Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Soloing and Context

Well, it's been awhile SO IT'S TIME FOR A RANT!!!!!!!

I've never been one of those " I hate drum solos,  I only want to support the band"-type people. I enjoy the challenges soloing on the drums requires.
That said, I don't like many of the drum solos I hear. Why? Because there's usually very little context to them, or the context is, to my ears, flawed….
let me elaborate on things a good solo (on drums or ANY instrument) requires…

1. Thematic material/storytelling
So much of what I see and hear these days involves playing something fast/technically difficult, and then moving onto to some other fast/technically difficult thing and THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT LINKS THE TWO IDEAS! It's like telling a story that only has a bunch of different endings, or a joke that's only several punchlines! You have to get the audience from A to B to C, and sometimes that involves playing things that aren't necessarily hard to play!

2. A reason for the material to exist
This is crucial, and should probably be item #1. What's the reason for what you're playing? If the only reason is because it's difficult and impressive, that's not much to base your narrative on. I think that's why I often find drum solos and clinics ESPECIALLY boring, because they exist only to impress, and really don't take me on any sort of musical journey. ( See item #1)

3. Energy/Interest created from the solo itself
So much of what I hear is a bunch of drum "stuff" played against something, whether it be a (questionable) recorded track, or some sort of vamp. I don't hear a lot of soloing that is compositionally sound in and of itself. Remember, you can use the tones of the drums and cymbals themselves to make melodies, or you can abstractly "represent" a tune through thematic playing etc. Don't get me wrong, soloing over something can be very beautiful, but should never be an excuse to have poor architecture in one's solo.

Now, let's pause for a short intermission while I play one of the great examples of soloing over a vamp Chick Corea's "Quartet No. 2" with Steve Gadd singing/crying/wailing over the vamp! Fantastic! Listen to how it builds!

4. Space, the final Drum Frontier
Mr. Gadd, as usual, provided a perfect segue. The music/solo needs to breathe, so LEAVE SPACE. It makes everything played so much more powerful!

Okay, that's enough grumpy old man stuff for now. Remember when you solo, PLAY MUSIC!!!!!