Why Jazz Lessons are a rock musician’s best friend! – Part 2 of 2 (Drums)

By Gary Eldershaw

Part 2 of our blog on the benefits of learning jazz as a rock musician will focus on how learning jazz will improve your rock drumming.

Studying jazz makes your drumming life easier. Write better, listen better and finally understand what your guitarist is playing. Have an idea or melody in your head? Learning jazz will help you figure out what it is. Can’t work out why your band isn’t sounding the way you want it to? Learn why and know how to fix it. The skills you learn studying jazz are applicable to everything you do as a drummer and as a musician, regardless of the styles you play.

Jazz music has been at the forefront of the development of the modern drum set. There’s a good reason jazz drummers are some of the most proficient and sought after drummers in the world. A massive part of the history of music has been present inside of the jazz language, from early classical, through the jazz period, and exists even up to the current new music of the world.

Take the following common drum beats for example:


Example 1: One of the first rock beats you learn as a drummer. Example 2: A basic bossa nova beat, popularised in the late 50’s.

Notice the similarities between the two? Although they were both popularized a few decades between one another, there is still such a striking resemblance between them. Application is key, knowing how and why simple beats like this work, where they came from and how they’ve been used throughout the history of music.

This is one of the many concepts you begin noticing when you stretch back into the history of music and drum development, especially in a jazz curriculum like at Jazz Music Institute, a music school in Brisbane that focuses heavily on the history of jazz.


And above, example 3, stems from the early 20/30’s big band era, whereas example 4 (without the swing beat), is basically the classic heavy rockin’ ‘Back in Black’ by AC/DC.

There is such a huge crossover of information from as early on as the traditional jazz, transitioning all the way through to the modern music of today. It’s an inescapable fact that so much of the history of playing drums has come through the jazz world and has just been applied in a different manner.

Coming from a time before amplification and huge PA systems, the music was reliant on dynamic variation and an understanding of touch and tone, an almost forgotten set of skills these days with many contemporary drummers. When you look at some of the greats of today (the players who drummers around the world are trying to emulate), so many have a rich history in the jazz language and how the instruments work in almost any ensemble.

Take for example someone like Steve Gadd:


A household name for any drummer, he’s played for and recorded with the likes of Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan etc, and yet you look through his early career and he’s worked with some of the greatest jazz icons of the last few decades like George Benson, Ray Charles, Milt Jackson, Chick Corea and BB King, among others.

He has spent so much time around these artists (who themselves have educations heavily steeped in jazz) it’s no wonder he’s one of the first call drummers to call for some of the world’s greatest musicians.

Studying jazz makes opportunities like that a real possibility, having the knowledge and know how to get through almost any musical situation that comes your way.

If you’re interested in learning how to improve both your drumming and musicianship you can check out the music classes at JMI in Brisbane on Wednesday nights. There are also some music courses at JMI in Brisbane that specialise in jazz where you can get private lessons in drumming and also expand your knowledge of music theory that you can apply directly to your band.

So drop on in to our music school in Bowen Hills, give us a call, or shoot through an enquiry to get started on expanding your drumming!



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