In this lesson we examine one of the most common patterns in jazz drumming: the second and third partial of the triplet. Used by all of the jazz masters, including Max Roach, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, and Elvin Jones, this is a wonderfully fun idea to play and explore.

Jazz independence between the snare drum under the jazz ride cymbal pattern is an ongoing challenge for drummers at all levels. There is really no limit to what a person can achieve but there is necessary vocabulary that is considered universal to jazz drumming, and this includes triplets and partials.

Before playing this idea under the full jazz ride pattern, or “spang-a-lang,” simply play quarter notes on the ride cymbal with the snare drum playing the second and third partial, the & ah triplet counting (Ex. 1). By only playing quarter notes on the ride cymbal, you can focus on the left hand playing the triplets. Are they consistent? Are you getting a good sound? Are there any technique issues occurring in the left hand? Once you have everything in check you can proceed to explore playing the snare triplets at lower volumes and adding accents, especially on the third partial. While you are exploring you should also make sure the ride cymbal is consistent and not affected by the action in the left hand.

Ex. 1

Now add the “spang-a-lang” jazz ride pattern (Ex. 2).  Notice that the ride cymbal and snare play simultaneously on the ah of beats 2 and 4. This is the key to success with this pattern.

Ex. 2

Now play one bar of time followed by one bar of the snare pattern (Ex. 3). This will isolate any issues getting into and out of this pattern.


Ex. 3

To further expand this idea play the two triplets every three beats (Ex. 4).

Ex. 4

Another way to manipulate this idea is to again play it in a three-beat pattern with the triplets occurring on two beats followed by one beat of rest on the snare (Ex. 5).

Ex. 5

As you can see with just a handful of exercises we can begin to build a respectable amount of ideas for our tool kit from one idea. This also shows how creative we can be with limited voices, in this case ride, snare and hi-hat. Remember to play these slowly and accurately. Enjoy!

Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.


Lesson: Left Hand Upbeats in Jazz

Lesson: Left Hand Downbeats in Jazz