The Beat Beginner
Songs Beats & Fills Technique Rudiments Drummers Gear

Steal These 5 Iconic Jazz Licks

Steve Lyman  /  UPDATED Aug 20, 2022

Take a page from the book of legends as Steve Lyman walks you through five iconic licks from some of the greatest jazz drummers of all time!

Philly Joe Jones

In this lick, start by playing a 3/4 swinging pattern on the ride. Then use your left hand to fill in any triplet your right hand isn’t playing. Add the floor tom on the first note of the pattern, and have every other note go to the snare drum.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.53.20 PM

You can also play this pattern in a 4/4 feel for something extra cool.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.53.43 PM

This one is a 6 stroke roll that descends down the toms. Give it a swing feel and start on the off beat. Round it out at the end with the floor tom, and close the whole phrase with the bass drum.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.54.10 PM

Here’s a 5 stroke roll where the last note is a stick shot on the snare. Press the stick in your left hand into the drum to mute it, and hit it with your right stick to get that woody sound. You’ll play the bass drum in between each 5 stroke phase. This is a great tool to maneuver around the drums.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.54.41 PM

Tony Williams

This lick is super useful for any jazz drummer; it helps to unify the drums and cymbals in time, whether you’re playing time or soloing. Play a 6 stroke roll where beat one is on the ride. Go around the drums from there.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.56.03 PM

You can also play this with crossovers!

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.56.39 PM

Here’s a single stroke four where the ride falls in between each phrase. It can be tricky to play, but once you get it it’ll help refine your motion between the snare, drums, and ride in tough spots.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.57.37 PM

Roy Haynes

You can create unique patterns with this stick shot (right stick on left) followed by two hits on the snare. Bill Stewart does something similar in groups of 7s and triplets. You’ll be able to create really awesome phrases with this lick.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 4.59.05 PM

Hopefully this helps demystify some of the language of jazz drumming and inspire you to make these licks your own.

Don’t forget to check out Steve Lyman’s course on Drumeo Edge where he goes into jazz drumming in serious detail.

Steve Lyman is an American jazz drummer, composer and educator. As a performer, Lyman has enjoyed sharing the stage with some of the leading voices in jazz and contemporary music, including Aaron Parks, Jon Batiste, Gilad Hekselman, Nir Felder, Julian Pollack, Chase Baird and many more.

Improve your speed on the drums with El Estepario Siberiano’s FREE course.
Enter your email to get all 10 exercises sent to your inbox.

By signing up you’ll also receive our ongoing free lessons and special offers. Don’t worry, we value your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.