Part 2: “De Slagwerker” Drum Solo

Neil and I often talked about improvisation. He told me why his solo in “De Slagwerker” was so important to him. What follows are some of Neil’s own words, taken from his Drum Channel course “Frontiers of Composition and Articulation.”

“When this solo was conceived,” Peart explains, “I wanted to make as many changes as I could for the next tour and recording. I had decided that as a soloist I was more of a composer as opposed to an improviser. I wanted to be an improviser, so having drawn that paradigm for myself I was determined to push myself to improvise more in my solo.

“I decided that the opening large part of the solo on the acoustic drums would be improvisational. I would deliberately start with a different figure every night. Sometimes during my warm-up before the show, I would come upon something and say, ‘Okay, I’ll use that tonight.’ Oftentimes I’d be standing backstage just before we went on, considering, ‘What figure should I open with tonight?’ For example, we were in London, Ontario, so I opened with ‘Wipe Out’ because ‘Wipe Out’ was the first song I ever learned to play on the drums. I started playing drums on my thirteenth birthday, so as a tribute to that I used ‘Wipe Out’ that night. When we started playing indoors in hockey arenas, I started thinking of hockey themes.

“I’ve often said that the solo for me is a bit of an exploratory vehicle during the concert where I can work on new things that eventually I’ll master and be able to use in songs. I am really trying very hard every night to make it as different as I could while still allowing the satisfaction of patterns that I had stumbled across quite purely. I would think, ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ and of course the next night it would come back because I liked it.

“One thing that I did for the opening part was build it on a different kind of ostinato. One that I’ve been using for many years and talked about a lot is based on Max Roach’s ‘The Drum Also Waltzes.’ Some days I could get that pattern going and play very freely over the top of it and forget about my feet. I’m trying to be as free as I can, again playing all those different time signatures and patterns.”

Don Lombardi
Don Lombardi is the founder of DW Drums and the educational website

by Don Lombardi