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 – Greg Estabrooks, Bob Girouard, Steve Maxwell, and Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz 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 repetitive jazz ride rhythm in and of itself is very simple. However; the beauty lies in its simplicity.
Any time I am playing a simple pattern or groove my goal is to make it FEEL as good as I can possibly make it feel. This is where artistry on the drum set begins; to take something simple, something that thousands of other drummers have played and to make it so that your own unique personality and voice shine through. That is when people start to pay attention. When you put a high standard on anything that you practice, it can take many years before you begin to see the light.
Shelly Manne had an exquisite ride cymbal sound and his commitment to the music he played lead him on a beautiful journey which resulted in many great recordings. Track down some recordings with Shelly Manne on drums and listen to and be inspired by his excellent playing.
Well, that's an interesting statement: Maybe he wasn't thinking outside the Jazz genre, but think a lot of what Shelly said depends on the music: Certainly in most Jazz styles maintaining an articulate sound on the ride cymbal is mandatory, because the ride (even more than the hi-hat) keeps time in both small and big band swing.
In rock, however, it may be a different story: R&B has a bit more defined ride patterns, while Rock-a-billy and Blues especially have patterns heavily dependent on the ride (like a shuffle, for instance), to push and/or accent whatever rhythms are being played.
Nowadays, with the heavy (grunge, metal or speed metal) rock styles, a sloshy, sometimes undefined ride pulse is utilized...simply to drive the music and create a "wash" over the main instrumentation (Examples? Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Taylor Hawkins of The Foo Fighters).
As far as easy vs. difficult? First and foremost, it's whatever best compliments the song... and that's the way it has been since the beginning of musical time!
Shelly is correct of course. The actual notated rhythm of the ride beat is absolutely simple. However, the trick is how the drummer interprets that rhythm. I am approaching this from the jazz drummer's perspective since the traditional ride beat we're talking about is primarily associated with that genre. In my view, there are many ways for it to be interpreted, such as:
1. True dotted 8th and 16th. This is what I call more of a "two step" rhythm where the bass player is hitting "1" and "3" rather than using a walking bass pattern.
2. Triplet feel. This is where the dotted 8th and 16th are played in a triplet feel. Think in terms of this being the "swing" version and the bass player is probably playing a walking pattern.
3. Accents. There are different ways to emphasize this rhythm. Example: If the snare and high hat are playing on 2 and 4, accenting the ride beat on 2 and 4 provides more "drive" and "power" much like what you might do on the out chorus (or "shout" chorus). If the high hat and snare are on 2 and 4, but you accent the ride beat on 1 and 3, you get a more lilting, or "dancing" rhythm.
4. Mixing it up. No one ever said that the ride beat can never vary. Sometimes a mixture of the dotted 8th and 16th, along with other nuances is what you need. Sometimes more nuances, sometimes less. Case in point for "less": Killer Joe, from the Quincy Jones album "Walking In Space". Listen to Grady Tate as he syncs up with the bass and lays down straight quarter notes on the ride. This swings SO hard that it is insane. Also, using different accents between the snare and bass drum will contribute to the "color" of the pattern. Again, examine "Killer Joe" with the cross stick on 4. What Grady played on this cut was absolutely 100% right for the tune.
Bottom line: The ride pattern is a starting point for the drummer. What you need to do is to find what works best for the tune at hand, and also for the players you are working with. If the tune has to really swing, then you need that triplet feel. If the rest of the band is having a tough time for some reason, then you may have to dial it back and lay the groundwork in a more fundamental way to get them through the chart.
Steve's listening recommendations:
Swing at its finest "subtle yet swinging": Papa Jo Jones, Grady Tate, Mel Lewis
Hard bop "busier" style: Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams
Hard bop "straight ahead": Art Blakey, Max Roach
Big Band "hard driving": Buddy Rich, Sonny Payne with Count Basie
Big Band "smooth and swinging": Dave Tough, Big Sid Catlett
Steve Maxwell Vintage and Custom Drums
Boom Times for a Seller of Drums
Supply and Demand
A Conversation with Steve Maxwell
Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz
“Playing a pattern might be easy, but playing it bar after bar for an entire song goes against many drummers' instinct to explore and embellish. That's the difficult part!”
Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz
The “Weird Al” Yankovic Band