Since I have an upcoming online solo gig, (don't worry, I will be posting LOTS of information about the details) I thought I would go over some of my thought processes prior to doing any solo work.
…With the current proliferation of online concerts, and most of these being individual rather than group affairs, I think it's important to note that all instruments are not created equally. A singer/songwriter might have very few adjustments needed to their repertoire. The sound of playing guitar and singing, for example, is a very satisfying and complete sound. Drumming and singing? To many ears, it sounds like the rest of the band is missing! As well, drums are mainly an accompanying instrument, so I can't simple just do what i do normally in a band and expect to hold an audience's attention. So, just like a classical trombone player cannot simply play excepts from the last movement of symphonies where the brass comes in, I need to consider my material carefully.
Of course, the problem I outlined above can also be an opportunity. Solo drums are an opportunity for the drummer to be in the foreground, to explore unusual forms and textures with the instrument. The drummer can perform in ways (e.g. extreme dynamic range) that may often not be suitable with an ensemble.
In the reasonably large amount of solo drum gigs I have done, I have experimented with the balance of improvised verses written material I've performed:from drum compositions that I have written and played basically the same way every time, to completely open improvised concerts. As a Jazz musician, I tend to do at least some improvising every time I play, and I imagine this upcoming concert won't be any different.
Perhaps a subset to the balance of composed to improvised pieces, is the source material for whatever I'm playing. Is it a beat? A great American Standard? Just letting the tones of the drums and cymbals suggest melodies? Am I playing in time? Rubato? Perhaps somewhere in between? Again, I think it's important to use this opportunity to go outside what I normally do when I'm with a band! I remember a friend remarking that in a certain Max Roach solo, he played mainly drum textures and it occurred to me maybe he was playing more on the drums because we'd already heard him playing a lot of cymbals while he was playing time for all the other soloists!
I also usually involve some textures that aren't strictly drums. I have sang and played piano as well as harmonica. I certainly don't even remotely claim any mastery over these instruments, but I do think they help keep the musical journey interesting and the audience (hopefully) motivated. it is also a fun chance to present myself as a musician outside the drums.
Finally, I like the opportunity of playing solo because it helps develop creating inspiration internally rather than relying on others to help me be creative. For sure, I love accompanying and helping whatever ensemble I'm playing in be the best it can be. However, I know that as I long as I'm open to higher creative spirit and don't get in my own way, I can take an open minded audience to interesting places.
I hope you'll join me. :)
Finally here's a short solo I did in the summer to give you an example ….