How to perform a killer drum solo

[If you’re not a drummer, move on. There’s probably nothing for you to see here. However, if you do appreciate the find art of rhythm, stick around for this lesson from Gideon Waxman on how to present a great drum solo. – AC]

Drum solos are impressive displays of musicianship. The best drum solos require incredible control and skill, and they must be thoroughly entertaining to win over a crowd.

In musical groups the drummer possesses a commanding musical voice and lays down the foundation of the groove. Other musicians typically look to the drummer for guidance and support throughout performances.

Drum solos are rare opportunities for drummers to express themselves and their musical ability. They are able to channel immense energy and charisma whilst being at the forefront of the audience’s attention, rather than playing the conventional supporting role!

If you want to be able to deliver a killer drum solo that will leave a crowd stunned, I’ve got you covered. Without further ado – I’m pleased to present to you some essential tips on how to perform a great drum solo.

Exude Confidence

Drum solos don’t need to be blisteringly fast. They can be tasteful, mature and controlled whilst still being engaging and rewarding to listen to. Some of the greatest drum solos are articulate and mesmerizing, without being aggressive.

The start of a legendary drum solo begins with a winning mind-set. The best musicians are natural performers who can effortlessly channel their energy and creativity into a performance. Simply put – the best drum solos exude confidence!

Great drum solos not only rely upon incredible technical ability and coordination, but also impressive mental and physical ability. Drum solos can be rehearsed as best as possible, but drummers must still react under pressure and adapt in order to create a genuine connection with the audience.

The Secret to a Killer Drum Solo

The secret to a killer drum solo is to keep the audience thoroughly engaged. You want to keep the crowd anxiously waiting for what’s about to come next. The way to do this is to reward listeners through building up tension and then finally releasing it with lots of energy.

In this way you are able to pique an audience’s curiosity, and this is known as the psychology of attraction. If you give everything away at the start of your drum solo, you risk a crowd becoming bored quickly.  

People are titillated by the mystique of the unknown. If you can make your drum solo dynamic, vibrant and luring, you can create a powerful connection with the audience that will leave them wanting more from a performance.

Building Your Drum Solo

Your drumbeat has the power to truly make the audience feel something. To maintain a steady increase in intensity, you will need to deliver a consistent beat that the audience can resonate with.

A drum solo needs to be treated as a musical journey in its own right. In this way, you can build upon the drum solo and increase the energy right until the end, before you can finally explode with energetic fills.

As mentioned earlier, drum solos are rare opportunities for drummers to show off their talent and technical prowess as musicians. But there needs to be much thought with regards to the structure of the solo, so that each part of the performance can deliver its intended impact.

Continue to build and develop themes throughout your drum solo around a single idea or motif – a focus that you return to. Having a familiar rhythmic idea can help the audience understand your musical vision for a performance, and guide them as listeners.

In this drum solo, you can see how Neil Peart continues to develop on his existing ideas for almost 9 minutes in this highly energetic exhibition of pure drumming ability. He perfectly builds up his ideas and then releases the tension, before restarting again. You can’t also help but admire his passion and charisma, and this performance leaves the crowd in awe.

Diversify Your Repertoire

If you are able to play a diverse range of rudiments, chops and grooves; you’ll have a lot of ammunition at your disposal, which you can use to stir the crowd into frenzy.

By pushing yourself to learn and practice new rhythmic patterns and techniques, you can continually expand your musical repertoire. Through experimentation, practice and repetition you will become both highly skilled and versatile as a musician and you will be armed with greater tools for your drum solo.

The best drummers execute drum solos with pinpoint precision and exert such a high level of control over the drums. These drummers can effortlessly play rudiments and polyrhythms, as well as limb independence. As far as playing a drum solo goes, demonstrating difficult techniques will give you a winning edge.

When learning new techniques and skills, remember that drumming is largely muscle memory.  Through dedicated practice and repetition you will be able to remember and recall challenging sticking patterns and rhythms with ease.

Expand Your Drum Set

Your choice of drums, cymbal selection and tuning methods all help to shape your overall sound behind the kit. A large drum set with a dazzling array of electronic drum elements, cymbals and percussion will provide a drummer with a wide variety of sounds and vibrant tonal colours.

A great way to explore new sounds is to introduce electronic drums within your acoustic drum set. This will broaden your musical horizons by providing you with limitless sounds.

Hybrid drum sets blend acoustic drums with electronic elements such as drum triggers, drum samplers and modules, and permit you to trigger sound samples when playing your acoustic drums to open up new creative realms.

In this drum solo, you can see Aric Improta skilfully adopts electronic elements to create genre-bending soundscapes within this 40-minute monolith drum solo. This innovative solo is a fantastic demonstration of not only technical ability, but also of memory and composition. With an assortment of loops, sound samples and FX, Aric is able to push musical boundaries, and break the sonic conventions of what drummers are typically limited to.

Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 14 years experience. Since completing a Music Degree at the University of Westminster, Gideon has been touring with metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his advice at Drum Helper ; a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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