Jazz drumming is known for its improvisation and drum solos are an big part of that. Jazz drum solos give us the opportunity to play creatively while also continuing the conversation of the music.
Soloing in Jazz drumming can be challenging. Most beginner drummers don’t know what they can our should play. In this blog post, I’ll explore some of the elements of successful soloing in Jazz drumming.
Structure in Jazz Drum Solos
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Structure is an important element of successful soloing in Jazz drumming. A well-structured drum solo helps to maintain the listener’s attention and tells the band where you are and are going musically.
The structure of a drum solo is usually based on the form of the tune you are playing. For example, you could trade fours and eights with the other musicians or play a chorus drum solo over a 32-measure song. Trading fours and eights is when you take turns playing 4 or 8-measure drum solos over the song form with the other musicians in the band.
Vamp drum solos are also common. This is when the rest of the band repeats a two to four-measure phrase with some kicks. It’s arranged into the song and they’ll repeat it a specific number of times or as many times as you like.
Vamp solos are fun to develop bite-sized creative ideas. You simply cue the band when you’re done to return to continue the song.
You can also play open solos that do not have to follow the song form. In this case it’s good to divide your solo into sections. An example might be
The Introduction is the opening section of the drum solo, where the drummer establishes the tempo, groove, and feel of the solo.
This may be continuing in the same feel, tempo, dynamic of the song or changing everything and going in a new musical direction.
The Statement is the main theme of the drum solo, where the drummer plays a rhythmic motif or phrase that sets the tone for the rest of the solo. We can then develop this phrase and connect it to new musical ideas to give our drum solo direction.
The Development is where the drummer expands upon the statement by adding variations, dynamics, and fills. This is the journey part of our solo. It’s here where we really tell our story. I often use audience participation here with clapping and vocalizing.
Finally, the Resolution is the closing section of the drum solo, where we bring the solo to a conclusion and connect back to the song. Sometimes our open solo will be at the end of the tune. In that case, we just finish the song by ourselves.
Check out this article for more tips on creating great Jazz drum solos.
Creativity in Jazz Drum Solos
Another element of successful soloing in Jazz drumming is creativity. A successful drum solo is not really about fast or complicated drumming.
It’s about continuing the creative conversation of the band. If playing fast and complex continues the conversation then go for it. If the mood is subdued, then opt for more space and simplicity.
To enhance your drum soloing creativity try using rhythmic variations, dynamics, space and playing fewer or more notes.
Rhythmic variations add some serious spice to a drum solo. By adding unexpected accents or syncopation that crosses over bar lines, the drummer can create tension and release in the music. As drummers, rhythm is our thing so definitely use it to your musical advantage.
Dynamics, or the volume of the drums, can also be used to create shape in your solos. By playing quietly or loudly, you can make even simple single strokes sound infinitely more interesting.
Space is simple. Just stop playing. Including breaks in your solos, gives the listener and even yourself time to prepare for the next thing you’re going to play. Space also gives your solos contrast so that the notes you play stand out even more.
Speed is another powerful tool in your creativity kit. Playing some fast drumming followed by slower drumming keeps your solos interesting and full of surprises.
All of these support your improvisation. Improvisation is spontaneously creating on the spot and that’s what makes a Jazz drum solo unique.
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Musicality in Jazz Drum Solos
A final element of successful soloing in Jazz drumming is musicality. A drum solo should not just be a display of technical ability; it needs to be a musical expression that connects with both the band and audience.
Musicality in drum soloing involves playing with sensitivity, taste, and emotion that match the character or mood of the song you’re playing.
Sensitivity is developing a 6th sense that connects your soloing to the other musicians’ playing. This is especially useful in trading fours and eights. By playing with sensitivity, the drummer can seamlessly continue that musical conversation with the other musicians.
Taste is another important aspect of musicality in drum soloing. Taste is musical choice. Only playing experience can teach you the right rhythmic, dynamic, space and speed for that match the musical context. A tasty drum solo is one that complements the other musicians’ playing and makes the music sound great.
Emotion is the final component of musicality in drum soloing. A drum solo should be emotional. Whether it’s excitement, joy or melancholy, a successful drum solo is one that evokes an emotional response from the listener.
Successful soloing in Jazz drumming requires a balance between structure, creativity, and musicality. All three of these elements can support your creativity while also leading back to the musical conversation.
A structurally connected drum solo creates a great musical experience for the audience and the band. Creativity adds interest and variety while musicality helps you to connect with the audience.
At the end of the day, soloing is about having fun but also keeping our head in the song. So, keep creating and exploring your Jazz drum soloing and keep swinging my friend!