Jazz drums

Have you ever wondered why Jazz drums sound the way they do? What exactly makes them have that particular sound and feel?

In this lesson, I’ll be discussing one of the essential characteristics of jazz drumming, and giving you ideas on how to work on those elements which makes jazz sound so unique.

Today, I’ll talk about Resolution Points or Landing Points.

When I talk about resolution points, I mean the points where we resolve our phrases, while either comping or soloing.

One thing that sets jazz apart from other American drumming styles is the resolution points. Most of the different American music styles, like rock, funk, bluegrass, etc., have a strong tendency of resolving phrases on beat one. However, jazz music does not resolve on beat one often.

If you pay attention to jazz records, one thing that stands out is that jumping feel of the music. This has to do with the swing feel and also the landing points which play a huge role in making the music feel that way.

As I said before, jazz does not resolve phrases on one very often, hence the tension and unease sensation (jumping feel) the music has. When we land on beat one, we immediately kill all tension built, and some of the essential elements of jazz are rhythmic, melodic and harmonic tension. If we do it too often, jazz is not going to sound like jazz anymore.

Drummers, in jazz, tend to land phrases in odd spots on the bar. Usually upbeats and weak beats.   

In my experience, there are three landing points, which are critical if we want to sound authentic playing jazz. They are the “and of 4,” “Beat 4” and “Beat 2.”

If you work on resolving your phrases on those points, I guaranteed you, your playing is going to sound more within the language and context of jazz.

Usually, I like to work on this by placing landing points as targets in traditional jazz song forms. We can do this for soloing and comping as well.

As a preliminary exercise, I start out working on what I call the “building block of forms” which is the 4-bar phrase. Once we are comfortable using our targets over 4 bars, then we can go on to more complex forms like the 12-bar Blues and AABA 32-bars forms.

So let’s begin!

The first target point we are going to work on is “and of 4.”

And-of-4

As I said before, we are working on 4-bars phrases. So, the target is going to be on every fourth bar.

The first step is to work on comping. We want to start out simple and at a slow to medium tempo.

Comping Ideas Landing On The And-of-4

Our first task will be to play only time-feel over the four bars and hit with a bass drum (as written) or snare and crash cymbal on the “and of 4.” Let’s loop those four bars and give it time to sink in.

As we get comfortable, we can add our comping ideas, anything we want, as long as we make sure we are landing on the “and of 4” of every fourth bar.

Then we’ll follow the same steps for the other resolution points, beat 4 and beat 2.

Beat 4

Comping Ideas Landing On Beat 4

Beat 2

The rhythmic hit on the first bar will not be played the first time through the form. We’ll play it on the repetition.

Comping Ideas Landing On Beat 2

Same here; the hit on beat two on the first bar is not going to be played the first time through. Only after the repetition.

Remember, add your comping ideas. You can use some of the comp phrases I gave you on my previous lesson How To Comp On The Drums Like Elvin Jones and work those in here.

We can apply the same concept to our solo phrasing.

And-of-4 (Soloing)

Again, The first resolution point will be the “and of 4.” We are going to set the target point every four bars, and fill in space with soloing ideas.

I’ll give you an example.

Solo Example

We’ll follow the same process with “beat 4” and “beat 2.”

Beat 4 (Soloing)

Solo Example

Beat 2 (Soloing) 

Solo Example

Remember, you can use any of your ideas or licks, just make sure you land on the desired target.

You can check some of my previous lessons if you want to get more solo ideas to work on. Take a look at How To Get The Most Out Of Your Solo Transcriptions, and Learning To Solo In The Style Of Max Roach.

Once you get familiar feeling the resolution points, work on standard jazz song forms. Set the targets every fourth bar or every eighth bar. It will not only help you to improve your vocabulary but also to get a better understanding of song structures.

Hope this was helpful! Remember, if you have any question about this lesson or doubts, please do not hesitate to drop a line in the comment section below, or hit me up at my social media profiles, (INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK) and I’ll be glad to answer your question.

30 Days to Better Jazz Playing

1 COMMENT

  1. We can even say that in jazz, the lack of syncopation causes tension. which is resolved into syncopation; for example the initial phrases in Neal Hefti's " Li'l Darlin' "

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