Hey everyone, I hope you got over the incredible seriousness of my previous post.
First, a quick thank you to my friend and great drummer Jon McCaslin for his mention of this site in his excellent blog, FOUR ON THE FLOOR. My day usually starts with checking out what Jon is up to and his mind blowing selection of videos and articles.
Speaking of articles, this next set of exercises stems from my work on melodic soloing. These exercises are to be used on song forms and if you don't have any tunes memorized, you need to learn some before embarking on this journey. These will help with structuring drum solos as well as playing any ideas that come to mind while still keeping the form of whatever tune we're playing.
Solo Shape Examples
In this set of exercises we’ll practice predetermined solo forms. This isn’t something one would do in a playing situation. One would improvise based on what has occurred before the drum solo, general mood, size of room etc. It’s important that we work on these concepts on our own. If one looks at a typical evening of music from a jazz quartet (Tenor Sax, Piano, bass and drums), the band plays three sets, that’s somewhere between 12 and 15 tunes. There will likely be a tenor solo on every composition. Ditto for the piano solos. The amount of bass solos can vary, depending on the openess of the leader (especially if it’s the bass player!). Let’s say they’ll be bass solos on half of the tunes. How many drum solos will there be? The average would be none to about 2 at most. (Trading 4s and 8s can be fun and a good challenge, but it isn’t the same thing.) What I’m getting at is that drummers have to get their soloing chops together on their own because we don’t get enough chances to do it on the gig. If we practice these examples, we can start to build solo architecture in the moment because we’re used to thinking this way in the practice room. Another thing you’ll notice in the examples here are that there are a great number of solo shapes that don't use all of the drumset. An important part of creating drama and interest is orchestration of the drumset. We don’t have to play all of the kit all of the time. How many times have you seen a symphony play with all members of the orchestra all the time? I would hazard the answer is never. If the trombone plays only in the fourth movement of a piece, it means that colour was appropriate for that part of the music. They’re not there for show. The same thing applies to the drumset. If you want to play a gong once in an evening because it’s perfect for that one section of that one tune, GO FOR IT!
. As you go through these solo shapes, you will find if one part of your vocabulary is limited by the dictates of the soloshape, (e.g. limited palette of drums to use) you will start to use the other options available to you (dynamics, use of space, variations in density of texture, etc.) that you previously haven’t exploited. You will also notice that these solo shapes generally ask very little of you in terms of content (nuts and bolts drum stuff). That’s because if the architecture of a solo is solid, the content isn’t all that important. That’s why both Jack DeJohnette and Paul Motian can play solos that are moving and interesting, even though the Paul Motian solo probably has a quarter of the notes in it that Jack’s does.
Now on to the shapes:
1.As many choruses as you can stand. This is a type of solo to get one to explore all the possiblities of a tune. It’s the sort of practice where one plays through ones cliches. Usually when you’re really bored and ready to give up on the solo, that interesting things start to happen. Try anything.
2. Half chorus. This is the opposite of number one. We’re only going to solo on two A sections of a tune (AABA tune only) and then play the bridge and last A as if we were –playing the out head. This is excellent for really developing small statements that make sense. These are the solos one does if one ever plays on televsion, where two minutes is a “very long time”
3. One chorus Similar to 2 but we get one whole chorus to express ourselves.
4. Play one chorus only using rhythms of a half note or slower.
5. Same as number 4 but using rhythms of eighth notes or faster.
6. Solo for 3 choruses playing only one voice at a time.
7. Solo for 4 choruses using the foot ostinato of your choice.
8. Play two choruses playing only during the rests in the melody. For further insight into this “counterline” please listen to “Nefertitti” by Miles Davis.
9. Play 3 choruses of two bars solo, two bars space (absolute silence) Do this with four and eight bar lengths as well.
10. Play four choruses of solo playing hi-hat on 2 and 4 ONLY on the bridge while still soloing with the rest of the kit. If the form is a blues, play hi-hat only the last four measures.
11. Play 2 choruses, starting at pp and gradulally crescendoing to FF.
12. Reverse 11.
13. Play five choruses of keeping time with the right hand on the cymbal while the rest of the kit solos.
14. Play six choruses, using only large tom and bass drum.
15. Play one chorus snare drum only.
16. Same as 15 but play 3 choruses with the snares turned off in the second chorus, turned back on in the third.
17. Play four choruses of trading 4s of solo between brushes and sticks.
18. Same as 17 but trade between brushes, sticks, mallets and playing with your hands.
19. Two choruses trading 8s between cymbals and drums.
20. Four choruses at dynamic p, cymbals only.
21. One chorus using only deadsticking, pushing the sticks into the drumhead.
22. Two choruses hands play constant buzz roll at ppp. Feet solo underneath at FFF.
23. Four choruses at tempo of quarter note equals sixty or slower.
24. Two choruses of only being allowed to play on the and of 3.
25. One chorus of quarter note equals 240 or faster.
26. Play six choruses, starting at the sparsest texture you can play, gradually ending up at the thickest, busiest you can play.
As you can see, some of these can be quite challenging but I feel they can be very beneficial towards making us more dynamic, exciting soloists.