Drummer’s Role

Excerpted from chapter 3: Appreciating Jazz Improvisation

The drummer uses his right hand to play rhythms which provide both regular pulse and swing feeling. These rhythms are played on a cymbal suspended on the right side over the drum set (see Figures 3.3 and 3.4). Such a cymbal comes to occupy the role of ride cymbal if it is capable of producing a certain quality of “ping” and its sound sustains properly. The timekeeping rhythms played on it are called ride rhythms. Occasionally they consist of one stroke per beat (ching, ching, ching, ching) , played in unison with the walking bass. But they are usually more complicated, for example, ching chick a ching chick a ching chick a ching , OR , ching ching ching chick a ching OR ching chick a ching chick a ching chick a chick a ching, etc. (See page 430 for notations.) The drummer may play ride rhythms on other parts of his set, too. In fact, before the ride cymbal came into common use, ride rhythms were played on the snare drum and high-hat cymbals. Note also that the drummer might play ride rhythms on another cymbal suspended to his left, and the drummer’s right hand is not limited to playing the ride cymbal. He can use it to play any of his instruments. The ride cymbal just gets more of its attention.

Click on parts of the drum set below to hear audio excerpts from the
Jazz Styles: History and Analysis Demonstration Compact Disc.

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Audio Clips Copyright 1988 Prentice-Hall, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited.