Many drummers have learned at the standard 4/4 time signature ride pattern, its various rhythmic interpretations, and how to phrase the pattern so that it swings. But there's a lot more to playing the ride cymbal once the music starts. Many inexperienced jazz drummers seem to get confused about when to play just the standard ride pattern and when to use its many permutations and variations. Let's start again with the basic ride pattern and then discuss some of the wheres and why's of playing and breaking up this pattern to fit the music.
The Standard Route
Once you get this pattern swinging, it gives the music a comfortable "jazz" feel, as well as a solid foundation that the other musicians can build on. However, the repeating 2-beat phrase can sound a little restrictive after a while. There are times when playing this pattern, without much or any variation, can work for the music (especially if the music calls for a more conservative feel). There are also many opportunities to variations and to let the music breathe. If used properly, these variations enhance (rather than detract) from the original feel.
In Example #3, the second bar is a mirror image of the first bar. Notice how the backbeats in the first bar turn into the downbeats in bar two. Playing a two-bar pattern like this can be quite interesting, because it not only adds a rhythmic variation to the standard ride pattern but can also serve as a type of repeating two-bar clav· pattern.
There are infinite variations to the ride cymbal pattern. You can mix and match the standard ride pattern with quarter notes, syncopated patterns, patterns consisting of any number of measures, and patterns that imply mixed meters inside the time. Also, remember to utilize dynamics, accents, and tonal shadings. Basically, you can play whatever you feel the music calls for, as long as you maintain the drive of the original ride pattern and keep in swinging!
Good luck. Have fun with it.
Next time: "Adding Snare Drum Syncopations to the Jazz Ride Pattern"
Paul Wertico is the seven-time Grammy award winning drummer with the Pat Metheny Group. He's also won reader's polls in Modern Drummer and DRUM! magazines. He performs drum clinics around the world and is on the faculty of Northwestern University and the Bloom School of Jazz. Paul's latest CD is entitled Don't Be Scared Anymore on Premonition Records.
Visit Paul's website at paulwertico.com