Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jazz Fills and Trading Fours

I had a question come in that I thought some other drummers might have, so I decided to post the question and the answer (As always, the person will ALWAYS remain anonymous on this site). Feel free to ask anything you'd like, or throw your two cents in on the topic...


"hey, im a drummer from singapore and have been lovin your videos!

i have a video request, can u make a lesson on how to trade fours or play jazz drum fills? i have only started learning how to do this for the past 2 months and my trouble is that i have a hard time phrasing when i solo myself, and i can only play the things that i hear on videos or written stuff. so do you have any advice or can make a lesson on how to improvise on trading fours?



Thanks for droppin' me a line!

I would love to do a lesson on that topic. I actually have a degree in Jazz Studies, so I actually do have alot of knowledge and advice in that area. My wife and I will be having our 2nd child this week, so that may put me out of commission for a couple of weeks as far as new video lessons (I have 6 or 7 taped, but not on that subject...a couple on beginner left hand and right foot jazz comping though). That being said, as soon as I tape my next lessons, this one will be the first I do.

Until then...

Listen, listen, listen...you say you have trouble thinking up your own ideas, or phrasing on your own...the cool thing is, EVERYBODY has trouble with this when they first start. The thing you need to remember is that music is actually a type of LANGUAGE...you need to learn how to phrase what you say, common phrases that other drummers use, how to carry on a conversation with the other soloist when trading fours, etc. The best way to begin to learn this is to LISTEN...Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Philly Jo Jones are a few of my favorites to listen to for a more traditional and structured approach to fills and trading fours. Take some of the phrases that they use and practice them...there's nothing wrong with doing that...it's actually very common and very helpful. When you're learning to speak a new language, you study the language in books, but you also talk with other people that speak that language and see how they use the words, how they put phrases together...and then you practice using those phrases. No one has to know you're using a phrase you learned off of a Steve Smith video. So listen, transcribe the fills and soloing, and then try them yourself...over and over and over. You'll be suprised that eventually you start to add little parts here and there...and before you know it, that Art Blakey lick has turned into your own thing.

The other thing I suggest is singing. Sounds silly, but it works and is also a very common practice. Jazz drumming and playing is all about the music, the melody, and how you present it. So sit at the drums and sing a simple fill..."Bap...Doom...Bap...Doom...bidibadoom crash"...sing it on the first measure, then actually play it in the second measure. Start out very simple...I started with quarter notes (what you DON'T play is every bit as important as how many notes you play)...then progress to eighth notes, then triplets, etc. You want to focus on a melodic fill instead of a fast fill with alot of notes in it. I also listen to other no drummer jazz players and sing their fills...Miles Davis and John Coltrane are two masters of melodic phrasing. Take a short phrase that they use, memorize it, sing it to yourself, and then interpret it on the kit the way you want to. Jazz drumming is different from rock and pop drumming...you're contributing to the song melodically whether you realize it or not.

This is a short answer to an in depth question, but hopefully it'll get you started. I'll get a video shot on the topic just as soon as I can.

I really appreciate you checking the lessons out and working on the stuff...if you ever have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask!

God Bless,
Stephen T.


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