Brushes are fun to play and it’s a good idea to learn how to play them. You never know when you’ll need to dredge ‘em out of your stick bag. They’re fun to play and give you a whole different feel when drumming. 

The first thing you should remember is that you can use each of the patterns below for a range of tempos—they do overlap each other. It’s up to you to decide how fast or slow you feel comfortable playing each one. Second, these patterns are but one way to play the brushes at different tempos; there are many. 

However, they’re a good starting point if you’ve never used them. If you already do use brushes, perhaps you’ll find a new variation or two here to add to your arsenal. Plus, there are many brush masters past and present you can check out. Among them: Philly Joe Jones, Papa Joe Jones, Max Roach, Ed Thigpen, and Clayton Cameron. When you see them perform, you it won’t be long before you discover just how many different ways brushes can be employed! 

Fig. 1: The left slides in an oval shape. On each ¼ note you snap the brush towards you, faster, to increase the volume. The right hand slides in a half-moon shape. On beats 1 and 3 the brush comes toward you, 2 and 4 the brush slides away. 

Fig. 2: The left hand slides back and forth, toward the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4. The right hand plays the classic jazz ride pattern, in an area away from the left hand. This can be done near the far side of the drum’s surface. The right hand also can play accents. 

Fig. 3: The left hand plays similar to Fig. 1. On beats 2 and 4, the brush snaps toward you. On beats 1 and 3 the brush slides away. Like Fig. 2, the right hand plays the jazz ride pattern. 

Have fun and remember, lock it in the pocket!

Kirby Jacobsen is a freelance drummer, composer, author and band leader in the New Jersey/New York metro area. Find him online here.