Rhythm and melody, two different diciplines?

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I wanted to explore with everyone here the relationship of the individual properties of rhythm and melody. In my mind, you can't have melody without some kind of rhythm, which I would like to hear other's views on. But it doesn't work that way with rhythm. In my mind, you can have a great compelling rhythm with zero melody at all. Which leads me to believe me that rhythm is it's own complete, standalone language, completely separate from melody. I'd like to hear others views on this statement.

Like when a drummer takes a drum solo, it is encouraged to play the solo as if the melody is still being played, which it's not. This is where I disagree with that approach. I get that this is the way it's encouraged, it's been done forever, and it does work I suppose. I just think it can be better, way better. What I am saying is that I think there is a perfectly valid reason for abandoning the melody altogether during a solo and instead, converse in the language of rhythm alone. I personally think it would work better than a drummer trying to play to a melody that isn't physically heard, on an instrument that wasn't designed for melody at all. It makes zero sense to me.

Drums are not a melodic instrument, they are a rhythm instrument. Drums can't play melody effectively because it's not in their nature to play melody. What they can do, and do well, is rhythm. Why then must we feel tied to the melody when we solo? Why can't we solo in a language that the drums were designed for, and forget the melody for the solo?

In my one band, I get big props for doing a solo that is exactly as long as 1, 2, or 3 progressions of the song. Well this makes soloing a hundred times more difficult for me because I have to keep the melody in my head when I'm soloing, which distracts me from using the language of rhythm. That's like thinking in Chinese but talking English. Too confusing for me. Sometimes I need more space than the chord progression allows to build a compelling rhythmic statement. So to me, rhythm and melody are 2 different languages, and I feel that when we solo, we should solo with what the drumset was designed for, rhythm. When we play to the melody, we bring nothing new to the table during our solos. I think it's dumb to try and do something that the drums weren't designed for.

For me, to do solos that fit in the space of the progression(s)...that seriously forces me to think in a way that I really don't want to think at that time. I want to think rhythmically, not melodically. I am so not a melody player, that's why I do drums. As a result, my solos are reduced to playing something that relies on a non existent melody, and is limited to the structure of the chord progression. I seriously feel like I am on a very short leash when I have to solo like that, when what I really want to do is run free.

I just think that, while it's not bad to rely on the melody for a solo, it could be taken to a much higher level if we weren't tethered to the melody. Personally, it holds me back bigtime. I don't feel free, I feel like I have to conform to what's been already laid down, and to try and play the space like a pitched instrument would play that space. I don't play a pitched instrument!

Pitched instruments...they all have their scales, and well established guidelines for using different pitches together to create a melodic statement. Drums don't have that luxury. Sure we have the rudiments, but there are no rules on how you combine the rhythmic statements like there are with melodic instruments. In my mind, we are basically on our own when it comes time to solo. Keeping with the melody is safe, but terribly confining. When a guitarist takes a solo, he isn't trying to play his melodic instrument in a purely rhythmic fashion. Why then should we try to play our rhythmic instrument in a melodic fashion? Because that's how it's been done all along? F that. It can be so much more. Drums do rhythm better than melody every day of the week.

So I wanted to hear the rest of the world's view on the languages of rhythm and melody, especially as it relates to the drum solo.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I do concede that some simple melodies can be played on the drums. But what happens when the melody has like 9 notes? Plus the fact that the drums are likely tuned to a different key from the song. And how about chords? How does the drummer treat chords? It's like using a hammer to screw a screw in IMO. There are better uses for the hammer. It's dumb to use a hammer to drive a screw, just like it's dumb to try and play melody on a 4 piece drum set. My opinion only, and I am not trying to change your mind or anything. What I am trying to do is to expand the entrenched mindset.

Also, why, during a drum solo, would you want to play the melody anyway? It brings nothing new to the song, nothing. It's just a pale copy of a pitched instrument. Like we cannot think on our own, we must try and copy the others, with an inferior instrument to play melody on. A drumset doesn't contain all the notes. It's like asking guitarists to play any melody with only 5 or 6 notes, in one key only. That would seriously limit a guitarist. Drums cannot play a melody nearly as effectively as a pitched instrument that has all the notes. You have to concede that. I don't want to hear a drummer try to play the melody and chords of "Stairway to Heaven", the pitched instruments already have that area covered nicely. What is the purpose of trying to emulate a pitched instrument when we have a whole 'nother very rich language from which to draw from? Are drums considered pitched instruments? Last time I checked they are not. So why are we supposed to try and play pitched stuff on them again? Please answer that for me, because I haven't the foggiest.
Not downing anyone who plays melody on the drumset. Just trying to expand the scope of the drumsolo beyond melody into an even more compelling (IMO) rhythmic only language.

Ari's melodic soloing left me totally flat FWIW. In my mind it's like trying to fly in a car. Sure you can get the wheels to leave the ground, but you really can't expect to fly like in an airplane, so what's the point? I say let the drums do what they are designed to do, play rhythms. Cars roll, planes fly. Rhythm and melody are 2 different beasts that intersect to form music. Why not give the rhythmic only language a shot in soloing? Why must we think we have to play melody when the drums are not considered a melodic instrument?
 
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8Mile

Platinum Member
A drum set wouldn't exist if not for differences in pitch, though. The different drums and cymbals don't sound alike. Imagine a money beat with the bass on 2 and 4 and snare on 1 and 3. Radically different groove, right? Yet the "rhythm," strictly speaking, is still hitting a drum on every quarter note. The difference is the drums are pitched differently (among other things).

I think the drum set is inherently melodic, whether precise pitches and melodic phrases are being played, or not.
 

Retrovertigo

Senior Member
it's really just a matter of context. thinking of the melody as still present just provides a context for the solo. feel free to leave it. it's your solo. you just have to know how to let the band know that the song is coming back in. (i know i can't do that).
you said that melody has rhythm. one way to look at a solo is in incorporating all that prior rhythm into the solo.

i know a solo seems like a persons time to shine but i disagree. it still must serve the song. it has to add to the emotional depth of the piece and not just be its own stand alone commentary.
but that's just one way to look at it. as i said we are free to do as we please but good luck finding blues guys that are cool with taking solo's out on a limb.

somewhere along the line you started talking about a drummer actually playing the melody of the song in a solo as a sort of rule. i rarely hear that. i dont think most people roll like that. it's certainly no rule im aware of.

my thoughts are somewhat rambling in a forum setting (im much more eloquent in person) hopefully that all made sense.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I guess once again, I am alone in this thought. Drums to me mean primarily rhythm, first and foremost. We are the ONLY ones in the band that have a purely rhythmic instrument, save for the percussionists. Why forsake that to try and "be like the others?" They aren't trying to be like us. It's like using a fishing rod to hunt bears with, wrong application. If melody is what you want to play, maybe a pitched instrument would be more satisfying. Give me rhythm in a solo. Drummers are the guardians of the rhythm. Rhythm is every bit as important as melody, IMO. And just because you turn the beat upside down...that doesn't subtract from the rhythmic propulsion, it just makes it feel different. Like in Reggae where a lot of times the backbeat is on beat 1 and 3. It changes the feel, not the melody.

I think we should capitalize on the fact that drums are there for the rhythm...mainly to support the melody, not to create the melody itself. That's best left to the pitched instruments. When the melody stops and it's time for a drum solo, it is a completely different landscape with no melody to be physically heard, with an expanded set of rules.
 
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Retrovertigo

Senior Member
Why not give the rhythmic only language a shot in soloing? Why must we think we have to play melody when the drums are not considered a melodic instrument?
that basically says to me that all drum solo's should utilize only one sound. anything else is entering into the world of melody. when we know that a solo of just rhythm and no tonal variety would be very boring.
 
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Anthony Amodeo

Guest
I do concede that some simple melodies can be played on the drums. But what happens when the melody has like 9 notes? Plus the fact that the drums are likely tuned to a different key from the song. And how about chords? How does the drummer treat chords? It's like using a hammer to screw a screw in IMO. There are better uses for the hammer. It's dumb to use a hammer to drive a screw, just like it's dumb to try and play melody on a 4 piece drum set. My opinion only, and I am not trying to change your mind or anything. What I am trying to do is to expand the entrenched mindset.

Also, why, during a drum solo, would you want to play the melody anyway? It brings nothing new to the song, nothing. It's just a pale copy of a pitched instrument. Like we cannot think on our own, we must try and copy the others, with an inferior instrument to play melody on. A drumset doesn't contain all the notes. It's like asking guitarists to play any melody with only 5 or 6 notes, in one key only. That would seriously limit a guitarist. Drums cannot play a melody nearly as effectively as a pitched instrument that has all the notes. You have to concede that. I don't want to hear a drummer try to play the melody and chords of "Stairway to Heaven", the pitched instruments already have that area covered nicely. What is the purpose of trying to emulate a pitched instrument when we have a whole 'nother very rich language from which to draw from? Are drums considered pitched instruments? Last time I checked they are not. So why are we supposed to try and play pitched stuff on them again? Please answer that for me, because I haven't the foggiest.
Not downing anyone who plays melody on the drumset. Just trying to expand the scope of the drumsolo beyond melody into an even more compelling (IMO) rhythmic only language.

Ari's melodic soloing left me totally flat FWIW. In my mind it's like trying to fly in a car. Sure you can get the wheels to leave the ground, but you really can't expect to fly like in an airplane, so what's the point? I say let the drums do what they are designed to do, play rhythms. Cars roll, planes fly. Rhythm and melody are 2 different beasts that intersect to form music. Why not give the rhythmic only language a shot in soloing? Why must we think we have to play melody when the drums are not considered a melodic instrument?

sometimes your baffle me Lar

but I will always hold you in high regard
 
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Anthony Amodeo

Guest
I guess once again, I am alone in this thought. Drums to me mean primarily rhythm, first and foremost. We are the ONLY ones in the band that have a purely rhythmic instrument, save for the percussionists. Why forsake that to try and "be like the others?" They aren't trying to be like us. It's like using a fishing rod to hunt bears with, wrong application. If melody is what you want to play, maybe a pitched instrument would be more satisfying. Give me rhythm in a solo. Drummers are the guardians of the rhythm. Rhythm is every bit as important as melody, IMO.

I think we should capitalize on that fact instead of minimizing it.
I think you are missing the point

these melodies are rhythms ....every melody has a rhythm

every famous drum solo that drummers have loved for decades are built on melodies

from Moby DIck to YYZ to For Big Sid to Wipeout etc etc

these guys are playing melodies ......sometimes squeezed between bombastic blasts of fury ....but playing melodies none the less

for a common example....the way John would start mostly every version of Moby Dick ....the hats pumping and snare drum rhythms ........and a melodic conversation between the snare accents and the kick bombs ....very Buddy Rich esque
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Agreed melody has rhythm. Disagree that rhythm has real, actual melody. Implied melody, OK. Yes you can try an emulate melody with drums. You can also comb your hair with a toothpick. When I do a jungle boogaloo figure on one floor tom only, where is the melody? Is one note considered a melody? Not in my book. Multiple notes played on the same pitch does not a melody make IMO. Rap, when they are droning on one note, is not melodic in my book. It's 100% rhythmic though. To me, foregoing rhythm in favor of melody on the drumset...is the same as turning your back on the primary language of the drumset.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
And just because you turn the beat upside down...that doesn't subtract from the rhythmic propulsion, it just makes it feel different. Like in Reggae where a lot of times the backbeat is on beat 1 and 3. It changes the feel, not the melody.

I think we should capitalize on the fact that drums are there for the rhythm...mainly to support the melody, not to create the melody itself. That's best left to the pitched instruments. When the melody stops and it's time for a drum solo, it is a completely different landscape with no melody to be physically heard, with an expanded set of rules.
No argument about the importance of rhythm, but I don't see the two as distinct or separate.

Let's forget about melody in the strictest sense of humming a tune. Let's think about the rhythm in life, without the instruments on a bandstand. The sound of the human voice conveys emotion. The intonation and rhythm tell the listener things. Talking fast or in a high-pitched voice means excitement or agitation. The difference between making a statement and asking a question is how our voice goes up in pitch at the end of a question.

To me, music works on the same principles. A pattern that starts on a high-pitched tom and ends on the floor tom conveys something different than if random notes were interspersed on roto-toms, for instance. Tension and release. The resolution of a series of tones.

I just don't think the two can be separated completely. And even if they can, why would you want to? It's a palate of choices that we can use to express ourselves that I would prefer to have.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
So I wanted to hear the rest of the world's view on the languages of rhythm and melody, especially as it relates to the drum solo.
Another interesting thread by our Angel of Wisdom :)

Yeap Larry, you can do a drum solo, and have a melody at the same time...

It's been done here on this very forum, on the Christmas thread last year, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4xPJWTjizg

Agreed with Anthony, rhythm and melody go together, and can be played simultaneously on the drumkit, this clip of Marlon just prove it.

But you can also focus on the rhythmic side of a solo, and still transmit emotions to an audience, like a melody, at the end of the day, it's up to the listener to percieve and feel what he's/she's hearing, someone might find a melody in a solo, others only rhythm, or sometimes they feel both, the rhythm and the melody :)
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Drumset CAN be a melodic instrument...it usually has minimal application as such.

I think its easier with other instruments that are traditionally considered "melodic" to elicit sombre and "beautiful" melodies...but that is a challenge to the individual drummer!(due to timbre and decay...but its not excluded on a drum set)

We are only limited by our imagination!!

...if I remember correctly, the definition of melody requires rhythm and pitch...without rhythm you only have pitch....the specificity of language...lol


Drum solos are artificailly distinguished from songs...no logical mutual exclusion.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
sometimes your baffle me Lar

but I will always hold you in high regard
I think I baffle you because I make a solid point that you can't shoot holes in. You've provided examples of melodies played on drums. How great were they? Left me pretty flat. If that is considered great then I have way higher standards than that. They prove that yes, a melody can be played on the drums, just like you can use a guitar to play a purely rhythmic figure. What's the point? I don't want to see anyone stop doing what they are doing, it works for the great majority. I just don't want to feel like new ideas are being stifled either, which is what I am feeling, in a big way, and mainly from you Ant...I feel like I'm being made to conform to the "YOU MUST NEVER STRAY FROM THE MELODY" dogma. And it is pure status quo dogma. I feel like the peg that is sticking out and you are trying to hammer me back in place with the rest of the pegs. Is that what you want?

Speaking of imagination, where is the imagination of trying to copy something that's already there? Real imagination would be to create a standalone rhythmic statement, that compliments, not emulates, the rest of the song. IMO.
 
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Aeolian

Platinum Member
I can't find it quickly, but there is a great Scott Henderson instructional video where he plays Mary Had a Little Lamb with all the wrong notes to show that rhythm and phrasing is more important than the actual note value of the melody.

As far as free time vs. soloing over the form, as someone who has spent countless years soloing on a melodic instrument, I love it when I get a chance to do a drum solo where people keep the song going. And if they stop, I still try to keep the song going in my head. Fairly unique to poorly played blues or rock is the idea of soloing without regard to the chord changes. (modal jazz is done by implying changes over the static mode being played) Good players, and players in other genres use the changes as waypoints. Using them to create tension and resolution by either being inside or outside of the change. The same thing can be done with the drums. Using both variations in rhythm and orchestration, e.g. the pitch of the drums being used. Playing against the form of the song gives you something to work from, as opposed to random ideas without a structure. And when the rest of the band keeps some sort of thing going on, it makes it much more interesting to play subdivisions and counter rhythms against it. Or at least more obvious to an audience who can keep dancing and enjoying your playing in spite of what you are doing.

And even with a 4 piece, there is still a sense of melody (or should be) in what gets played when. You are back to the first bar of Mary Had a Little Lamb, or the opening of Beethoven's Fifth. Using rhythm and a small quantity of pitches to make a melodic statement. And if I think about drumline or something played on a single hand drum, there are still variations in tone and dynamics that imply different notes. Imagine how boring it would be if you just could trigger a sample at a single dynamic level. It would be hard to get much going like that. Even the folks beating on logs get different sounds and mix them up rhythmically to create something.

Sorry Larry, you can't get away from it. You ARE a melodic musician.
 
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Anthony Amodeo

Guest
I think I baffle you because I make a solid point that you can't shoot holes in. You've provided examples of melodies played on drums. How great were they? Left me pretty flat. I don't want to see anyone stop doing what they are doing, it works for the great majority. I just don't want to feel like new ideas are being stifled either, which is what I am feeling, in a big way, and mainly from you Ant...I feel like I'm being made to conform to the "YOU MUST NEVER STRAY FROM THE MELODY" dogma. And it is pure status quo dogma. I feel like the peg that is sticking out and you are trying to hammer me back in place with the rest of the pegs.

Speaking of imagination, where is the imagination of trying to copy something that's already there? Real imagination would be to create a standalone rhythmic statement, that compliments, not emulates, the rest of the song. IMO.
there are so many holes in your theory that there is no solid mass for anyone to shoot another hole in it ....not even a .22 caliber

I think Ari is a pretty fantastic drummer

but that example was not meant to wow you off your chair it was meant to shoot down your weak theory that melody could not be played on drums...which it did of course

sometimes you need to stop trying so hard to go against the grain and just flow with what has made beautiful music for over a century and add what you can to it

thats where the creativity comes in .....

know the past.....study it .....internalize it.....then add to it

and that history is melodic rhythms ....as far back as African tribes ....thats why they had different size drums even back then

you are shooting yourself in the foot by constantly trying to reinvent the wheel all the time with these theories that you think are original and oh so different and your very own when they are not at all ......the wheel is invented Lar.....ad some tread that bites the road more

I love ya Lar...I really do......but sometimes you sound like someone who needs to learn a little more about their instrument and the history of it and stop putting these boundaries on things

we as drummers do not own rhythm any more than anyone else on the bandstand
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Please define the holes, so I can understand what you mean. What's wrong with keeping what we have, and expanding the definition of the drum solo?
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Speaking of imagination, where is the imagination of trying to copy something that's already there? Real imagination would be to create a standalone rhythmic statement, that compliments, not emulates, the rest of the song. IMO.
I can probably agree with that statement Larry, imagination and creation, bringing something new is a different ball game altogether...

... but your post implies that playing a melody in a drum solo is possible, even if it's playing something we've heard before, which mean your "solid point" does have holes in it, no?
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Heh, Lar, I love ya. You start the best threads on here. It never matters whether I agree with you or not, they're always fun.
 
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