Drum Solos and why you like them, or not


Senior Member
One thing that I have been wondering about recently is why people and drummers in particular like or dislike drum solos. I was also wondering if this lined up with the genres of music you listen to and play. If everyone could put their 2 cents in I'd appreciate it.

Personally I enjoy drum solos that are basically a song. There needs to be a beat driving underneath, whether its complicated or simple, with either a melody played on top of that, or a rhythm that connects back to the rest of the song.
My absolute favorites are Bonzo's Montreux http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sal1nVhYPiY
I love it so much when he keeps dropping down the toms onto the kettle drums, plus it has amazing phrasing and he keeps doing so much without sounding like doing too much.

My other Fav is Tell Me How Do You Feel by Lee Michaels with Frosty on drums.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq-ZmjUYEqs&feature=related So diverse and musical and it gets right to me yet for the life of me I can't figure why I like it more than all the other similar solos that are mostly technique.

I play mostly hard rock and funk, but do a bit of everything (blues, jazz, indie, pop etc.) except for metal and latin (my latin beats are quite miserable lol) I also noodle around on guitar and other melodic instruments and i feel this is where my desire for both a beat and a melody during a solo comes from


Gold Member
I was reading a similar post about bass solos yesterday. Drum solos feel appropriate in a jazz forum but elsewhere, they seem to be for other band members to get a break or just unnecessary and inappropriate.

I dislike maybe 90% of drum solos. Anyone playing furiously without any real purpose or groove make me head for the off switch.

But there is much you say about favouritism; i can listen to Morello, Gadd, Mayer anytime anyday but players like Peart, Donati, Portnoy etc leave me cold. But then jazz and fusion and pop are more my thing so maybe no surprises here.



Silver Member
I don't care for drum solos. I find them to be annoying for the most part.

I play metal. I also listen to mostly metal...but I also listen to a little bit of everything from country to hip hop to pop.


Junior Member
I like Neil's drum solos - They aren't just a guy showing off for the hell of it - They are compositional in nature, melodic and interesting to listen to. I do enjoy drum solos for a short period of time, like a break in a song - But to just sit down and play a solo for pure ego gratification.... not sure about.

I do like to play my own "solos" when screwing around at home and will play for a half hour or more just soloing - I find it fun and relaxing to try to come up with different patterns, experiment with sounds, techniques and time. If and when I ever join a band I don't think I would actually play one unless it was a part of an actual composition.

I think Joe's solo, not sure that is the right word, in "Take Five" is the best ever.


Senior Member
Again not a fan of drum solos- I'd much much much rather watch a drummer "let loose" in the context of a song like filling out between stabs etc


Platinum Member
Yeah, I like drum solos that are very groove-based too. Start with a groove or a pulse, and then throw in some flash and chops.

Some examples:
- Benny Greb: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvBRTHxsXCw
- Daniel Adair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0yBZ2QQ0KE
- Chad Smith: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PHL0xSlqM0 (I could listen to Chad laying down this power groove all day)

However, when the drummer just tries to throw a constant stream of polyrhythms or speed at the audience, I get bored extremely quickly. If there's nothing for the listener to latch on to and feel, it just gets tedious. I don't think I've ever been more bored than when I sat through a 45 minute solo by Virgil Donati. Seriously, I am in absolute awe of his skills, but I'm personally not even remotely interested in hearing a drum solo that just sounds like he's sitting in his drum shed, working out polyrhythms and practicing tom runs.

*Disclaimer: This is obviously just my personal opinion and taste. Virgil is an amazing player, and I know there are countless drummers who love this type of drum solos.


Senior Member
I like drum solo's simply because it gives me a chance to have the spotlight for a few minutes. The guitarist and keys and whomever are always taking solos through the entire show, and we are just sitting thee comping for them, so every once in while i like to have the spotlight even for a few minutes!!! I prefer not to do them as much, because it takes away from our music, but every now and then I will. With me it depends on my mood if I simply just feel like playing one. There in that sense I use the Mike Portnoy approach, he doesn't play much solo's anymore either.


"Uncle Larry"
I only like maybe 5% of the drum solos I hear. Jimmy K's are included in there, he rocks. If I get a solo, I try to craft it so if there were any dancers before the solo, they would be able to continue dancing throughout the solo. My main concern is to maintain the feel of the groove and not let the time drop out. So my modus operandi is...in and out, nobody gets hurt. I only do them because I get thrown them, I do not ask for them. I deliberately keep it at 1 or 2 full progressions tops. I usually use the first progression to just continue and embellish the groove, then the 2nd progression is where I try and use some of my solo language, and I will usually try and come to a peak at the end of the 2nd progression. Occasionally I'll go 3 progressions if I am firing on all 8 or if my ideas won't resolve in 2 progressions. But that's it. I never overstay my welcome, in fact I am usually looking for the quickest way out. Some songs are easier for me to get solo ideas than others.

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
If I get a solo, I try to craft it so if there were any dancers before the solo, they would be able to continue dancing throughout the solo. My main concern is to maintain the feel of the groove and not let the time drop out...
I use to love drum solos in the past, nowadays, I'm finding them boring, unless like Larry so rightly mentioned, they remain within the context of the song, if it's a "proper" solo, between a couple of song, when you're all alone on the stage, I try to play something around a given groove, and build up the feel, texture and colour from that groove, and if possible, the "solo" would end up as the intro of the next song. :)

A good example from Peter Erskine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V70BYk5D0e8


Platinum Member
When I was younger, I thought drum solos were cool.

But between attending 1001 drum clinics, going to PIT , and seeing a million solos in concert, I'm just over them.

If I go see a band, I'd rather they play another song than take time out for the drum solo.
(and this goes for Mr. Peart as well).


"Uncle Larry"
The thing about drum solos..I can do what I consider a passable solo when it's standalone, meaning there is no song that it jumps out of. As I see it, as soon as I have a song that the solo stems from, my solo should be in the same family of groove that the song is. If I do my "passable" solo in the middle of the songs I usually get a spot in, it wouldn't match the song feel. So now I am forced to create something on the spot, that matches the song. This would not be that hard, if I did not have to do 2 jobs at once. I have to:
A. Keep time
B. Craft rhythmic sentences around that time

I'm just not that accomplished at this yet. Plus I really don't care to be the center of attention. Bad combination for a soloist lol. And we are the only TRUE soloists if you think about it. (generally speaking)

When anyone else solos, they have their drummer to keep the time for them. They can play rests, and drop out if it suits the solo phrasing. A drummer, when they solo, everyone takes a break, to let the drummer sink or swim. That's a gripe of mine. My default thing is to use a lot of press rolls so there are as few holes as possible. So maybe my solos tend to be one dimensional, even though rolls do sound cool. My solos could instantly become better if I did not have to keep my own time. Then I could be free to play rests, and keep the phrasing as open or dense as I felt, without the worry of dropping the time. I feel unsupported when I have to do both jobs at once. If they just shook a tambourine, that would take all the pressure off. I would feel supported, and I would be freed up to really create some interesting rhythmic phrasing. Call and response for instance. Me playing phrases off myself. If I have to keep time too, gimme a break!

My "passable" solos involve me playing an 8th note ostinato with my hi hat, and phrasing around that with my other 3 limbs. I need a constant time marker so I can make my sentences around a simple structure. It's absolutely vital to my solo's, yea it's a crutch, but it's what get's me through, so I don't care. Getting guitar players to stoop to tambourines is a tall order though. I think they think they are too cool for that. So I continue to struggle with solos.

Lol one time a guest singer gave me a solo in the song "Stand By Me". What a dorky song to do a solo in lol. I decided to save my 32nd note linear descending cascades for a more opportune moment lol....
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Drum solos on the whole don't interest me much. But when I love a drummer I love watching that drummer solo. I like drummers for a multitude of different reasons, so I guess my answer is I like them, but I only like them when it is played by a drummer I love.
Every time "drum solos" are mentioned...it cross to my mind Moby Dick, The Mule, Rat Salad / John Bonham - Ian Paice - Bill Ward.

I try and still do to approach drum solos same as Bonzo did...

"Not everybody likes or understands a drum solo, so I like to bring in effects and sounds to keep their interest." - John Henry Bonham

Adam B

Senior Member
I think there is a real difference between playing the drums solo and playing a drum solo.

I tend to think of drum solos as ridiculous crowd pleasers while playing the drums solo is more akin to what Greb, Mayer, Carlock etc do.

jackie k

Senior Member
Drum solo's should have a theme, it should flow and be some what structured. When its all put together it should be melodic. John Bonham plays grooves melodically meaning his grooves sing, Gene krupa played his snare and tom toms melodically, Buddy Rich played his snare and toms melodically. Solos are ok when it supports the song. Like the song wipeout. Its not just a solo the song was written around the solo making it a fun song.
The best drum playing is never going to be just a drum solo, its going to be a song or music that the drumming compliments and is the heart or pluse pushing the music with all the musicians playing on top of the rthym. Zepplain is a great example of this-just great, simple, solid and melodic drumming all the musicians playing off each other creating one great sound. The same thing goes for charlie watts of the rolling stones great drumming and always different for the many songs. Having chops is one thing; knowing how and when to use them is another. Chops without any context does nothing but when applied in a melodic and rthymic taste creates a great drum feel.


Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
As long as they are part of the music or song and the rest of the band doesn't walk off of the stage. I find that distasteful.


Senior Member
Since I can no longer play in bands (100%deaf in one ear, partially in the other) doing drum solos is all I do. I do solo concerts, school and store clinics. My set consist of 20 toms pitched to 2 and 1/2 octaves, and 17 cymbals. I play recognizable songs, including harmonies, sometimes bass lines, all on the set.
When drummers talk about solos I want them to always consider the possibilites of it being a truly melodic, purely composition/arrangement driven piece, not just a chop-fest.


Platinum Member
I prefer solos when they're accompanied by the rest of the bands, like in vamps or montunos, in these cases a drum solo can be highly musical and not take away from the song. I also like trades, where the drummers can feed off the energy of the rest of the group and viceversa. Pure unaccompanied solos can be a mixed bag, I don't like chopfest but solos from guys like Max Roach's are a joy to listen to.


Well-known member
I absolutely hate playing them in any manner other than 4 bar breaks.

I only enjoy listening to drummers that can make interesting music with them. In my opinion only few can do it well.


Platinum Member
The only long solo I've ever done was when we were playing at a party and the electricity failed.

Everyone had been dancing so it was a bummer. I thought "Yay! I finally have an excuse to do all that fun Osibisa stuff". After a while the party's host came running out in a panic because people were stomping on the balcony so hard that it was in danger of coming down :)

People love Afro-style tom tom rhythms. It hooks into something basic in us - the beauty of the drum. As long as it doesn't go on and on, it's great.