I’ve already posted a couple times this week about this record I’m doing right now. It’s a jazz record (if you didn’t figure that out already from the pictures in the previous post). I don’t play nearly as much jazz these days as I used to – and I am feeling that. In college I played jazz almost exclusively, but that was six years ago. I still love listening to it (which I do frequently), but playing it… well, let’s just say my chops aren’t quite what they were.

The biggest problem I’m noticing is the influence of all the rock playing I’ve done since college. Over the past few years I’ve taken all the effort that I was pouring into studying jazz and shifted it to rock/pop, and it’s made a big difference in that part of my playing for sure. BUT, the recent rock emphasis makes it hard for me to shift gears back into jazz mode, especially for an intensive, week-long studio session. The point here is that this “gear shift” I just mentioned, however difficult, is CRITICAL to playing jazz well.

The rock approach to the drumset stands in total opposition to the jazz approach. In fact, they are mortal enemies. This means that you cannot allow ANY rock instincts to influence your playing when you sit down to a jazz gig. I can’t stand listening to a rock drummer trying to play jazz when it’s obvious that he’s trying to do so while still operating in the rock mindset. Jazz drummers trying to play rock is equally annoying. So… I’ve tried to develop a multiple personality “disorder” of sorts, in an effort to successfully exist as both a rock musician AND a jazz musician. This mainly revolves around my mentality while I’m playing rock or jazz, but there are a few concrete/tangible things that I’ve done to aid the dual existence:

1) I use different sticks for jazz than I do when playing rock. They are different in all respects: size, shape, weight… everything. This makes it a little easier to get into the right frame of mind, because even when I simply pick up the sticks the feel of them puts my muscle memory into the correct mode.

2) Kick pedal – same issue as the sticks. I’ve got an old soft-beater pedal with a leather strap drive for jazz, and a newer DW pedal with a firm beater and a chain drive for rock.

3) Tuning is obviously a big part of your sound no matter what style you’re playing, but I always try to take a REALLY different approach for jazz tuning and rock tuning in order to inspire myself in the right direction sonically. This would of course also apply to cymbals.

These are just a few small things that I’ve found helpful for me. Again, the main point here is not for you to go out and buy a totally new rig if you want to learn to play jazz, but rather for you to keep in mind that in order to play jazz correctly, you MUST leave your rock mindset out of the picture entirely, and vice-versa.