Jazz Drumming

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Today, “jazz drum sets” generally consist of a bass drum (16”-20”), a rack tom (10”-13”), a floor tom (14”), and a snare drum (14”). In the past, the sizes that jazz drummers chose to use depended significantly on what type of jazz music they were playing and the size of the ensemble they were playing with. For example, big band drummers would often use bass drums that were 22” or larger while drummers who were playing styles like bebop would often use 18” bass drums. Today, many drummers will look for a drum set that is versatile (one that can be used for a variety of musical styles) or they will have two separate drum sets: one with smaller shell sizes and one with larger shell sizes.


The majority of jazz drummers use one or two ride cymbals (20”-22”),jazz drums one crash cymbal (18”-20”) and a pair of hi-hats (13”-15”). You will also see jazz drummers simply using two ride cymbals and a set of hi-hats (with no crash cymbal at all). In general, cymbals used in jazz music will be thinner than cymbals used in pop and rock music. Thinner cymbals are generally more responsive than thicker cymbals. They also “open up” much more easily than thicker cymbals which makes them ideal for brush playing. Ride cymbals and crash cymbals will often have cymbal rivets in them as well.

Jazz drummers almost always use coated drumheads. These produce a warmer sound with less attack than clear drumheads. While both single and double ply drumheads are available, single ply drumheads are most commonly used for jazz because of their sensitivity and their “open” sound. Coated drumheads are also necessary for playing with brushes.