Jazz solo/4 vocabulary

Ced

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Hi guys,

this question is going to be a little vague for a big subject... but I am just going to give it a shot:

- how did you develop a good vocabulary for jazz drum soloing?
- what is your process for soloing and trading four ( like do you sing the melody as you solo and build on that? Is trading 4 or 8 different and just fun candy licks?
- what were the exercises (or books) that helped you most in that domain? How was your journey/progress like?

thank you! Working on those these days, and it’s quite a challenge to even know where to start while staying musical and with the tune.
Any video, book, Advices are welcome.
 

dboomer

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It’s not something I actually think about much when doing it, but I think my process goes like this.

I usually don’t play ”licks” when trading fours. i typically take my first four by quoting something rhythmic from the last bar or two before I start. Then I try to play something that is a variation of my first four for my second four and on and on. I usually don’t play Anything “flashy” until my last four. The hardest part is trying not to worry about what I’m playing and just play.
 
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Ced

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D
It’s not something I actually think about much when doing it, but I think my process goes like this.

I usually don’t play ”licks” when trading fours. i typically take my first four by quoting something rhythmic from the last bar or two before I start. Then I try to play something that is a variation of my first four for my second four and on and on. I usually don’t play Anything “flashy” until my last four. The hardest part is trying not to worry about what I’m playing and just play.
dboomer, thank you for your reply!
and how did you practice your 4s and soloing by yourself? I mean to develop the vocabulary necessary to have the freedom to quote the music and feel relax to improvise like that. Did you study phrasing And soloing out of a book. Or was it only by doing it and being put in the situation?

you know what I mean? What are the tools that you felt help you the most to accomplish that?
 
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Jordan Zimmerman

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how did you develop a good vocabulary for jazz drum soloing?
First and foremost, listen to records. In my estimation, this is almost more important than practicing. You must listen to whom you want to sound like. For me, that's Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey and newer players in that vein. You need to be filling your head with the sounds that you want to come out of your hands.

What I've noticed with the old masters is that they were highly skilled in rudiments. When they solo, though, they're applying rudiments melodically. So, for the past year, I've been working through Alan Dawson's ritual and it's helped a lot.

what is your process for soloing and trading four ( like do you sing the melody as you solo and build on that? Is trading 4 or 8 different and just fun candy licks?
You must hear the song in your head. Soloing that relies on prepared licks will sound corny and insincere. For me, drum solos should sound like melodic lines being played but with rudiments instead of notes. Of course, you must fall back on "licks" but try to make them yours - every famous drummer has licks they're famous for.

Another thing I've been trying recently when trading: if I don't have an immediate idea just play off of what the previous soloist did. Mimic their rhythm or some motif they played.

what were the exercises (or books) that helped you most in that domain? How was your journey/progress like?
Soloing in Jazz is the hardest thing for me as a jazz drummer. It will be a lifelong struggle. I recently got the new Philly Joe Jones transcriptions book. I'd like to start working through those.
 

hardbat

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When I started playing again, I made it a goal to improve in this area. One of the things I did was carry around a little book and write down fragments that I heard and liked. I then practiced at home mixing and matching them. That, combined with getting lucky and having a couple of groups to practice with weekly, seems to be paying off. Another thing that helped was consciously putting space in my solos, such as resting for an entire measure... that often gives my brain time to build a phrase for the next few bars, rather than drawing a blank and falling back on the usual licks.
 

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Melody and phrases for me. When I'm thinking drums or rudiments, it's generally not going well. Here's a way to practice that I've enjoyed:

Play 8th note triplets alternating hands (i.e., singles). Think of "swinging" phrases. You could even sing the melody of a tune. Find where it falls in the 8th note triplets and accent those notes of the phrase. After you get comfortable with how the accents fall to create the phrase, play doubles on the non-accented notes. This will really fill in the space, while still keeping things swinging and musical.

Another approach instead of doubling-up on the non-accented notes is to use doubles to get you between accents. In other words, keep with just 8th note triplets, but sometimes two of them are played in a row by the same hand. Before you know it, you'll realize that you're playing variations of paradiddlediddles, 6-stroke roles, 5-stroke roles, etc.
 
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JDA

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how did you develop a good vocabulary for jazz drum soloing?
if coming from a rock only background sift thru the rock passages where you notice the drummer did something unusual. You may have to go back to Rock in 1969 and follow up from there. I'm talking about the King Crimson's, the Blood Sweat and Tears, the Santana's. thru 1973..
From there you can jump off thru the Billy Cobham's Mahavishnu Orchestra Tunnel and you find yourself ...at a road... marked
Miles Davis. From there take the left turn onto something called Jack Johnson Bitches Brew via Live Evil, In A Silent Way (all Lp/cds btw ) boulevard. Look for the " Jack DeJohnette exit" sign and follow that.. 7.5 miles. (no pun..
Now let's dig a little deeper. While on Miles davis Highway look for the sign that says " Second Great Quintet" you will want to follow the "Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly " cloverleaf via the "Philly Joe Jones" parkway..

Still got gas in the car? Ok. Listen to the 5 or 6 second great Miles Davis Quintet CD's with Philly Joe.
Take a break to be continued reverse osmosis engineering


And remember nearly every time you see a "Bass Solo Next Rest Stop" sign have patience. What will follow is a "Drum Solos kids under 12 Eat free Next exit" sign..
 
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dboomer

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D

dboomer, thank you for your reply!
and how did you practice your 4s and soloing by yourself? I mean to develop the vocabulary necessary to have the freedom to quote the music and feel relax to improvise like that.
Well I’m not sure I‘m qualified to instruct anyone. But I agree with Jordan that you should listen as much as possible. For me, I steal the parts I like, a little here and a little there. I probably don’t hear them they way the guy that played them did and that doesn’t matter. I gave up trying to be the best player in the world.

One other thing. Record yourself playing. I find I have different ears when I’m a player than I do when I’m a listener. I surprise myself sometimes when I hear things I’ve played that I didn’t think I was capable of playing.

I’ll never be as good as Elvin, Tony or Bozzio. But I can have as much fun as any of them.
 

dcrigger

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Ced - all I would add to the listening to records is playing along with them. Early on I found myself - picking up, grabbing a hold of gobs of vocabulary by figuring out and mimic what I was hearing.

The other thing would be that I can't imagine not having an underpinning rudimental etude style playing to fall back on. I'm talking the kind of playing one might do while playing with a Dixieland band with just a snare drum. This is really ground zero - "going back to mama" kind of playing - for so much jazz soloing - no matter how modern. It's hard to imagine any competent modern jazz drummer not being able to improvise a jazzy street beat without even thinking about it.

Not saying this is any substitute for the vast amount of vocabulary to follow - but I think it makes a lot of that vocabulary less mysterious at least.

How to do that (if you're not able to already)? My path was learning to fluently play everything in the two Haskell Harr books - leading to exploring any of the more advanced snare etude stuff (I liked Pratt a lot) - but mainly check out the Charlie Wilcoxon books. Because his "swing" snare solos are exactly what I'm talking about.

From there again, it's just listen, mimic, copy, adapt/modify - and on and on - over and over - for me through dozens upon dozens of records. Personally recording myself has never been part of this process - or writing much of anything down. It all has to be in your head anyway. (Recording is cool for the occasional spot-check - but as far as the regular process - I'm not a fan. Building self-awareness is hard, if you're constantly checking - really listen to yourself, while you're playing IMO)

Anyway - my 2 cents
 

multijd

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I agree with everything above Lots of good ideas. I’ll reiterate and add:
1) Listen, listen, listen
2) Develop good rudimental skills especially Charles Wilcoxon’s Rudimental Swing Solos
3) Play along with and copy recordings of the masters
4) Play with experienced musicians who can tell you what you are doing right and wrong.

Further, the vocabulary comes from
1) rudiments. Not just the traditional ones but drumset rudiments that have developed over time.
2) the songs themselves. The melodies and their melodic contour is part of the drummers vocabulary.
3) other musicians. both drummers and other instrumentalists.
 

Ced

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Thank you everyone for taking the time. Really appreciate it. The drum community is awesome,and this forum is a good proof of that.

i dove in jazz drumming just a little over a year ago, and it’s been a serious focus since then. I joined a small ensemble and it’s been a lot of fun, but I am now put in situations where I have to trade four, and I can feel that soloing is just around the corner and that I’ll have to take a deep breath and jump.

I learned a lot this year, But I feel like a baby that only has just 2 words to communicate. It’s like I stepped into another world with that feeling of: the more I know, the less I know... I can’t help but feel like a fraud sometimes. The good news is that all the musicians I met were very supportive and understood that I was at the beginning of my journey.

thanks again for the messages and suggestions. It really helps!
 
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JazzyJeff

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Check out John X drum lessons on YouTube, especially the Elvin stuff. Use those phrases to get you started.
 
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dingaling

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Tony Williams would study one jazz drummer a year, 8 hours a day, for 7 years. He would play along with the record, verbally sing the horn solos and the drums solos from each tune, and know each record he was studying inside and out.

I've been told by past teachers it's better to know 4 jazz records inside and out then 20 half way.

So pick a record and stick with it. Over time, you develop your vocabulary, just like you did as a baby learning to talk from listening to your parents speak to each other, and later in school you learned to spell the words you heard.

I would start with Milestone by Miles Davis. One of the greatest records ever recorded and a classic to judge any record after against. Might want to skip the really fast tunes to start.

Philly Joe Jones is the drummer and you HAVE to know all his licks, every jazz drummer can replicate his licks. It's like the rudiments of jazz drumming. And he was a huge wilcoxon fan so get that book.

You can probably can find transcriptions online but you'd just be cheating yourself.

Get ready to give up going out on Friday nights, and after school and work. You'll be busy, this is no easy feat.

Good luck and hard work = progress. No one can make you a good jazz drummer or soloist. Just you. It's almost a lonely journey but you can't get to the other side without the real commitment to learn.
 

tkillian

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Memorize 4s off recordings of

Philly Joe
Art Taylor
Jimmy Cobb
Max Roach

By ear. Write them out too if you want.

Its the only way.

Wicoxin to work on your hands
 


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