Learn to Drum with Brushes
Drumming with brushes is a totally unique style of drumming. It is completely different from playing with drum sticks. This lesson will teach you how to hold brushes, how to play with brushes, and how to use brushes with dynamics and control. Drum brushes are usually played in ballads, jazz, and other softer songs; however they have many uses for them. I have even seen many drummer play solos with brushes! Also, when playing in a small auditorium or church, a lot of drummers will use brushes to bring their volume down. So let’s uncover the secrets to brush playing, and hopefully broaden our drumming horizons
Lets start with the basics, how to hold brushes. There is a couple of ways you can do this. Basically, the grip you use should be the same as a regular drum stick. For a complete list of proper stick grips, check out my article on how to hold drumsticks. You will not have to search for an optimum fulcrum point like regular drumsticks because you are not going to find one very easy. The weight and balance of brushes is totally different to regular sticks. A lot of drummers will hold their brushes with one hand using the traditional grip, and the other using matched grip. This is fairly popular with brushes, however matched grip works fine to. It’s a matter of opinion.
Now let’s move onto how to play brushes. Brushes have a totally different job then drumsticks. Drum brushes (also known as brooms) are used for softer playing. This means you need to have a feel for the brush. A lot of cymbal work is done with brushes. So let’s deal with the cymbals first. Rarely will you see brushes played on closed hi hats. This is because you can rarely get a decent volume from them. Open hi hats are a different story however. Using your ride cymbal and crash cymbals will get you a very nice sound. Use the brushes to sweep the cymbal, utilizing every spoke of the brush.
Playing your brushes on your toms and snare are a lot different as well. The main drum you will play brushes on is the snare. Playing brushes on a snare creates a feeling that you cannot get with any other stick. Make sure you have a coated skin on your drum, or the brushes will not work that well. Simply press down on the brush so the spokes spread out on the snare drum. Then, in a circular motion, move your brushes around the snare. You will get a swooshing sound that sounds like it has a texture to it. Accent your quarter notes by speeding up and/or pressing harder during that count. Play around with this technique until you get a feel for the brush!
Let’s learn how to read brush music. Brushes look different then other drum notation. To read up on basic drum notation click on my article on understanding drum notation. To learn more about sheet music in general, you may want to read this quick lesson on sheet music. Now as for brush notation, you will see a lot of arcs on the page. Count the time like regular, just watch out for those arcs. Those represent a sweep with your brush. If you are following the lesson, one arc would represent one circle played on the drum with your brush. So count these out by playing circular sweeps on your snare with your brush. Check out these few examples of brush sheet music below.
You may not find rudiments that much help with brush technique; however it is good to work on your brush control. When you gotten the hang of brushes, try to use them in some drum fills and solos. You can also use brushes in Latin music. Experiment with this and have fun!
By: Dave Atkinson
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