Improvising and Trading Fours

KalashnikoV

Member
I've recently been having a lot of fun with a few friends in a jazz-fusion band we formed (a term I use hesitantly, being that we play a berth of jazz-centric styles from funk to bossa nova.) For the most part, I've been having a blast playing stuff like Herbie Hancock's Chameleon, Mahavishnu's Sister Andrea, and a few tunes we've been making up ourselves, but it's shed light on the fact that I really can't solo worth a damn. When our sax player had us try a trading fours section in Chameleon, I found myself (to put it lightly) struggling to play anything that sounds good. I can competently pull off smaller fills as needed for the song (and I'm in no need to play any real long, flashy solos) but anything longer than a couple beats has me flailing like a damn fool.

Are there any tips I can get on developing solid improvisational skills for stuff like this, or at least some good recordings I should check out for ideas/exemplification?
 

oops

Silver Member
I would check out John Riley's 'Art of Bop Drumming' book, if you can.

It's got a really good section on soloing in general, with some exercises and a lot of good points.

In brief:
Treat your four bar solo as a melody, it needs to make sense musically and fit into the style of the song you're playing. You might want to transcribe the melody of the tune you're soloing over and play off that (ie. the first four bars of Chameleon's melody). First play the melody exactly as written, then play it and add some to the original melody, then outlining the melody, but not playing it exactly as written.
 
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blade123

Guest
REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT!!!
You say you can play smaller fills? Like one measure? Play a one measure fill four times. Each time, try something different.
I took a really simply one bar fill and did different things to it to get it to four bars.
First, I just repeated it four times.
Then I moved it around the kit.
Then I took some notes out.
After that, I did something that you HAVE to work on before you try playing it with other people. If you just spring it on yourself, I guarantee you, you WILL get lost. They're called "three beat motifs". Take out one beat of the fill (I took out the 2nd) and repeat it. You will get lost the first few times, so keep hats on 2 and 4 pretty solid.
 

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blade123

Guest
In brief:
Treat your four bar solo as a melody, it needs to make sense musically and fit into the style of the song you're playing. You might want to transcribe the melody of the tune you're soloing over and play off that (ie. the first four bars of Chameleon's melody). First play the melody exactly as written, then play it and add some to the original melody, then outlining the melody, but not playing it exactly as written.
This. Many people confuse "trading fours" with "taking turns soloing". Listen to what he plays, and take a part you like out of it and play it on your set.
Don't let ANYONE tell you differently, drums are just as melodic as any other instrument.
 

k3ng

Silver Member
Steal licks from everyone who goes before you. Unless you start the trading fours session in which case you're on your own for the first one .. and if they steal licks from you then you've got a heck of a ride pumping out inspiring ideas.

The best person to copy licks from first is the bass player (if he's trading that is). Imagine the sound that he's doing and how the same sound would be like on the acoustics of the drums.

And also remember, if you run out of weapons don't worry. We're percussionists. We can hit anything we want. So just experiment with the many sounds you have on your kit and you'll soon find that there's a lot more voice in the drumkit than a 'boom chak'.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Check out Roach, Papa, and Philly. They take the idea of a well-constructed theme-and-variation approach and make it very accessible to the audience. It's easy to get into and inspired by these cats.
 

KalashnikoV

Member
Thanks for all the advice so far, guys. I've been practicing with what you've said in mind, and while I've still got a stretch to go, I have been improving. Also, I've been meaning to pick of The Art of Bop Drumming for some time now, and I guess this is the excuse to go and do it.
 
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