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The Kid Should See This

Melodic drumming: Can you hear melody in the drums?

Can drums sing? Can they carry a tune at all? In this 2018 Jazz Night in America video, narrated by Grammy-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride, drummer and composer Allison Miller demonstrates melodic drumming, techniques that create different pitches on the drums. Miller explains:

“Your primary job as a drummer is to keep time… I play this instrument, and I play jazz specifically, because I love to converse and have a dialogue with other musicians. I have to be able to play melodically to be able to interact on a level that I want to interact with, with the other musicians in my band.”

Watch and listen as Miller uses different drums in her kit to produce different notes for the Duke Ellington tune ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)‘.

melodic drumming
She then plays the melody on a single drum, bending the drum’s pitch with the position of her hand.

You can think of it as a guitar string, so if you go higher up on the fretboard, you’re changing the length of the string, right? …which makes it higher pitched. So you’re doing the same thing here… the closer I bring my hand to the rim, the pitch will go higher.

pitch bending
Listen to your favorite jazz record. Can you hear melody in the drums? The video also explores how drummers can improvise with keeping time in jazz, and how technologies can change the sound of the drums.

Related exploration: The Anatomy of a Drum Kit.

Watch this video next: The Djembe, an instrument played for the king of Mali.

Then watch more videos about drumming and jazz:
• The map of notes on a steel pan drum
• Intro to Drums – cdza music
• Nirvana drum cover by 9-year-old Nandi Bushell
• “Jazz is the mother of hip hop.”
• What happened that time Ella Fitzgerald forgot the lyrics?

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