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How I Play Drums Solos 7
Posted On 03/23/2012 00:19:47
There is one kind of drum solo I haven't commented on, and this is probably the one that needs to be gone over the most. That is the "drum solo song". Everyone who plays drums solos at one time or another has had "The Drum Solo Song".

Everyone or almost everyone knows "Wipe Out" and has probably had to play it at one time or another. There isn't much to it, but for those who want to get creative, it can be turned into more than just the same pattern played over and over. But, if you get too "way out", you lose the song and what it's all about - a simple surf song with solid repititious drums. So, you are actually restricted in how far you can go and keep the feeling and drive going. Result: Everytime someone crys out "Play Wipeout", you want to throw a beer bottle at them (an empty one of course" and you wish you never heard of the song. Of course, that's after you've had to play it over a hundred times.

The same goes with other great popular and famous rock and jazz solo songs like: Let There Be Drums and Teen Beat by Sandy Nelson, Topsy by Cozy Cole, and Caravan composed by Duke" Ellington, Juan Tizol, Irving Mills. A million renditions of it have been done . Somewhere along the line it got turned into a drum solo song. That's another song that people used to request a lot. In fact, so much so that The Mothers of Invention on their 2nd album "Absolutely Free" on the song "America Drinks and Goes Home" tell some drunk (as they're winding up their last set) they'll play "Caravan with a drum solo" tomorrow night. If you have ever played clubs a lot, especially back in the days of dinosaurs, there alway used to be some dude who wanted to hear that, and maybe there still are some people out there who still request it. Hilarious to hear Frank Zappa say it.

In the late 60s a major change burst on the scene with the advent of "Cream". They broke all the rules of rock and started playing like jazz musicians except it was rock. Ginger Baker had his drum solo song "Toad", and on "Wheels of Fire" you can hear the first long rock drum solo. Soon after that, all the bands where imitating Cream and the drummers doing long drum solos. Long drum solos got to be par for the course. If you played in any band that that actually got up ther and "kicked ass", you had to do "THE DRUM SOLO".

Gone where the good ole days of Wipe Out, Let There Be Drums and so on. Now you had to start playing complicted "real" drums solos. And with Ginger Baker adding in the double bass, suddenly everything changed and went to some other level that took us by surprise. Here was someone that not only had two bass drums but could actually play them. It was scary. It took time for the rest of us to adjust to it. Yes, Blue Cheer's drummer had two bass drums, but that was mostly window dressing. And yes of course Loui Bellson was the first drummer to have double bass drums, but honestly, he really didn't ever do much with them (I have tons of Louie Bellson cds).

After Cream, you had an assorted number of bands trying to emulate them with their grandiose style, power playing, soloing, improvising, and so on. To name a few (which by the way were all great) you had: Led Zeppelin, James Gang, Vanilla Fudge (with Carmen Appice using double basses), Grand Funk, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple, and even Chicago before Terry Kath died (people today don't know that at one time Chacago was a mother of a band). Those are just some of the bands that broke out and started doing the super performance shows that Cream started.

From the drummers position, the one thing they all had in common was "THE BIG DRUM SOLO". So, you had to start thinking big drum solo all the time. And as a result, you had to start practicing a lot since every time you played a solo someone was out there comparing you to John Bonham or someone else as equally masterful on the drums. It got to be stressful but fun.

So, in this kind of situation, it's a good idea to have something worked out ahead of time instead of just shooting from the hip. So, if you're going to have to play a drum solo song, you need to work out some ideas of what you're actually going to do in advance. You have to sit down and think for example: OK, first I'll do some rolls asround the drum, and next I'll play some intricate double bass patterns, and then I'll do my African beats, and finally I'll top it off with a double bass shuffle with triplets on top of it and drive it to the end with lots of cymbal crashes.

So, you have this general road map worked out. You're going to go from A to B to C to D and then end it´╝ÄSince you'll be playing that same drum solo song each time, you don't have to vary the sequence. But, you can play different things in each section of your solo (that way it doesn't become boring each time you do it (for you and the people who hear you play it again and again).

Again, I repeat, that you have to practice as much as possible, listen to and watch as many different good drummers as possible, try to copy from them as much as possible, and keep playing drum solos. The more you do it, the better you will get.

Tags: Drum Solos

How I play drum solos part 6
Posted On 02/20/2012 01:12:50
OK. Once you have decided that you want to do a drum solo and you have listened to other drummers and have practiced a lot, what then? How do you decide what to play? How do you play it?

As I mentioned before there are as many different drum solos as there are drummers, but there is a difference between great drummers and the rest. Great drummers are primarily concerned with playing what they feel and expressing themselves with their playing "on the drums". Their intention is not so much to try to impress the little 15 year old girls with stick twirling and tricky beats but to get their emotions out and tell a story.

So, (and I'm not a great drummer, I just want to be one) when I play a drum solo, to be honest, I never know what I'm going to play. I just let it happen. When it's over, I can only remember parts of it - vaguely. It's as if I get onto a galloping horse, and I'm just holding on. I let my emotions carry me on. Where and when it will lead and end, I don't know.

What gets me through from beginning to end is all the vocabulary of drumming that I have. When you learn something in drumming like a paradiddle for example, that is like learning a word. It's vocabulary. When you want to talk to someone, the more words you can access, the better you speak and communicate.

The more you learn to play on the drums, the more you can communicate through your emotions when you play a solo. The more drummers you listen to, and the more books you learn from, the more drum vocabulary you have. The more you practice, the better able you are to express yourself with your drum vocabulary.

Can you imagine how much Buddy Rich must have practiced or any of the other great drummers out there. That is the one key element that makes people great, and that is practice. If you want to be better, you have to practice more.

After you get to that stage, the only limitation you have then is your imagination. Your creative ability. That is another thing that is important. There are drummers out there that are very fast and can play a lot of notes, but it seems they are lacking in creativity. Listen to more drummers, and copy more.

Whenever I know I'm going to play a solo, I always get nervous. Sometimes I catch myself wondering if I'll forget how to play suddenly, or that I'll drop a stick, or that I won't be able to think of anything to play. Sometimes a solo will just be thrust on me. The band just stops playing because it seems like a cool thing to do, and I have to just go for it. In all those situations, it is my experience from not only previous solos, but from all my practicing that gets me through.

So, to sum it all up: I listen, watch, practice, study books, use my imagination and when the time comes I just jump in with all I have and let it go with all the emotion I have with a "Damn the torpedoes, full spead ahead" attitude until it's over. Then I try to figure out what I played.

There are times when I'm going to play a long solo (10-15 minutes), and I have time to prepare that I sort of plan out places in the solo where I'm going to shift gears. For example, go into double bass playing or go into African beats or something like that, but how I'm going to get there or exactly when I'm going to do it is something I can't plan on with any accuracy. Once the solo starts it's as I said before, like hanging onto a wild horse and your not sure when or where it's going to stop.

Lastly, I would like to add that whatever kind of solo you do, make sure you are having fun doing it.

Tags: Drum Solos

How I play drums solos part 5
Posted On 01/25/2012 03:06:34
Out of the fusion drummers, I particularly like (besides Tony) Billy Cobham, Dave Weckl, and Dennis Chambers. They each play different and have unique styles of soloing.

I have of course listened to all the others, but these and the ones mentioned earlier are the ones that influenced me the most.

You can always pick up something from almost any drummer because every drummer has some special lick or trick they do. So, I do believe in listening to anyone and everyone I can, and if I hear or see something I like, I borrow (steal)it and add it to my bag of tricks.

This is a good time to talk about getting ideas. No one just sits down in the beginning and starts playing mind blowing solos. Everyone has to learn from someone. You learn by listening, watching, and copying everything you can. Even Buddy Rich copied other drummers. He just improved on what he learned and made it into his own style.

You have to copy and keep copying until you can turn everything you have learned into your own and put your personality into it. Then you start creating and making new things. But, you have to have a base to work from.

That brings us to chops. The ability to play what you hear or see or want to play from what is inside you. The more chops you have, the more you can play. You get chops only one way, and that is from practicing. Of course it must be understood that you have to practice correctly otherwise you get real good at doing something wrong.

This brings us to what and how to practice. There are all kinds of stories about people becoming great and never having any lessons. That's crap. Everyone who ever played had some lessons of some kind or another. Buddy Rich's father taught him rudiments. When you watch someone play, you are getting a lesson. People are referring to actually not having a teacher show every little detail when they talk like that.

All things being equal, the more help you get, the better you are going to be. But, you have to be the one to practice. Using books is what I would consider one of the musts of drumming if you really want to be great.

There are some excellent instuctional books in the "drum books" section of the drum library here at DSA. The three books I would recommend for someone wanting to be a master of the sticks would be:

1. Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone
2. Syncopation by Ted Reed
3. Accent on Accents by Elliot Fine and Marvin Dahlgren

There are other great books listed there, but these will get you good quick. That is if you practice diligently. You can use these books in many ways with only your imagination as a limitation.

OK. So now you have someone to listen to, some books to practice with, and maybe even a teacher to help, and you practice. What then? End of part 5

Tags: Drum Solos

How I play drums solos part 4
Posted On 01/17/2012 20:38:34
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a new kid appeared (in my soloing world), and that was Joe Morello. Joe had been around, but the spotlight wasn't turned on him until the immortal "Take Five" suddenly exploded into the universe. Wow!

If things weren't difficult enough, Joe suddenly appears playing in some weird alien time signature which turned out to be 5/4. I'm mean, what the hell was that. At that time, you were considered awesome if you could play 3/4 time and swing. A fantastic example of 3/4 drumming with a drum solo would be by Danny Richmond on "Better Get it in Your Soul" off the Mingus Ah Um cd. Danny shows what "cooking" is all about in 3/4.

But, back to Joe. Now the gauntlet was thrown down, and anybody who wanted to be a real master of the drums had to come up to Joe's level at least in playing in different time signatures. Here was a guy who played with finesse, taste, perfection, and monster chops that hadn't been seen before especially in wierd time signatures. I'm mean, here is a guy who could swing and solo in 3 and a half/4 time while everyone else was trying to figure out how to count it.

So, I just put that stuff on the back burner for a long time and just satisfied myself with being able to stumble through "Take Five". When "Far More Drums" came out I had a mixture of elation and depression at the same time. That became the HOLY GRAIL of dum soloing for me. But, it hasn't been until recently that I've seriously devoted time to try to master 5/4 soloing. That's what I'm working on now.

I haven't hear anyone else actually play a good 5/4 solo. Of course that doesn't mean there aren't any, I just haven't heard them yet if there are. I mean really "good". Ginger Baker made the attempt in his "Do What You Like" that first appeared on the "Ginger Baker's Air Force" album, but after taking off in the solo, he lapses into 4/4 for all of the solo.

So, getting back to how I play solos. Another strong influence was Philly Joe Jones. His creative ability always amazes me. And, his hi-hat is like some kind of monster metronome that just keeps chugging away during his solos. Many drummers drop off the hi-hat or play on all fours (Tony Willliams), but Philly just keeps that 2 and 4 going relentlessly. Check out "Salt Peanuts" off Philly Joe's Beat. Of course Art Blakey keeps it going too, but Philly's seems more like some kind of whip pushing the solo along rather than just keeping the time.

So, these drummers along with others such as Sandy Nelson, Cozy Cole, Louie Bellson, Jack Dejohnette, Art Taylor, Roy Haynes, Kenny Clarke, Ed Thigpen, Pete La Roca, Jo Jones, Mel Lewis, and on and on and on......that have influence me in how I play drum solos. End of part 4.

Tags: Drum Solos

How I play drums solos part 3
Posted On 01/10/2012 21:41:10
Art Blakey influenced me not only by his playing but by his thinking. When he returned to America and made "Ritual", he made a commentary on the album about his trip, the drummers in Africa and their purpose for playing the drums.

In Africa, the drummer is the most important person in the tribe (next to the chief and witch doctor). Their purpose is tell people what happened that day using drums. There are several drummers, and there is a head drummer. What they are doing when they play is tell a story. It's not about being flashy or how fast someone can play or any of the goofy things people do today. It's about telling stories with drumming. Of course, I'm sure a little flash gets in there.

So, since everyday is different, and the lives of people keep having different things happen, the drum stories are alwasy different. They do have many patterns, but the drumming changes depending on what they want to say.

For me, this was a revelation in thinking about how to play my solos. I decided I would always play my solos in a story format. I would try to speak with my drums. The question was then, how to do it.

This brings me back to the different styles emerging in the jazz world. New styles were appearing every time you turned around. You had the West Coast sound with drummers like Shelly Manne, Frank Butler and others with their softer but melodic solos.

Elvin Jones brought a completely new kind of playing that was free and unrestrained from time.

Another new kid on the block appeared first playing bop but soon created another way of playing and that was Tony Williams.

Things were quickly getting out of control. Between just those few drummers alone, the decision of what to play in a solo started becoming somekind of Gordian's knot for drum soloing for me.

Since I was teaching myself everything on the drum set, I had to give some thought to how to do this and came up with the obvious. I would just play drums solos that were suited to the kind of song I was playing at the time which is what the drummers I was trying to emulate were doing. Simple.

But, if you practice all these different syles, it's hard to stick to one style because it becomes easy to flow into another style when you're in the middle of a solo. Then when you're in the middle of doing "Caravan" for example, sort of like off the Ventures first live album which should be straight ahead, you find youself suddenly playing Evin Jones licks. You might be having a great time, but you lost your audience. So, I had to concetrate on playing solos that fit the music I was playing. End of part 3

Tags: Drum Solos

How I play drums solos part 2.
Posted On 01/07/2012 21:48:50
Drum solos today come in a about as many different forms as there are different kinds of people. But, it hasn't always been that way. The drum solo has evolved just like any other instrument.

I suppose you could go all the way back to the days of cavemen and reconstruct some kind of archeological history of people hitting sticks on logs and stuff like that, but I'm just a simple dude, so I'll just go back to the 1940s and into the 50s to start with. This all has a connection to my playing.

Using people that can be recognized by most drummers, you find people like Sid Catlet, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Barret Deems, and others all playing similar solos. Usually playing the bass drum with four beats and playing syncopated rim shots and so on. They all played the same style keeping a steady driving beat.

There are a lot of examples. I personally like Gene Krupa's Drum Boogie off "The Drum Battle-Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich at JATP". The first time I heard that I cried because Gene kept those triplets going for so long. I didn't think it was humanly possible and almost felt like quitting the drums. Of course, today I don't feel that way. It was also the first time I ever heard a band with no bass player. It was all an amazing surprise.

There are two things you can do when confronted with a situation like that and that is to either quit or get inspsired and determine to do better. I decided not to quit.

Soon a new breed of music and drummer emerged. With the advent of Bop and BeBop came drummers like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Arthur Taylor, Kenny Clarke, and others. They alternated at first between playing all fours on the bass drum and occasionlly dropping "bombs" (single bass drum accents here and there). They finally got off the four on the floor altogether. If you listen to early Max Roach, you can hear that kind of playing.

Art Blakey brought another big change. He went to Africa in 1949 and spent a couple of years there learning African drumming. He brought that back to America and started using African drumming in his solos. He made several albums with that kind of drumming. "Ritual" is the classic. Also "Holiday For Skins Vol. 1 & 2, Orgy in Rhythm, and Night in Tunisia are good examples. End of part 2.

Tags: Drum Solos

How I play drums solos Part 1.
Posted On 01/05/2012 23:24:03
This blog is about how I play drums solos and my views on making it all happen (and other stuff).

I first became aware of these animals when I first started listening to jazz. Rock n' roll and other kinds of music didn't have drum solos, and still don't mostly. It was possible to watch a solo in a club were the audience was cool, but on the radio, forget it.

For a time in the late 60's and early 70's there were a few rock bands that played some great music along with great drum solos. For example: Cream, James Gang, Grand Funk, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Vanilla Fudge, Hendrix, Derek and the Dominos, and so on. Later, the torch was mostly passed on to heavy metal bands since those early kinds of ass-kicking bands died out. So, if you wanted ass-kicking music and drumming in rock, you had to go to heavy metal. That's where in rock n' roll most of all the really great musicians went.

Before that, it was jazz.
I listened to jazz and grew up listening to the likes of Max Roach, Athur Tayor, Art Blakey, Shelly Manne, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Philly Joe Jones, Joe Morello, Danny Richmond, Elvin Jones, and many others. (I also listened to the radio and early rock n' roll.) Although these drummers were all different, there was one thing they all had in common, and that was they all played drum solos. So, I grew up believing that drummers had to play drum solos, since all the drummers I listened to played them.

I had learned how to hold the sticks and had basic lessons in reading and whatnot, but the only time I had ever sat on a drum set, my teacher kicked me off and told me that I couldn't play them. So, when I finally got around to trying to play a set, I had to sneak some drums home from the high school band and set them up in a makeshift drum set. I got the cymbals from the crash cymbals and took off the handles and used them on makeshift stands. Then I just tried copying the drum solos on the records and played until I was physically unable to continue each time I played.

I also had to put blankets on all the drums to muffle the sounds. I played like that as much as possible, not knowing what I was doing but doing it anyway. In that way more or less I've been teaching myself how to play drum solos and the drum set all my life. Simply put, I listened to everyone I could and tried to copy them the best I could. End of part 1.

Tags: Drum Solos

Double and Single Bass Drumming
Posted On 04/28/2008 00:58:13


I would like to contribute a little to the double-bass technique topic. Ken Sanders has written an excellent blog on double-bass chops, and that should be very helpful for someone wanting to learn or improve their chops.

I would like to start by saying the obvious, and that is, if you want to get better, you have to practice. That brings us to the topic of "what to practice"

To be a well rounded drummer as far as chops go, you need to start developing your hands and feet together if you aren't already doing that.

For your hands, I would recommend "Stick Control" by Gorge Lawrence Stone and "Syncopation for the Modern Drummer" by Ted Reed. These books will develope your hands.

You can also use these books for your feet.  For example, in Stick Control you can substitute the right hand with your right foot and play all the right hand notes with the right foot and play all the left hand notes with the left hand.  Your right hand can then play on the cymbal using whatever pattern you want.

For example:  If the hand pattern were RLRRLRLL, then you would play all the Rs with your right foot and all the Ls with your left hand.  The right hand would be playing what ever you want on the cymbal.  This would be for single bass drumming.

You can also play any strokes that are two or more with the double-bass playing the multiple strokes and your left hand continuing to play the left hand part. 

So,  if the pattern were RLRRRLRR, you would play the Rs with both feet and the Ls with your left hand.  So, that would be played like this: Right foot-Left hand-Right foot-Left foot-Right foot-Left hand-Right foot-Left foot and then you could just repeat that or go on to something new.

There are other ways to play the exercises with you feet.  For example, in Syncopation, you can play the "hand parts" with your feet while playing on "two and four" with your left hand while riding with your right hand on the cymbal.

As you start getting better, you can change the left hand from the "2 and 4 beat"  to more syncopated rhythms while playing all the "hand parts" on the bass drums. The ideas become unlimited.

Also, there is Joe Franco's book, "Double Bass Drumming". If you use this book diligently and keep at it, you can master the double bass drums. It has enough in there to keep anyone busy for a long time.  I recommend this book for anyone seriously wanting to master the double-bass drums.

His book has exercises in sixteenth note patterns and triplet patterns.  There are also broken fill patterns, overlapping patterns, soloing over the double bass rolls, accented rolls, accent patterns, and sixteenth and eigth note triplets fills.  There is enough in Joe Franco's book to enable you to become a very proficient player.

Finally, assuming you know how to hold the sticks and whatnot, you should make sure you have a metronome to practice with. Practice slowly at first and make sure you master each exercise before you play it faster. Make sure you are playing it correctly.

Once you "own it" and it's part of you, then you can pick up the speed. Speed will come naturally as a by-product of mastering what ever you are learning. Use the metronome to help you by gradually increasing the tempo once you are able to play something correctly, with feeling, and while being relaxed. Always remember to stay relaxed.

And don't quit if something seems to hard. Just go slower and try again. Keep doing it until you can play whatever it is that you want to play.


Tags: Double Bass Drumming

Buddy Rich
Posted On 11/10/2007 08:40:49
Since this is my first blog I would like to keep it simple and thank Buddy Rich for being such the great drummer that he was. Even now when I see any of his videos or listen to any of his cds I get excited and know there is so much more to learn and do on the drums.

He was and still is a true inspiration for me, and I really appreciate his contribution to music.

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