The Art Of Groove: Tips For Drummers To Master Funk And Jazz Styles

Posted by Mike Schumacher

Jazz and funk are some of the most popular music genres today. Popular music artists such as Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift have all mentioned how influential jazz and funk music has been in their music.

Many pop songs today feature a background beat that is influenced by jazz or funk. Since these genres are somewhat mainstream, it is easy to learn some of the basics to create a pop song with a funky beat.

Learning how to play jazz or funk drums takes time and patience. The best way to start is by listening to lots of music and observing what the drums sound like. Then, you can try to play them yourself!

This article will discuss some tips for aspiring drummers looking to master the art of groove.

Develop your soft touch and legato

In funk and jazz, drummers are asked to play more softly and to connect their strokes together to form a rhythmic pattern.

This is called legato, or seamless, playing. When you play in a funky or jazz style, you want your drums to have a soft touch and a steady rhythm. You want your strokes to be smooth and flow together.

To achieve this, you must develop your soft touch on the drums. How do you do that? Practice!

First, practice tapping with the sticks on the kit at a low volume. Then, practice pulling back and releasing the stick. Next, try practicing beats with the sticks on the drum pad or on an empty pot while keeping the rhythm steady.

Finally, practice hitting the drums softer by putting less muscle into your strikes.

Learn to bend notes

The Art of Groove: Tips for Drummers to Master Funk and Jazz Styles

As we mentioned earlier, giving space to other instruments is a key part of funk and jazz. That is very difficult to do without skill in playing notes in between notes.

Bending notes is a skill that requires practice. You have to be very precise with how hard you hit the drum and with how long you hold the note down to get a bend in the note.

Practice making subtle changes in the length of the note and see how much difference that makes!

As mentioned before, having a good sense of rhythm is important for all styles of music, but especially for funk and jazz. Having the ability to sync up with other instruments takes skill.

Again, lots of practice will help you gain this ability. Try jamming with some friends and see if you can sync up your rhythms.

Expand your knowledge of scales

The Art of Groove: Tips for Drummers to Master Funk and Jazz Styles

While most funk and jazz songs are based in a few specific scales, knowing these scales will not help you as a drummer. While the rest of the band is playing in these scales, you will need to play in a different scale to keep the music moving smoothly.

Drummers often use the common pentatonic scale when playing funk and jazz music. This scale has five notes per octave, and it does not contain two of the notes within the chromatic scale.

By knowing which notes are left out, you can easily transition between songs that are in the same pentatonic scale. For example, if every song is in the G-B-C-D-E pentatonic scale, then all of your pitches are set!

Try practicing singing the pitches to check if you have mastered this skill.

Develop your creative expression

The Art of Groove: Tips for Drummers to Master Funk and Jazz Styles

As a drummer, you have the unique opportunity to add creative artistic expression to a song. You can add extra beats or delete them, change the order of the beats, and add extra sounds like drum fills.

Many jazz and funk songs are written with an emphasis on the rhythm or beat. This means that the lyrics may be repeated many times with similar rhymes, creating a strong beat.

As a drummer, you can play around with the rhythm of these lines, adding extra beats or changing the order. This creates a different effect that artists want in these genres.

Drum fills can add excitement to a song as well. Filling out the rest of the beat stack with different sounds and drum hits makes it more interesting to listen to. Again, these can be repeated or changed for different effects.

Play with a feeling of loose tension

The Art of Groove: Tips for Drummers to Master Funk and Jazz Styles

While drummers in any genre can master their sticks and fingers, the art of groove is in the rhythm.

You can play the perfect notes and combinations, but if they do not have a feel or pull off a vibe or emotion, your music is missing something.

For example, let’s talk about jazz and funk. Many jazz songs have very clear and distinct notes. You can hear this in some of the more popular jazz songs, like “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck.

The tune itself is very rhythmic and sharp. The notes are short and sharp as well, giving it a crisp feel.

With funk music, the feels are much more loose and relaxed. The drums in funk often play with a kind of bounce or hitch to them to add to the mood of the song.

Concentrate on keeping your rhythm steady

The Art of Groove: Tips for Drummers to Master Funk and Jazz Styles

Once you have a feel for the music, it’s time to focus on your own playing. Don’t worry about what the other instruments or other drummers are doing- just play what you have down.

It can be hard to do that when you look down at your drum set and see lots of colors and shapes, but try to focus on the rhythm you’re in and what you’re doing- that is, keep the rhythm steady.

As mentioned before, funk and jazz are all about feeling and style. If you feel like you have mastered the style, then you have!

Drummers such as Trixter, Sick Mesmerize, and KosaKosaKosaKo all have their own styles that they have mastered.

Feel the groove in your body

The Art of Groove: Tips for Drummers to Master Funk and Jazz Styles

As a drummer, you play what other musicians in the band need to hear. Other musicians in the band may rely on you to give them a solid, steady beat to play off of.

To do this, you need to have a feel for the music. How does the song move? How does the music make you feel?

As a drummer, you have the unique ability to add your own flavor and style to a song. You can add extra hits, add different sounds (such as dropping the drum stick on the drum instead of batting it), and even change the rhythm slightly.

This is done by having a feel for the groove. How does your body move? How does your foot tick? How do you shift your shoulders or hips?
Asking these questions and answering them will help you gain more of a feel for the groove.

Listen to your instrument soundfully

The Art of Groove: Tips for Drummers to Master Funk and Jazz Styles

This is a concept developed by contemporary jazz musician, Aaron Adams. He suggests that you listen to your instrument as if you were listening to someone else’s instrument.

You should be able to hear your own instrument soundfully in your head as you play. When you can do this, you will have a better feel for your instrument and what it sounds like.

By listening to your own instrument soundfully, you will be able to recognize when something is off or wrong with it. For example, if you notice that your drum kit is off balance, then you will be able to fix it before it becomes a problem.

The art of listening can apply to all musicians, but is especially important for drummers who may not be the primary focus of the music. By listening carefully, you can help bring out the other elements of the music such as bass and vocals.

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