How do you approach a drum solo?

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I lean towards not approaching them at all.......but on the rare occasion that one has approached me, I always tackle it from a groove. Sure, I'll throw my hands around a bit, but I pretty much never stop that groove......splash the hats, displace a few kicks, accent and ghost the snare and shift those accents around a bit, throw your hands around the toms a few times....and voila', it almost looks like you know what you're doing. :)

But, given the choice......I'll opt out.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Soloing....8Mile said he keeps the solo rooted in the composition of the piece. I do agree with that in concept, but there is a big problem, for me anyway. The notes and chord changes are not there anymore, everyone else stopped, so you are playing a solo to an imagined song form. The audience isn't going to keep the song form in their head, it stopped, it's gone. They don't know we are trying to play to the song form....It's like watching someone drum with headphones on where you can't hear the music. Doesn't work for me, at all. Why don't the other musicians support us during our solos? We support them....

Believe me I am not good at soloing. The only really effective solo (that I feel semi proud of) I can do involves an ostinato with the hi hat as my reference point. We don't have melody and harmony to work with, all we have is rhythm. That's it. Rhythm means nothing without a reference point. Nothing. I could hit any number of notes, but without knowing where the 1, the 2, the 3 and the 4 is...the notes I'm playing mean nothing. So anytime it's time for a solo, this is where I want to go. But there's a problem there too. Many of the songs I have to jump off of to solo....my ostinato solo doesn't fit the mood or feel of the piece. Like I do a solo in Congo Square, which is a 3:2 feel. My eighth note ostinato solo would be just dumb there, so I just do my best to get in and out quickly. I'd rather solo without a song around it, or as a segue into a song. Then I can go wherever I want, creating my own mood, without having to worry about fitting the mood of the song.


I am almost at the point of asking the others to just keep time on a tambourine or something during my solos, just so it can free me up. The time ALWAYS has to be there, for me at least. An out of time drum solo...I just won't do it. I think they are wankfests, guys hitting things without any rhythmic plan. No matter how clever someone is at hitting things, if there is no rhythmic journey, I feel as though it's like musical masturbation. What's in it for the audience? Watching a guy hit things willy nilly with no plan? I guess some people are OK with this but not me, not by a long shot. The drums can do so much more with rhythm. In the right hands.

If I have to keep time AND solo, that leaves me with just 3 limbs to solo with. I'd rather have 4 limbs to solo with instead of forfeiting one limb to keep the time.

I'd like to start a movement that when the drummer takes a solo, I think the others should support HIM/HER, as the drummer has been doing that all night on every gig, all the time. I think it's the least they can do instead of saying, "OK drum solo time, he's on his own. How would they like it if the drummers copped the same attitude when they solo?

I feel that the time should be kept for us so we can solo properly, like the others get. To me a drumsolo that is out of time is like this sentence. Farm terrifying blue pond, afterwards shoe ditch. It makes zero sense and further reinforces the "stupid drummer" stereotype.
 
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Lunar Satellite Brian

Senior Member
I used to write drum solo's, but then I took a drumstick to the knee...
Sorry...

But yeah, I used to come up with a complex tom oriented "beat" in a solo like fashion. Now I sort of start out with a mainframe and a planned out progression and I would improvise on the way there.
For a good Neil Peart analogy

I used to plan out my solos exactly like Neil during R30 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc2Pcfhj-Ew

Now, I improvise with a mainframe, like Neil Peart during the Time Machine (this is the official video btw, very nice) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOjUK_lW3aA
 

P33v3

Member
During a break in the set I have a few drinks to loosen up and relax (not enough to get hammered mind you just to loosen up). Play to the music during the set then when it is time, I close my eyes imagine I'm all alone and try and see the music note by note and really feel it. I try not to plan it but just let it happen. If I play rudiments then that is what I play, if it is Neil Peart's anatomy of a drum solo so be it. If it is Danny Raymond Jr.'s Skyscraper then that is what it is.
 
Referring to a drum solo...Exemptions are granted to Moby Dick, The Mule, Bonzo's Montreaux and Joe Morello's Sounds of the Loop...which are out of the boredom context and do have some jazzy - feel - musical touch. Feel rather than technique...might be the clever approach to fit the drum solo otherwise mechanically you will sound like everybody else.

I hate solos and soloing. Musically they bore me. But if you (or I) must then approach it melodically rather than mechanically.QUOTE]
 
I really like this part. Feeling and emotions are given by: Drums!

All of them?.... To me a good drums solo within a song is as good and inspiring as any other instrumants doing solos, it's the chance for a drummer to transcsribe his feeling and emotions, it can be spiritualy beautiful and meaningful to an audience......
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I lean towards not approaching them at all.......but on the rare occasion that one has approached me, I always tackle it from a groove. Sure, I'll throw my hands around a bit, but I pretty much never stop that groove...
Groove based solos are nice, they tend to stay within the context of the song, providing that the band is still playing, it feels just like any other instruments doing their solos within the song, it can also be a good interaction between each musicians...

I'd like to start a movement that when the drummer takes a solo, I think the others should support HIM/HER, as the drummer has been doing that all night on every gig, all the time. I think it's the least they can do instead of saying, "OK drum solo time, he's on his own. How would they like it if the drummers copped the same attitude when they solo?
Very good point Larry, while doing a open solo, I have been in bands where they disapear from the stage leaving me all alone, I much prefer when the bands stay on stage, at least if you don't feel good about your solo, you can clue the band and slip back in the next song...

I used to write drum solo's, but then I took a drumstick to the knee...
Sorry...

But yeah, I used to come up with a complex tom oriented "beat" in a solo like fashion. Now I sort of start out with a mainframe and a planned out progression and I would improvise on the way there.
For a good Neil Peart analogy

I used to plan out my solos exactly like Neil during R30 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc2Pcfhj-Ew

Now, I improvise with a mainframe, like Neil Peart during the Time Machine (this is the official video btw, very nice) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOjUK_lW3aA
I'm taking a rough guess here, but I'll say your a big fan of Neil Peart... :)
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Soloing....8Mile said he keeps the solo rooted in the composition of the piece. I do agree with that in concept, but there is a big problem, for me anyway. The notes and chord changes are not there anymore, everyone else stopped, so you are playing a solo to an imagined song form. The audience isn't going to keep the song form in their head, it stopped, it's gone. They don't know we are trying to play to the song form...
True enough, though I don't see the song form as prescriptive - sometimes that might really work, sometimes another approach might be better. The comment earlier about appropriate solos for the situation - be it pub rock, lounge/jazz scene, a club, a stadium etc.

There are traditional expectations too. Stadium solos usually have those things I talked about in an earlier post ... fast snarework with rimshot accents - check ... tom triplets and quadruplets - check ... crossovers - check ... closed roll on snare with buildup - check ...

Then there's the jazz traditions, often following the song form and iimplying variants on the melody. In jazz clubs, there will be a higher percentage of people in the audience who will have a fair idea of the drum solo form.


Why don't the other musicians support us during our solos? We support them....
EXACTLY! Some tuned instrument players are melodist (as in racist) towards drummers.

When we were worked out the arrangement for Chitlins everyone automatically dropped out when it was time for the drum solo. I crashed and burned - an accompanist pretending to be a soloist. So I asked them to play under my solo the way they'd play under any other solo. Much better. So instead of playing my usual white bread time my "solo" is just throwing off the shackes and grooving like a busy drummer.


We don't have melody and harmony to work with, all we have is rhythm. That's it.
Also timbre, texture and dynamics. Lots of toys to play with.


I am almost at the point of asking the others to just keep time on a tambourine or something during my solos, just so it can free me up.
It's fun when other members of the band have good timing play small percussions and turn the drum solo turns into a rhythmic rave. Everyone loves brief rhythmic raves.
 

B-squared

Silver Member
Cool thread! My band throws me a bone and lets me solo at least once each gig. At present, with my band's current set lists, I have a solo on "Chameleon", the old Herbie Hancock / Maynard Ferguson jazz standard. Sometimes, I solo on swing tunes, sometimes rockers, sometimes fusion stuff. It just depends.

When I practice, I just make up little riffs with no real intentions of doing anything in particular with them. They aren't aimed at any particular song; they are just my own off-the-cuff creations. Some of them make it into gig solos, some get saved for later, and some get tossed out and forgotten. I do it 4 or 5 times a week, sometimes more, so I have a lot of riffs for solo parts in my head as sort of a collection. When it's gig time, I pull out a few parts from the collection and incorporate them into a solo and I always like to throw in something with dynamics. I bring it way down and then tease the volume back up for a big finish or maybe another section. That's basically it.

I guess you could call it an ala carte approach to soloing. It keeps things fresh because I continually make up stuff in practice. It also makes it my own, so I don't sound like anybody else. Most of all, it's relaxing and fun.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
The only really effective solo (that I feel semi proud of) I can do involves an ostinato with the hi hat as my reference point. We don't have melody and harmony to work with, all we have is rhythm. That's it. Rhythm means nothing without a reference point. Nothing. I could hit any number of notes, but without knowing where the 1, the 2, the 3 and the 4 is...the notes I'm playing mean nothing....
...If I have to keep time AND solo, that leaves me with just 3 limbs to solo with. I'd rather have 4 limbs to solo with instead of forfeiting one limb to keep the time.
Well Larry, for me soloing over an ostinato doesn't feel as 2 different parts, ie: the ostinato pattern is the time keeper and any other parts are the solo, it's a "whole package" with a given vibe and feel.

When I play an ostinato, generaly my feet are playing a pattern with the hi-hat and the bass drum and the hands are soloing over it, it doesn't feel as 2 different parts, it's all part of the solo, and all 4 limbs are soloing as far as I'm concern, I generaly come out of the ostinato pattern at the end of the solo for a final that's in sympathy with the feel of the solo.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Well Larry, for me soloing over an ostinato doesn't feel as 2 different parts, ie: the ostinato pattern is the time keeper and any other parts are the solo, it's a "whole package" with a given vibe and feel.

When I play an ostinato, generaly my feet are playing a pattern with the hi-hat and the bass drum and the hands are soloing over it, it doesn't feel as 2 different parts, it's all part of the solo, and all 4 limbs are soloing as far as I'm concern, I generaly come out of the ostinato pattern at the end of the solo for a final that's in sympathy with the feel of the solo.
I can see your point, it's just a different angle of viewing it. The end result is the same, which is you soloing to yourself. But I am not a good soloist, I really need context I can hear, not context I'm imagining. I feel I am a good context player. But without musical context, I feel abandoned by the others. Even a tambourine rhythm is context to me. If I have to provide my own context, (an ostinato) I feel abandoned and short-handed. I'm starting to think it's rude that they abandon the drummer in their time of need.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I like short solos-maybe two or three minutes. They are impressive for sure, but most of them, IMHO, run way too long.

Last night on the KROQ Acoustic Christmas (I watched to webcast), 311 did one of the best drum solos I ever seen for the entertainment factor. The drummer started off with the spotlight solo for a couple minutes, then all the rest of the band members got into it and turned it into a drumline for a few more minutes, then back to the spotlight solo for maybe a minute until they broke back into the song. Now that was entertainment. It was the biggest surprise of the night for me.

Can't wait to see Stephen Perkins from Jane's Addiction tonight. That guy is pretty good.
 
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Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
But I am not a good soloist...
That's so subjective Larry, we all tend to be the worst critic of our playing, and while it's a good thing, because we review ourself constantly and helps and motivate us to get better at what we do, it doesn't mean that is not good.

Say you're doing a solo to an audience of 500 people, and you give everything you've got at this precise moment and try to communicate a feel and a vibe to send a "message" to the public.

Now, say 10 people have percieved your "message" and felt it was a great solo, you achieved a remarkable statement as far as I'm concerned.

I really need context I can hear, not context I'm imagining. I feel I am a good context player. But without musical context, I feel abandoned by the others. Even a tambourine rhythm is context to me. If I have to provide my own context, (an ostinato) I feel abandoned and short-handed. I'm starting to think it's rude that they abandon the drummer in their time of need.
I agree totally with this, I just wish that the other musicians would stay, participate and interact with the solo, not only it will gives a "context", but can be a huge "entertainement" factor for both the musicians AND the public...
 

haredrums

Silver Member
Soloing....8Mile said he keeps the solo rooted in the composition of the piece. I do agree with that in concept, but there is a big problem, for me anyway. The notes and chord changes are not there anymore, everyone else stopped, so you are playing a solo to an imagined song form. The audience isn't going to keep the song form in their head, it stopped, it's gone. They don't know we are trying to play to the song form....It's like watching someone drum with headphones on where you can't hear the music. Doesn't work for me, at all. Why don't the other musicians support us during our solos? We support them...
Hey larryace,

I wanted to share my perspective on this particular issue because it is something that I have been thinking and working on a lot lately. Although I totally understand where you are coming from, and I think that you bring up a really valid point about musicians supporting us during our solos, I have to disagree with you about the effect of playing on an imagined form on an audience. I don't think that playing to a song form feels to an audience like listening to someone with headphones on.

My basic point is that all jazz music for all instruments is based on playing on an imaginary form. There is a quote from the great bassist Butch Warren that pertains to this exact idea. He said, "Playing jazz is playing two songs at the same time". I interpret this to mean that whenever you are improvising in a jazz context, you have to juggle focusing on your improvisation and the original song. The better you are at handling this splitting of attention, the better you will be at improvising.

Even though you are right that other instrumentalists typically have the advantage of having a band clearly keeping the form for the audience, I believe that any great jazz artist on any instrument can convey the feeling of the song throughout his/her solo with or without accompaniment. I think that the better you are at actually hearing or imagining the song while you are playing, the more confidently you will play. This confidence does make a tangible difference to an audience. Even if they can't always hear what you are hearing, they can hear how you are feeling about what you are playing!

So I have a much longer post about this on my blog called "The two songs of jazz". This is also basically the thesis of the book I am working on. Check it out:

http://haredrums.blogspot.com/2011/09/two-songs-of-jazz.html
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
This is all JMO:

Drums are not a melodic instrument. To try and play something melodic is the wrong application of the instrument, again JMO. I think the drums are more appropriately used for the rhythmic aspect of music. Pol mentioned timbre, texture and dynamics....in my mind they are all just how you play the rhythm, not the rhythm itself. I categorize those aspects how, not what you play. Not discounting them at all, but timbre is tone not rhythm. Dynamics are volume, not rhythm, texture is a more subjective adjective. To me, rhythm is the Holy Grail of the drumset. You decorate the rhythm with dynamics, shading, texture and timbre, but the real meat of the matter is the rhythm. I want my mind to tap into the Universal Well of Rhythms. I want my solos to be so rhythmically compelling, that when I'm done, I want the crowd to feel as though I just took them on a rhythmic journey that was an integral part of the song structure, not a quick detour to a sideshow, just to placate the poor drummer who keeps time all night, poor bastard...The others must participate for the effect to be fully felt.

I want everyone to try and imagine how much easier, more pleasant, more musical, more entertaining, and more freeing it would be if the bass player shook a tambourine or a shaker, anything to keep a pulse going so you could then weave in and out of it. Solos would be far less intimidating, you have to give me that.

When I have to keep my own ostinato...what if the song has a triplet feel? It's hard to maintain an ostinato that works with the triplet feel, and be able to weave in and out of that. It's a coordination hurdle. If that hurdle wasn't there, I could make wonderful solos. I could totally stop and leave space. The time would be chugging along, without me, with a different sound than my drumkit is making, so it is more interesting sonically to the listener, and I can dedicate ALL my brain power to actually making nice rhythmic sentences, with space, without having the chore of having to keep my own time too. It's really not fair and an extra burden on the drummer that we have to keep our own time while we are trying to solo.

It may be time to assert my will. In my situation, I know the guitar player will be reluctant. I doubt he'd stoop that low. But if he did, I think it would turn a base hit into a home run. I would ask the bass player first. I think they would consider it a hassle. I hope I'm wrong.

I'm just frustrated that I can't be standalone total rhythm machine. I need some help. It would make it more fun too, if the others joined in. It is a band is it not? Just like Midnight Zephyrs story, THAT's what I would like for my own solos.
 
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