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  #1  
Old 10-22-2018, 07:27 PM
n1ck n1ck is offline
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Default Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

I'm interested to hear your guys' take on this.

My experience is that soloing is much harder to practice than comping and timekeeping, since with those things you can simply play along to a record. But how are you supposed to develop your soloing when you're alone in the practice room with none of the actual things that make up a real musical situation?

Some things I've tried:
  • Practicing soloing over the form of various tunes with a click
  • Picking a note rate, like eighths, eighth-note triplets, or sixteenths, and attempting to develop fluency with different stickings (singles, paradiddles, etc.)
  • Integrating ideas from records, obviously
I've seen SOME results from these, but I'm always left feeling that maybe I'm missing something more obvious, hence my post.

I'd love to hear how you folks work on developing soloing skills.
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Old 10-22-2018, 07:37 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

working on soloing in a jazz context isn't really a thing

you more work on developing vocabulary, facility, and ideas so that you can speak spontaneously when called upon

the absolute last thing you want to do with work on "licks" ... you'll sound like you are practicing on the bandstand

it's all about phrasing

call and response ... question and answer

embellish on a melody ... use the melody as a conduit and build around it .. thats a nice way to learn to speak freely

also scat ideas with your voice and reproduce them on the drums ...

almost like trading with yourself ... scat a bar ... play a bar ... scat 2 bars ... play 2 bars ... scat 4 bars ... play 4 bars

this helps you get away from sticking patterns ... "licks" ... and overall just thinking too much about what you are playing

another thing ... don't feel like you have to fill up the measure with notes ... space is fantastic ... anticipation ...

think of it less as your time to shine and "show your stuff" ... and more as you holding up your responsibility of continuing the feel of the tune and creating your own song within the song

I think it is beneficial to transcribe others solos ... just to kind of see where they were coming from ... it's a great tool

Max is a great place to start
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Old 10-22-2018, 07:51 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

I definetly recommend just starting the session when you're fresh and awake with a free open solo. This will start developing. Usually, you'll quickly start seeing what you want to develop further, what doesn't flow as you'd like it to.

The thing with licks is that you have to treat them as scales or just an idea to start with. Nothing will ever fit rubatum in a different context as the initial reason for it being played will be different every time.
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Old 10-22-2018, 08:27 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Something my teacher did with me, and which I do with students, is to have them trade 4's with just the right stick, playing only singles. All you have left is phrasing, call and answer, repetition, etc. If you're lost for rhythms, borrow some from Ted Reed's Syncopation. This way, you learn how to play the musical game of rhythm, in time. Now, take a rudiment, a 5-stroke roll for example, and do the same thing. This way, you get accustomed to playing things you already know, in new ways. It's uncomfortable at first, of course.

Another simple, but very common, soloing technique is to play a rhythmic idea with your right hand, and fill in the notes between with your left hand. This approach is covered in the book, Studio and Big Band Drumming, where it gets applied to playing horn figures, but it can also be applied to soloing.

A good book to practice 4's (and 2's, and 8's, and over vamps) is The Drumset Soloist by Steve Houghton. Force yourself to maintain 2 and 4 with the left foot for the first few months.

And by all means, transcribe! You'll find that drummers do use certain licks and phrases, but they don't sound repetitive because they might start on a different beat, be played in a different subdivision, and/or be voiced on different sound sources. But usually a drummer will have at least a few "licks", some vocabulary that they can arrange on the fly, and command of simple rudiments that can serve fills. Check out this solo by Greg Hutchison (hell, you should transcribe it!). At the end there's a straight up paradiddle-diddle fill around the snare and toms. Clearly, he has played that before, though perhaps not in that specific order. It's a rudiment that he developed command of by experimenting with it, and here, it serves as a simple but effective fill to end the solo.
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:20 PM
n1ck n1ck is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

I appreciate your thoughts.

Yeah I know it may sound weird to say I'm sitting in my basement "practicing" soloing in a jazz context, but I feel like there has to be a way to develop this stuff off the bandstand.

Developing vocab is one thing. That much I get. I guess it just seems weird to me that we spend all this time practicing timekeeping on our own so that we're prepared for the gig, but that there's no equivalent methodology for soloing.

How can we practice so that we're ready to solo when that moment arrives? That's what I'm getting at.

You mentioned vocab, call and response, and some other good stuff. Tell me more. How long might you practice a specific piece of vocabulary during a given practice session, and how can you be sure it'll make its way into your playing?

What sort of results have you seen from the things you work on?

I'm kind of asking naive questions here on purpose. I wanna really get into the nitty-gritty.
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:36 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Some great advice here.

Here is how you will always be prepared to do a solo. The best thing to do is to keep playing the same basic pattern that you were playing before the solo. Do this for the first couple of bars of your solo, or longer. This works well because it give the listener a reference point. In fact the listener is most likely not concentrating on the drums until they are played alone with no other instruments. So because of this, these first few bars WILL be a solo. Then you can add accents and ghost notes to the basic pattern and there's your solo.

You don't need to do a Buddy Rich solo.


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Old 10-22-2018, 09:50 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Originally Posted by n1ck View Post
How long might you practice a specific piece of vocabulary during a given practice session, and how can you be sure it'll make its way into your playing?
There is no way to know. It takes as long as it takes.

Start with 15 minutes every day (break it up into chunks of 5 minutes and practice something else in between), more if you can. Practice with the metronome, practice with music. Find a playalong track and trade 4s. Make your practice as much like the real thing as possible! If it's not happening after a couple weeks of going at it every damn day, then make a conscious effort to include the thing on the bandstand, because at that point, it's probably nerves, and not ability or preparation.

EDIT: And get the Drumset Soloist for some great play alongs and charts.
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Old 10-22-2018, 09:51 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Originally Posted by n1ck View Post
I appreciate your thoughts.

Yeah I know it may sound weird to say I'm sitting in my basement "practicing" soloing in a jazz context, but I feel like there has to be a way to develop this stuff off the bandstand.

Developing vocab is one thing. That much I get. I guess it just seems weird to me that we spend all this time practicing timekeeping on our own so that we're prepared for the gig, but that there's no equivalent methodology for soloing.

How can we practice so that we're ready to solo when that moment arrives? That's what I'm getting at.

You mentioned vocab, call and response, and some other good stuff. Tell me more. How long might you practice a specific piece of vocabulary during a given practice session, and how can you be sure it'll make its way into your playing?

What sort of results have you seen from the things you work on?

I'm kind of asking naive questions here on purpose. I wanna really get into the nitty-gritty.
jazz is truly practiced in context

there really is no other way to do it aside from gaining your facility ... getting your time feel together... and listening to a ton of records

so much of it happens in real time that there just is no way to practice it alone ... you can mess around and play solos ... that's not going to hurt... but it's not going to help either if you are on the bandstand and not playing anything in the particular style that you practiced.

you can learn a bunch of phrases from the Riley books or whatever ... but then do you really want to regurgitate a bunch of things that you got out of a book in an improvising situation ?

you are just responding to the music ... it is not all that complicated ... honestly , if you understand the music you understand the music

it's like discussing a topic that you are well versed in with friends ... nothing more

if you have some facility and ability to get around the drums ... get with some people and play some standards ... trade some fours

again ... you are not showing off your shit ... you are just making music on the drums

what you are playing is in direct response to the musical atmosphere you are in ... so honestly practicing jazz soloing consists of understanding your surroundings and having the facility to respond ... literally that's it

go listen to Philly Joe trade fours in the tune Pot Luck on the Wynton Kelly record Kelly at midnight ...great example of how you solo in a jazz context

the trading starts around 4:43 ... but I recommend listening to the entire tune so you get the feel for what was happening that particular evening

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7cIy4Hf3uk

also again I highly recommend transcribing ... and stealing phrases you fall in love with ... emulating will help develop your vocabulary ... and if it ever comes out naturally on the bandstand it will end up sounding like you anyway
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Old 10-22-2018, 10:40 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

another thing I'll throw out is picking up the Mark Guilliana book Exploring Your Creativity On The Drumset

it's a fantastic book based on an extremely useful philosophy

it will not spoon feed you phrases ... or stickings ... or "licks" ... or even styles

it kind of walks you through a process to nurture your own creativity ... he talks about "preparing" and not "planning" ... and his D.R.O.P. philosophy is priceless information for those needing it

Mark taps into a bit of it here ... very much worth a watch ... check out the entire vid ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A0fw7-HKYE
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:14 PM
n1ck n1ck is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Cool, I wondered about that book. That's what I'm really looking for is some sort of methodology to guide the process of building fluency and vocabulary.
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:16 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Personally, I work on soloing by myself.
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Old 10-22-2018, 11:21 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Cool, I wondered about that book. That's what I'm really looking for is some sort of methodology to guide the process of building fluency and vocabulary.
then you will get a lot from the book

check out the video as well ... it keeps his philosophy quite clear

the best things you can have at this point is patience and desire

everything else will work itself out ...

keep it fun
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  #13  
Old 10-22-2018, 11:53 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

A lot of these questions about jazz are so non-specific, it's obvious people aren't listening enough. You're supposed to be listening to records a lot, and getting excited about someone's playing, and in trying to learn to play like them. If you don't have specific players, solos, and tunes in mind, you're not listening enough. It's not optional.

As far as exact stuff you can practice:
--- Get your copy of Syncopation and learn these basic orchestrations, and learn the triplet interpretation, with an alternating sticking and a RH accent/LH fill method. Maybe Alan Dawson's "ruff bossa" method.
--- Get out your copy of Rudimental Swing Solos and learn: Rolling in Rhythm, Swinging Accents, Roughing the Single Drag, Study in Accents, and Modern Flam Accents.
--- Start practicing Jack Dejohnette and Charlie Perry's linear method, or Gary Chaffee's.

All that will give you a complete solo vocabulary for jazz, so long as you're also listening and playing a lot.
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Old 10-23-2018, 02:51 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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again ... you are not showing off your shit ... you are just making music on the drums
This is one of the most important statements ever in the topic of soloing, regardless of genre.

Tony? I swear if I didn't see pics/videos I would be convinced you had hardbacks and an ISBN...
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Old 10-23-2018, 03:04 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Well in my expert opinion-just joshing I'm still trying to spangalang I don't know squat about jazz soloing. But not knowing what I'm talking about has never stopped me from speaking up before LOL. I've never been fond of solos TBH at least in rock music growing up they bored me. But jazz solos are much more interesting and seem to add to the music-rock solos often seemed poorly constructed and too dang long-yes there were some great ones but hear it once and I'm done. Anyways that just my penny. I hear what you guys are saying but one thing I'm picking up on is being able to do it isn't the same as knowing "when" to do it-something called good taste. Like I like playing melody on drums so I figure that would help with jazz but hell no. So can you "teach it"? Like you can teach me all the skill of every jazz cat who ever lived but I wager I still couldn't put a solo together. I keep listening but it takes me a bit to absorb it all cause I keep discovering all this great music and great drummers.
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Old 10-23-2018, 03:29 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Chick Corea had an approach that I will bastardize:

where there is dense ,be loose,where there is fast,be slow ,where there is loud,be soft ,where there is harmony,be dissonant.

I think his take is just be dynamic in applying your skills to the soloing.
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Old 10-23-2018, 05:14 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

I suppose I don't have much more to add here - but I would take the opposite approach. I get it that you want to become a soloist because you're playing jazz, but for some reason I see this as an excuse to not really hone your timekeeping skills - something that you'll be doing 95% more on the bandstand than not.

Soloing is having ideas, and having the technique to execute. The way to get ideas is to listen and play to everything you can. So you eventually become a kind of encyclopedia of jazz licks from all the masters (or try to, like I still do), but that's easier to do than making sure you can actually keep fluid, intense time for the musicians. I wish, when I was in college, that the jazz people were more concerned with their time keeping ability, rather than being so concerned about those two or four bars where suddenly there's nothing written but the word "solo" above the empty bars. Drummers aren't the only ones who suffer, all the other instruments do too. The first time a solo comes up for that tenor sax player, I guarantee you, there is no time being displayed. No groove, nothing to keep the audience engaged, but I guess we all gotta start from somewhere.

Nowadays I'm really happy if I don't solo. I like playing time.
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Old 10-23-2018, 06:28 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Originally Posted by WhoIsTony? View Post
you more work on developing vocabulary, facility, and ideas so that you can speak spontaneously when called upon
This is 100% accurate

I like to watch as much footage and listen to as many drummers as I can, and when I see something I like I learn it. I scan through all sorts of genres like jazz, latin, rock, blues, gospel, r&b, anything and everything I can get my hands on

And it's not just about learning licks and fills and solos, but it's also about learning when it's tasteful and appropriate to play that stuff

And then after you learn these things, you can create stuff based off of what you learned. And then you can start putting your own attitude you want to portray into the music, and all of a sudden you have your own voice that jazz listeners will appreciate and enjoy to hear

It's not a science, it's an art. You kind of just have to feel it
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Old 10-23-2018, 08:26 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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It's not a science, it's an art. You kind of just have to feel it
One of the artsy things I like to do is, when playing in a swing style, make your solo based on 16th notes and vice versa. Totally keeps the band guessing' ;)
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Old 10-23-2018, 08:44 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

..which melody to pickup then ?

I was taught to use the main melody ( ..the whole song)

while I feel more comfortable using the melody of the bass line (THE GROOVE) and build up around it. As i feel there is more opportunity for "creative" repetition.

I'd love to hear your experiences & thoughts on this.

Last edited by junior-drummer; 10-23-2018 at 09:25 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 10-23-2018, 04:28 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Lots of good answers here.

The one thing I will say, though, is that some of you seem very quick to jump to conclusions about people's experience level with jazz.

The fact is, I do listen non-stop, and I play quite frequently, too. I also practice my ass off.

I posed the question about soloing because it's something I've been thinking about lately. My ability to play good-feeling time is already under control, so I've been turning my attention elsewhere.

Seeing as how soloing is an actual thing that happens on jazz gigs, it's reasonable for a person to ask, "how do you guys work on it?"

I'm well aware of the need to listen to people and cop their feel and ideas.

Some of you are giving stock answers and not actually taking the time to think about the question I've posed. Either that or I'm not asking it clearly. Totally possible.

My goal was to have a conversation, much like if I was sitting in a room with other drummers.

Anyway, let's not be so quick to make sweeping judgements based on small amounts of information.
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Old 10-23-2018, 04:35 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

My approach is to have the melody of the head of the tune in my mind as I play. I can do that alone in a practice room without listening to anyone else. Of course, on the bandstand, you're going to be reacting to the music you've all just played, so your inspiration and context will be different. That's the part you simply can't recreate in a practice room.

I like occasionally playing a phrase that is lifted directly from the rhythm of the melodic line. If you do this too much, it sounds corny. But occasionally doing it gives the audience (and your bandmates) a point of reference and I think it adds an element of tension and release (with the recognizable phrase being the release) to the solo.
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Old 10-23-2018, 05:20 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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..The one thing I will say, though, is that some of you seem very quick to jump to conclusions about people's experience level with jazz..

Always remember that an internet-forum is also a little a place to 'show off' for some people, just like playing a solo, or drumming in general, for some people is..

That being said, i think everything that Tony posted in this thread will put you on the right track regarding this subject..
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Old 10-23-2018, 06:10 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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I'm well aware of the need to listen to people and cop their feel and ideas.
See, this is wrong. It's more about: "Elvin Jones/Roy Haynes/Philly Joe/whoever is God-- because of what they played on this record-- I want to be/do that."

Don't take it personally. This is all about information. If you're only worried about whether the world is "judging" you fairly, you'll never get anywhere with it. Take the information.
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Old 10-23-2018, 06:44 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Sorry, dude, but you're actually full of shit.

Try reading through old issues of Modern Drummer, where people like John Riley, Jeff Hamilton, Art Taylor, Philly Joe, and other masters espouse the same thing.

Listen to records and cop the feel and their ideas. That's what you do. And if that's "wrong," as you say, then a whole lot of world-class players are wrong.
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Old 10-23-2018, 07:34 PM
williamsbclontz williamsbclontz is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

It's real hard to practice alone. With improv solos you usually need a few musicians to play off of and inspire you. It's more mental than anything else really, and the best practice is trial and error at gigs

We don't have all the answers and none of us are ever gonna be max roach or gene krupa. It's all good though don't worry too much about it, all we can do is share from personal experiences
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Old 10-23-2018, 07:47 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Ya know Nick you can disagree with someone without saying they are full of it. That part about "jumping to conclusions" goes both ways my friend. You could have just stated why you disagree-then Todd if he so chooses could respond. The moderator would tell you the same thing-he must be busy-well he would have just deleted your comment actually you've read the rules.
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Old 10-23-2018, 08:27 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

My little diatribe the first time was me "respectfully" disagreeing.

Sorry for saying shit, though, I guess?

This is really all my fault for trying to have an honest-to-God conversation on the internet. Lesson learned.

I appreciate those of you who contributed without feeling the need to grandstand.
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Old 10-23-2018, 09:31 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

No you're fine-don't give up-you've come to the right place. Just some caution how we phrase stuff-I step in it too. Be respectful and civil and you're home free. You made your salient point-just the preface part can get you in trouble. You're. among friends. I'm pretty sure some folks can't stand me-but I got use to that crap years ago.
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Old 10-23-2018, 11:36 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

I don't really know anyone who sets out to "work" on soloing drums.

A good solo, especially in jazz is so rooted conceptually, melodically and rhythmically to the music that goes around that solo that you can't really separate them if you want to really be doing the right thing.

I think if you really want to "work" on soloing, you should do it with context, I know that sounds backwards, but I promise you'll learn more by trying to replicate a melody in the music on the drumset or contrast a head rhythm than you will just trying to bank a bunch of "licks" that people will drool over you for. If you do it enough, it'll become second nature and you can take a solo anywhere.
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Old 10-24-2018, 02:02 AM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Originally Posted by n1ck View Post
Sorry, dude, but you're actually full of shit.

Try reading through old issues of Modern Drummer, where people like John Riley, Jeff Hamilton, Art Taylor, Philly Joe, and other masters espouse the same thing.

Listen to records and cop the feel and their ideas. That's what you do. And if that's "wrong," as you say, then a whole lot of world-class players are wrong.
This is the strangest conversation I've ever been a part of. I would ask what you think I said, but I'm really not interested.

Serious students know what I'm talking about because they're already fanatical listeners instinctively, and they didn't have to be talked into it or reminded about it.
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Old 10-24-2018, 02:36 AM
Groov-E Groov-E is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

That Guiliana book with the DROP curricular is very i spiring and helped me unearth some of my own creativity, as I felt I was in a rut.

This thread recently took a weird tangent but I view it as being entirely salvageable. Some jazz folks tend to take all things jazz very personal, which is a good thing because it shows commitment but I see no need to lose our manners over it.

Let us keep civil and carry on.
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Old 10-24-2018, 03:27 AM
n1ck n1ck is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Yeah I really wanna check that book out now! I’m not a huge fan of dude’s playing, but I respect how far he’s pushed his thing.
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  #34  
Old 11-05-2018, 08:33 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Nick - I think the passion of being obsessed with the playing of a particular drummer or drummers will help drive you to go deep.

That's how I learned to solo.

I've been obsessed, at various times, with many different drummers, and each time, that drove me to transcribe specific solos of theirs that I loved, and then learn ideas from those solos verbatim. Then, the next step is to alter the ideas of the people you "steal" from (stealing is legal in this sense....all musicians steal from others while learning) so you start sounding like you.

So, I suggest finding someone you freak out about when you hear them....what is the solo that makes you lose your mind with excitement? That's where I'd start.

Just listening isn't enough. Most of the great soloists transcribed and learned from those transcriptions.
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Old 11-05-2018, 08:50 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

As always it's always advisable to go find a teacher who's a specialist in this.

I sort of use the same material, principles and such with all students, but how i get them started and get them to open up to being creative and musical depends entirely on each individual.
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  #36  
Old 11-05-2018, 11:39 PM
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

Todd is right tho...the first time I heard Stomping at the Savoy, I knew I wanted to sound like that. It went beyond just learning the solo (which of course I did). It was more like I wanted to understand that particular way of playing drums, I wanted to understand how Max talked, I wanted to learn that language, I wanted to be fluent, to be able to hear it, to speak it, to communicate and express myself within it.

You don't really need to ask how to work on soloing, when you have stuff like Max's Stomping at the Savoy and Roy Hayne's Down Home and Tony's Seven Steps from 4&More and Philly Joe on...anything. The path is clear and the way already exists. And if you REALLY want to learn, then go even earlier, Baby Dodds, Papa Joe, Big Sid. You don't even need to listen to as much guys as possible, just find a solo that resonates with you and try to really make it a part of you. You know how we all usually have some life lesson that we learned early on from a parent or a teacher? You know "My mom always used to say..." Listen till you find something that resonates with you on that kind of level.

Yes, you can get books, the Guiliana book is great, you should check out Riley's Art of Bop books as well (tho you probably have already) but just remember there weren't any "how to play jazz" books in Philly Joe's time. These guys learned by listening to records, listening to other drummers and playing extensively.

So instead of trying to just cop their ideas, try to imitate that whole approach. I feel like you want to talk more about the practice room and what to specifically do when you're there but honestly there are no set rules. There's no specific way to do it, take a listen to Guiliana and Antonio Sanchez and Brian Blade, they sound wildly different, and they probably all spent their time in the practice room very differently, but they all sound authentically like jazz players because they understand the approach that all master players have gone thru to learn the music.
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Old 11-05-2018, 11:54 PM
n1ck n1ck is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Originally Posted by Numberless View Post
You don't really need to ask how to work on soloing, when you have stuff like Max's Stomping at the Savoy and Roy Hayne's Down Home and Tony's Seven Steps from 4&More and Philly Joe on...anything. The path is clear and the way already exists.
I appreciate that your heart's probably in the right place, and I realize this answer sounds good, but it just isn't helpful.

It's also not true.

Are you a master jazz drummer? Have you mastered soloing solely by listening to and imitating the solos you love? If not, how do you know what you're suggesting works?

I've done lots of what you mentioned, and though it obviously enriches your playing in specific ways, there's more to the equation.

That's what I'm looking to get into here.
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Old 11-05-2018, 11:56 PM
n1ck n1ck is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Originally Posted by feldiefeld View Post
Nick - I think the passion of being obsessed with the playing of a particular drummer or drummers will help drive you to go deep.

That's how I learned to solo.

I've been obsessed, at various times, with many different drummers, and each time, that drove me to transcribe specific solos of theirs that I loved, and then learn ideas from those solos verbatim. Then, the next step is to alter the ideas of the people you "steal" from (stealing is legal in this sense....all musicians steal from others while learning) so you start sounding like you.

So, I suggest finding someone you freak out about when you hear them....what is the solo that makes you lose your mind with excitement? That's where I'd start.

Just listening isn't enough. Most of the great soloists transcribed and learned from those transcriptions.
All good advice. I appreciate it, man. Thanks.

The specific thing I’m struggling with—and I don’t think I’ve been able to articulate this properly in this thread—is the idea of taking a little chunk of vocab from, say, Philly Joe, and getting it IN to my playing.

I’ve transcribed a gazillion solos over the years, but I always end up feeling like I do it, I play through it for a couple weeks, and then it just kind of… sits there. In no way does any of the material make its way into my actual playing on the gig.

Having spent some time reading about this topic, I now realize that I was probably going too “macro” in my approach. What I SHOULD have been doing is to isolate one little PIECE of language and mining THAT from top to bottom.

So my recent approach—and I’m early into this—is to do the following:


1. Identify a vocab chunk I like

2. Drill the crap out of it by itself (trying to maintain good sound, phrasing, etc.)

3. Start the idea on different beats of the bar and drill those a bunch

4. Put on tunes and play the original idea and permutations ad nauseam so I can hear how they lay over the music

5. Re-orchestrate the idea and drill that a bunch with and without music

6. Come up with rhythmic variations on the idea and drill those a bunch with and without music


This, from what I can tell, seems to represent best practices among the dudes whose opinions I trust, but I’d definitely love to hear from others.

Again, my end-goal is to have a deep well of creative ideas that I can improvise with in the moment. More specifically, I’d like to have total mastery over EACH idea that comes to me, so that I can manipulate them at will. Yes, I realize this is a lifelong process.

For those of you who’ve really put in time with jazz, please do chime in. How do you specifically go about building your vocabulary? How long do you focus on one idea?

Also, just for context, I spend a lot of time listening, and I gig often. This is not a case of "the drummer wants to play jazz." I genuinely pour myself into it.

Just clarifying that in the hopes that we can have a good conversation.
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Old 11-06-2018, 01:13 AM
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WhoIsTony? WhoIsTony? is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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Originally Posted by n1ck View Post
I appreciate that your heart's probably in the right place, and I realize this answer sounds good, but it just isn't helpful.

It's also not true.

Are you a master jazz drummer? Have you mastered soloing solely by listening to and imitating the solos you love? If not, how do you know what you're suggesting works?

I've done lots of what you mentioned, and though it obviously enriches your playing in specific ways, there's more to the equation.

That's what I'm looking to get into here.
William is a phenomenal jazz drummer who has dedicated his life to playing jazz

if I were you I would listen to everything he says

there are not many jazz drummers on this forum unfortunately ... probably about 3 to be honest ... William is one of them

being resistant to those giving you information who have already traveled the path you wish to go down is not in your best interest at this time
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Old 11-06-2018, 01:44 AM
cornelius cornelius is offline
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Default Re: Jazz drummers: How do you work on soloing?

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...Again, my end-goal is to have a deep well of creative ideas that I can improvise with in the moment.. .
The best lesson I had on this subject was with Billy Ward. He showed me a concept that he calls “Practice/Playing”. Basically he taught me to approach practicing in a less left-brain manner. We all come up drilling rudiments, grooves, licks, independence, etc. But if you want to improvise, you have to be coming from a creative place.

It’s a simple idea - take a melody, just a couple of notes - and without thinking, play it on the drums.
Play this simple melody in as many different ways as you can - on different instruments, dynamics, note values - extend it, shorten it, etc. You’re through-composing, not stopping to think about what to play next. Eventually you’re going to trip yourself up. If you get tangled up, you’ll need to come up with some sort of technique (your own technique) to execute your idea. Through this process, you'll come up with your own vocabulary.

Again, the key is not to overthink, let your ears dictate what you play, not a pattern or sticking. Balancing on this tightrope, as Billy calls it, gets you in the zone of creating on the spot, so when you’re on the gig and suddenly hear something cool from the rest of the band, you can dive right in because you’ve practiced being in that creative place.
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