something about the 5/4 time signature that just grooves with jazz music. The famous tune “Take Five” is a very popular jazz song that has helped make 5/4 jazz so popular. Learning how to play 5/4 jazz is not that hard. Like all jazz grooves, this beat would sound great with regular drumsticks, as well as with brushes! There are a few things you need to learn first, but after that you will be swinging and grooving to a 5/4 feel in no time!

Learn how to count 5/4

Before we start, make suer you have a good grasp on jazz in 4/4 first! The first step is obviously developing the 5/4 feel. This is incredibly easy to count, however when you start playing the drums you will have a bit of a tricky time keeping everything together. For a complete lesson on counting odd time signatures, click on this article: How to count time. Basically, you just count to five, when you get to five, you repeat. This is the basis to the 5/4 time signature. Since this is a jazz swing feel, we will count swing 8th notes, (swing triplets). This is counted like this:

One trip Let Two trip Let Three trip Let Four trip Let five trip Let

Once you are able to count this without any troubles, its time to add the ride and hi hat – the basis of all jazz.

Learn How to Play the Ride and Hi-Hat

The next step is adding the ride and hi hat. This is harder than you would think. With regular 4/4 jazz, you have the basic ride swing pattern (developing the jazz swing), that repeats itself. However with 5/4, you have an extra count, meaning the repeat will not be at the same spot as usual. There is many ways to play this in 5/4. The easiest way is to play your basic jazz swing, (like in 4/4) and add in an extra hit on your ride. You can add this extra hit on the 1, or the 5, either or works. Try this example with the ride cymbal only, adding an extra hit on the 1 count.

Now you need to work on adding the hi hat. Like 4/4 jazz, you want to play the hi hat twice with ever bar. This does not have to be a constant, but it should follow a basic pattern. Try adding the hi hat on the 2 count and the 5 count. This would look like this:

Learn how to play the 5/4 jazz groove

Now we just have to complete the beat by adding the bass drum and snare drum. This is known as bass and snare comping. With jazz, the main groove and feel comes from the ride and hi hat, most rock drummers have a hard time comprehending this. With 5/4 jazz, it is no different. Make sure you have the basic 5/4 jazz groove down, and then add some snare and bass drum in. Here is an example of what you can do with your bass drum:

To better understand this style of jazz, try listening to the classic song “Take Five”. This is the best way to develop this groove. Count along with the song and try to play it on the drums yourself. You will notice how catchy the groove is, and understand clearly why 5/4 jazz is so popular. If this lesson was to advanced, try learning the basics of jazz here!

By: Dave Atkinson

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