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How to Use the Bass Drum Pedal in Jazz

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You may wonder if using the bass drum pedal in jazz is different than using it in a style like rock music.

My background was mostly rock so this transition has taken some time to perfect.

Jazz drumming is all about improvisation and expression. The bass drum, or “kick drum,” is an essential component of the jazz drummer’s kit. It is integral to the rhythm section, and when used properly, it can add depth to your playing.

In this article, we will explore some basic techniques for using the bass drum in jazz drumming.

Establish the Beat in Jazz

The bass drum is often used to establish the quarter note pulse in jazz music. It provides a steady pulse that keeps the band in time. To use the bass drum in this way, start by playing every quarter note on the bass drum.

Once you have established this consistency, you can start to add more complex rhythms and variations to more dynamics to a tune.

Create Syncopation

The bass drum can also be used to create syncopation in jazz music. Syncopation is the placement of rhythmic accents on off-beats or up-beats. To create syncopation with the bass drum, first try playing only on certain up-beats of a measure.

For example, you can play a pattern that accents the “and” of each beat.  In addition, consider playing the “e” or “a” of each beat.

Play the Bass Drum with Dynamics

Playing with dynamics is an essential aspect of jazz drumming. The bass drum can be used to create dynamic contrast in your playing. To play with dynamics, experiment with different levels of volume and intensity on the bass drum. You can play feathered notes, or strong, punctuated beats, depending on the mood and style of the music.

Use the Bass Drum to Add Fills in Jazz

Fills are short rhythmic phrases played on the drums that are used to transition between different sections of the music or to add interest and excitement to a solo. The bass drum can be used in fills to add weight and emphasis. Try playing a pattern that includes a bass drum hit at the end of each phrase or on the first beat of the next measure to create a sense of resolution and momentum.

Use the Pedal

The bass drum pedal itself should become comfortable for you in a heal-down position.  You don’t want to play heal-up like many metal drummers.

Over time, you can build up your speed and accuracy while playing soft, and start to incorporate more complex patterns into your playing.

Final Say:

In conclusion, the bass drum is an essential component of jazz drumming. By experimenting with different techniques on the pedal and incorporating the bass drum into your playing, you can create dynamic, expressive music while simultaneously providing a nice pulse with the bass player. 

Of course, remember to practice regularly, and always listen to the other musicians in the band to stay in time and create a cohesive sound. With dedication and practice, you can become a master of the bass drum and take your jazz drumming to the next level.

I’ve become much more adept a providing different dynamics to jazz tunes by practicing different patterns on the bass drum pedal and I’m sure you can do the same.

You will hear a lot of teachers or jazz drummers mentioning ‘feathering’ the bass drum. This just means playing it softly.

How do you like to play the bass drum when you’re playing jazz?