The Basics of Brushes – Ulysses Owens, Jr.

Ulysses Owens, Jr. demonstrates the essentials of what it takes to play the drums with brushes.

The brushes are my favorite thing to play. It’s one of the most sensitive ways to play as a drummer and it’s one of the coolest ways to really create amazing textures. When you play the brushes, there’s a couple different rules that you have to apply by, but ultimately you can still make great music. The first rule is, left hand. Left hand is your sweeping hand, like a broom. You sweep, one, two, three, four.

Then you can take that right hand with the same spang-a-lang pattern you played in the right hand with the ride cymbal, you add that to the center of the drum.

Then you can add the hi-hat in, then a little bit of bass drum. Then sometimes you can add some fill.

The cool thing about the brushes is that they’re really used with great singers. You can use them in certain arrangements with big band. You can use them even in certain arrangements with horn players or you can just use them to play softer. For younger drummers and drummers that are playing around locally, you can use them in different venues, whether it’s a restaurant gig, or club gig or whatever, but it’s an art form that you’ve gotta really check out. There’s some great drummers to check out: Vernel Fournier, Papa Jo Jones, Kenny Clarke, Elvin Jones and so many others. But I really love the brushes because it’s a way to find your own creative sound. And I have a lot of fun playing the brushes, but you’ve gotta really make sure you check out the brushes and make sure that you know how to play the brushes by themselves and with the hi-hat.

So again the brushes are a great thing to have fun with and it’s a great way and a true part of the jazz tradition of being a jazz drummer. I love the brushes.

Want more drum lessons?

Check out Ulysses' drum course, Finding Your Beat. 30 lessons on speed, phrasing, touch, gear, and more.
Scroll to Top