How to Hear Figures
The whole point of playing an instrument is to make meaningful sounds in a musical context. Comping is the art of making sounds that compliment a soloist. We can take a cue from Be-bop and use a mnemonic device to help us hear common comping figures. The term 'be-bop' itself came from the vocalization of a rhythmic figure that dominated the music:
It's a good practice to hear sounds internally to better produce them on your instrument. Once a figure is internalized, it's easier to play and will sound more musical when applied to the drums. The be-bop mnemonic technique can be applied to most figures. Here are the vocalizing sounds I like to use to help me hear figures and rhythms:
Short Tones: bap, bup
Long Tones: Doo, Bah, Dah
Medium Tones: buh
Silence: umm, mmm
Try adding these mnemonics to the figures in the Ted Reed ‘Syncopation’ book as you play them (see Thoughts on Comping Part III). If you have any charts you’re working on, try the mnemonics there as well to add a more musical element to the figures.