How Do You Keep Track of Measures in Drum Solos?

Old Drummer

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Confession: While in the old days I played a fair number of 5-15 minute walk-off solos and am fine soloing for 2-4 measures (an extended fill) I've never mastered the skill of soloing for like 12 bars. My problem is that I can't keep track of the number of measures I've soloed. It might be 8-9, or I might get an 18-bar solo embarrassingly cut short when the rest of the band comes in after 12. How do the rest of you keep track of the number of measures while you're soloing?

I suppose that if I could keep the melody in my head and sort of play a solo that mimics the melody, I could do say a 12-bar solo. That would also be a very good drum solo. In the alternative, I suppose I could prepare solos in advance and do my best to make them fit into the allotted measures. But something tells me that most drummers just take solos and keep track of the number of measures in their heads. I don't know how they do it.
 

pwc1141

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I play a lot of 4's on my jazz gigs and those are easily "felt" if I have to do anything longer then I sing the melody in my head. That works for me. No need to play to that melody but it helps keep the tunes form.
 

JDA

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You sing and solo along, with the melody, the form, of the song, in your head.

Most "songs' are 32-bars. Blues are "12-bars. Depending on the song you are soloing over depends how long an entire full chorus solo is.

Then go to a bar
8-9, 18 bar solos? never heard of a song those lengths.

You can take the bridge. The B in AABA
That's usually 8 bars. (...depending on the side of town..

You can take the last verse. Or you may be given it. That's usually 8 bars. Say the Last A in AABA
But be sure to turn the lights off when your thru.

And remember if you notice. Trading four bars is four bars within the form of the tune. So your four bars of solo count for four bars of the tune's form . Even tho there's there's no music during those four bars. Got it?
 
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snappy

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Confession: While in the old days I played a fair number of 5-15 minute walk-off solos and am fine soloing for 2-4 measures (an extended fill) I've never mastered the skill of soloing for like 12 bars. My problem is that I can't keep track of the number of measures I've soloed. It might be 8-9, or I might get an 18-bar solo embarrassingly cut short when the rest of the band comes in after 12. How do the rest of you keep track of the number of measures while you're soloing?

I suppose that if I could keep the melody in my head and sort of play a solo that mimics the melody, I could do say a 12-bar solo. That would also be a very good drum solo. In the alternative, I suppose I could prepare solos in advance and do my best to make them fit into the allotted measures. But something tells me that most drummers just take solos and keep track of the number of measures in their heads. I don't know how they do it.
That the band comes in and you didnt know you were supposed to be concluding made me laugh because I bet it sounds pretty cool. No one is expecting it and may think you are innovative.
You could simply not worry about it and just make noise and wait for them to come in.
*I am surprised you dont feel 4 bars going by over and over.
**No sarcasm: try counting to 4 in your 12 bar solos
1234
2234
3234
4234
3 times
 
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RIDDIM

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Confession: While in the old days I played a fair number of 5-15 minute walk-off solos and am fine soloing for 2-4 measures (an extended fill) I've never mastered the skill of soloing for like 12 bars. My problem is that I can't keep track of the number of measures I've soloed. It might be 8-9, or I might get an 18-bar solo embarrassingly cut short when the rest of the band comes in after 12. How do the rest of you keep track of the number of measures while you're soloing?

I suppose that if I could keep the melody in my head and sort of play a solo that mimics the melody, I could do say a 12-bar solo. That would also be a very good drum solo. In the alternative, I suppose I could prepare solos in advance and do my best to make them fit into the allotted measures. But something tells me that most drummers just take solos and keep track of the number of measures in their heads. I don't know how they do it.
- What do the other instruments do? They solo over the form and changes, right? You can do that too. Or, just think the melody or chord changes in your head and play over those. If you do these things, you will play in a manner musicians, and your audience, can follow. Likewise, if you're not already doing so, listen for these things when you hear someone else solo. It will help you to focus and keep the form in your head when you have to solo.
 

dcrigger

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But sometimes measured drum solos aren't over the changes or over part of the song form - it might just be part of an arrangement that dictates playing an 8, 16 or 7 (leading into a pick-up bar solo) leaving us to fall back on simply...

... counting.

I might count to 16 behind a 16 bar solo... I might count 4 groups of four bars... Fact is... anytime that I might be at risk of losing my place.... I count... always.

And really without a second thought... because for me, it's like counting is always there below the surface, ready to be called up and payed more attention to as needed.
 

mebeatee

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WTF????
No way man....just start off and keep going faster and faster....who cares about how long or how many bars have flown by....when you smash everything at once 4 times at the apex of your fastedness that's the signal for the rest to start playing again....works every time and the crowd goes bananas!!
On the other hand....as already mentioned...an strong internal sense of time and melody will suffice.
bt
 

multijd

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Having an acute awareness of two, four and eight bar phrases is really helpful. This will help not only keeping your place but playing musically coherent ideas. Start by playing 6 bars of time then a two bar solo/fill. Then play four bars of time and a four bar solo/fill. Then play eight bars of time and an eight bar solo/fill. You can structure the four bar fill from 2 two bar fills. And the eight bar fill from 2 four bar fills. Longer solos are built up in the same way from the smaller increments. After awhile you will just feel these fundamental increments. This will get you through a lot of situations because most music is structured this way. When you encounter something different like five, seven or fifteen bar lengths you will feel them as longer or shorter than something with which you’re already familiar.

When reading a chart i often find it less helpful to count than to visually follow each measure. Counting uses a part of the brain that can interfere with some of my other musical senses so instead, I watch the bars go by. Meter changes, solos, rests are visually apparent. When complex rhythms show up that’s where the counting takes over. I save it for when i need it and think of the measures etc. as pictures that are visual cues.

Also I totally agree that singing and playing is invaluable to playing coherent musical ideas whether they be solo or timekeeping.
 

Drumstickdude

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I haven't read any of the answers yet, but wow that could just as well be me writing this post. Just today I had a 24 bar solo to do I think it was on caravan. But I stopped a few bars to early I just find it so hard to count ( in groups of 4 bars) and solo, and I have difficulty with any idea of 'doing it over the melody or form'. Sometimes I have better results than other times, but I am improving slowly. 4 or 8 bars is easy. What to do...,?
 

gwbasley

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If anyone had the time to do it, it would be interesting to take a diverse selection of well known solos and count along with them ...just to test out the "counting" theory.

One of my favorite all time solos is Tony Williams doing "Walkin'" with Miles. He just stops the train, does his solo, and gets right back on again....Counting? doubtful!

 

RIDDIM

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But sometimes measured drum solos aren't over the changes or over part of the song form - it might just be part of an arrangement that dictates playing an 8, 16 or 7 (leading into a pick-up bar solo) leaving us to fall back on simply...

... counting.

I might count to 16 behind a 16 bar solo... I might count 4 groups of four bars... Fact is... anytime that I might be at risk of losing my place.... I count... always.

And really without a second thought... because for me, it's like counting is always there below the surface, ready to be called up and payed more attention to as needed.
- It's great behavior to internalize.
 

m_anderson

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Think melodically. (lol
This is no joke. You should be feeling the tune, and 4,8,12,16 bar breaks are often melodic in a manner that queues the band when to come back. If it's a long one, keep eye contact with the band and queue them. You are the director. I am not an extended solo player by any means. All of my solos are measured breaks.
 

JDA

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Yes. You have high, medium and low, that covers the whole piano. Plus you have short and long sounds..Should be able to come up with a Soundscape : ) So Buddy was enamored when he sat with Max Roach. Max thought was, thinking melodically (or harmonically) (playing the changes) (playing turnarounds) ; Rich to that point was thinking (near) only metrically. Or that might have been Bellson who came into that revelation (1st)
 
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Drumstickdude

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If anyone had the time to do it, it would be interesting to take a diverse selection of well known solos and count along with them ...just to test out the "counting" theory.

One of my favorite all time solos is Tony Williams doing "Walkin'" with Miles. He just stops the train, does his solo, and gets right back on again....Counting? doubtful!

That is a free form solo I think. I love it, when listening this music sets me on fire inside
 

JDA

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Not counting; feeling the form. You're the drummer You're in the song You're part of the song You play it.
Just listen to any Elvin Jones album. He takes a chorus or (more) in every tune.
If any of those cats take a free form solo they have cues to get the attention, bring the band back in.
99.7% were based on form of song at hand. If there's leeway they made damn sure the rest of the band was aware and on notice.

Tony's playing the song there. Tap out the Time.
you don't leave your bandmates out in the lurch
Take the Seven Steps studio solo.
May be easier
Conflating arena rock solos with jazz musicians is two different things.
Altho I'm not entirely positive large arena rock solos weren't somehow (in their own way) timed out..
but there's an apples and oranges thing if you are going to investigate thoroughly

I remember watching Alan White solo at a Yes arena concert. I was able to walk to the concession stand, order and receive my fries, apply ketchup, and his solo ended just as I returned back to my chair.. (ba dum tssh..
 
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Old Drummer

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Thanks for all the good answers.

The ones that appeal to me the most are those that suggest singing the melody in your head or otherwise continuing to feel the form of the song during solos. I have no problem doing this when I'm not soloing, or even when it's the kind of solo where the rest of the band plays a chord every so often during my solo, but I've never developed the skill of keeping the song in my head while on an extended solo. I suppose it's a skill that can be learned with practice.

Though applying this skill does assume that the drummer is already familiar enough with the song to remember its melody and/or form. It takes me multiple listens to a song to become this familiar with it, and sometimes I'd like to solo in a song that I'm not familiar with.

Counting I suppose is the fallback, but I've never practiced counting measures when soloing or bothered to note how many measures are in song segments when I'm not soloing. I'm aware that all song segments aren't 12 bars (I just used that as an example) and have few problems feeling the number of bars in songs when playing along, but suppose that if I were to count while soloing I'd have to first count the number of measures in the song segment I'm supposed to solo in. There's no point in counting, after all, if you don't know how many measures you're supposed to solo in the first place.

I like though the idea of constructing solos in say 4-bar segments. I can see how a drummer equipped with as few as half a dozen practiced 4-bar solos could assemble them in different ways on the fly to accommodate most impromptu solo situations. For more rehearsed situations, the assemblage of 4-bar segments would likely become modified anyway to fit the songs better, though probably a half dozen or so practiced 4-bar solo segments is a helpful bag of tricks for a drummer to have.

In the alternative, there's soloing for about the length of time you think appropriate, then either cuing the band to come back in or returning to the basic beat and hoping they come back in to rescue you. Another alternate is taking a lesson from Ringo and rarely soloing. I've used both these alternatives with success, but would like to get the hang of soloing properly.
 

Neal Pert

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The other thing to do is to play your solo in time on the form, singing the tune while playing but having no one in the band listening or counting carefully enough so that you reach the end of a form where you're practically playing the melody of the last eight bars and the mouth breathers in the band don't come in at the right spot so you play four more bars of time while counting them back in.
 


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