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The Jazz Ride Cymbal Pattern And How To Make It Swing - Part 2

Werkin' With Wertico: Jazz Drumming Part 3:

By Paul Wertico

In the last article we looked at the standard 4/4 time signature ride pattern, it's various rhythmic interpretations, and how to phrase the pattern so that it swings. However, there's a lot more to playing the ride cymbal once the music starts. Many inexperienced jazz drummers seem to get confused about when to just play the standard ride pattern and when to use its many permutations and variations. Let's start again with the basic ride pattern and then discuss some of the wheres and whys of playing and breaking up this pattern to fit the music.

In Example #1, you'll see a version of the standard 4/4 jazz ride pattern played played as a dotted 8th with a 16th note.

Example #1. Jazz ride pattern with dotted 8th-16th feel:


Once you get this pattern swinging, it gives the music a "jazz" feel as well as a nice solid foundation. However, the repeating two beat phrase can become a little retrictive sounding after a while. There are times when playing this pattern, without much or any variations, will work for the music, if the music calls for a more conservative feel. However, there are also many opportunities to use variations and to let the music breathe. If used properly, these variations enhance (rather than detract) from the original feel.

Example #2. Jazz ride pattern with dotted 8th-16th note feel and 1 bar of straight quarter notes:


Let's look at Example #2. Here you have one bar of the standard 4/4 jazz ride pattern and one bar of straight quarter notes. Notice how the first bar seems to break up the bar into two halves and how the second bar seems to breathe and open up the time.

Example #3. Jazz ride pattern with dotted 8th-16th note feel and one bar of reversed ride pattern:


In Example #3, the second bar is a mirror image of the first bar. Notice how the the backbeats in bar one turn into downbeats in the second bar. Playing a two bar pattern like this can be interesting, in that it adds not only a rhythmic variation to the standard ride pattern, but it can also serve as a type of two bar clave pattern.

Example #4. Broken up jazz ride pattern:


So far we've looked at variations with all the quarter notes still in tact. However, in Example #4, notice how there are off beat accents without the actual quarter notes around them being played. Here it is critical that even though some of the quarter notes are not actually played, their feeling is still present so that the time feeling remains strong and solid. Many drummers make the mistake of losing the drive of the standard ride pattern when eliminating the quarter notes. It's as if the off beats become too important and the feel starts to suffer. To solve this problem, the drummer must feel the unplayed quarter notes as strongly as if they were actually being played.

Example #5. Implied mixed meters:


In Example #5, we have two bars of 4/4 time. However, in these two bars we can break up the time so that it sounds like two bars of 3/4 and one bar of 2/4. This can be a very effective way of giving the music a different slant.

There are infinite variations to the ride cymbal pattern. You can mix and match the standard ride pattern with quarter notes, numerous sycopated patterns, patterns consisting of any number of measures, and patterns that imply mixed meters inside the time. Basically, you can play whatever you think the music calls for, as long as you maintain the drive of the original ride pattern and KEEP IT SWINGING!

Good luck and have fun and see you next time!!!

Here are five classic recordings are some of my personal favorites and although they don't represent the earliest forms of jazz drumming (we'll get to that later), they do represent various jazz drumming styles and they swing so hard it's downright scary. (I'll suggest an additional five in each of my next articles.)

1. "Speak No Evil" - Wayne Shorter (Elvin Jones - drums)

2. "Live At The Lighthouse" - Lee Morgan (Mickey Roker - drums)

3. "The Bill Evans Trio At The Village Vanguard" - Bill Evans Trio (Paul Motian - drums)

4. "Sweet Rain" - Stan Getz (Grady Tate - drums)

5. "Red Clay" - Freddie Hubbard (Lenny White - drums)

When playing these recordings, first just enjoy and absorb...jazz is powerful music of the human spirit. Next, pay attention to the way these drummers play the ride cymbal (the true signature of any jazz drummer). After that, listen to how their particular way of keeping time blends with the bass player and the rest of the rhythm section. Notice how each drummer's style of comping with the soloists keeps the music fired up and flowing. Pay attention to the sound of the drums and cymbals, the sound of the overall band, the dynamic changes, the interplay, the sound of the recording itself, etc. Also, really try to learn the compositions. Many of these songs are now jazz standards that you may get called to play one day, so learn them now. By doing so, any future jazz studies will make musical sense.

A different version of this article appeared in on September 4, 2002

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