Bill Powelson's School of Drums

Drum Solo Lesson #1

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Drum Solo Lesson #1:

(03/18/2014): This is the first in a series of lessons I hope to do on the topic of drum solo techniques. As luck would have it, my old video camera bought the farm as I was preparing to do all this. This particular video was captured on a friend's iPhone camera. I'll be acquiring a new video cam soon and hope to provide a series of solo lessons that may help you discover the thrills of drum solo improvisation.

It's a ton of fun if you can put your own negativity on ice, then explode with your own creative solo ideas on a routine and daily basis. It's one of the very best ways to get the 'chops' (or coordination) up to speed.

Rudiments are great if you can tolerate the boredom, but soloing accomplishes the same general end-result, and . . . as we enjoy some of the most incredible fun we'll ever experience in our life.

Also; if you are as old as I am, this is also great for health and stamina. Turn it into a real workout and make a part of your daily routine. I still use the same general formula I've used since I was a kid. It's even easier now that we have the Web to help us; as I'll explain below.

Here it is:
  1. Listen to at least 10 minutes of recorded solos being played by your own favorite drummers, before you take a seat behind the drum set. Listen, absorb and FEEL, several really good solos in a relaxed, uninterrupted, listening session. Let it soak-in to the pit of your soul. It's best to listen with headphones and watch closely with both eyes if it's a video.
  2. As you cut off the solo videos or sound files; listen to your own brain! Those rhythm patterns will continue to reverberate within your own mind for a long time after the recording has stopped.
  3. Take your place behind the drum kit and begin thrashing. Play what you are hearing in your head. Thrash and have fun with it. Do NOT try to copy the genius drummer you've just heard. That is NOT the idea! However, those ideas that are still thundering within your own mind are looking for a way out, through your hands and feet. Allow it!
  4. You may even think that what you are playing, sucks! Keep doing it and lay-off yourself. (Negativity isn't productive.) Just have fun expressing yourself . . . YOUR WAY. Listen for the things you'll do that sound okay and repeat them numerous ways. It will grow like cancer. That's a promise!
  5. If you do things that suck, just don't do them again the same way, but keep that solo churning. Stop the hands if they need a break but keep the hi-hat or bass going as you listen again to your mind for the next round of ideas. Begin thrashing again as a fresh new set of ideas struggle within the mind to be free.
  6. As you play; be perceptive of any easy ideas that DO sound good. Accidents will often happen that may actually amaze you. You will hit licks that actually sound pretty great. (Even YOU will have to admit it!) When that happens, do those ideas over and over a thousand different ways. Refine them. Play those same ideas to different parts of the drum set in many different ways. Play them loud! Play them soft. Do them on the hi hat, then to the different toms one at a time. Later, combine the same ideas between several toms, searching for a LOT of tonal variations of what may be the same idea over and over, 15 or 20 different ways.

This is all 100% original artistry! That means there are absolutely NO RULES! There is no right or wrong! You've just discovered a brand new means of self-expression. The artist within you has just escaped into a new World.

Here's a short solo I did after listening to Buddy Rich for 15 or 20 minutes. There's not a lot in this solo that will ever compare to Buddy, but just listening to him gave me ideas that I do not normally play. In a way, I'm stealing subliminally from one of my own heros. That's the point of this lesson. Listening to drummers who top us, also helps us elevate our own playing. A LOT will rub off. It works!


The real point is; if we do this religiously day after day; a lot of really great things will begin to happen within a VERY short time . . .

As we continually hit those accidental great licks and repeat, repeat, repeat them around the set different ways, they become engrained within our own mind as OUR ideas. They become a part of our own solo routine. The become memorized, so that if we decide to play a solo without listening to anyone beforehand, we'll play those ideas, because they are now OUR ideas. Gradually, one accidental great lick becomes two that we play a dozen different ways each, then there's three, four and eventually hundreds.

At some point we get to where if we want to pay a solo, we pull from that little bank of ideas that are now ours. The more of those ideas we have, the more complex our solos become and we realize that we rarely repeat ourselves. As few as 8 or 10 good ideas played 15 or 20 different ways each will equal hundreds and thousands of uniquely different solos. No two solos will ever be exactly the same but they will all be based on the same primary 8 or 10 ideas we've discovered by simply thrashing about the drums and playing the ideas our minds have dictated after listening to our own favorite personal drumming heros.

As we consistently play and have fun this way, we are training the hands and feet to execute the ideas that have originated within our minds.

Guess what? That is the exact intention of rudimental study!

Then; one bright day we decide to analyze exactly what is we've been doing in OUR solos. I decided to study rudiments as a matter guilt, though they weren't my favorite topic by any stretch. To my own shock and dismay, as I worked my way down the various rudiment charts I made a really neat discovery. I discovered that all that fun I'd been having at the set playing solos, actually had funny names. They were called names like Flams, Ruffs, Paradiddles, etc., etc.

The rudiments were a breeze. I had fairly well mastered them over a year or so of fun jamming with the solos. I could easily play them all. The most difficult part was memorizing the names. I had essentially learned rudiments the same way they had been learned by those who "invented" them in 1933 (and beyond); William F. Ludwig and his gang. They later became known as the N.A.R.D.(National Association of Rudimental Drummers). I had discovered the rudiments and fairly well mastered them by proxy . . . by listening, then playing what my mind told me to play. That is the value of this type of fun study!

So, to bring this first solo lesson to a close I'll just mention this:
A quick and easy Google Search for ' drum solo videos' will put entire collections of the very best drum solo artists in the world at your fingertips. Give them all a listen. Get inspired.

Listen to your mind and then play what it dictates after you have listened to one of the truly great drummers. Do it 30-minutes per day for 30-days. The results will be fantastic. Plus, you'll have the most fun you've ever enjoyed in your life.

Okay, okay, it may only rank second for some, but it's still a LOT of fun!

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