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This question might be a little weird, but I was wondering, since there are a lot of different ways to perform a drum solo, how to practice for them.

I'm looking forward to play something clean, not the noisy ones sounding more like an eliphant jumping on a desk than real music. Two of my favourite solo drummers are Simon Phillips and Tal Bergman.

But even after long years of training, I still don't manage to do a proper drum solo. I mean, I can punch everywhere in the tempo without any problem, but it's not well structured, and a little messy. So every live concert I do, I try to avoid this part as much as possible, and it goes over and over again.

So, how can I do if I want to improve myself in soloing on drums?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

With any solo, you want to tell a story. The licks, riffs and grooves are your words. Writers structure stories as narrative arcs.

A narrative arc is usually:

  • Exposition: The introduction the story in which characters are introduced, setting is revealed.
  • Rising Action: A series of events that complicate matters for the protagonist, creating a rise in the story's suspense or tension.
  • Climax: The point of greatest tension in the story and the turning point in the narrative arc from rising action to falling action.
  • Falling Action (Anti-climax): After the climax, the unfolding of events in a story's plot and the release of tension leading toward the resolution.
  • Resolution: The end of the story, typically, in which the problems of the story and of the protagonists are resolved.

In good stories there's usually a series of rising actions (and slight falling actions) that gradually get bigger to the big climax and the resolution of the story.

So a (longer) drum story might go like this:

  • Exposition: splash cymbal then a phat beat that's a slight elaboration of the original groove.

  • Rising Action 1: Move the groove to different parts of the kit

  • Falling Action 1: Start removing parts of the groove, maybe all the way down to the kick and a light tap on the snare
  • Rising Action 2: Add back the removed but now elaborated parts and add splash cymbal
  • Falling Action 2: Remove splash
  • Rising Action 3: Start playing a completely different groove
  • Falling Action 3: Go back to original groove
  • Rising Action 4: Start combining parts of the original groove and the new groove and switching between the two. This is dialog and conflict and interesting.
  • Rising Action 5: Keep combining and switching until combined groove is now really intense and difficult to play and busy.
  • Falling Action: Take out the parts that jar (or skip this step)
  • Climax: Add your special sauce, whatever makes listeners go "Woo!"
  • Resolution: back to the original groove a little quieter and less busy than before your solo.

(Bonus points to nerds who noticed that this drum solo is in sonata form.)

The conflict in the rising actions are usually described musicians as "tension and release" and the tension can be anything that is unsettled: busy vs. sparse, funky vs. straight, quiet vs. loud, toms vs cymbals, playing behind the beat or in front of the beat, slow vs. fast, etc.

If you listen to this Simon Phillips solo you'll see he's all about narrative arc. And he'll also use rests or playing behind or against the beat to increase tension.

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I was exactly thinking about this solo by the way, really clean. Didn't realize the different parts of the solo were making such a "regular scheme" though. Thanks! –  Flugueubluck Jul 16 at 6:54

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