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Alternate Brush Ideas

By Terry O’Mahoney

GREAT BRUSH SOLO IS AN AURAL WORK OF ART. drumsticks in the way they produce sound and therefore require
The nuances one can achieve with brushes, as well as a different approach. Sticks utilize a vertical motion as their
the wide variety of articulations and overall legato primary means of execution. Brushes generate sound with lat-
timbre, simply cannot be matched by drumsticks. Lis- eral (or horizontal) strokes across the texture of the drumhead.
ten to great brush masters like Philly Joe Jones, Shelly Manne For this reason, one must approach soloing or playing time with
and Ed Thigpen as they elegantly create a pulse underneath a brushes in a fundamentally different fashion.
tune and then paint a rhythmic picture when they solo—truly After the basics of brush “time” playing have been acquired,
magnificent. the search for additional brush vocabulary begins. Drummers
Several publications deal with the mechanics of how to play often ask about techniques that will create the characteristic
“time” with brushes, but very few deal with some of the more “brush sound” while soloing. There are several strokes that ac-
“colorful” (and lesser known) brush techniques used by some of complished brush players use to add variety to their fills and
the world’s best brush players to embellish their fills while play- solos. They include the rim roll, rim buzz, trill and several other
ing time and their soloing. “specialty strokes” and/or patterns.
Brushes are, by their very design, dramatically different from


The rim roll is played by resting the handle of the right brush
on the rim and the drumhead, laying the palm of the right
hand atop the handle and moving the brush handle back and
forth (like rolling out a piece of dough into a bread stick). The
sound of the brush as it “flops” back and forth produces an
interesting sound. If done in tempo, the turning of the brush
creates a rhythm.

A common rhythmic figure using the rim roll is notated


? c œ œ œ œ œ œ œ ‰ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ Œ œ> >œ ‰ >œ
3 3 3 3 3



The rim buzz is played by slapping the right brush on the rim
of the drum (like a stick rimshot) while keeping the ends of
the brush high enough (approximately one inch) to prevent it
from fully resting on the drumhead. The resulting “flutter”
creates an interesting effect that can add another texture to a
solo. The effect is similar to a multiple bounce, or “buzz”
stroke, made with sticks, and it creates the illusion of tremen-
dous speed.
An example of the rim buzz in a solo passage:

> > > > >

?c œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ

æ æ æ æ æ æ


The trill is a “one-handed roll” with brushes. With the right ating a louder dynamic) (see photo on left).
hand using a thumbs-up grip, the brush is “shaken” back and The trill can also be produced in the left hand by holding the
forth across the head. It is unmetered and its speed is deter- thumb upright and quickly rotating the forearm (see photo on
mined primarily by dynamic requirements (faster motion cre- right).

An excellent way to change textures in a solo is to play the

one-handed trills on different drums:

? c œ. j œ.
œ œ œæ æœ œ œ œ œ

æ æJ æ æ

An interesting texture may also be achieved by using the trill as a sonic “pedal point” while the opposing hand solos atop it:

? c œ. j j j j
œ œ. œ ‰ œ ‰ œ œ œ
Right Hand :

?c œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
Left Hand :

æ æ æ æ æ æ æ æ
Odd groupings (like 5’s and 7’s) can be given a new twist by using small circles to “fill in” between the accent patterns, thus
creating an alternating staccato/legato pattern:

> > > >

?c œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
5 5
œ >œ œ >œ5 œ œ >œ

> >
?œ œ œ œ œ œ œ œ
œ >œ œ œ>5 œ œ œ


Brushes differ from sticks in another important way. When This technique involves executing the strokes at different points
attempting to execute double strokes with sticks, additional on the drumhead while “pulling” the stroke toward the body.
pressure may be brought to bear on the sticks for a cleaner The pulling action of this stroke enables the brush to bounce
execution. Extreme pressure on brushes often produces the more easily.
opposite of the desired effect—the brush becomes “pinned” to In order to execute this stroke, the right hand must utilize a
the head, thus stopping any bounce. Because of this important French timpani grip (thumbs up) and rotate the wrist clock-
difference, care should be take when attempting double strokes wise (initially landing at point A and bouncing to point B). The
with brushes. left hand (using traditional grip) would make a counterclock-
When playing double strokes with drumsticks, the most wise motion and use the index and middle finger to “pull” the
common approach is to play the two strokes precisely on the brush toward the body (again, initially landing at point A and
same spot on the drumhead. While this is very appropriate for bouncing at point B). This is similar to the “whipped cream
drumsticks, an easier way is possible when using brushes. roll” technique made famous by Buddy Rich.

Here is a particularly useful rhythmic figure utilizing brush


? c œ œ œ œ >œ œ œ œ œ >œ œ œ œ œ >œ œ œ œ œ >œ œ œ œ œ >œ œ


Long, legato strokes may be created by “pushing” the brushes
across the head, perpendicular to the player.

This technique is excellent when used for quarter-note trip-


> > >

?c œ œ œ œ œ œ j
œ œ j
œ ‰ œ j
3 3

œ œ œ



These techniques are unique to the brush lexicon and would may be used in combination and should serve as a departure
enhance any drummer’s vocabulary. Many of these techniques point for further personal experimentation.

Clayton Cameron—The Living Art of Brushes (DCI Video)
Dave Weckl—Back to Basics (DCI Video)

Drummer Artist CD Record Company
Jeff Hamilton Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra Groove Shop Capri
Jeff Hamilton Jeff Hamilton Trio It’s Hamilton Time Lakestreet
Adam Nussbaum Richie Beirach Some Other Time Triloka
Bill Stewart Scofield/Metheny I Can Almost See Your House From Here Blue Note
Vinnie Colaiuta Bunny Brunel Dedication Musidisc

Terry O’Mahoney received his B.M.Ed. Oliver Jones, Renee Lee, Ed Bickert and others. His articles have
from the University of Louisville and M.M. appeared in Percussive Notes and Modern Drummer. He is an
from the University of Miami. Professional Assistant Professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish,
activities include work with the Louisville Nova Scotia, where he teaches orchestra percussion, jazz drum-
O r c h e s t r a , S y m p h o n y N o v a S co t i a ming, jazz history and other jazz-related courses. He is president
(Halifax), commercial recordings and con- of the Nova Scotia chapter of PAS and is active as a clinician and
certs with Mose Allison, David Liebman, adjudicator.


Jon Hazilla
Drumset Clinic Brushistics
Friday, 12:00 p.m. BY JON HAZILLA
CC Room 103

t is difficult to develop an individual o’clock and left hand at nine o’clock. For this purpose. The only rule is that one
sound or voice on any instrument, and the most part your hands should remain hand remains at the top or bottom of the
drums are no exception. Brushes offer at these positions throughout the exer- drum (off the drum) until it is played
some under-explored possibilities, and cise. The wrist, without any arm, ex- again. For example, with the sticking
our awkwardness when playing brushes ecutes the motion used. You can cover the RRRL RRRL (eighth notes), the left hand
may, in fact, contribute to a more unique, entire drum, and beyond, with either starts at 12 o’clock and sweeps to six
individual approach to playing drums. hand and without any arm motion. o’clock on the “and” of 2. The left hand
Brushes are not sticks, and should not Start at the top of the drum, at 12 stays there out of the way, off the drum
be played as such. Grip, rebound (or lack o’clock with your right hand sweeping until the “and” of 4, at which time it
of), lateral motion, and longer sustained slowly toward your stomach, then before sweeps back to 12 o’clock. The right hand
notes (rolls and trills) played with one reaching six o’clock start your left hand alternates direction back and forth on the
hand are all unique characteristics that at 12 o’ clock, also sweeping toward your repeated notes.
need to be fully exploited to help develop stomach. There should be no break in Beyond the ten concepts, a second ap-
basic brush dexterity. sound (overlap gently). Make sure you proach I use with students is getting
In my book, Mastering the Art of continue your right hand toward your them to not think like a drummer. If you
Brushes, the ten concepts listed below stomach off the drum, so it is out of the think differently, you will play differ-
are the backbone of my approach. I con- way of your left hand. As your left hand ently. I use exercises called long tones or
tinually refer to them when teaching approaches six o’clock, start your right legatos and think about how a trumpet
brushes, and they are the starting point hand (over or under your left hand, it player or violinist might practice empha-
for all my beginning students. These con- doesn’t matter) sweeping it slowly back sizing breath, evenness of sound, control,
cepts are not intended to be rules, and to 12 o’clock, followed by your left hand and lightness of touch. These ideas can
there are exceptions and different ap- back to 12 o’clock. be applied to all the above exercises as
proaches to each of the ideas. There is no I have found quarter note = 50 a great well as used in performance situations.
single right or wrong way to play tempo at which to practice. Also, don’t I hope this helps with your brush dex-
brushes; there are only consequences forget to feather the bass drum on all terity, and I look forward to meeting
that will influence the desired outcome. four beats and use a soft 2 and 4 with the many of you in Nashville this November!
hi-hat pedal (concept 5).
TEN CONCEPTS Using this idea with varying sticking The ten concepts come from Mastering
1. Practice all strokes using only your patterns is invaluable in helping develop the Art of Brushes by Jon Hazilla. Copy-
hands and finger tips on the drum brush dexterity and fluid motion. George right 2000. Used by permission of Berklee
(without brushes). Stone’s Stick Control is a great book for Press. Visit Berklee Press online at
2. Traditional grip is recommended when
you hold the brushes.
3. Grip the brush two inches from the Jon Hazilla has been on the faculty of the
wires. New England Conservatory of Music and
4. Play the tips of the brushes. Berklee College in Boston, Mass. for 17
5. Use your feet to feather the bass drum years. Jon has performed with JoAnne
and play the hi-hat for bottom and sup- Brakeen, James Williams, Benny Golson,
port. Larry Coryell, Kenny Wheeler, Max
6. Experiment with counterclockwise or Roach, Ron Carter, Ray Drummond, and
less-familiar motions. many others. His sixth CD as a
7. Each hand should play a discernible bandleader, It Never Entered My Mind,
rhythm unless you want color or tex- will be released in January 2005. He was
ture. the recipient of a National Endowment
8. Use shape to define strokes and Award and the Robert Porter Memorial
rhythm. Advancement In Education Award. Jon is
9. Create variations of shape to imply the co-founder of Jazz On Wheels, a volun-
same rhythm. teer group that plays free concerts for in-
10. Use the shape to imply fills, accents, ner-city children, and he maintains an
and metric modulation. active career performing and teaching in
the Boston area. PN
To get started, begin on the snare
drum with your right hand at three


Practicing Brushes
by Ed Soph

Brushes are fundamentally similar to R R L L Similarly, the hands can be isolated

sticks. Both are instruments of motion. within the sticking patterns; i.e., play
Motion in time produces rhythm in J J II only the rights or the lefts of a particular
time. Smooth, relaxed and flowing sticking within a continuous motion.
motion produces smooth, flowing pat- These quarter note patterns should be
terns. Basically, brushes are held the practiced as eighths and sixteenths, too.
same as sticks. The fingers, wrists, and For triplet patterns try this:
forearms are relaxed and in a normal
position, whether one is using tradi-
tional or matched grip. Smooth actions
do not come from rigid, contorted
And brushes, like sticks, can be re-
lated to sticking patterns. However,
brushes can play stickings two ways: ver-
tically and horizontally. And it is this Figure 2
horizontal method of sticking which we
shall examine in regard to practicing Notice that the right hand continues
and developing our own brush patterns. to circle, without accentuation, while
Many of us were taught the brush pat- the left hand plays 3 & 4. Likewise, the
tern in which one brush produces a con- left hand continues to circle without
stant sustained sound while the other accentuation while the right hand plays
brush taps a syncopated pattern or basic l&2.
ride rhythm. This technique is certainly For developing each hand separately:
a good one. But we are limiting our- Figure 5
selves if it is the only technique we R R R R
know. It also establishes the unfortunate L L L L Follow the same procedures as with
precedent of relegating rhythms and ac- the duple stickings. Some other triplet
cents to one over-worked hand. II stickings which lend themselves to
The following practice ideas are based brushes: . . . . . ~ www
,.a "
on a technique in which both hands sus- LRR
tain and accent. Accents are produced Accent exercises may also be used for
by pressing more of the brush fan onto developing brush patterns.
the head. This produces a darker, For example: , . ' ~ ""'~.> -'-,~ .,.-"'~
heavier sound. When not shading, or
accenting, the brushes should be played
on their tips. Use the motion presented for alter-
First, here are some duple stickings nate sticking of eighth-note triplets and
such as found in Stone's Stick Control. shade the accented notes. This ap-
proach may, of course, be used with
duple-note accent patterns.
Figure 3 Don't be afraid to experiment. Any-
.; J .;'J II thing is possible. For further study I rec-
ommend Ed Thigpen's The Sound of
L L L L Brushes.

"/a )V)V')Vg I( naVV7q)



Ed Soph
Figure 1 Drum Set Forum

Figure 4
301 Percussive N o t e s
You Got to be Pretty When You
Play Brushes

he title of this article is a quote give it a try at a slow tempo. You might includes a couple of things from Philly
from Philly Joe Jones, one of the wonder if Philly really went up that high, Joe, keeping his ideas alive.
premier brush artists of all time. I but he was beautiful with the brushes. I Brush playing was always a mainstay
thought it would be more of an eye- didn’t go up that high, so I asked him for the early jazz greats; it lost some fa-
catcher than, “My ideas on brush play- why he did, and he said, “’Cause you got vor during the rock ’n’ roll era, but in re-
ing.” to be pretty when you play the brushes.” cent years the use of swinging brush
There was a brush stroke used by Philly’s concept was to do what you playing has been rejuvenated. If you are
Philly Joe that was in his book Brush have to do to play what you need to play, interested in jazz, don’t avoid brushes. A
Artistry known as “Palm Up.” Philly Joe but don’t be boring to watch. This comes lot of young players avoid brushes be-
would use his right-hand brush like he from the school of entertainment where cause they don’t know what to do with
was turning on the ignition in his car. He drummers such as “Big Sid” Catlett and them. There are many approaches to
would flick the brush wire off the head Baby Dodds had to entertain the audi- playing the brushes, and I will give you
with a quick turn of his wrist to the ence and dancers, not just play the some insight into my thoughts on the
“palm up” position, resulting in a snap. drums. subject.
Think of the drumhead as the face of a Philly Joe’s left hand did different
clock. With the right-hand palm facing things for different patterns, but for the BRUSHES VS. STICKS
up, at 3 o’clock on beat one, he would “Palm Up” pattern, he played what I call I generally use an up-and-down stroke
come up like he was going to comb the a half-note sweep. Starting on beat one at with sticks, while my movement with the
left side of his head with the brush. Then 7 o’clock on the head, sweep to 2 o’clock brushes is from side to side. That side-to-
he would turn the right brush over as he for beat two, come around to 7 o’clock for side brush technique has influenced my
brought it down over the left arm, using beat three, and back to 2 o’clock for beat stick technique, giving my phrasing more
his left brush like a ramp to slide the four. The hands were always opposite flow.
right brush down onto the head at the 10 and they never got in each other’s way. My beginning brush playing was like
o’clock position on beat two. He would that of most drummers when they get
sweep around to 3 o’clock, snapping the their first pair of brushes. I moved my
brush on beat three. Then he’d repeat the left hand around in a sweep and played
process, bringing the right-hand brush all of the rhythm patterns with my right
over his left arm and sliding it down onto hand. I had listened to records of Louis
the head on beat four, then sweeping it Armstrong, the Basie Band with Jo
around and snapping it on beat one. Jones, and other 1950s and ’60s popular
records that had a lot of brush playing,
and I wanted to get that fat sound. Just
moving my hands around didn’t make it,
but then I realized that I used both
hands with the sticks when practicing
the rudiments, so why not use both
hands equally with the brushes? That’s
how I incorporated some of the rudiments
into a smoother approach to the brushes.
Of course, I didn’t have the chops to play
rudiments with brushes like I did with
“Papa” Jo Jones was another beautiful sticks. I would use the left hand to fill in
brush player. His hands seemed to al- some things, but the phrases were mostly
ways be up in the air, but when you hear right-hand based.
the recordings, it sounds as if nothing A few years later, after struggling, I
was off the head. He was using a similar got my lateral motion from watching Mel
The reason for all the motion is that it approach. If you aren’t familiar with the Lewis as he would kind of slash back and
didn’t sound like someone “dropping a early drummers I’ve mentioned, do your forth with the sticks on the cymbal, then
bomb” on the snare head by just dropping homework! There are some good books on go to the mounted tom, then go from
the brush down on beats 2 and 4. Read the market; one is by Ed Thigpen, and right to left toward the smaller cymbal
through the above a few times and then Clayton Cameron has a brush video that and to his hi-hat. He would use kind of a


back-and-forth motion to get around the of controlling the brush. I think a lot of
kit. That lateral stroke, as well as what players over-control the brush with fin-
he was doing with the brushes, made ger technique. You have to let it bounce;
sense to me in terms of getting the you cannot over-control it. I do the same
roundness out of the phrasing that he got with the sticks. Let it happen; don’t make
with the sticks. So, I found in my playing it happen.
that there is more influence from the In regard to lateral motion, that “side-
brushes to the sticks than from the sticks to-side” thing is about getting motion go-
to the brushes. ing with your phrasing. It keeps you
I approach brushes and sticks as two moving toward the next instrument you
separate instruments. It’s almost like up- are going to play. It doesn’t keep you just
right bass and electric bass; you have the on the snare drum, which is what a lot of
same four strings and the same pitches, drummers fear when they start playing
but it’s a different “animal” in terms of brushes: They think brush playing is lim-
the way you pluck them. The same goes ited to the snare. If they decide to expand
for brushes. You need to view them as a their phrase and go to other parts of the
different instrument than sticks, learn drumset, their stick technique comes in,
all there is to do with them, then bridge and it sounds like they are playing with
the gap between sticks and brushes. I’m sticks rather than brushes.
not a big fan of trying to play everything The lateral approach keeps you flowing
with brushes that you can play with around the entire kit, keeping you in mo-
sticks, using stick technique. I am a fan tion all the time. It’s visually smooth, as
of trying musical ideas that you play with well. The motion between your drums
sticks with the lateral concept, using and cymbals never stops. I’ve always
brushes. taught my students never to stop in the
Continuing my quest for that fat brush middle of a phrase. Keep your arms and
sound, watching John Von Ohlen playing hands moving.
that floppy sort of “fish by the tail” right
hand, like he was throwing the head of a MY TEACHING APPROACH
fish at the snare drum, is when the The first time I meet with students I
lightbulb came on. You get the fat sound have them play a long double-stroke roll
by letting the brush do the work instead with sticks, then I have them do it with

PASIC 2002 per formance: The Drummers of Woody Herman


brushes. Usually it’s clean enough with head twice, then pick it up, bring your It shouldn’t go “swish, swish, swish,
an up-and-down stroke that comes out wrist back up from the drum, and get swish,” it should be a smooth
kind of like sticks, although a little slop- ready for your next stroke. Recoil for the “shaashaashaashaa” sound. No space in
pier. Then I turn the drum on its side and next. You’ll play a bad long roll, but you’ll your quarter-note pulse from the sweep;
have them play a double stroke with the get the concept! it should be continuous. There can be a
right-hand brush, like playing the drum pulse, but it shouldn’t stop; there should
perpendicular to a lateral stroke coming EXPANDING ON THE LATERAL BRUSH be no air between the back-and-forth
in from the side. Getting the bounce so STROKE windshield wiper.
they can feel what the motion is like, Playing brushes along with many If you are moving laterally with your
even though they are going into the head records helped me expand the brush fun- left hand, then your right hand should
in a “T” motion. Then I turn the drum damentals. Some requirements for me also move laterally. Don’t play “tick tick-a
upright and have them use the same mo- are to always keep a constant sound on tick tick-a tick” with a right-hand over-
tion to get a double bounce out of that the head. I keep one brush on the head at hand stroke because you are defying
stroke. That opens up the concept and all times, unless I am ending the phrase what you are trying to get in terms of
they see how it feels and sounds. I go by lifting both brushes. Here are four ba- smoothness. That pin-pointed “tick tick-a
through the same procedure with the sics to remember: tick” isn’t fat enough for the other musi-
left-hand brush. 1. Don’t have both brushes off the cians to tap into. You’ve got to have some
With the snare in the proper position I head. width to your beat so they have some-
tell them to play a long roll with the 2. Don’t relegate the left hand to being thing to hang onto and play with.
brushes that their snare drum teacher the automatic “windshield wiper” while Despite what I said about Philly Joe’s
never let them play! This rolling back your right hand does all the work. It’s “Palm Up” technique, keeping the hands
and forth with lateral motion opens up boring, it doesn’t feel good, and other mu- close to the head is usually better; don’t
the brush concept of getting that wide- sicians don’t like to play with it. make unnecessary motions. All the mo-
open sound coming from the side—throw- 3. Don’t mash the brush into the head. tion I make comes from what happens on
ing the brush at the head from a side Either get a new head or get a bigger the head. Band directors and conductors
angle and letting it skip like a stone pair of brushes that have a bigger sound. make a prep stroke, and there’s a reason
across water. Let it bounce across the 4. Don’t stop the groove of the sweep. why the prep stroke is right in time. The
same thing applies to the brush stroke, in
that the preparation stroke has to be per-
fect in order to make the stroke come out
on the drum the right way.
I start with only the snare drum, be-
cause I find if you go to the other drums
too soon, you are immediately “copping
out” and playing the same ideas on the
toms. I prefer developing ideas on the
snare; then, when you move to the other
drums, you have more ideas to work
Following is an example of expanding
your brush ideas and getting more vari-
ety and strokes into your playing. Here is
the pattern:

> - . - > - - >

44 œ œ œ œ œ Œ œ œ œ Œ Œ

Using the “palm up” concept, play the

figure with these stickings:
Use those as a springboard to develop
even more patterns. Keep changing the
stickings and keep sweeping on the head.
By doing that, you have a number of
ways to play this one musical idea.
Practice in front of a mirror and you
will soon see how important your prep


strokes are in achieving the concept. rivets, unless you are playing on the bell
Also, remember to keep your hands oppo- to get some definition. I grew up listening
site each other while you are doing this; to Papa Jo doing that, as well as Ed
don’t “chase your tail.” If your left hand Thigpen with Oscar Peterson.
is at 5 o’clock, cross the right hand over There is that shifting of gears in the
to 11 o’clock and keep moving in a circle. Oscar Peterson school of intensity where
I’m a “clockwise circle” guy, although I you change something from chorus to
do sometimes go counter-clockwise when chorus to make it more intense. Example:
soloing. But I generally play time with a start with brushes playing quarter notes
clockwise circle. I like to come to the on the snare, with hi-hat on two and four,
middle with the left hand; you’re “coming and four beats lightly on the bass drum;
home” toward your body. I feel that second chorus, a little hiccup on the
counter-clockwise circles push away the snare, an accent “bop”; third chorus, stop
beat, while clockwise circles physically the sweep and go to the cymbal bell.
bring the beat to me. Keep building that way until you get to
the sticks playing time. Make each cho-
DYNAMICS rus more interesting and intense than
The first night that Mel Lewis played the previous one. Do that instead of play-
with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, the ing brushes on the first chorus and then
band was burying Mel because they had switching to sticks and flailing away on
been used to Stan Levy, who had a big the rest of the tune. Take six or seven
sound. Kenton came over in front of the choruses to build up to that point.
drums, cupped his hands around his That’s not to say that it always needs
mouth, and yelled, “Hey, Mel, can you to be that way; sometimes you want to
play louder?” Mel looked back at Stan get hot right out of the “head.” But know
and said, “No!” Stan said, “Okay, just how to build gradually by playing the
thought I’d ask.” He went back to the pi- brush on the cymbal bell, then opening it
ano and the band came down in volume. up on the cymbal body to get a wider
I’m not saying that you should always spread sound.
play brushes softly and make the band Other techniques you can use for color
adjust to your volume. You have to bring include scraping across the cymbal with
the dynamic level to your brush intensity. the brush hoop, sweeping on the cymbal,
But if you’re playing brushes on a Neal using the side of the wire on the cymbal,
Hefti or Sammy Nestico chart, and the or playing snare patterns on a non-rivet
dynamic is supposed to be mezzo piano or cymbal, trying to get that high “tinkling”
even mezzo forte, but the band is playing sound. Check out all the options, then lis-
forte, then the band needs to be at the ten to what the music needs and be able
correct level. A lot of youthful bands will to add to the music.
be too loud. If the director is not in touch
with what the rhythm section dynamic A GREAT EXERCISE
should be, the band will often start with I used to play brushes to an entire
loud bass and guitar amps. Get those dy- Basie record. Play the time and the fig-
namic levels down to an acoustic sound. ures with brushes, and try to keep the
If that is done, you can hear the brushes continuity without breaking it up. You’re
and the band will get down to the volume playing what the band is playing, while
of the rhythm section. playing time so you can learn how to do
I’m tired of hearing ballads played that. I learned “Shiny Stockings” by play-
with sticks. Tell the other musicians to ing it with brushes. Don’t forget dynam-
turn down their amps so they can hear ics.
the brushes, and play music based on one
of the most important things in music: EQUIPMENT
dynamics. Don’t be afraid to dig into I like wire brushes; I’ve never cared for
what the brushes have to offer in order to the sound of plastic or nylon. Also, I like
get the most out of your instrument. rubber handles rather than wood for a
Brushes aren’t just for the snare drum. little more weight and a better grip. Most
Playing brushes on a cymbal can be quite drummers who use brushes with a stick
effective, although I don’t particularly handle play like they have sticks in their
like to hear a brush playing time on a hands. An exception is Joe La Barbera,
cymbal with rivets where you can’t hear who plays great brushes with a wood
the pulse. All one hears is just a wash of handle. My choice is rubber handle tele-


scopic wire brushes, like my signature
Regal Tip model. Jeff Hamilton attended Indiana Univer-
Calfskin heads were perfect for me for sity, where he studied with George
about twenty years. But not when you Gaber, and he also studied with John Von
get a pinhole in them or you’re playing Ohlen. He has performed with the New
outdoors in the rain. With the develop- Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Lionel Hamp-
ment of the Remo Fiberskyn head, which ton, the Monty Alexander Trio, Woody
feels like calfskin, we finally got a plastic Herman and the Thundering Herd, the
head that allows you to let the brushes L.A. 4, Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie
do the work on the head. In fact, I use Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney, and the
Fiberskyn on every drum. Ray Brown Trio. Jeff is currently touring
with his own trio, the Clayton-Hamilton
A PET PEEVE Jazz Orchestra, and Diana Krall. Jeff can
Don’t ever, ever, drop your brushes on been heard on nearly 200 recordings with
the floor. You never know when you are such artists as Natalie Cole, Diana Krall,
going to have to accompany a bass solo. Milt Jackson, Rosemary Clooney, Barbra
Or, the singer turns around and says, Streisand, Mel Torme, John Pizzarelli,
“Two-beat on the head-out.” If the head- Benny Carter, Lalo Schifrin, George
in was in a two-beat feel, chances are Shearing, Dr. John, Clark Terry, Gene
you’ll take it out the same way. Nothing Harris, Toshiko Akioshi, Scott Hamilton,
is worse than the drummer splashing the Harry “Sweets” Edison, Keely Smith, Bill
hi-hat for time, but you can’t see the Holman, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and
drummer because his head is under the Mark Murphy. PN
floor tom trying to find the brushes. Keep
your brushes handy at all times; keep PAS THANKS ITS
your sticks handy at all times, too, so you
can get to them at any time. You’ll learn
that lesson quickly if you ever get fired LUDWIG ALBERT
because a leader wants you to go to sticks ROBERT BELL
and you are down on the floor trying to MICHAEL A. BENNETT
find them in the dark. MONTY BOOKER
Following are some drummers I tell RANDALL A. EYLES
my students to listen to for great brush- RICHARD P. GUASTAMACHO
work: Vernell Fournier with Ahmad MICHAEL HENRY
Jamal and Israel Crosby; Ed Thigpen BRAD HERSHBERGER
with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown; JAMES HILGER
Shelly Manne, My Fair Lady, with Andre EMILY ANNETTE HILL
Previn and Leroy Vineger. In fact, any REVEREND DR GEORGE A. HILL III
Shelly Manne recording with a trio or GEORGE ALDRICH HILL IV
small group will have a lot of brushes, DENNIS E. KAHLE
such as a series of CDs on the Contempo-
rary label called The Poll Winners with KEVIN LLOYD
Shelly, Barney Kessel and Ray Brown. KEN MURPHY
Jake Hanna plays some smooth time VALERIE NARANJO
with brushes on many Concord records. CHRISTOPHER S. NORTON
And, of course, CDs with Jo Jones as the SHANE O’CONNELL
leader of a trio. TIMM O’NEILL
Of all the things one can do at the JOSE ORTIZ
drumset, playing the brushes gives me RIPIN PAITIMUSA
the most enjoyment. They offer so much F. KEITH QUARLES
variety, which allows you to expand your
musicality. After all, the main goal is DOUGLAS A. SMITH
serving the music. So keep that sweep go- CHRIS W. TRELOAR
ing and, as Philly Joe said, “Be pretty.” RUTH K. UNDERWOOD
Photos from Brush Artistry by Philly Joe ROBERT B. WESNER MD
Jones. Copyright © 1968 by the Premier Drum C. CRAIG WILLIAMS
Company Limited. JOHN YANCEY