How To Make Jazz Beats Swing – Really Swing

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Recently I was asked if I had written any books on Bop Drumming. After some toing and froing, I discovered that the questioner really wanted to know how to make jazz beats swing. Being British, I presumed he meant Jazz Drumming. I believe they’re one and the same. But I also believe drumming is plain and simple drumming. Rock Beats and Jazz Beats and others are just different styles of playing music and the drums.

Over my 35 years playing , I have been in Jazz situations which require rock style beats and I have been in rock situations where jazz Style beats are also required. In the end it’s all just drumming. Integration being the keyword here.

You can see these as two opposites in various ways such as:

  • Jazz – Rock
  • Triplets – Eight Notes
  • Swing – Pop

Or whatever, but they are just two ways to express music. Either in Triplet or 1/8th note Feels.

How To Make Jazz Beats Swing

Jazz beat swing techniques, swing beats, Bop and so on, are just music styles that incorporate mostly swing, or what I prefer to call Jazz Beats. You may prefer Bop, but in the end, they are just divisions of drumming. And of course the jazz drummer should be a great rock drummer and the rock drummer should be a great jazz drummer.

This isn’t always the case when you speak of rock drumming but jazz drummers are usually pretty good rock style drummers too. It’s really a matter of coordination. And although jazz drummers tend to be a little more coordinated than rock drummers this isn’t always the case. Especially in the higher echelons of drumming and music.

The Student also mentioned another drum book that was too complex for him. And so to put his mind at rest and to take a much simpler perspective than the book he spoke about, I had the following recommendations.

Bop drumming is mostly swing style drumming or jazz style drumming. The contents of my books

Jazz Drumming Foundation Course


Jazz Drumming Development Course

Contain most of what you need. If you’re looking for bop-style drumming, that is.

And I believe you already have those two books within the Drumming Foundation Book – Learn To Play drums in 4 Easy Steps.

Jazz drumming foundationThe idea is that once you can play the contents from the Jazz Drumming Foundation book.
You then go on to practice the Jazz Drumming Development book.

The Jazz Drumming Development book takes the Foundation Book and focuses on triplet development. Making the continuous flow of triplets between the limbs the priority.

When you have those triplet coordination exercises practiced you should be well on your way to knowing how to make jazz beats swing, and you should be a pretty good Bop Drummer, or Jazz Drummer. I just call it Jazz.

And the better you get those coordination exercises the better your jazz playing will be. When it comes to learning how to make jazz beats swing, you don’t necessarily need more exercises. Refer to the rock drumming foundation book where I tell the Bruce Lee story.

In short, Bruce Less said I am not afraid of the man who has learned 10,000 punches and practiced them several times each. But I am deadly afraid of the man who has learned 1 punch and practiced it 10,000 times. The “quality” over “quantity” is what he was saying.

I digress…

But remember that these (Jazz Drumming Development book) exercises are not meant to be played AS IS. They are exercises to be used to develop. Meaning, you practice them VERY SLOWLY. 60 BPM. Because it’s not a case of “how great you can play those beats/exercises”. It’s more a case of how great can you make the space between the beats (notes).

A fighting analogy would be, in boxing, you practice the punches then, in the ring you just hit the other dude and he falls to the floor – depending on whether you practiced your moves (the triplet coordination exercises). 🙂

I Cant Keep Up With This Piano Dude!

As an example, was working with Carlo Santana and as the backing band, I was working with a keyboard player who played a lot of swing stuff. He played some really fast swing and I struggled to keep up.

So, I hit the practice room and for six months in order to learn how to make jazz beats swing enough to keep up with the keyboard player. I concentrated on the Jazz Drumming Development Book exercises alone. I then took the exercises and wrote 16 bars of various exercises (for example, ex1, ex5, ex23, 45, 16, etc).

Then I treated those as solos.

But again, I practiced them slowly (60bpm) because when I worked with the keyboard player again, It was all really relaxed. Not a struggle. It was easy and it swung.

This all applies to the rock drumming foundation and development books too.

Check Out Other Drummers

You can tell by watching a drummer on Youtube whether he has gone to the trouble of the laborious job of practicing very slowly in order to learn how to make jazz beats swing like crazy. He will be messy if he hasn’t. It can be difficult to spot at first with some drummers but if you look, its there. Because he hasn’t worked on the spaces.

You will only get what I mean by playing the spaces when you practice slowly.

This is why I called the first series… Time SPACE and Drums. The timing becomes better the more you work on the space. But of course, paradoxically you work on the timing (slow) to get to be able to focus on the space. The slower you can bare it the better. It gives your mind time to focus on the space, and what your doing between the space. With each limb. You can then work on the issues you become aware of. This is a great way to practice and along the way you’ll discover how to make jazz beats swing like crazy.

The count, (I never counted when I was learning) instead of being 1, 2, 3, 4 focused. Becomes more like 1, 3, 1, 3… and sometimes 2, 4, 2, 4. And eventually just 1…1…1…1… etc. Because you worked on the space. And because your mind moves away from the 1234 way of thinking and turns it all on its head.

This is made possible through practicing the triplets combinations really slowly. What it does is really a way of making 1, 2, 3, 4 (swing style) very complex (compared to the basic beats in the foundation books). Then after the weeks of practice, 1, 2, 3, 4 becomes easy and your mind makes the shift to thinking 1, 3, 1, 3, or 2, 4, 2, 4, etc.

Listen again to the audio files in the emails you received when you signed up for the audio demos where I sing triplets. You would have received those files when you received the emails for the 4 parts of the Drumming Foundation book. They are the perfect example of how to make jazz beats swing in a forward flowing motion.

In Conclusion

In short, this takes the very easy… Jazz Drumming Foundation contents and makes them more complex through the Jazz drumming Development book… And then makes everything easier than both books. But at the same time, playing more complex triplet feel coordinated rhythms.

This is where I came up with the phrase:

Advanced techniques are basic techniques played exceptionally well.

Put another way, the contents of the development book are simply the contents of the foundation book played very well. They were the natural next step to learning how to make jazz beats swing during the creation of the foundation phase.

That’s not technically true but after practicing to that level you will understand what I mean.

All the best.

PS: I hope to rerelease all of the books (all 12 this time) sometime this year and book 12 goes even deeper into playing more complex jazz style beats, but requires some degree of mastery of what we have said here.

The Drum Coach

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