Many drummers think that brushes can be used only in jazz, but if you’ve been following this series and practicing the various patterns in each article, you should realize by now that brushes can be used in any musical style. This month we’re covering a linear motion that allows you to play at extremely fast tempos, and it’s great to use when playing funk, Latin music, or up-tempo swing.
The first diagram shows the basic motion. The hands sweep in unison but in opposite directions. The legendary jazz drummer and brush master Philly Joe Jones called this motion “the windshield wiper.”
Now let’s try the motion in 8th notes. You can use any sticking. In the next two diagrams, the main sticking patterns are RLRL and RRLL.
A great exercise for all stickings is to play a “time pyramid,” where you start with quarter notes and then shift to quarter-note triplets, 8th notes, 8th-note triplets, 16th notes, quintuplets, 16th-note triplets, septuplets, and 32nd notes. Of course, you have to start at a very slow tempo (50–60 bpm). I demonstrate this exercise in the free video lesson that’s posted at moderndrummer.com.
Here’s one way to play 16th notes using the sticking RLRL. With practice, you’ll be able to use this motion to sweep a single-stroke roll. Be sure to use your fingers and wrists when you sweep outward, in a thumbs-up French-grip position. The motion looks similar to throwing a Frisbee.
The sticking of the next pattern is RRLL, so the faster you get, the more it sounds like a double-stroke roll. Practice this motion with a lot of patience, because you can get many good groove ideas out of it.
Our third pattern for playing 16th notes uses inverted double strokes.
A great exercise for practicing the linear motion is to read a line of rhythms from Ted Reed’s book Syncopation or any other easy sheet, while sweeping 16th notes. Play the notes in the music with pressure and acceleration accents. (Refer back to part one of this series, in the October 2011 issue, for info on how to play sweeping accents with brushes.)
Eighth-note triplets can be played in the following way.
You can use any sticking for triplets. For example, use RLL and play an accent with pressure and acceleration on beats 2 and 4 in a 4/4 rhythm. If you then play accents on beats 1 and 3 with the bass drum, you can create a shuffle or a hip-hop feel. The possibilities are endless. Think about patterns you often play with sticks, and translate them to brushes.
Our final example contains a polymetric figure. Practice it very slowly at first, and split the hands between two sound surfaces, such as a rack tom and a snare or two snares, so you can get different sweeping sounds.
Throw in accents on beats 2 and 4, or at other places in the pattern, and you will soon discover a world of useful grooves and patterns that aren’t limited to just one genre. In the next installment, we’ll deal with some of the American and Swiss rudiments. If you have any questions about these exercises, feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or visit brushplaying.com. And be sure to check out the video lesson at moderndrummer.com.
Florian Alexandru-Zorn is an international drum clinician and freelance drumset player in Germany. He is the author of the acclaimed book The Complete Guide to Playing Brushes (Alfred Publishing). For more information, including how to sign up for online Skype lessons, log on to brushplaying.com.