Monday, October 31, 2011

Soloing, part 5-2: Rhythms on multiple drums

xWith this post I want to continue the idea I started in my last thread: focusing on the rhythms we make when we solo. It's easy enough to break things down when there's just one drum, but what about when there's two or more?

Maybe you'll get to play a chudaiko next to a couple of shimedaiko, or have a Sukeroku-style setup. Playing more than one drum brings with it a lot more to deal with, and forgetting ki or kata for the moment, I want to talk about the three biggest hurdles that come up with this way of playing.
  • A weak rhythm on one is even weaker on two.
This is where I was leading into with the last post. A rhythm that's hard for a listener to follow on one drum is going to be even more difficult when it's spread out over multiple tones. Again, look at your solo as if it was being notated. Is it well-rounded? Well-constructed? That's the kind of rhythm you can spread out over different tones.
  • Don't freak out!
Especially when multiple drums are new, a really common thing to do is to play in a sort of "panic" mode, where you're hitting as many surfaces as you can as often as you can. Unless someone has told you to play that way, it's better to calm down and realize you just have more options, not more requirements. Play the other drums when you want to!
  • More tones ≠ more skill.
Riding shotgun with the comment above, just because you *can* play a lot of surfaces at once doesn't always mean you should. It may seem like you're adding a level of complexity to your solo, but it often just results in chaos.

Think about what tones you're facing. Is one of them significantly lower? Maybe less notes on that to make more of an impact. Something higher pitched? That's probably going to cut through, so you can maybe use it to play denser patterns or sparse notes for emphasis. Find a purpose for the tones you're presented with so that your solo is not only entertaining, but intelligent.


If you really think about it, one drum can present you with a lot of opportunities for different tones. The center of the drum head, the outer part of the drum head, the rim, the tacks, the body, pressing down on the head while playing, etc.

How you think about rhythm will determine the quality of what your solos sound like. Just ask yourself, are you playing the drums? Or are you playing rhythms on the drums?

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