Jazz Drummer’s Workshop
Focus on Brushes
From Basic Patterns to Advanced Techniques
by Steve Fidyk
Practicing brushes is excellent for building strength in your wrists and fingers. It can help develop muscles and reflexes and also improves your control with sticks. With the exception of the closed roll, any pattern that you play with sticks can also be executed with brushes. Of course, you don’t have the advantage of natural rebound as you do with a stick. Nevertheless, you can develop a clear, crisp tone with brushes and play with surprising volume when using proper technique.
A brush can produce staccato and legato sounds. For a staccato sound, snap the brush down to the head, but draw the sound out of the drum by lifting the fan immediately after you strike. For a “slappy” staccato sound, press the fan into the drumhead. For a legato approach, sweep the fan across the head in a circular motion, producing a “swish” sound. The brush fan pivots across the head with a flowing motion controlled by the fingers, forearm, and wrist.
The right brush is controlled with a combination of wrist and fingers, with all four fingers remaining on the handle. To produce a sound, you must lift the fan off the head, since a brush will not rebound like a stick.
For left-hand traditional grip, the index and middle fingers are positioned on top of the brush handle, while the ring finger acts as a bumper underneath. The fingers stay in contact with the handle at all times.
Here’s a list of recommended albums that feature some incredible brush playing.
Jo Jones The Essential Jo Jones (Jo Jones) /// Hampton Hawes Four! (Shelly Manne) /// Oscar Peterson Trio We Get Requests (Ed Thigpen) /// Dave Brubeck Quartet Gone With the Wind (Joe Morello) /// Tommy Flanagan Overseas (Elvin Jones) /// Jeff Hamilton Trio Hands On (Jeff Hamilton) /// Bill Charlap Trio Written in the Stars (Kenny Washington)
Here’s a video demonstrating many of the brush techniques discussed in the Jazz Drummer’s Workshop article in the June 2013 issue of Modern Drummer. Check out the complete article in the magazine for additional insight and brush patterns.