Watch the Soloing online guitar lesson by Danny Gottlieb from Master Class Drum Lessons
a method for developing individual expression. The type of solo depends on the musical environment in which you are performing. Jazz drumming has existed for about 100 years, and you can still find recorded drum solos to study from the early jazz pioneers. Baby Dodds, Zutty Singleton, Chick Webb, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Sid Catlet, just to name a few, are all well represented on recorded media.
When you listen to drum solos from the greats, the first thing to notice, or analyze, is just what are the elements that make the solo great? Some of the main questions to be asked are:
1. What type of song is being played, and in what type of feel?
2. How long is the solo?
3. Does it relate to the form of the song?
4. What is the form of the song?
5. How is the drummer phrasing each rhythm?
6. How does one rhythmic phrase relate to another?
7. What types of Rudiments is the drummer using?
8. How is the drummer using the elements of the drum set? (does the hi hat play as constant 2 and 4?, Does the bass drum play all four beats?, etc)
9. What dynamics are played by the drummer?
10. Can you hear a theme in the solo?
11. What rhythms or elements make the solo unique and indicative of this particular drummer?
12. What musical devices can you take from this solo that relate to the historical development of the drum solo, which can be used for your own solo?
For rock and Funk drummers, there is also a great lineage of soloing to be studied. Carl Palmer, Carmine Appice, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell, Steve Gadd, Steve Jordan, are just a few of the amazing drummers to study.
Most drum solos usually have something from which they are derived. Bob Moses, one of the great drum soloists of all time, would tell me in a lesson "always have something to draw from when you solo". He showed me that it could be the rhythm or melody of the song you are playing, the bass line used in the song, or even a simple rhythmic figure.
Most solos usually consist of phrases that are musically related, and are often question and answer figures. You play on phrase, and then follow it by answering with another related phrase. Bob Moses also used to talk about "milking" a rhythm - twisting it, turning it around, playing variations, but staying consistent.
I find that one of the flaws I have with soloing, is that I might start one with rhythm, and then quickly move to another without fully developing what I started. It is like a conversation where you just jump from one thought to another. If you start with triplets as a rhythmic phrase, for example, stay with the triplets and play around with them... change dynamics, leave space, move the phrase between drums or limbs, embellish the phrases, make them shorter, longer, etc. All can be used to great effect!
And also remember that while you are an artist, you are also a performer. Think of what the audience, or listener is hearing. If you play a solo where there are no dynamics, or if the rhythms are just flat, it’s like having a monotone conversation. If the solo has no start and no ending, it can be confusing or boring. I often imagine I am in the audience listening when I play a long extended solo. Most times, though, you are just thinking about the music, but if you are having problems creating an impact with your solo, imagining you are in the audience might be a good approach.
Taping yourself, either with a video or audio recorder can also be helpful when working on your solos. With a recording as a reference you can really analyze what you are playing, and work toward improvement.
Good luck, and have a great time playing solos!