Bonus Video: How to Create a Drum Solo
What is up, everybody welcome into creative live dot com on mike johnston and partner bonus content is the fact that we're going to talk about how to create a drum solo and drum solos could be intimidating just because you feel so naked, you're just out there completely by yourself playing, creating on the spot and it doesn't have to be that way at all really what will cause that fear to go away and that tension you feel in your chest and all of that pressure you feel on your shoulders of you gotta do something cooler, you got to do something more amazing planning you got a plan, you have to learn how to tell a story through your instrument, and once you learn how to do that, that pressure goes away because you're not doing anything new, you're not really taking any massive chances. You're learning how to just tell a story, and if you think about any story that you can tell verbally right now think about the second time you told it and the third time and the fourth time one it got bigg...
er and better every time you exaggerated slightly and you've got more and more comfortable telling that story drum solos the exact same way and that's all you need to do is learn how to tell a story so that's what we're going to be doing now, why did drum so has become such a big part of my world and I can tell you right now is because of something called basic the percussive art society international conference I got asked to play it basic, and as a clinician, I'm very used to going out and teaching and really most of my drumming is me demonstrating what I'm teaching, but when you get into the world of, you know, doing much bigger clinics and drum festivals, they expect you to come out and play a fifteen minute drum solo, and like I said, you walk out on stage there's, no backup and there's no tracks and it's just like what's up on mike, I hope this goes well and it didn't go well the first few times I tried to play a drum solo from the huge cox I had no plan and they didn't know how to tell a story, so this thing pace, it came up and it was one of those things where it either makes or breaks your careers and as an educator, if it goes well, you move on to the next level and you start doing more and more vessels, and if it doesn't go well, people kind of forget about you, so I had legs six months to train for this thing. And I got advice from my favorite drum solo it's about how do we create a great drum solo so I want to share some that stuff with you and then we'll talk about it and we'll build a drum solo together that all of you can do right now and that's really the key is not feeling this pressure that you need to learn cooler things you need to learn a way hipper licks that's not it take whatever your skill set is and whatever you can currently do let's learn how to tell a story with that and we'll do that in a little bit so let's talk about the advice that I got it I got multiple chunks of advice from some of the greatest drummers in the world first person I called was a good friend of my benny grab it's like benny I've got to play a drum solo and he's one my favorite solis he's in germany and says ok, well what is it for? And I said it's for ah this thing called basic oh yes space is very important so we start talking and I said okay, you know, I'm not asking you to help me play the drum solo I'm just asking for some maybe a little mental approach you know benny is kind of like yoda just thinking what kind of mental approach would you go for him? And he said well, play the hits so excuse me he's like play the things that you enjoy playing don't play don't feel this pressure to create something brand new on the spot play things that you like to play and I said yeah, but like the stuff that I really like like everybody's kind of heard it and he said that's a good thing and I was like, okay, I'm lost he said when you go to a concert what's your favorite part and I said when they play my favorite song, he said and what's your least favorite part and I said when they debut their brand new material that I've never heard in my life he's like exactly people love hearing things they've heard before because they can predict it and they can be on the journey with you so play the hits thanks penny then I called my buddy j p movie he's twenty three years old and he won the biggest drum competition in the world he won the guitar center drum off and he's another person that I really respect and I talked to j p and I said, you know what? What advice would you have for me man? You know I look once again I don't need I don't need you to tell me rights and lefts and kicks and high hats I want to talk about mental approach and he said you know, you need to come up with some scenes and some settings, said, ok, I don't know what that means, and so well, when you're inside of a group, a specific groove, that's, that's a scene, and in that scene you can explore different possibilities. You don't have to just be there, but what you can't do is just jump from scene to scene, because then nobody once again can follow the journey with you, so it was kind of tied together with what ben, he said. Then I talked to my instructor will kennedy. He plays for the yellow jackets and he's always been one of my favorite drummers as a kid growing up, and I've been lucky enough to study within recently, will's advice was make sure it has a pulse it's gotta have a pulse, and he used a key word that really, really changed my life, he said. Who is defending the pulse on what he meant by that is, is the hyatt defending the pulse? Is the bass drum defending the polls snare drum is that the relationship between the kick in the snare that's defending the polls is it may be an accent pattern you're playing on the ride cymbal, but the key word was defending okay, and I never heard anybody say that word. Defending the polls when he said defending I thought of a princess in the castle and people defending the princess with their lives we will not let anyone get to this thing when he said defending the pulse I mean literally like like I got chills like I've never thought of pulse you know, when you when you do this with your body that's pulse and I never thought that I had to defend it like it was a princess in the castle so that was his big advice. Then I talked to use nickel and some of you guys might not know who yost is, but yost is very responsible for a lot of the drumming that we think is hip today he's, another german drummer, he's, one of my favorite soloist in the world, and I talked to yost and I said, you know, what advice would you give me? And he said, play in the temple that you're comfortable and he called it the home tempo I said, ok, explain so his thought was every human being when they sit down, if you left him in a room with no music, no instruments, just a blank room and they tap their foot, everyone has a home tempo why put yourself in a temple? Why play in a temple that you're not even comfortable and just to achieve something to have please somebody else please yourself on this instrument and so, like just now when I'm talking to you, I'm tapping my foot this is this is my home temple scam can't can't all my sixteenth triple its work, but we couldn't get to pick the ghetto get t think black and you start going like, oh, man that's so that's the home tempo and everybody has that. So now I have this collection of great advice that has nothing to do with me learning new licks I don't have to learn any new chops, I don't have to put pressure on myself. They're not good enough, it's just this huge collection of scenes and settings find environments that's what I call them now find environments to put yourself in that you can explore, give it a pulse and defend it, defend it like it is a princess in the castle, play the hit play things that you really enjoy playing and start off in a tempo that you're comfortable with some pretty good chunks of advice. Okay, so then it's time to put that into action. So one of the things that I learned was that I needed to find out what my destination, what my environment was going to be before it could ever start the solo, because I needed to reverse engineer that environment and build up to it. So what I want to do is I want to pick an environment that every one of you can currently do if you've played drums for more than one week. All right, so let's say that this is our destination. Our goal. Okay, we have to do that that's going to be the big payoff. And I know you're thinking like dude that's, not a payoff. That's not even kind of cool. First of all, it is cool keeping great time and playing something consistent for the audience. That is very cool. Trust me if I played blazing licks nonstop that's not cool. Like eventually it's like, all right, cool. I mean, think about the journey in a ferrari from zero to one hundred twenty miles an hour. That journey is incredible, but once we're at one hundred twenty miles an hour in about ten seconds, all of that inertial wears off, and we're just sitting in a car. It smells like really good leather. So well, we want to do is take people on a journey and keep that journey going. Ok, so if that's my goal, the goal is to get here that I want to make a two minute drum solo out of just that that's going to require some serious story telling, and I know you probably I started watching this thinking like I can't wait for him to show me the hippa did a lick and the up down turn around pick a bale a pair of did a lick that's not what solo ings about soling is about telling a story so let's work on telling this story now what makes up that group that I just played well we've got a thoughts on the hyatt with what I call a quarter note push I'm not playing I got a corner no push toe checked chant that's one of the elements that have got the bass drum playing a syncopated rhythm syncopation what does that mean syncopation means any rhythm that is not evenly spaced so I had boom bone boom boom boom boom so it's syncopated ok so that's one of my elements the other element is two and four on the snare drum on cross sticks so one and two and three and four and one and two and three and so I have three main elements that I can build up to by reverse engineering and taking this thing apart so now I have to think like I I know where it's going but the audience doesn't know where it's going so what if I did this if I started like this if that was the beginning of my drum solo the first thing you heard was the cross tick you're going to internalize that as one three one or you might internalize as one two three but what you don't know is that in my head I had already started to be and that's actually two and four so in my head I'm on both can't bow bow bow captain to bomb boom boom I got a phone book and that way I can give the audience an illusion they're going to think that this is where that starts and when you hit that first base when they go wait a minute so that's the one it's like yeah that's the one that's what I was doing the whole time was I never showed it on my face I mean it kind of for you guys here but in a solo situation never showed on my face I'm going bone bone count the ball kept to bone bone cancer but I'm thinking of my destination the whole time and then I'm just choosing key elements out of that destination to show the audience because I have to build this thing I got to make a two minute drum solo out of a very simple groove all right? So that's where it starts then I start to bring in other elements like the bass drum now I don't need to give the whole thing away all at once try to think about being a nineteen thirty stripper you just come out and you show a little leg but you take it right back just come out and show them everything show the leg take it right back, show the leg take it right back and that's what I have to do in this so I give you this there I got you used to something I gave you full out consistency I built I built, I built I took it right back took the leg back and you have to do that it's not always about adding things sometimes about taking something away and that could be just as impactful if not more impactful than adding something new and trying to be cooler and got I've got to get this licking practiced it so I got to use it don't do that play the things that you can play, play the hit and I honestly I'm not sitting here as something that's played out in thirty seven, so I've played for thirty two years I'm not sitting here thinking this is lame and that's. The other thing that's selling this solo is I honestly do think this is cool like I'm going now imagine imagine my face and what you would feel about my solo if I did this I I could rip this thing apart right now like you wouldn't be into it you have no emotional connection to it, but if you can see that I dig it then you're going to dig in if I can move then you can move so that's where it's all about so I've built a solo up just a little bit I brought in the bass drum just a little bit and then I started building it mohr getting closer and closer that pattern that we're looking for boom bone bone and I thought ok eight high hats per measure that I get to use I'll bring in one room bone bone catch bone bone bone catch it now more based on bone cap bone bone catch it bone cat bomb bone catch it bone got bone bobcats should take the leg and now I can bring in something else well, maybe that next thing is I finally commit to those eighth notes on the highest so let's do that okay so now what I've started years I've started improvised in that setting so I found my environment which is pras cat bone bone now I'm allowed once I've established that I've really I had some patients a couple of deep breaths you know? Because it's not like I don't hear all the things that you wish I would do I hear them too I'm going alone don't go got a little got to care but got into cable but took a doctor because I could you could tell it took only a second ticket cheekbones like that from choosing not to do it I'm ignoring it I'm not going to fall to your pressures I'm just sitting there hanging in there thinking you know what? It'll come later it'll come later and have established this and then I think like ok, I'm gonna start to improvise I'm not going to go bananas I'm just going to slightly improvised doing doing oh but you're doing god's pocket do god but don't do that don't do that but you want to get back into place to capture two point two two capital don't do papa oh by double of the buttons but I did that take the leg back you need to show everything all right and so that's where I start to go now the one thing that you can think about is ok, what haven't we done yet? And I'm not saying like at a bunch of new notes I have no tom's have no symbols I haven't hit the snare drum as a snare drum I've used is a crossed it well, that was on purpose because if I play across stick initially that gives me somewhere to build two texturally so I can build with just by changing the texture so let's say that I'm kind of in the established group all improvise a little bit I'll take the leg back and then I'll switch to a new texture and you'll feel how the whole thing will be like all now ok, now we're on the freeway now we're moving somewhere, check it out be aware of how out you're getting ok, I was starting to be like man I'm going kind of drum solo bananas and this is supposed to be a simple thing get it back you know be in the moment and think of it like this guy's there is you the drummer okay you're sitting on the drums that you've got four limbs trying to do something very difficult there needs to be a fifth person needs to be a fifth limb and that's you getting outside your body and being right up here and producing this whole thing look down on it I pulled that back I'll give you some more of that more than yeah there you go right there all right not get so busy get a little busy right now slow it down come on and someone has to direct this whole thing otherwise we're going to gravitate towards the things that we love we're just gonna go bananas and bananas bananas so let's say that I've kind of peaked and I'm doing all of this stuff I need to read deconstruct it back to where it started ok that silence that just happened you know, my drum solos over you know waiting if you should applaud you know, wondering is he going to do something else it's a very obvious treat your drum solo a little bit like a business plan have an entrance strategy and an exit stretch get out on your own terms don't let the audience wonder I don't know it's like kelly, I should clap this thing is over and then you should be proud of it, you know, when you don't have to, like, be cocky about it be like what nailed it, but just be like, thank you, man, like I feel good. I told a story, so guys, it's all about storytelling, what I want you to do after this video, I don't want you to go rip up your drums and just be like, blazing all over the place. I want you to sit down and tell a story, what is your destination where you're trying to go what's, that kind of environment that you're going to lead up to and going to reverse, engineer the environment and build and build and build until you get there? And then once you get there, start exploring that environment, improvise a little bit now don't get out of control too much, just improvise a little bit, get it back and then start tailoring it back down, back down, back down, all the way back to the intro and then you've told the story completely, and you feel good about it, you've defended the pulse, it was groove the whole time you played things you enjoyed playing, so you smiled that's, good, you gave everything this, you know, tempo that is something that you are really comfortable with, and you played an environment and played in a setting that you're comfortable with, so you were able to explore. So all these things add up to a comfortable drum solo, and that tense tightness in your chest goes away. So I hope you guys will practice this. I hope you've got something out of this. Please grow this into something and find me find me on social media, be like mike here's, my first drum solo. I saw your thing on creative live, and I made this. I want you to check it out, and I promise you, I will watch it. So everybody, thanks so much for checking out creative, live dot com. I'm like johnson. We'll see soon.