spacerxDrumset3 Logo img spacerxFree Menu1 Free Menu2 Free Menu3 Free Menu4 Donate

spacerx imgSOLO TIPS II
spacerx img8th Triplets & 16th Singles

The March 97 issue of the Tempo Dispatch contained some of my best tricks and tips for building killer solos. But, just reading about solos won't do you much good. Follow those tips to the letter. I promise results! Soloing is an art form and it must come from within.

Nearly all my solo lessons will stress this same routine first, because it honestly works so well. I want to be certain that each and every student will try this . . . at least a few times. For most students, it will hopefully become an addiction that can produce a monster drummer in HALF the time with one-tenth the frustration. So, please bear with me as I re-cover a little bit of old-ground. (If you already understand this first part; jump on down to the sub-heading: "The Science of Rudiments and Soloing").

Input is the first secret!
Output is the second.

spacerx img SOLO TIPS II:

Sure! We can set at a practice pad day and night for 20-years, repeating rudiments. It WILL help. But, it is the absolute most boring way to learn. It also leads to a robotic drumming style that lacks creativity.


There is a much better way to build our chops and great solos simultaneously. NATURAL DRUMMERS have been discovering it since the early 1930s to the present day. If you are a creative thinker, you will discover it here.

First, we must hear the GREAT stuff in our head. The hands will find a way to play it, if only we can 'think' it. This is RULE #1 and it will lead to killer chops (limb coordination) and it will make it all happen in half the time with 10 times the FUN.

You shouldn't need to devote 1000 hours over a practice pad, getting your chops and your drummer-brain up to speed. You will grow to greatness the natural way if you'll try the following tips, religiously. They'll usually work, when all those recommended 1000 hours at the practice-pad may fail miserably.

INSPIRATION is half the battle! To my thinking; practice pads and boring rudiments are inspiration killers. When we (the students) are inspired, we'll play for the fun of it for hour after hour. Without the INSPIRATION, a 30-minute practice session will seem more like a million years and our progress will crawl at a snails-pace.

FIRST, we need to concentrate on the INPUT factor. You'll totally enjoy this, if there really is a drummer living inside you, struggling to be heard and felt.

The drummer-brain constantly absorbs rhythms and repeats them over and over until we incessantly begin banging and tapping on anything in sight. That's the reason we become drummers. We can't seem to make it stop! Why would we? It's a good thing, even if it does send the cat scurrying for the back door.

We can increase, develop and cultivate this NATURAL tendency to drum in a very easy way. Anyone who will state that drumming can't be studied and mastered SUBLIMINALLY, isn't a NATURAL drummer. Those who will tell you it's crazy are really saying it doesn't work for them. Guess what? They really aren't NATURAL drummers! Subliminal study does work and I'm about to prove it to you. (Or, at least those of you who really are natural drummers.) If this doesn't work for you, I'd like to suggest that you should worry about it, A LOT! You may be missing the NATURAL ingredient that will lead you to success. Keep an open mind. You can and will develop that natural soloing ability right here, right now. To your own surprise, you very well may discover that after a few weeks or months of this FUN habit, you will have mastered most of those boring rudiments automatically as well.

THE FACT OF THE MATTER is this: whenever we aim a drumstick into the head of a drum more than once we have automatically done something technical (whether we have a fancy name for it or not). In sense, it's ALL math! No matter what we do, we are either playing some form of the (all important) note-value system and/or some form of the 400+ rudiments that currently exist world-wide. If we continue to slam, bang and thrash . . . it all takes shape automatically.

THE NEXT ARGUMENT is a logical one.
Some will ask: What about the left-hand (or weak hand)? Won't it lag behind? The answer is potentially yes, but not necessarily. The best way to overcome that issue is to alternate our ideas. In other words, as we discover a great original idea (leading with the good hand), we should try to reverse it. Play it backward, leading with our weaker hand. As we experiment with all the possible combinations and variations of tonal variations around the kit, ALL the limbs are developing naturally . . . while we have a GREAT time, expressing ourselvess' rhythmically. This same thing is true for the feet. We do try to push the envelope constantly, playing as rapidly as possible, and experimenting with our ideas as much as possible.

DEVELOPMENT occurs naturally as the INSPIRATION and FUN factors remain at their peak. This is engrossing and fun. It is also precisely the way all 400+ rudiments came into existence in the first place. The ideas came first . . . THEN they were committed to paper and became (a very boring) educational-tradition. That rudimental tradition does have merit, (for those with little or no imagination and ideas of their own). I'm not in complete disagreement with it. It's just that there is another (less known) BETTER way.

AGAIN, I need to reiterate; the way to gain those ideas is to LISTEN FIRST . . . THEN PLAY, (in that specific order). Hang the practice-pad on a tree in the back yard and use it for target practice!


  1. Listen deeply to the great solo players.
  2. Absorb, feel and watch what they do. (Drum solo videos are now abundant on the web. Do a Yahoo search for: 'drum solo videos'.)
  3. SECRET #3 - Output: PLAY WHAT YOU ARE THINKING, IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARD. Thrash and play what you are hearing in your head. If it sounds good, do it twice! If it sucks, don't do it again. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

To Clarify:

  1. Begin collecting drum solo recordings and video (links) immediately after reading this lesson to the end.
  2. Begin a fun DAILY routine of listening then playing solos. Do it on a daily basis! I already KNOW you will do that as you discover the fun that exists with all this.
  3. Don't be afraid to inject your own ideas as you begin thrashing away at your own ORIGINAL solos. Play what you feel and hear in your head after listening and watching some of the world's greatest drummers. You will be amazed at how much you will pick-up (subliminally) as you listen.
  4. Immediately after hearing a great solo, shut it OFF and listen to what is going on inside your own head. Those rhythmic ideas and sounds will (or should be) still repeating and rebounding in your head. This is half the game! If that is happening, this study method will work for you. (If not, maybe you should worry about it a little.)
  5. Begin playing immediately, while it is all still HOT in your mind. Immediately, begin thrashing at the drums or whatever you use as a practice rig.
  6. REMEMBER THIS TOO! It is your solo, so you may do anything you choose! Copying another drummer (verbatim) is NOT the objective! Play what you are hearing in your head, but keep it free. Do only what you CAN do. There are virtually no mistakes to worry about! You'll be creating your solos in real-time, on the fly.
  7. Get it going and don't stop until you decide it is finished. If something you do sounds good by accident, do it over and over again 100 different ways, backward, forward, sideways and up-side-down. (If it sucks, avoid doing it a second time.) Continually return to the ideas that work and discard the rest.
  8. As your imagination runs dry, locate a different solo video on the web. Listen, watch, enjoy, absorb . . . then PLAY.

You'll (hopefully) get so caught-up in it, the neighbors may need to take legal action, to get you to stop. It goes with the gig! Smile a lot and STOP PLAYING when the police arrive.

Trust me! We do NOT have the right nor the freedom to play drum solos all night long when we live in congested areas.

As you practice this way you are actually practicing the rudiments and rolls. Anything you can do right-handed, do it again left-handed. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Go to different parts of the drum set with those same ideas. Turn them inside-out, upside down and play them every way you can play them. When the police finally bang on your door and force you to stop, you will know I was right. This is the way most NATURAL drummers learned to play their solos. Many of them (I for one) also mastered their rudiments at the same time, without realizing it.

After ENJOYING this form of learning (daily) for a few months, grab a Rudiment Chart and work your way down the list, one-rudiment-at-a-time. To your shock and dismay, you may realize (as I and many of my students have done) that the rudiments are now very easy to play. You will have learned 80% of them the easy way . . . while having fun. The hardest part of rudiment study at that point, will be in memorizing the names of each rudiment.


Yes, the science of all this is important too, but the difference is, the above way is much easier, faster and a LOT more fun too. You'll practice longer because you will be having fun! It's that time-in-motion, that builds the chops, whether we are repeating paradiddles (on a practice-pad) or just having fun, expressing ourselvess' rhythmically.


"Your 'ears' will teach you 10-times faster and better than the eyes ever will."

The 'eyes' only create a log-jam. We are trained from birth to use the eyes as our primary learning tool. No one has ever taught US to use the 'ears'!

We're dealing with INVISIBLE sounds here . . . We don't SEE sound, we hear it. That's the issue and the argument! Use both learning techniques (eventually), but DO use the ears. Train them and they'll teach you 10-times faster.

So, what is all this about the science of solos and rudiments? (Now, we'll tackle this same topic, visually.)

An analytical study of the average drum solo will show that two roll types tend to permeate most drum solos about 80% of the time. What are those two roll types?

spacerx img 8th-note triplets and 16th-notes.

It might help to study these two (note-value) rolls, in every form they may take. (Yep, this may be a little boring at first.)

What follows are a few suggestions that should help to get your own solo-engines primed and running if your hands and feet absolutely refuse to move on their own:


Listen and 'feel' the sound! Hear the 'Ba da da Ba da da' or 'trip-o-let, trip-o-let' in your head as you play them.

Strive to play the above roll pattern blazing fast! Watch TV and work with the above triplets on a pillow for long periods (like . . . several eventual hours). Watch the foot! The hard part is playing the bass along with that fourth note. Don't give up until you can do it at warp speed with no mistakes.

The most common thing that students will do wrong here is slip into 16th singles as they try to increase speed with 8th triplets. Avoid doing that by accident! It is a good maneuver, if you intend to do it, but be alert that it isn't happening by accident.


This is 16th Singles. Know the difference between 16th Singles and 8th triplets. Eventually, they will both dominate your bag of solo tricks . . .

Listen. Build to (approximately) this speed . . . gradually.

Hear 8th triplets & 16th singles, intentionally mixed together.

Practice switching between 8th triplets and 16th Singles while maintaining a steady bass flow (or tempo).


Once you can keep a steady bass tempo and switch from one roll to the other, it will be time to climb behind the kit and begin to do your own thing. The sky is the limit! There are no mistakes! If you accidently get your arms and legs tied in a square knot . . . no problem! :>) It isn't a mistake until you lose or stop the beat flow. Really! It is easy to overcome this entangled dilemma! As your hands become confused . . . stop them but maintain the bass tempo . . . gather your thoughts for a few (bass) beats, then jump back in with a vengeance . . . continue on with another roll pattern.

What follows are *ONLY* suggestions. You may do these ideas in any order! Also, I should say . . . these are routines that may be manipulated with *ANY* roll type, including 8th triplets, 16th Singles, 16th Doubles, 16th Paradiddles, 16th triplets, Rogers (4-stroke) Ruffs and on and on:

  1. INJECTING ACCENTS: Play a steady stream of the chosen roll. Play as softly as you can. Occasionally inject random accented notes into the stream, using your best hand. Just drop these occasional accents anywhere it feels natural, they do not need to be close together. Separate them to wide intervals. Simply hit one or more strokes harder than the rest. No matter where you accent, it will create a different rhythmic flow. The more you do this, the better your control will become.

  2. After awhile, go to work on your lame hand . . . do the same type of routines but do them with your weakest hand. It's good practice! Keep it simple at first then grow slowly into more complex patterns. It takes time!

  3. POWER RIMSHOTS: A 'Power Rimshot' is a rimshot that is done by connecting the rim and head simultaneously, producing a 'ping' sound (usually done on the snare).

    You are playing your roll in a stream of notes and popping accents as you go. Now add a few super accented 'Power Rimshots'. Play with the tonal changes that can occur between accents and 'Power Rimshots'. The rhythmic possibilities are immense. Always seek to create new sounds and rhythms. Drop occasional 'Power Rimshots' with either hand. Let it flow and try to be creative!

  4. CROSS-OVER VARIATIONS: With the chosen roll flying on any drum, reach to any other drum with your best hand, smack it once then return. Try to maintain the flow of the roll but reach out, occasionally picking up random notes on any of the toms. Again, get your best hand working first then focus on the other. Eventually, both hands will be flying all around the kit. Play with the tones and experiment constantly.

  5. BROKEN ROLLS: A broken roll is when some of the notes are omitted in the stream. In other words, we are talking about adding occasional random rests within the chosen roll. This will probably happen by accident in the beginning anyway. You will think they are mistakes. A million fascinating rhythms may be fashioned by simply stopping at irregular intervals, sometimes by accident and sometimes intentionally. Let them happen. Listen for neat ideas as they occur and try to repeat them on demand.

    Try to get the drums talking to each other as in a real conversation. This will include long and short pauses within the roll stream. Add dynamics as in a real conversation. There will be times when it sounds good to scream and times when you want to speak in a whisper. This injects feeling into the solo and it is fun.

  6. RANDOM CRASHES & CYMBAL TRICKS: Crash the cymbals when you feel like it! Use crashes as you might use punctuation in a sentence. Try to add these crashes within the flowing stream of the roll, sometimes. At other times you may decide to move to the cymbals entirely . . . maintaining your chosen roll but searching for tonal extremes within the different cymbals. You will be amazed at the variety of tones that may be produced from a cymbal. Every cymbal will have its own personality and range of tonal values. Strive to find them all and use them advantageously in your solos.

  7. JINGLES & RHYMES: This gets back to accents and 'Power Rimshots' but we will add a twist. As you gain control with accents, try to play a melodic jingle or sing-song accent pattern over the top of your roll stream. Think the melody of 'Jingle Bells' (Christmas Carol) and bring it out as accents within a roll stream. Next, try, 'Three Blind Mice', 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' or anything else you can come up with. The listening audience may never realize the (simple) tune you are thinking. That isn't the point! Your solos will become more melodic as you do this. It adds continuity and substance to an otherwise boring ration of racket. It helps the listener 'feel' what you are doing.
spacerx img
VIDEO: Click here to 'Play', see, and hear a short solo using the tips in this lesson. For IE with Win Med. Player.

Video: For almost all handheld devices and other browsers.

If you are the extremely studious type, you might look for books that focus on topics like triplet accents and cross-overs. There are even a few books out there that focus on single, double and paradiddle roll development.

I could fill reams of paper with practice routines in each category. You would see endless lines of a particular roll with added accents and complicated cross-over examples. You would see them . . . but would you study them? Most of us bore with that stuff real quick. I know I do! Try it! If it helps, that's great! If you bore as quickly as I do, don't worry! Just LISTEN and PLAY (in that order). It will accomplish the same end result, especially if you become totally addicted to the FUN that's involved.

Good luck! Burn 'em and keep it FUN!

spacerx imgCopyright Bill Powelson 1994-2014 @ all rights reserved.

spacerxInstructor's Guide link imgspacerxSeeds of Rhythmn link imgspacerxBP's Other Booksimg
spacerxdrum instructor's guide cov img spacerxseeds of rhythm cover spacerxopen office ebook templates