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So You Want To Learn To Play Jazz Drums?

By Yann, published on 18/12/2018 We Love Prof - IN > Music > Drums > All You Need To Know About Jazz Drums!

Jazz is a hugely popular and enduring music genre and is one practised by many musicians around the world.

As a result, it’s hardly surprising that there are lots of drummers out there that enjoy jazz drumming. Even if you’re just starting out when it comes to learning how to drum, it can be really beneficial to try out different styles and genres of music to see which style of drumming most interests and suits you.

If you have prior experience with jazz drumming or think that jazz drumming might be a route you’d like to go down, this article outlines some of the factors you might like to consider, such as:

  • The benefits of having a dedicated jazz drum set;
  • What you might find in a jazz drum set; and
  • Things to consider when buying a jazz drum set.

There are different types of guitars and drum sets out there, including jazz drums. Just like there are different types of guitar, there are also different types of drum sets, including jazz drums. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, FirmBee, Pixabay)

Why Choose A Jazz Drum Set?

When the time comes to buy your first drum set, the first question to ask yourself is: what drum sets are there and what kind of music would I like to play?

Learning to get into the groove and play the drums is exactly the same as learning to play an instrument such as the guitar. When learning to play the guitar, you need to choose whether you’re going to play:

  • An electric guitar;
  • An acoustic guitar; or
  • A folk guitar.

When it comes to drumming, you need to make a choice between acoustic drums and electronic drums. If you decide to play acoustic drums, then you should try and choose to a kit that is geared towards the style of music that you’d like to play.

For example, a jazz drum kit would be a great purchase for anyone looking to play styles of music such as jazz, modern jazz, jazz-rock, blues, Bossa Nova or Latin rhythms.

In other words, if you’d like to play one of the above musical styles, then the type of drum kit you should buy is essentially set out for you (i.e. a jazz kit would be a great choice).

This is because other types of drum kits, such as a rock and roll drum set or a fusion set, will produce different sounds, which may not match the kind of sounds that you’re hoping to achieve when playing in a jazz style.

However, it’s worth remembering that nothing is set in life, and you are of course free to choose to play on whichever style drum kit you choose!

There are lots of ways to customise a jazz drum kit. There are lots of different ways you can customise a set of jazz drums. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, OpenClipart-Vectors, Pixabay)

What Are The Features Of Jazz Drums?

One of the advantages of jazz drum sets is that they are usually relatively easy to move around thanks to the small relative size and weight of the various elements in the kit. This can be particularly handy for any drummers that have to travel around with their drum kit a lot, for example, to attend gigs, a jazz festival with their jazz band or big band, or when performing in a concert hall with an orchestra.

What’s more, drummers may find it easier to play a jazz drum set in a small space, as the sound emitted is less likely to pierce through the ears of the audience!

When it comes to specifications though, it’s worth noting that playing the drums on a jazz drum set is not the same thing as playing the drums on a rock and roll drum set. This is because the configuration shouldn’t be the same and neither should the size of the various elements in the kit.

Generally speaking, a jazz set may comprise the following:

  • Two tom drums – one 10 inches and one 13 inches;
  • A small 18-inch bass drum;
  • A 13-inch snare drum;
  • A hi-hat;
  • A ride cymbal, which is used often in jazz; and
  • A crash cymbal.

Of course, anything goes in the world of music, so don’t feel as though you have to stick with this composition if you don’t want to!

Which Drumsticks Should I Choose If I Want To Play Jazz?

When it comes to selecting sticks to help you play jazz, it’s worthwhile looking at drumsticks that are as thin and light as possible. For instance, a 7A size should do the job, but feel free to test out other drumsticks as well. Equally, metal or plastic brushes are a good choice when playing jazz, particularly when using the cymbals.

What’s more, when it comes to playing jazz, you can also sometimes make use of a percussion mallet and even your hands – ultimately, your creativity can guide you when it comes to the tools you can use, either when you’re practising or performing a drum solo!

Can You Play Jazz With Electronic Drums?

Electronic drums tend to suit styles like rock, pop or funk, and as a result are less suitable for styles such as jazz. However, that’s not to say that you couldn’t use electronic drums to play jazz music!

In the ideal world, a jazz drum set would be a great choice if you had your heart set on playing jazz, but if you don’t have any choice in the kind of kit that you buy a good set of electronic drums could also get the job done.

Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that if you are committed to jazz drumming, then you should be able to achieve your goal with whatever kit you have around, even if it’s not the best configuration for that style of music, so don’t feel too disheartened if you can’t get your hands on a jazz drum set straight away.

You'll need drumsticks to play a set of jazz drums. When buying a set of jazz drums, it’s also worth thinking about the type of drumsticks you’d like to use. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, flockine, Pixabay)

Which Jazz Drum Set Is Right For Me If I Want To Learn Jazz Drums?

Choosing what drum set you would like and what elements to include as part of your kit is a very personal decision.

One way to go about choosing a drum set is to pick a drummer that you admire. For example, you might consider some of the greatest drummers or best drummers to be legendary figures such as:

  • Max Roach;
  • Tony Williams;
  • Buddy Rich;
  • Jo Jones;
  • Elvin Jones;
  • Art Blakely; or
  • Peter Erskine, to name a few!

Once you’ve picked out a jazz drummer or jazz drummers, you could attempt to recreate those jazz artists’ drum kits as much as you can.

Of course, professional musicians are likely to have top-end equipment, so don’t feel as if you have to buy the most expensive kit available to emulate them – simply pick a kit that is likely to be a close match to your preferred drummer’s that also sits nicely within your budget, however big or small that budget may be.

It’s also worth knowing that you can buy some ready-made jazz drum sets, meaning that you don’t need to go out and buy each piece separately. For some, this convenience is a big advantage, while others prefer to buy their elements separately to allow for some form of personalisation or customisation.

Again, there’s no right answer, it’s more a case of personal preference.

Equally, when looking to buy a jazz drum set, don’t be afraid to ask around for recommendations from friends to see what they would suggest you buy, or if they’d recommend any particular brands, such as Zildjian. Alternatively, a knowledgeable sales associate at your local music shop might be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to what kit or instruments to buy.

If you’re in a position to try out a jazz drum set before you buy it, then take that opportunity, as you might find out that one set that you had your heart set on doesn’t quite resonate with you for one reason or another after you try it out.

Once you’ve found your ideal drum kit and you’re all set to start learning to drum and play along to your favourite beats – or even make your own, you might also want to think about whether or not you’d benefit from having a drum lesson or several drum lessons with a tutor.

You can get a lot out of drumming lessons, including online drum lessons, as the drum tutor can give you feedback on your performances or drum solos by listening to how you play. Whether your aim is to improve your overall rhythm, technique, tempo, improvisation, timekeeping, or you just want to get better at playing the drums more generally, drum lessons might help.

Superprof has a wide number of tutors you can choose from, whether you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate, or even an advanced musician.

If you found this useful, why not check out our blog on how to play the drums without a drum kit!

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