Jazz Drummer’s Workshop
Strategies for Playing Fast and Staying Relaxed
by Steve Fidyk
It’s widely understood that the faster the tempo, the more relaxed your body needs to be. In some cases, however, players psych themselves out when playing fast, which in turn affects their confidence in the ability to compose beat and solo ideas that flow. This month’s Jazz Drummer’s Workshop provides relaxation strategies for playing tempos in excess of 300 bpm.
The Physics of It All
Newton’s third law of motion explains that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For example, when one object (a stick) pushes against another (a drum or cymbal), the object rebounds back in the opposite direction with equal force.
Try this exercise. Sit comfortably behind your ride cymbal with your upper arm hanging naturally to your side. Bring the bead of the stick to the “up” position where it’s ready to strike. Throw your stick (make a loose, flowing stroke), and allow it to rebound freely out of the fulcrum and back to the original starting position. Continue this drill, accepting each rebound as you develop your wrist reflexes to follow the stick back up without inhibiting it. Note that the faster you throw the stick downward, the more intense the sound and rebound off the ride cymbal become.
Realize that the driving force for each stroke comes from a combination of forearm, wrist, and finger action. In order to control fast tempos, it’s vital to stay relaxed and allow your sticks to rebound naturally.
Here’s a video tutorial on playing super-fast tempos.
For exercises and tips on playing uptempo swing, check out the May 2012 issue of Modern Drummer.