I am often asked by aspiring young drummers to give them advice about crafting their drum solos. Okay, here's a few thoughts for anyone interested.
Drum solos, of course, can be cool part of your band’s performance where you are featured.
A drum solo can be played within the structure of a certain tune; where the drummer is allowed to solo over melodic parts and/or chords being played by other musicians. Or it can be without any other accompaniment. There are really no rules, but there might be some suggestions that will keep things from going awry.
As you practice alone, you can devote some time to developing some neat things to do in a solo situation. This is an opportunity to merge your creativity and your ability into a musical expression.
Take the time to work your solo patterns and be able to play them with confidence. If you have something not yet ready to debut…..then I think it is wise to wait until you master it, before actually “going live’ with it. Why? Well, you don’t want your audience saying “he was playing a cool solo until he messed up on a part he couldn’t pull off .
Also remember that your solo should make a statement. There is nothing wrong with that statement including a display of technique if you want to do that. However, it needs to flow effortlessly within a musical context too. Besides, everything you play in your solo doesn’t have to be complex or difficult. You want to do some things that make musical sense more than physical exercise.
Imagine for example, your solo is a reflection of your mood, or perhaps that you are expressing two contrasting emotions. Use your imagination and think of ways to express a musical texture or feel using your drum set. It’s your time to have everyone’s attention, so make it your moment to share your improvisations and do something you feel good about doing.
I’ve seen solos where the drummer used various mallets, brushes, hand-playing, and other things that he would not necessarily be able to do when playing with the other band members. That's cool if you want to do something like that.
I’ve heard drummers use different dynamics to paint their “images”, and then I’ve seen drummers play on the rims, walls, drum shells, and even on the floor within an entertaining display of rhythms.
I've also seen the well-planned use of hydralic lifts, pyrotechnics, twirling and laser lights......it was cool scenery, but the solo didn't sound any different.
Two keys that I believe important to being successful with your solo are to be relaxed and confident. Do what you know you can do and don’t think you have to go out on a limb so far that it makes you nervous. Believe me...you can't be cool when you are nervous or worried.
Finally, you can work on more than just one solo. You may want to have a short one for certain situations and an extended version for other situations. If you play rock, big band, jazz, etc….. basically several styles…..then you may work on solos that fit those different style situations.
Be adventurous and experimental when you practice, but be in full control when you do a solo for the audience. That way you will always sound great to your audience.
Remember, even the most accomplished drummers you admire......never stop practicing new things.
I hope this helps some of you.