So you want to start playing jazz drums, right?
Well, there is a lot you need to learn about this genre of music. Starting from learning the basics to picking the right jazz drum set, all it takes is a few tips, and you are there.
About jazz and jazz drums
One thing you need to be aware of is that jazz a unique genre of music. In many cases, it pushes musicians and their instruments beyond limits. In other words, it has been considered the final frontier for drummers.
Jazz drumming is reserved for those who want to test their limits. Hence, it requires mastery and high-level skills to achieve the desired output.
Jazz drum sets are more or less like the standard drum kits. The only difference is they are more dynamic in reacting to subtle playing techniques in jazz than regular drums. Hence, they can deliver a quality low-frequency tone that describes jazz music.
And therefore, it is vital to take serious considerations when choosing a jazz drum set.
Many people have asked me why a jazz kit requires an 18” bass drum.
There are several conflicting ideas about this feature. To some, it is all about fitting their equipment at the back of a truck.
Others think such a size is necessary for fitting a three-piece in a small club. Well, this means perhaps physical space requirements has something to do with this physical dimension.
However, considering what the most prominent players in the industry have, we can quickly rule out these theories. The biggest names like Peter Erskine, Illy Hart, Ralph Peterson, and Jimmy Cobb don’t have space constrain, yet they play 18” jazz drum kits.
Here is something to think about.
A large bass drum is not the best for producing an upright bass. Also, tuning the entire kit containing a giant bass drum causes some sort of a competition between the instruments.
Also, the ability to moderate the volume of a smaller drum makes it suitable for the situation. It offers a more significant opportunity for creating a powerful sound for a low key, groovy jazz. This type of tuning is quite popular with many numbers.
Of course, we cannot rule out big band jazz carrying lots of jazz instruments. Such is often heavier than what you get in smaller groups.
But the general idea is, compelling jazz sounds come from the ability to create more exceptional tuning, and dynamic range is indeed jazz. Apart from this, increased volume controls enable the drummer to play complementarily rather than competitively.
In my experience, I love the way jazz drums sound. You may have other reasons to link with this size, regardless, getting the best drum set is key to playing the right jazz tune.
Importance of choosing a Jazz Drum Set
What drum set options do I have? This is the first question any first-time drummer needs to ask. It is all about playing the right kind of music to the right audience,
Getting into the groove to play the drums is not much different from learning other instruments like the guitar. You will need to choose between an electric, acoustic, or a folk guitar.
The same applies to drums, where you have the option of acoustic and electronic drums. If your heart lies with classic acoustics, then choosing the gear made for the style of music you are playing vital.
For the case of jazz, therefore, consider the specific category – jazz, modern jazz, jack-rock, blues, Bosa Nova, or Latin rhythms.
Choosing any other drum kit apart from a jazz kit will only give you a hard time. As mentioned above, jazz calls for the production of groovy sounds. Other types of drum kits produce far different sounds.
The Features Of a Jazz Drum Set
Another significant thing to know as a beginner is how a jazz drum set should look like. I have already talked about their size in the previous section.
Jazz drums are smaller, not only for easy moving around but for the best sound ranges.
Drummers find it easier to move around with these drum sets. Also, they can fit in any space, of a concert hall or a smoky bar in your town.
Specifications or a jazz drum set further differentiates them from rock and roll drum sets and other music genres. The configurations or the size of the various parts of the kit should not be the same.
Here is what you should expect in a standard jazz drums kit:
- A 10-inches tom and a 13-inches tom
- An 18-inches bass drum
- A 13-inches snare drum
- A hit-hat
- A Ryde cymbal
- A crash cymbal
How To Choose The Right Jazz Drum Set
There are many manufacturers for jazz drums sets in the market today. For me, choosing the right set is a very personal thing.
I always advise jazz-drum-newbies to emulate their favorite drummers. And this is the reason for the names above. Once you see what they are playing, you can try copying their style and choice.
But then, budgeting can be a hindrance. Professional musicians probably have top-end expensive equipment.
Don’t feel like you must but such costly equipment too. There is a cheaper alternative, closer to what your ideal drummer has. One important thing to consider is ensuring you stay within your budget.
Apart from this, you have two options from assembling you set – ready-made jazz drums sets and self-assembly – buying one piece at a time.
Getting a ready-made jazz drum kit can be much convenient. You don’t have to spend extra looking for the other pieces.
On the other hand, however, buying the elements separately allows you to personalize or customize the set any way you want. Besides, some kits come with very poor quality cymbals.
Again, do not shy from asking from recommendations.
There must be friends who understand the jazz industry better than you and maybe in a more significant position helping you choose. They will recommend a particular brand which, of course, you may reject.
It is all about personal preference.
And if you can get your hands on a jazz drum set for trial before buying it, which would be a great opportunity. In such a case, online shopping may not be your best option.
Perhaps the very first step should be taking some jazz drumming lessons. With your drum kit, this should be much easier.
Besides, if you are learning to play jazz drums, it means you are only seeking to improve your skills. You already know how to play drums; hence, things should be much easier for you.
The Best Drum Kit for Jazz
Here are the top jazz drum sets for beginners:
Gretsch is an established drum and guitar manufacturer. The company is well known for creating the first warp-free drum hoop.
They started being favorites for many jazz drummers between the 1950s and 60s. At these times, top jazz drum players like Elvin Jones and Max Roach use Gretsch drums extensively.
The drums are characterized by open, bright, and natural tones. This is everything a jazz drummer needs.
The Gretsch Drums Renown Jazz Shell Pack includes:
- 14-inches snare
- One 12-inches and one 14-inches tom
- 19-inches bass drum
- Gretsch classic 302 hoops, double flanged
- Floor tom holder and tom mounts
- Bass drum holder and Remo drumheads.
The Pacific Drum Company also prides itself on offering the best jazz drum sets. The PDP DW 7-Piece stands as one of their best items – created for the money.
The company has a reputation for delivering goodness. This specific set is equipped with an all-maple shell, and Remo heads. Hence, they produce and roomy sound with a punch.
They come with five different drum heads. It is, therefore, a recommendable set for jazz.
The set includes:
- A 22-inches bass drum
- A 10-inches and 12-inches rack toms
- An 8-inches free-mounted rack tom
- Floor toms, 14-inches, and 16-inches
- 14-inches snare drum
It is, however, a larger kit, hence may not fit someone with a small space.
This happens to be one of my favorite budgets, friendly jazz drum sets.
Over the years, small drum sets have been ruling the jazz industry. And this is perhaps once reason this particular set is so popular. It offers the best mix of response and portability.
The shells are crafted from a 7-ply maple with three internal plies. Hence, the sound is out of this world.
Besides, it comes with a smart mount isolation system. This holds the drums sturdy in position, enabling you to create your best resonance.
The pack includes:
- 16-inches bass drum
- 10-inches rack tom
- 13-inches floor tom
- 13-inches snare drum
As you can tell already, jazz is a vast genre of music. But it offers the best opportunity to take your drumming to the next level. Hopefully, you have gotten some knowledge that will help you in your journey.