by Dr. Colleen Clark

installment one:
The pattern on non-drum surfaces

In this lesson series, Zildjian artist Colleen Clark provides a historiographical and musical analysis examining the jazz ride cymbal pattern, from its inception on woodblock, small accessory cymbals, hand cymbal mechanisms and brushes through what becomes known as the modern-day ride cymbal pattern. This research examines a wide array of drummers and bandleaders, with the objective of identifying the earliest recordings of this important addition to jazz drumming, and popular music history while analyzing the ride cymbal pattern’s evolution through definitive recordings.

The Pattern on Non-drum Surfaces,1917-1924

This research examines a wide array of drummers and bandleaders, with the objective of identifying the earliest recordings of this important addition to jazz drumming and popular music history while analyzing the ride cymbal pattern’s evolution through definitive recordings. As the ride cymbal pattern was not always played solely on the actual ride cymbal, I refer to this rhythm as simply “the pattern” throughout the text.

A basic understanding of the drumset’s evolution is important within the context of this argument and is key for this chapter in particular. Early drumsets were created with the notion that the multiple second-line New Orleans parade drummers could be combined into one seated player. The percussion elements taken from the New Orleans second line and transferred to the drumset included: snare drum, bass drum and cymbals. The idea that one person could play three different parts was new.

The basics of the early drumsets include: snare drum, bass drum, woodblock, oriental tom, small cymbal. Below is a photo of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Drummer Tony Sbarbaro’s setup was typical of this time period from 1917 to around 1927. From that point forward innovations to the drumset would continue to be added.


It makes sense that the first traces of the pattern can be heard on a recording by what historians have agreed is the first recorded jazz band in history, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The pattern can clearly be heard on “Oriental Jazz [Sudan]” from a November 1917 recording session in New York. In many of my findings from this time period in particular, if a tune had the name “oriental” or had a name that suggested something that was of Eastern descent, there is a strong possibility that the drummer could be heard playing the pattern.

Sbarbaro played differently than his New Orleans contemporaries, Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton. Sbarbaro used many different sound sources on the drumset, including woodblock and oriental tom.

There are multiple examples of pattern playing on “Oriental Jazz [Sudan],” where Sbarbaro used a two-handed method. The two-handed approach derived from snare drum playing. Many early examples of the pattern can be heard playing the pattern with this method but on woodblock with two-hands. This method is most easily identifiable because of the flams that can be heard, as is the case in “Oriental Jazz.” This type of playing is also heard on a later Kaiser Marshall example, whereas the earlier Marshall examples did not reference two-handed style of playing the pattern. Sbarbaro can be heard playing the pattern in four different areas on the B-section of “Oriental Jazz.” To support the change in sections, Sbarbaro switched from the oriental tom that was played on the A sections to the high-pitched woodblock on the B sections. During the repeats of the B sections, Sbarbaro was decisive in his rhythmic accompaniment on the woodblock. His two-handed playing on the woodblock demonstrated examples of pattern playing and pattern playing combined with other rhythms



The two representative tracks of Kaiser Marshall’s early playing of the pattern with sticks are “Everybody’s Blues”85 and “Strut Miss Lizzie.” Marshall played the pattern on the woodblock throughout three different sections of “Everybody’s Blues.” What becomes apparent is that the duration of the pattern played throughout each tune from 1917-1924, is much shorter than later in the research. Marshall plays the pattern on the woodblock during these instances on “Everybody’s Blues:”

0:58-1:01; 1:05- 1:08; and 2:32-2:34.

Each of the four sections exemplify Marshall’s playing of the pattern for two measures on the woodblock. After the two measures, Marshall tended to decorate the pattern. The decoration, or adding of rhythms other than the pattern, confirms that Marshall played with two hands on the woodblock. When Marshall played the pattern for two measures at a time during “Everybody’s Blues,” it sounds like he played the pattern with just the right hand, as there are no audible flams. This is important as the developing usage of the pattern continues to unfold.


The second example from the Lucille Hegamin canon is entitled “Strut Miss Lizzie,” but this is solely an instrumental track. Although Hegamin is not on the track, it is still the same band as “Everybody’s Blues.” Marshall plays the pattern on the oriental tom in three different instances at a loud volume. The pattern can be heard from:

0:50-0:55, 1:20-1:25 and 2:58-3:03.

Marshall plays on woodblocks, tom and potentially a snare drum with the snares off. The way that the pattern was played on the tom also suggests that he was only using his right hand. This can be argued by the steadiness of the pattern and the lack of flams, which are created when two hands hit the surface of a drum simultaneously. It sounds as if it is only coming from one hand, as the clarity of the pattern is makes it easy to hear.



The final example is from the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. The tune “Why Put the Blame on You?” was recorded during a session that took place from February 2-5, 1924. Kaiser Marshall plays the pattern for one and a half measures in four different instances:

1:57-2:05, 2:07-2:10, 2:15-2:22, 2:24-2:30.

“Why Put the Blame on You” is an important because of the repeated nature of the breaks that Marshall completed. On three different occasions Marshall played the same exact pattern. These breaks are solos. The fact that these were solo breaks is also important as an indicator that the pattern was becoming popular in the musical lexicon.



This installment sought to examine some of the earliest examples of the pattern. The examples that were chosen exemplified drummers playing the pattern on the oriental tom, woodblocks and sandpaper blocks. These findings helped show that the history of the pattern did not originate on the cymbal. These recordings were chosen in part for their sonic clarity and for the drummers that were playing the examples.

Interested in learning more?

You can view or download a copy of Colleen Clarks’ Doctoral Dissertation from U. North Texas HERE!

Drummer, composer and educator Colleen Clark is vibrant on the scenes in NYC and the southeastern United States. Clark has guest performed with the 8G Band on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers and can most recently be heard playing on the co-led project with Sharel Cassity, ALLIANCE, which received a 4-star DOWNBEAT review, Michael Dease’s “The Other Shoe” (Origin), and upcoming releases by CC+ The Adelitas, The Southern Pines, Michael Dease and Matt White.

She has shared the stage with jazz luminaries including: Branford Marsalis, Rodney Whitaker, Catherine Russell, Camille Thurman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Mimi Jones. Clark has been featured in DOWNBEAT magazine and is also an ASCAP winning composer. Clark was invited by the ASCAP Foundation to lead her band at the Kennedy Center. She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the University of South Carolina’s Jazz Girls Day. Dr. Clark is the first woman and only drummer to earn a doctoral degree in jazz from the University of North Texas. 

Connect with Colleen!
IG @ colleendrums

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