How To Play Jazz Drums For Beginners

If you know anything about music and drums, perhaps you might know a little about the famous jazz drums. But, if you don’t, that is not a problem at all as you have come to the right place. Jazz drums are percussion instruments just like other types of drums. Knowing how to play jazz drums involves playing the percussion in a jazz-themed fashion. This can be seen in legendary jazz styles from the 1910s Dixieland jazz style to the 1980s Latin jazz. The techniques used in these performances have evolved over the years all thanks to the influence of jazz and drummers themselves.

A Brief History

To be in the right tone with jazz, it is essential to know a bit of its history. You do not want to jump into a genre you have no idea about. Jazz was birthed in the 20th century and it is known to have its roots from the United States and Africa. It started in New Orleans and continued to evolve. With jazz musicians like Miles Davis, Buddy Rich and Frank Zappa, we saw the introduction of Latin jazz, jazz-rock and jazz-funk. Jazz music is exciting; it gives you an opportunity to improve on your musical creativity, finding new ways to create the perfect rhythm.

Jazz drummers are known to use brushes in place of the conventional drum sticks. They use plastic or metal brushes. Though the nature of jazz seems to be more fluid-like and free, the right timing and rhythm are essential in jazz drumming. Brushes allow for more expression and creativity that might be hampered using the normal drum sticks. If you intend to play the jazz drums excellently, you must learn how to use brushes.

They were first used in the 1920s in a bid to bring down the noise gotten from playing the snare drums. So, brushes are quieter to use. If you are just starting out, light drumsticks will prove to be more beneficial as new drummers might be unfamiliar with the techniques required to use brushes.

Just like with learning every other skill or language, it is best to start off with the basics and progress from there. A beginner venturing into jazz drumming should begin by getting familiar with basic jazz drumming beats, techniques, rhythm and learn to apply them.


How To Play Jazz Drums

Jazz Drumming Techniques

This might prove to be a bit complicated at the start but don’t relent. For starters, it is of great importance that you have the right timing and good rhythm. It might be easier if you try out rock music when you start; the drum beats are well suited for a beginner. For those who desire to jump right into jazz, I recommend starting off with the blues; it is a solid way to get ready for jazz rhythms. Don’t focus on perfection when you are just starting to learn jazz drumming. Have fun with it and focus on making progress.

The Triple Meter

The triple meter as its name implies, simply means that every beat is broken into threes. Jazz is played in this manner. You normally have to count each beat when playing jazz. The first and third count is accentuated in a jazz beat.

The Drive

Percussion instruments are known to direct other instruments. This is also a fact in jazz music. As a jazz drummer, your job is to guide the group. The jazz drummer is a very important member of the group. The ride cymbal, together with the bass and double bass helps the drummer achieve this drive. Keeping a band together requires the precise use of the ride; it helps ensure your timing is impeccable.


Playing triplets on the ride cymbal gives you the chabada. This is done with the right hand, replacing normal beats found in binary rhythm. Rhythm in rock is usually binary. In contrast, jazz rhythm is counted in four beats with regular spacing between them. To get a clear understanding of this, I recommend you take time out and listen to jazz music to get the picture. It might not be distinct at first but keep at it. This lets you use each limb freely but, when you begin, you can stick with the ride cymbal.

The Hi-hat

The ability to play freely is an important part of jazz, most especially with the right hand and left foot. As the right hand controls the ride cymbal, the left foot is free to open the hi-hat at the second and fourth beats. To open, you lift your foot and to close it, you put your foot down. That is pretty simple, right? It will also help if you count alongside like, 1, 2, and 3, 4 and repeat.

  • First count, 1: Ride cymbal
  • Second count, 2: Ride cymbal with hi-hat
  • And Ride cymbal
  • Third count, 3: Ride cymbal
  • Fourth count, 4: Ride cymbal and hi-hat
  • And Ride cymbal
  • Repeat

Place your metronome at 60bpm and keep rehearsing until you finally get the hang of it. You can go on to place it at 120bpm the moment you’ve got it right.

There is more to playing jazz drums than the hi-hat and the ride. To practice jazz drumming requires you to use all four limbs.

  • The right hand for the right cymbal
  • The left foot for the hi-hat
  • The left hand for the snare
  • The right foot for the bass drum

Once you get well acquainted with the ride and hi-hat, you can proceed to add the snare and bass drum. Then you will get the complete jazz feel.


Jazz is definitely a beautiful genre of music and I bet you already love jazz before considering being a jazz drummer. Well, you can totally be a stellar jazz drummer if you give yourself to training and constant rehearsing. Listen to jazz music, watch experienced jazz drummers, go on to practice beats and flow with the jazz rhythm. In no time, you will play your way into being an expert and have fun doing it.