In this series, we’ll focus on exercises that develop flexibility and endurance when playing fast tempos (300 bpm and up). To efficiently play at these speeds, it’s essential to stay relaxed. To gain the confidence and language necessary to handle such speeds, it helps to work toward specific goal tempos systematically and gradually.
As you begin practicing the comping exercises below, find a tempo at which you can complete each example without stopping or getting fatigued. I recommend keeping a practice log of the tempo and the amount of time you can sustain it. As your endurance improves, increase the tempo by five bpm, and see how long you can hold that speed in a relaxed and legato manner.
As you bump up the tempo, you may begin to feel tension in your body. When that happens, stop and take a break to relax before diving back in.
The Sweet Spot
Try to find the sweet spot on your ride cymbal where the stick has the most rebound. Playing on the thicker area of the cymbal can make it easier for the stick to rebound, which saves energy. Some drummers also prefer using nylon-tipped sticks to help improve articulation when playing fast. This is due to the fact that nylon rebounds faster off cymbals than wood does.
Mental and Physical Fatigue
Working on the following endurance exercises can help you overcome physical fatigue. To help eliminate tightness within your ride cymbal sound, try using more forearm motion to create leverage. Also, to combat mental fatigue, breathe deeply as you play.
Practice the following comping patterns with the standard ride pattern notated in Exercise 1.
You can also practice each whole- and half-note example with these additional ride variations.
Here are the whole- and half-note comping exercises.
Stay focused and relaxed as you practice. Also be sure to stretch your wrist, forearm, and finger muscles before playing these to prepare your mental and physical reflexes.
Next time we’ll explore examples that incorporate dotted half notes and dotted quarter notes.
Steve Fidyk has performed with Terell Stafford, Tim Warfield, Dick Oatts, Doc Severinsen, Wayne Bergeron, Phil Wilson, and Maureen McGovern, and he’s a member of the jazz studies faculty at Temple University in Philadelphia. For more information, including how to sign up for lessons via Skype, visit stevefidyk.com.