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Chops: School of Swing

Steve Smith coaches rockers on the tenets of jazz drumming

Steve Smith
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If you’re a drummer who developed your approach and skills playing rock and you’re interested in playing jazz, you’ll most likely need to concentrate on three main areas: time-feel, touch and inner dynamics.

Most of today’s rock music is built on a feel where the quarter note is divided into halves or quarters, while in the swing rhythm that defines most jazz, a quarter note is subdivided into thirds. This hasn’t always been the case. Rock and roll from the 1950s and early ’60s was based on a shuffle feel, which is essentially the same as the jazz swing beat, with extra emphasis on the 2 and 4 backbeat. That shuffle feel is less common now, and drummers growing up on punk, metal and rock in general may never be asked to play a shuffle. Still, the shuffle of early rock can be a good place to start your studies as a jazz drummer because the quarter-note pulse is the same.

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