The thought of having to play a drum solo creates panic in many drummers. We’re quite happy playing along with songs, learning grooves and fills and practicing our rudiments; but solos are a different beast entirely. A solo challenges us to create something.
It needn’t be such a stressful task though. Drum solos can be thought of and prepared ahead of time, and most drummers have a library of ideas in their head that they choose from when putting a solo together.
I fully encourage you to spend some time at your kit just banging around looking for ideas that could go into a drum solo; put the books / youtube videos away, stop playing to songs & just try to create a drum solo and see what comes out. You’ll find over time you’ll create your own library of ideas that you can use.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
Drum great, Gavin Harrison records all of his practice sessions and listens back for anything he played that he thinks may be useful in the future. He’ll then make a note of anything he likes and files it away for use and further development at a later time. He’s easily one of the most creative drummers out there (I’ll wait while you go look him up on youtube – don’t forget to come back!)
Look For Inspiration
To get started though, you may need some inspiration. The solo in the video below was inspired by 1 drummer and 2 drum duets. The first duet was this one by Godsmack. The second duet was this one by Phil Collins and Chester Thompson. Both of these duets have a very tribal feel to them, and that’s what I was going for in this solo. You can even hear the tom tom rhythm of my solo in the Godsmack one, or something very similar to it, from around the 15 second mark. All drummers steal from each other and it’s ok as long as you make it your own & give credit where credit is due.
The drummer that inspires my approach to drum solos is the jazz legend Max Roach. If you listen to solos by Max Roach you’ll hear a very song oriented approach to soloing. Like a song has sections such as Verse, Chorus & Bridge, Max Roach’s solos also have definite sections and themes that you hear repeated throughout his solos. Check out his Drums Unlimited album or try to find his “Big Sid” or “Five for Paul” solos for an example.
My Drum Solo
Here’s my short drum solo that was used in the promotional video on the home page of this website – minus the promotional material – just the drums.
Putting Together A Drum Solo
This a very simply constructed solo. The form of the solo is ABAA. Each section is a four bar phrase except for the last A which has an extra bar for the finale. You can download the transcription here: Rhythm House Drum Solo Example June 2018
The A section of the solo is variations on this theme:
All of the variations come after beat 3 of the bar. So, to make this your own, I suggest you practice playing the first 2 beats and then thinking of something else to do for the second 2 beats. Here’s some suggestions:
I suggest practicing by playing one bar of the main theme and then one bar with your variation and repeating the 2 bar pattern over and over again.
The B Section of the solo is a more energetic 16th note phrase as I wanted to increase the energy of the piece at that point and it also introduces 16th note triplets into the solo for the first time. I don’t vary this theme very much as it’s only in the solo for a short time & I want it to be memorable. The sixteenth note triplet fill on the 4th bar helps to increase the energy again.
On returning to the A section I now hit a crash on every beat 1, again with the intention of increasing the energy – more noise and more energy. I also bring the 16th note triplet into the main theme to add yet more energy. The last 2 bars see me playing a 16th note triplet fill followed by 8th note triplets. The 8th note triplets just slow things down and put a definite end to the piece.
If you’re struggling with the 8th note foot pattern on this solo, try playing just quarter notes on either the bass drum or the hi-hat. Having some kind of foot pattern running underneath the drum solo anchors it and gives it a sense of forward motion.
Taking It Further
The next step, try adding a C section to the piece and play it in the form ABAC or ABCA or maybe AABACAB. Here’s an idea for an 8 bar C section I was contemplating putting into this solo. I left it out as it slowed the feel down too much for what I wanted for this solo. But I might use it in another solo or if I was playing an extended version of this solo.
Again, you can take the basic theme from this idea and create your own variations.
What’s next? Try adding a D Section too – make it four or 8 bars long and then slot it into the solo… you can go ABACAD ABCD or AABA BBCB CCDC DDAD… The combinations are endless… Experiment and have fun!
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