Tech Tip:Workin' With Wertico, The Jazz Ride




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

In Example #1, you'll see a version of the standard 4/4 jazz ride pattern played as a dotted 8th with a 16th note.

Example #1: Jazz ride pattern with dotted-8th-16th feel


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.


Open Up

Take a look at Example #2. Here you have one bar of the standard 4/4 jazz ride pattern and one bar of straight quarter notes. Notice how the first bar seems to break up the bar into two halves and how the second bar seems to breathe and open up the time. This gives the music some breathing room and provides a feeling of tension and release.

Example #2: Jazz ride pattern with dotted 8th 16th note feel and 1 bar of straight quarter notes


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.

Example #3: Jazz ride pattern with dotted 8th-16th note feel and one bar of reversed ride pattern



So far we've looked at variations with quarter-note groupings intact. In Example #4, there are offbeat accents without the actual quarter notes around them being played. Here it is critical that the feeling of quarter notes is present even though some of the quarters are not actually played. The time feeling - the heart of the beat - remains strong and solid. Many drummers make the mistake of losing the drive of the standard ride pattern when eliminating quarter notes; it's as if the offbeats become too important and the feel starts to suffer. To solve this problem, the drummer must feel the unplayed quarter notes as strongly as if they were actually being played.

Example #4: Broken up jazz ride pattern


Meter Mix

Example #5 shows two bars of 4/4 time. However, in these two bars we can break up the time so that it sounds like two bars of 3/4 and one bar of 2/4. This can be a very effective way of giving the music an interesting slant.

Example #5: Implied mixed meters


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