There’s nothing quite like stealing the show with an epic drum solo!
Drum solos are a fun way to practice your skills and hone your abilities no matter how long you’ve been drumming.
Drums are often the underdogs of music, carrying the show without much solo-time. For this reason, solos can seem intimidating to some musicians. But if you’re ready to embrace the power of the drums, there are a few steps you can take to make your solo seem a lot less daunting.
So, sit high on your throne and get ready to start with a BANG—we’ve compiled our top tips for getting drum solo-ready fast.
Start with a BANG—Owning the Right Equipment
Starting with the right equipment is key to delivering an epic drum solo. Below we’ve outlined some of the must-have pieces in your kit for maximum punch.
- A snare drum: The snare is essential to the main beat of your solo. Its sharp staccato sound will help you keep the main tempo while allowing for some creative freedom.
- Bass drum/kick drum: Your bass drum, or kick drum, will serve as the heartbeat of your solo. It can keep you on track and prevent you from getting lost in the rhythm.
- Toms: You’ll need one or more toms to mix in deeper beats.
- Hi-Hat: High-hats are essential to any drum kit, as they can produce a dynamic range of sounds. They can be played softly for the gentle “chick” sound, or they can be played loudly for a heavy metal effect.
- Cymbals: In addition to a hi-hat, you may want to add a few other cymbals to your drum kit, including a crash, ride, or a crash/ride.
In addition to the proper hardware, you’ll also want a comfortable throne that is the right size for your height.
With the right equipment, you will feel more confident, and in turn, more comfortable with the drums. This is essential if you want to nail your solo and become a true percussionist.
One of the most common rookie mistakes that drummers make is starting too fast. While it may be tempting to pound the drums with your fastest stick work, starting too strong can quickly cause you to lose time with the music and to get lost in your solo.
When many people think of a drum solo, they think of incredibly fast and loud drumming—but that’s not all that makes an epic composition. In fact, silence and tension are extremely powerful tools that expert musicians use to make their solos more interesting.
The best way to get solo-ready fast is to start slow and really make sure you’re in time with the tempo of the music. From there, you can work in rests and accents to make your composition more dynamic. If you start too quickly, you won’t be able to build up tension—one of the most important aspects of a great solo performance.
Determine What Subdivision You Want to Use
The next step to nailing a drum solo is determining the subdivision, aka finding the groove of the song.
Most jazz/blues/shuffle songs can be subdivided by 3s (triplets), while rock, pop, and funk songs can be subdivided by 2s and 4s.
Play the subdivisions on the snare to keep time with the song and maintain a steady pulse throughout your solo. Keep in mind, that up until this point, the drums have determined the rhythmic base for the song, so once the other instruments drop out, it is important you maintain that same structure so that the audience can follow along seamlessly.
Once you’ve established the main rhythm with your bass and snare, it’s time to work in some accents with your hi-hat, cymbals, and toms. These accents can be cycled and varied to create interesting patterns.
The toms can provide a nice deep beat, while cymbal and high hats can offer the occasion—and satisfying—crash.
Create Tension with Volume and Rests
The most common misconception about drum solos is that they have to be loud and fast the whole time. This could not be farther from the case.
Changing the volume and adding rests make the rhythmic beats more interesting and creates tension.
Think about how you can use silence to build to a climax with increasing drumming speed and volume that builds to a loud crash. Starting from silence and smoothly playing a roll are common techniques in drum solos. Skipping a beat and adding a rest in time with the music can also make it more dynamic and fun.
Avoid Getting Lost in a Drum Solo
While you want to be loose and creative with your drum solo, it’s easy to accidentally get lost in the music. Even experienced musicians can struggle with this.
To prevent getting lost in your solo, have a certain place that you know you can always go back to. For example, maybe start by playing a bar in time with the main rhythm and then 2 bars of improv.
Don’t Get Too Technical
While you don’t want to get lost in the music, you don’t want to get too technical either. Letting the music flow and finding your rhythm is one of the most important parts of unleashing a killer drum solo. Get creative with it and enjoy a little improv without being overly technical.
End with a BANG!
While there are many ways to end a drum solo, our favorite way is with a BANG. Towards the end of your solo, make sure you’re back in time with the music and end with a classic bang.
This can also be a good cue for the rest of your band members to jump back in and continue the rest of the song in regular time.
Practice Makes Perfect
Last but not least, the old saying rings true as a cymbal—practice really does make perfect. If you’re interested in performing a drum solo, draw inspiration from some of your favorite drummers and practice alone and with your friends to find tricks and patterns that work with your style.
Here at Drum Center of Portsmouth, we have the inventory you need to outfit your set for the ultimate drum solo. Not only that, but we’ve become something of a presence on the music scene because of our inventory and knowledgeable staff. Come check us out—and show us the solo you’ve been working on!