Ari Hoenig - Systems - Book 1: Drumming Technique and Melodic Jazz Independence

Ari Hoenig was born in 1973 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has worked extensively in bands led by Shirley Scott, Jean Michel Pilc, Kenny Werner, Chris Potter, Pat Martino, Joshua Redman, Wayne Krantz, Richard Bona, Mike Stern, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bojan Z, and Jazz Mandolin Project.

Since 2002, Ari has led his own groups including Punk Bop, Hoenig Pilc Project, and the Ari Hoenig Trio. All of Ari's groups are based in New York City and play regularly on Monday nights at Smalls jazz club, where Ari has held residency since 2004. As a leader, Ari has recorded six CDs and a live DVD, and is currently a Dreyfus recording artist. He is also on more than ninety recordings as a sideman.

As an educator, Ari teaches at New York University and the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, New York. He gives clinics and lectures at music schools and universities worldwide.


SYSTEMS ~ Book 1: Drumming Technique and Melodic Jazz Independence is a 76-page, sixteen chapter book by Ari Hoenig; edited by Michael Dawson. (Audio examples of all the systems in the book are available for download on Ari's website.)

The premise of the book (series) is to help students of jazz drumming accomplish their creative expression goals, focusing on the development of specific skills necessary for fluid improvisation and melodic phraseology in their performance.

After the first two chapters ('Introduction' and 'How to Use This Book'), the book is divided into two main parts. Chapters 3-15 are the coordination "systems," while Chapter 16 is a collection of melodic rhythms to be practiced with the systems. If you are familiar with Gary Chester's New Breed book then you know all about this approach. "Practicing different melodic variations with the systems will keep you from getting bored while you engage in the repetitive process needed to improve your coordination," says Hoenig.

The thirteen "system" chapters include:

  • Hand Warm-up Systems
  • Flam Warm-ups
  • Swing Prerequisites
  • Displacing Quarter Notes
  • Fill-In Eighth Notes
  • Off-Beat Systems
  • Triplet Partials
  • Triplet Partials Between Two Limbs
  • Fill-In Triplets
  • Quarter-Note Triplets
  • Half-Note Triplets
  • Melodic Line Between Two Limbs
  • Quarter-Note Triplets Between Two Limbs

The exercises Systems - Book 1 are all laid out in a structured, methodical way. It's necessary to complete or master one system before moving on to the next. In fact Ari encourages the reader to treat the exercises as "reference tools" — focusing on the systems that inspire you yet committing to master only one system at a time.

One of the strengths of this book is that Ari doesn't just focus on the swung eighth-note concept, that is playing the first and last note of the triplet. While the shuffle or swung eighth is addressed, the book spends a great deal of time on the middle note (ie. second note) of the triplet, helping the student concentrate on hearing and understanding the correct placement of the note.

While SYSTEMS ~ Book 1: Drumming Technique and Melodic Jazz Independence is written with a jazz emphasis, all drummers, regardless of the music genre or drumming style preferences, will find the 4-way coordination alone to be hugely beneficial. In addition, triplets and/or triple-note figures are one of the most difficult rhythms to master (correctly), and consequently one of the most neglected aspects of drumming. All music genres, not just Jazz, make use of triplets, triple meter, or at the very least, swung figures — Rock, Blues, Country, Afro-Latin American, Reggae, etc.

I highly recommend Ari Hoenig's Systems - Book 1 to all drummers (and percussionists), intermediate to advanced; it should be in your music educational library and part of your regular study / practice regimen.