a thought on improvisation


Silver Member
I was just thinking how remarkable it is the way your brain instantaneously decides what you're going to play moment by moment. Particularly those really off the wall fills that anyone would have been very proud to have actually taken the time to write, but instead, Bam . . . . in a millisecond your brain says let's do this!

It's almost as if I'm just along for the ride. I'm both the performer and the spectator.


Platinum Member
Its a wonderful moment when the improvised fill comes off perfectly, nothing to beat it. How many times have you seen a pro gig where any of the musicians are reaching for something they have not practiced a thousand times before?

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
It's almost as if I'm just along for the ride. I'm both the performer and the spectator.
Yes, at my best moments I can almost feel as if I'm observing what is happening from an exterior viewpoint.

It like when athletes get into "The Zone". You might hear someone describe a guy who was just "unconscious" or "playing out of his mind" when he dropped 50 points in a basketball game or something.

There's actually quite a few books written on this subject. I find it fascinating that in order to be our best we have to give up conscious control and just "flow".


Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
It's simply letting the music move you, as it should.



For me it's all about getting into a meditative state and shutting down preconceptions.

Anon La Ply

Then again, we improvise constantly in conversation. The hard part is mastering the language of music to be as thoughtlessly eloquent in music as we are in our native tongue.

Personally, if I spoke like I drummed, if I spoke like I drummed, if I spoke as I drummed, then I'd talk in this way.

If I spoke like I drummed, if I spoke like I drummed, when I speak as I drum, then it's pretty dull, eh?

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I am aware that I'm not Picasso behind a drum set when I solo, there is some logic, decision making and practice that make the whole thing a little less spontaneous than the listener would believe.

I have noticed that I am quite free when I play simply but technicality requires preparation, and we do like to hear some technicality in a solo.

I think my half decent independence and note placement has given me some sort improvising ability when it comes to being creative using simple rudiments like slow singles but when I want to get a little technical and play a stream of notes, (orchestrating different stickings for example) I quickly find the limits of my vocabulary and I realize that in order to make those orchestrations flow I would need to practice them systematically.

So the more technical fills that I play when I improvise are often preconceived, at most I might displace them differently, play it in a different subdivision or play them in part, as a motif or loop. I can see that I am getting better at recovering from these knowledge gaps though, I think that just comes down to my understanding of stickings and timing.

The funny thing I notice about myself is that I have always been able to switch off mentally and let my body play whatever it wanted, did that always sound good? No, sometimes it sounded crap, I would play the same things and remind myself I was playing the same half baked phrases. That might also be because I wasn't learning many new ideas at that time (not sure).

The more I practice (and hopefully the better I get), the more I can instruct my body to recount things that I've played before, because I think the time to play them is right and I get a certain satisfaction from hearing myself playing them nicely.

I actually play a solo everyday and I tend to play within the same sort of parameters, and each time I go and do that I subconsciously find new phrases and things to play when I go back to those parameters...

So for me personally, I can get in the zone and do spontaneous things but I know it's not some natural wonder, it's the result of practice and creativity together.