1. Now's The Time!
In this installment of the series I tried to take my drum arrangement to the next step by actually playing the "pitches" of the melody. You can hear the melody played through twice starting around after the brief introduction. Although trying to get even a relatively simple melody like this across on the drums is a lot of work, it can can also inspire some really fascinating musical directions in your drumming, so in my opinion it is well worth it.
Here is the original Charlie Parker melody for reference:
2. How to develop an arrangement
In addition to the overall idea of staying in the character/form of the song discussed in the last post here are some more strategies for developing your own arrangement.
- Experiment with different sounds and use those sounds to dictate what/how you play. For example in my arrangement I start with the open snare/tom sound. This sound strongly influences my playing lending itself to less cluttered and more melodic style drumming. After a couple of choruses of that sound I transition into a closed snare sound which leads me to more intense and busy playing that builds intensity.
- Use rudiments thematically. For example listen to how I use flams in this solo. I am not playing a flam and then moving right on to another rudiment, I am really trying to explore the sound and feel of the flam all around the drum set. Using rudiments this way can help you develop your solo in an unhurried way. In general playing an unaccompanied solo like this can make you feel a lot of pressure to play everything you know right away, it is just you up there after all! So combat this tendency by using rudiments in this fashion.
- Listen to the greats. Max Roach springs immediately to mind, but there are many others. I know I sound like a broken record with this, but the truth is that ear-training is the single most important part of learning the drums.
- Use call and response. The idea of playing a simple idea and then responding to that idea is probably the single most common/helpful phrasing technique for drum soloists. This kind of phrasing not only takes a lot of the pressure of improvising off, it creates a structure that listeners can easily grasp. Communicating with an audience is always a challenge, particularly when you are talking about drum solos. The conversational nature of call and response phrasing is perfect for confronting this challenge, so try incorporating it into your solo.
- Use mistakes and unintended things to grow your arrangement organically. As you are practicing you will often stumble across great ideas entirely by accident. For example initially I meant to turn on the snare and leave it, but it slipped. When I turned the snare on again I had the idea of alternating between the snare on/off sound. The truly great improvisers can incorporate these kinds of ideas on the fly, but for right now just think of them as new compositional elements for you to incorporate into your solo over time.
3. Overall map of my arrangement
Each section or idea usually divides along roughly the lines of the form, hopefully some of these ideas will be useful or inspiring to you!
- Short intro
- Melody twice
- Solo with pitch
- With Flams/Pitch
- Pitches again, but more aggressive and with rolls
- Alternating between snare on and off sounds
- Press rolls and cymbal chokes
- Open playing around the drums
- Staccato rolls followed by looser rolls with right hand lead
- Floppy long roll
- Head out
- Short outro