Shelly Manne (1920-1984) - Historically important jazz drummer most associated with the ‘West Coast Jazz’ style. Shelly was so versatile that he also played on hundreds of Hollywood movie, and television soundtracks. While Shelly’s extensive discography is amazing. The list of musicians he has played, or recorded with is literally mind-boggling.
Not So Modern Drummer columnist David Barsalou asked internationally recognized drummers – Hal Blaine, Aaron Kennedy, Shawn Meehan, Bobby T Torello, and Jay Wood to share their ideas and opinions on the following quote attributed to Shelly Manne.
Shelly Manne said...
"The ride beat is the easiest and the most difficult thing a drummer will ever play".
"The ride beat is rhythmically simple, yet difficult to play with real feeling. To some drummers it is second nature…For others, the cymbal groove is continually elusive.
Listening to other drummers is key to mastering and understanding the various styles of ride cymbal time. Since every musician has their own distinctive style, one can learn something new from all of them.
Experience is also the key. The more you play with other musicians something magical begins to happen where everything just falls into place.
Depending on the style of music, sometimes a simple straight - ahead beat is all that’s needed.
Keeping good time is of primary importance. Centering on the ride cymbal will enhance your timekeeping skills while moving the groove forward. The ride beat itself is easy… Making it feel right takes years to develop."
I love the ride cymbal and its many uses!! It takes years of refinement to achieve that effortless dance and flow, but is it ever worth it!
Do the homework and listen to the masters. What differences and similarities do we hear in phrasing, subdivision, articulation, and choice of cymbal? How does each master drummer play within his/her respective ensemble and how do the players around him/her inform these musical decisions? Listen for personality and the intent behind the notes. The lineage of music and drumming will also come to light through our study of the ride. How does the phrasing change through the years and changing eras of music?
Practice ride playing at various tempos. By practicing slowly, for example, we can feel the spaces between the notes. Blues to Elvin is a good starting point for playing slowly.
When it comes to ensemble playing, the ride cymbal should lock with the bass player in a way that is both solid and flexible. The ride should provide a swinging, soulful feeling to the ensemble. The phrasing and sense of swing will be influenced by the bass player. Along with the bassist, you will become the foundation that swings the entire band.
In working on your ride playing, you will be improving all aspects of your playing. It can often provide the thread that ties a melodic or comping idea on the snare, toms, bass drum and hi-hat to the time feel while also providing the sonic cushion that balances off the drums.
Create and inspire. Above all else, drive the band and enjoy the ride!"
Bobby T Torello
As a young drummer, I was heavily influenced by the sounds of Buddy Rich. Buddy set the pace of the music by using his ride cymbal to propel the band forward.
I never found the ride beat to be difficult, although I can understand why some drummers have some trouble with it.
Regardless of musical styles, I discovered early on that the type of cymbal I played helped enormously in finding the groove. It had to have the correct combination of cut and overtones to feel comfortable. Even playing straight 4’s on the bell was sonically important to me.
Whether I was playing with Michael Bolton or Johnny Winter I always used ride cymbals that complimented the music.
The only difficulty I’ve had with ride cymbals over the years was trying to find the ones that sounded and felt just right for the music. After that problem was solved, everything just fell into place.
"The ride beat is the easiest and most difficult thing a drummer can ever play.” -Shelly Manne
This quote made me have to think for quite a while before I could sit down and write anything! I personally have spent many hours in a practice room working on my ride technique. Whenever a fellow drummer describes another drummer’s “feel”, they usually are talking about that drummer’s ride cymbal approach. Some say Art Blakey has the “dirtiest swing feel” in Jazz, where Jack DeJohnette has been called “elastic” in the way he plays. These descriptions can be tied directly to how those particular drummers are playing on the ride. By just slightly changing and shifting different rhythms, dynamics, timing, and even where you strike the ride, it can completely change not only the feel you are putting across, but even the style of drumming you are playing. For example, straighten out a Jazz ride pattern, and now you are getting into a Latin Samba feel. This is just one example of how the ride can affect the music that is being performed. By practicing with a metronome, you can learn how to play the ride ahead of the beat, which is generally used to push the music/intensity along, which you might hear in up tempo Jazz, Punk, or Modern Rock, or you could play on top of the beat, for example dance music, Pop or Funk, or behind the beat, Blues, Country, Rock. All styles of music however can be subject to one of those 3 particular feels. It is amazing to me that one part of the drum kit plays such a key role in the drummer’s expression, feel, time, dynamics, and style of music that is being played. As a result, it affects the entire performance of the whole ensemble. It is for these reasons that I find playing the ride “difficult”, as Shelly’s statement proclaims. The “easiest” part of playing the ride? I’m still trying to figure that out!!
Aaron Kennedy “RHYTHMSAINT”
"I have been playing drums since age five. My first ride cymbal would have been a crash. I had a used kit and only had a set of hi hats and a crash. So like many drummers the crash adopted the role as the ride as well. I grew up seeing many drummers live as my dad was a singer and his drummers changed out every few years. I knew mostly what a ride was, but its place in music I had yet to fully understand.
I mean, my interest with drumming was in three parts. The sound, the animation of the drummer, and the set ups. I was very curious how different drummers set their kits up to suit their playing and style.
This fascinated me. In terms of the ride I observed it was bigger than the other cymbals, so I figured it had to be louder. It seemed to be played a lot in jazz and mostly for choruses in rock /pop music.
My dad’s drummers seemed to visit a lot and whereby the setup was simple, Hats - crash – ride. So its place in music for me was still very much undefined. I was too young and nervous to ask. To me, I respected that they knew what they were doing.
I took lessons in Dublin Ireland were I was born with the great jazz drummer, John Wadham. My lessons were the last John gave on Monday nights forty minutes’ drive from my family home. As it happens we had relatives who lived around the corner. My dad would drop me and join them for tea, and I would take my weekly hour lesson.
On occasion my dad would come ten minutes early to pick me up and to watch John play. It was during my first lesson that I saw the ride cymbal being played.
The way I now know to be correctly. Not to be rude to all the other drummers I had seen prior to this… Not at all. My dad had some fine solid players. Some not so ;)
But this was a whole other level. John was originally from England and music had brought him to Ireland.
He played Premier drums and had a mix of Paiste, and Zildjian cymbals.
What was very influential to me on this first lesson was the “sound”. Johns drum room was wonderful. My very first experience in a pro studio. The walls were treated with sound proofing. On the shelves he had over 3000 vinyl records!
We would work from these records every week.
There were two kits a jazz be-bop kit and a full six piece setup he taught me on. He had three crashes increasing in size left to right and a 20” K Zildjian ride.
To me this was incredible. I was going to learn and play a full professional setup in a controlled environment.
Playing drums for me was never going to be the same again. We went through warm ups and rudimental exercises and then he watched me play. I grooved a simple 4/4 beat on his Paiste hi-hats which sounded like a record to me. He encouraged me to play a fill and continue time on the K ride.
This was a defining moment. At home, I never really played the crash as a ride. Quite honestly I didn’t like the sound so I had been reserving this moment for when I could afford a ride cymbal.
In Ireland in the early 80’s drum products were very costly. I played the fill as asked and kept time on the ride. As I played through each tom,10” 12” 14” and 16” floor tom I then found myself on the ride cymbal.
That first note came through like a samurai sword meeting another. I recall how amplified it seemed. As I met the ride, John encouraged me “that’s it - now keep a steady time”.
It was like driving for the first time. To me this sound was so perfect. It seemed to cut yet sit. After a few measures John told me to stop and we chatted about my ability. From that moment on the ride cymbal took a new place in my musical mind.
Over the coming weeks we worked though more concepts and patterns on the kit and the ride was always involved. Now, what we covered was fundamental. I was simply keeping time on the ride.
We had not yet looked at being dynamic or even much regarding volume control.
There were occasions I felt the ride was getting away from me, and my command was vague. I was only a boy and to be fair, I was a little nervous of John because of my own insecurity.
So, I was still saving for a ride cymbal. In fact, a new set of cymbals which contained a Ride. I did attempt to use my 16” crash at home as a ride. But was never happy doing that.
It was when I was taught a jazz pattern on the ride another new level was achieved. This time John had a Paiste 2002 ride. As soon as I walked into the room I was excited when I saw it. As I knew this would be another great sounding ride. It was.
This time it felt a little brighter and the stick seemed to dance easier on the metal. So again, I was learning definition and balance. By now I was several months into lessons and had started sitting in more with my dad’s bands. I was experimenting more at home and I felt improvement all around.
Yet, the ride cymbal was still intimidating to me.
In that, you didn’t crash it. You couldn’t really play it all the time certainly in pop music and if you did play it you needed to be tactile and musical. It was the textured playing I was having an issue with. As yet, I did not have new cymbals. During all this time I was practicing every day for at least an hour if not all day and always all weekend. I jammed with friends, my dad’s band, and anyone I could.
My timing and creativity was also improving at a fast rate.I am influenced by many drummers and styles of music…Jazz to hard rock. In my drum lessons John would show me tapes of Buddy Rich, his favorite drummer. I was mesmerized. John would analyze his playing and explain to me what he was doing.
Buddy’s right hand on the ride was like Bruce Lee’s punching speed. (I also became a martial artist)
For me even at slower tempos Buddy played patterns I could not decipher. This would not deter me. I was now even more confident and determined to be the best player I could be. That still stands today. Of course Buddy used Zildjian cymbals and initially I asked myself if I used Zildjian could I play like that?
Well of course all great cymbals sound great.
But o be great you must play great. I realized that I must simply continue to improve my technique.
In time I could finally afford a new set up cymbals.
I bought Paiste Color sound in Black.
Hey, come on! It was the 80’s. I was very proud of my new set which comprised of 14” hats 16” and 18” crashes , a 12” splash and a 20” Ride. Incidentally those cymbals were stolen some years later at a venue I played ☹
Having a full set up of cymbals now that matched meant I could be more creative and consistent.
My teacher John had me play the standard Jazz ¼ note pattern on the Ride. I worked on this for an entire summer and on my school holidays. As I was trying to get all the notes lined up to equal value and tempo.
It was at this time that I was becoming interested in Dave Weckl, Steve Gadd, and Vinnie Colaiuta along with Dennis Chambers, Omar Hakim and Manu Katche all whom are incredible master drummers.
Listening and watching those guys helped me gain knowledge of cymbal sound and how tones can complement the music.
Not easy - of course, drummers know the ride builds in energy and at times this would get away on me. I later learned that these sound waves could be harnessed to become musical ideas and ways to fill space.
RhythmSaint Meets Rhythmatist
The bell. Yes, it was the summer of ‘87 I discovered the bell on the ride. I always knew it was there. I had played it many times but not correctly. I mean, getting the most out of it and applying it in spaces where it had the best affect.
It was 1978 I saw Stewart Copeland perform on the Old Grey Whistle test with The Police. I was enthralled by his energy, animation and his sound.
Stewart used the cymbals in a way I had not seen before. He played like no drummer I had ever seen. I gravitated towards his hi-hat and Ride playing.
He used the bell to drive through the wall of sound but gave it its own character in the song. This… I liked and to this day I very much admire and respect Stewart Copeland’s playing.
Many years later I would get to visit Stewart’s home studio in LA. We had a discussion about the drum world and where it has arrived. Crazy having been such a big fan as a boy.
Then I got to work with Stewart for his performance on the David Letterman show for drum solo week.
As it happens it was arranged for me to acquire the complete setup he used. The drums and cymbals from the performance! Including the Paiste signature Rhyhmatist ride Stewart played.
The bell became a source of attention for me again. For several months the bands l played with really liked that. I would use it in replacement of a cowbell. It was more than that to me it was a sound affect.
As now I could play multi patterns and go between time signatures and the bell could highlight that.
I’m now more proficient in time on the ride and using the bow of the Ride to not only keep time but also to play the whole surface of the Ride cymbal. I’m not yet in the crashing the ride camp, but I am fully exploiting the Ride. It’s now an adversary in my setup and not the Diva it once was.
I now understand the rides’ potential, sound and position in music and drumming. By now I have done some recordings my first when I was 16 and had over dubbed my cymbals over a track of me playing Simmons electronic drums. There’s that 80s thing again. Any drummer will tell you recording is a whole other experience to playing acoustically in your drum room or fully engineered at a club. In the studio the truth is exposed. Every nuance is heard. This was a great experience for me. It meant I would need to be ever more controlled and focused.
All drummers, from hobbyists to pro should hit the studio and capture their playing. It raised my game and gave me insight into how I played and sounded.
The ride cymbal sound on that particular session in Ireland seemed low volume. I learned later on it was buried in the mix. That was the style of the engineer. Again, another lesson learned!
Know your sound get your sound.
From that day on whereby possible, I would ask for a bright mix of my ride. Not all engineers appreciated that request but most did. We are all in it together.
As I was writing this for NSMD my three month old son Mason “Little Buddha” Just now successfully rolled on from his front to his back. Hopefully he will become and drummer and be part of this great physical art form!
So by now I’m working hard on my studies, practice & performance with whomever I can.
I attend as many clinics as I can. In 1991 I saw a Simon Philips clinic in Dublin. Just wonderful.
I had been to Billy Cobham’s, but Simon had his ride on the left side and as a right handed drummer myself this was yet another approach to ride playing. Of course I did it several times, and will again - but it was not to become a full time setup. If you haven’t tried this. Please do !
Who knows what the possibilities are for you.
Growing up in Ireland I was surrounded by so much music. In terms of drumming we did not have the fortune of many stores or clinics so I sought as much knowledge as I could wherever I could. I once saw a guy play at a bar once in Ireland. He had a Ringo Starr Ludwig kit. He was using hi-hats, crash and ride and he just seemed so at home with the ride. I was thinking. Well, maybe he just loves that ride.
I got to speak with him later… He told me he had that ride cymbal for the longest time as he just didn’t have the money to add another to his setup. So, like me, and many drummers starting out - he worked with what he had. Most importantly he was played musically.
It’s 1990… I had been the biggest Phil Collins fan. Still am. I saw him live in Dublin. No introduction is needed like all the drummers mentioned here.
His playing has defined him. I was very fortunate to have the best seats. He opened the show drumming.
His ride was so sharp and cut through the whole venue. This is the sound I love for rock/pop
The whole cymbal was being used. His playing is passionate and without warning you are entertained by patterns on the ride he developed during his Genesis days. Phil’s playing is engaging and you can tell he loves being there. The ride cymbal is a big component of that playing.
Later that year Sting is in on tour with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Proving the ride is not just a jazz oriented cymbal. Well… Vinnie proves that unconditionally and without doubt the ride cymbal is musical and incredibly diverse. Vinnie’s execution of the ride and his placement of parts within the music inspired me to rework how I think and play the ride cymbal.The whole kit for that matter!
In 1999 I formed the Drumming Academy where I still offer private tuition today. I now live in the United States… A life-long dream of mine. I now work with drummers from beginners to advanced.
Having being influenced by the best drummers in the world one thing remains true…
SOUND IS EVERYTHING!
I tell my students “when you play ask yourself. How does what I play sound like?” When a student plays the ride right on. Musical, in time, creatively and with command and composure I think back to the first time I played that ride cymbal in my drum teacher’s studio.
I smile. I am now very proud PAISTE artist.
My journey has enriched my life and has given me great experiences and friendships.
Seek out your sound and who knows what it will bring you. Every day when I open the door to my drum room and see the Paiste cymbals adorning my kits.
I smile inside.
Aaron Kennedy “RhythmSaint”
Conversation In Ride