James-Murphy-1

Drum Soloist

Solid Soloing

Part 2: Changing Note Rates

In this miniseries we’re utilizing my “glue” method to gain freedom and flow while soloing. In the first installment we discussed how to connect two ideas without hesitation, using a specific sticking as a transition. In this article we’re going to explore ways to apply different note rates to our glue stickings to get more mileage from each.

As discussed in the first part, we’ll start with two different set ideas, which are patterns that can stand alone as fills and that have clearly defined start and end points. Then we’ll determine our glue sticking, which is a predetermined pattern that can be looped repetitively, using different orchestrations and dynamics, to bridge the two set ideas. Next, we’ll apply a new note rate to the glue sticking. Finally, we can utilize a structured practice routine to develop the muscle memory required to seamlessly transition between the set ideas and the glue sticking.

Set Idea #1
Set your metronome to 60 bpm (slower if needed). Play a 16th-note single-stroke roll on the snare. It’s important to develop the note rate using a simple sticking, which strengthens your connection to the rate. Keep quarter notes with your foot on the hi-hat.

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Apply a set-idea sticking pattern to the 16th notes. The foot continues to keep quarter notes on the hi-hat. (70 bpm)

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Apply some dynamics and a voicing to the set idea (still phrased as 16th notes). The foot continues to keep quarter notes on the hi-hat. The voicing pattern should incorporate different parts of the drumset (snare, floor tom, etc). To develop muscle memory, it’s important to maintain consistency with the chosen dynamic and voicing for the set pattern throughout the exercise.

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Condense the set idea from a looped pattern to a two-beat fill. Keep quarter notes with your foot on the hi-hat. This step is important for developing a clear distinction between your glue stickings and set ideas. Set ideas resolve (crash on 1), while glue stickings do not. (90 bpm)

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Set Idea #2

Play a 16th-note-triplet single-stroke roll on the snare. Keep quarter notes with your foot on the hi-hat. (60 bpm)

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Apply a sticking pattern to the 16th-note triplets. Continue to play quarter notes with your foot on the hi-hat. (70 bpm)

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Apply dynamics and a voicing to the set idea. The foot continues to keep quarter notes on the hi-hat. Remember to keep the dynamic and voicing patterns consistent to develop muscle memory.

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Condense the set idea to a two-beat fill. Keep quarter notes with your foot on the hi-hat. (90 bpm)

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Glue Sticking

Play a 16th-note single-stroke roll on the snare. Keep quarter notes with your foot on the hi-hat. (60 bpm)

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Apply a glue sticking to the 16th notes that incorporates the kick and snare. The foot continues to play quarter notes on the hi-hat. (70 bpm)

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Apply some dynamics and a voicing to the glue sticking. For now, keep the pattern consistent throughout the exercise to develop muscle memory. There are multiple options for this step, so be sure to develop them separately.

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Let’s apply the glue sticking to the new note rate: 16th-note triplets. Here’s one voicing.

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Practice Routine

Now it’s time to put it all together. The following practice routine is designed to help you create a seamless transition between set ideas using multiple note rates with the glue sticking.

Set your metronome to 100 bpm (slower if needed). Play one bar of set idea #1 as 16th notes, and then transition into one bar of the glue sticking as 16th notes. Then play one bar of the glue sticking as 16th-note triplets, followed by set idea #2 as 16th-note triplets. After that, play one bar of the glue sticking as 16th-note triplets and then one bar of the glue sticking as 16th notes.

Loop the sequence to develop muscle memory, and increase the tempo each time to challenge yourself. Keep the dynamics and voicings consistent with what you did in the earlier steps.

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The more glue stickings and set ideas you have ingrained in your muscle memory, the greater your ability to mix, match, and connect ideas spontaneously and seamlessly while soloing. Have fun!


James Murphy is an assistant professor at the Berklee College of Music and a drumset player for the Blue Man Group in Boston. He also gives online drum lessons at peaceanddrums.com.