Here we are looking at a drum solo – stripped. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about naked drumming, although what you get up to in the privacy of your own practice room is up to you.
One thing I often encourage students to do is strip back the kit and squeeze out every last drop of creativity. Most of us drool over the idea of monster kits like Terry Bozzio’s or Joey Jordison’s, and as young drummers we strive to obtain as many drums as possible, no matter how poor quality or inappropriate, to add to our kit. But this isn’t always great for our playing; or our backs when transporting to a gig!
With access to seven toms, many of us will feel content with repetitive sixteenth note fills from highest to lowest tom, reducing us to the techniques we used in our first year of playing. And it sounds great because the tones of each drum make it interesting.
But this isn’t helping our drumming or creativity at all. In fact, it’s potentially stifling our creativity.
So as an exercise I believe it’s a great idea to strip the kit back to the bare minimum. Get rid of most of the toms, get back to a classic 1960s 4 piece; hat, snare, bass, one rack tom, one snare tom and maybe a cymbal. In doing this you will feel forced to look for new sounds, new techniques and make each voice of the kit work to it’s full potential.
How many sounds can you achieve from the snare alone? Look at cross sticks, rim shots, playing in the centre of the drum, playing around the edge. Put you elbow in the middle and hit the drum head. Place a splash on the head and then hit it. Play on the rim, try hitting the shell. And what about techniques? Try buzzes, flams, use a brush and a stick. Get creative.
You can then examine every other drum and cymbal in the same way until you have exhausted all possibilities.
Now try playing a short solo or groove. You will hopefully find the ideas flooding out and the result will possibly be an exhilaratingly interesting sound. You may never wish to go back to that stifling, huge fifteen tom set up again.
Interestingly a great website DrumOffTV has recently been running a competition along these exact lines. Except they’ve gone even further and stripped the kit back to snare, hi-hat and bass drum. Very limiting from one perspective, and yet very liberating from another. A Great exercise and lots of fun.
They asked me to submit something so I did. The result is below. Only 30 seconds are allowed so there’s not much time to develop any ideas, but I thought I’d share these thoughts to inspire people to try stripping back their kit and getting creative with a small amount of drums.
As a final note, take ten minutes to look up Max Roach if you haven’t already. One of my favourite and most musical drummers in history.