Rock Drumming System

Developing a Jazz Swing Feel – How to Count Jazz Style

Developing a jazz swing feel is a great challenge for any drummer. Jazz requires independence skills which I will introduce in these exercises. There is never enough jazz independence practice that one can do, so make sure you keep practicing. This short article will explain the way to count jazz music and follow along with the jazz swing.

The key to a great sounding swing feel is the ride cymbal pattern. The jazz ride pattern is based upon 8th note triplets. This is what sets most jazz music apart from rock, because in rock you usually leave triplets to fills and solos. This however, is incorporated in the actual beat. So how do we count this? Like this:

1 (trip) (let) 2 (trip) LET 3 (trip) (let) 4 (trip) LET


1                   2          LET 3                   4          LET

This feel on the cymbal should be established before adding any other limbs. Once the ride sounds good, add the left foot hi hat on the 2 & 4 count. This will become your generic jazz pattern which will enable you to start swinging in any jazz band! This is the basic jazz groove that I explained in my other article, however learning how to count this is very curtail.  Make sure you are counting aloud when you start, this will help you with your independence skills big time. Once you have this, move on to some other exercises that incorporate the snare drum and bass drum.

I recommend listening to as many jazz and big band albums as possible to really understand the feel of this wonderful style. Here are a few examples of great jazz drummers to get you started.

  • Buddy Rich
  • Gene Krupa
  • Max Roach
  • Papa Jo Jones
  • Tony Williams
  • Art Blakey
  • Jack Dejohnette
  • Jim Chapin
  • Elvin Jones

By: Dave Atkinson

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