Developing a Modern Straight-8th Concept

In this article we’re going to explore the broken, straight-8th feel that the late, great Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen utilized to majestic effect on many classic albums for German jazz label ECM. The exercises included here are designed to help you develop a feel for Jon’s flowing style of accompaniment.

Let’s start by playing four bars of constant 8th notes with one hand on the ride cymbal and the other on the snare. I’ve written out a suggested sticking that’s designed to illustrate one way to keep the pattern from sounding too rudimental and symmetrical.

Now let’s orchestrate that four-bar phrase by moving the hands around the drums and cymbals. Notice the little tonal patterns and melodies this type of movement creates.

Now let’s add in some non-repeating foot patterns, first with the bass drum and then adding in the hi-hat.

This time, instead of separating the hands and feet, intersperse the bass drum and hi-hat within the 8th-note phrase.

You can create variety by leaving space within the timekeeping.

Finally, try adding accents to the 8th-note line to infuse a bit more spice.

Of course, this particular line of 8th notes is just an example, so feel free to come up with your own. Also, you can add extra flavor by incorporating buzzes, double strokes, flams, and other inflections. To hear this concept being utilized to its fullest potential, check out any record on ECM with Jon Christensen on drums.

By Ted Warren