1. Have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Introduce some kind of motif, theme, style or feel at the beginning to set up the drum solo.
Have a middle section that develops whatever ideas you introduced at the beginning of your solo.
The ending should contain the climax of your solo. By the end, things should have built up as far as intensity during the middle development section. The climax at the end is what should garner the applause, if you succeeded in performing a great solo.
Feel the solo, rather than execute it. And your audience will feel it too.
2. Study and practice technique. Then forget about it.
There was a time in my life when I was practicing 6 hours a day on the drums. And there is so much to practice, actually. It never ends.
And I think all the technical stuff should be practiced, definitely. But when it comes time to do the actual solo, don’t focus on technique. Actually, the technical stuff should be automatic. So, here’s what you concentrate on… feeling the music (the solo) and emoting. Any kind of music is all about emotion, and communicating that to your audience.
Sure, people will be thrilled at how fast you do a double stroke roll around the drum set. But, add emotion and feeling to it and you’ve taken it to another level.
3. Live your life and struggle.
Well. This doesn’t appear to have a direct connection with doing drum solos. But, think about it a minute. All the greatest jazz musicians that have ever lived have had to struggle in life, in some way, shape or form.
The great Keith Jarrett said in one of his videos that there is definitely more to life than music. Music is just an expression of… Life. Those musicians who’ve had to struggle have expressed their emotions through their music… their art. Just something to think about.
4. Practice improvisation. Practice being spontaneous.
The more you do drum solos in front of people, the more you’re going to have to vary your drum solo each time. Because chances are, a lot of people will be hearing your drums solos more than once. Instead of doing the same exact drum solo, it is better to always improvise the drum solo. And each time make it different so that returning listeners won’t listen to the same thing, and posibbly get bored.
I personally would get bored if I played the same thing all the time anyway. So, learn to improvise different ideas and things on the drum set. Mix things up. You don’t have to create entirely different ideas every time. But, you can always do a drum solo that has the same theme (like in Sing, Sing, Sing) and vary the middle, development section, and have a different ending… a surprise ending, or something.
Variety is the spice of life. So, spontaneity is the key to improvisation.
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And of course, these tips can apply to any instrument one plays. I do the same thing on drums that I do when improvising on the piano.