Space, the final frontier. Soloing concepts
Most young soloists and even experienced players play too many notes. My suggestion is to approach drumming as a musical composition. In music, soloing is more about what you don’t play, then what you do play. I am talking about space.
Phrasing and space. Space and phrasing. As Lao Tsu the legendary philosopher once said, ” it is not the walls that are important but the space with in it”.
I have noticed that many players work there way to a feel by playing many notes. They are pawing there way in. Playing pacer notes and sometimes loudly. My recommendation is to learn solo phrases.
You can learn and hear these phrases on any djembe album, tune or from a teacher and some people even have these posted on line such as on the WAP pages. I urge you to learn as many as possible from a good teacher. For conga solos there are DVD’s or listen to the classic “quinto lock” over and over on any Munequitos tune! For Timbales Changuito is my favorite to listen to for chops.
Actualy try and speak these phrases when you practice soloing. My 2nd drum teacher Nuru always said, if you can say it you can play it. This goes for patterns and soloing as well. Force yourself to stop or rest in between phrases. It is one of the hardest things to do! To simply not play! At least at first anyway. Have a watch or clock and see how comfortable or uncomfortable it is to not play in between phrases.
It constanly amazes me how hard it is for people (myself included) to use space as an equalizer, but if you listen to a recording of yourself after wards I am sure you will agree with me 100%
In Guinea West Africa I noticed there is not a lot of space used in the soloing. Why is this? There are always so many soloists at any given time in any playing situation that if one person leaves any space what so ever, another soloist will “drop in” on him.
“Dropping in” is a term I coined from surfers who cut in on other surfers waves and take the ride away from them. Although this “dropping in” has always to this day felt rude and akward to my western sensibilities, it is definitely the way of the djembe drum in Guinea!
Once you learn traditional phrases you will see that they are actual little patterns tied together and repeats in sequences. Once you have learned that structure, you can even make up your own. But again, you have to learn the structure first. If you do not build a strong foundation the house caves in!
Too me, soloing is like boxing. A good boxer will jab his way into his opponent and then set up for a combination of punches. there is a lead in and a follow up, then a “finish”. Map out your solos. Have in mind a start buildup and a finish, and always save a little juice for the end!
Make sure you are playing to the pulse, or have the pulse in reference so that there is reference to the pulse at times. I know some great players that are so great no one understands what they are playing when they are soloing. This is because they go so far out there that it is hard to follow because they have the pulse inside their head, but they do not reference it at all to give the audiencean angkor or reference to where the neat is.
If you hear an up beat long enough with out reference to the down beat pulse you will get pulled into the up beat and start hearing that as the down beat.
It is fine for them, but to me the concept is to connect with the audience or whoever is listening.