Are you trying to impress or are you trying to say something meaningful? Actually, there’s nobody to impress…
A drum solo is not just about technique or speed. It’s obvious, yet too many drummers (even big names) play like that. Yes you need the technique that is required to express your ideas: the problem is when your technique is very one-dimensional and ends up dictating what you play, turning you into a 32nd notes machine gun 🙂
A good drum solo should be interesting, moving, using creative ideas, space, contrast, colors (sounds), dynamics, different subdivisions and cool rhythmic figures. It should be a snapshot of yourself at that moment.
The thing is that the drums are such a physical and spectacular instrument that it’s not easy to never fall into the trap of showing off on some level. It takes great awareness and devotion to music to really let go of any tendency to overplay.
The best way to approach a drum solo in a musical way is to tell a story: and what are the elements of a great story? A clear beginning and end, a bunch of compelling characters, tension and release, a wide range of intense emotions, build ups, sudden variations, recurring elements, and so on.
The main thing, though, is that you need to have a story to tell, something very meaningful to you, that you want to share.
At the same time your drum solos have to come from an internal position of not trying to prove anything, a position of spontaneity and authenticity.
An inner state of letting go and not trying too hard or forcing anything at all. So that things can happen naturally and express the beauty of that unique moment. You just set the intention and then let it happen.
As with everything else, the way to get it is to not need it. Do the homework, practice it, rehearse it, but then let it all go and let it happen by itself, almost as if you were a spectator watching yourself playing from outside.
And ultimately, it goes without saying that it has to groove 😉
In this video I play two drum solos. The first one is just a bunch of licks played as fast as possible, with not much meaning. Same dynamics, same subdivisions: not a lot of music in it, as you can guess. I agree that it can be exciting to feel the energy of it. But that approach doesn’t get you much further.
In the second one I try to play a solo that includes the ideas mentioned above. I hope you like it!
Here is the link to the YouTube video:
Also, check out any solo played by the following great masters of this art, and you’ll hear what highly musical drum solos sound like:
Larnell Lewis, Keith Carlock, Brian Blade, Simon Phillips, Benny Greb, Antonio Sanchez, Mark Walker, Maxx Furian, Giovanni Giorgi. And of course the all-time masters, Gadd, Colaiuta and Weckl…
Remember, there’s nobody to impress. Just express yourself.
Here are a few methods that may help you do that:
‘Phrasing & Fills’ – Altitude Drumming – Volume 5
‘Art & Musicianship’ – Altitude Drumming – Volume 10
‘Interpretation & Arrangement’ – Altitude Drumming – Volume 9
‘Drum Chops Mastery – Gospel Chops And Beyond’