Figuring out how to incorporate a massive drum solo into a song isn’t all that hard. Doing it tastefully, in a way that fits the track and isn’t overly self-indulgent, is a beast of a different nature. Here are some helpful hints.
Know Your Audience: If your band sounds anything like Rush or Dream Theater, chances are your fans aren’t going to bat an eyelid if all of a sudden a song stops and gives way to a drum solo. If you play for someone like David Gray, the audience might be perplexed if a Gods of Thunder percussive break interrupted an otherwise contemplative folk song. Tip: If you want to incorporate massive drum solos into your songs, start a band that sounds more like Baroness than Matchbox 20. If you'd rather play wimpy music, stop dreaming of John Bonham.
Determine the Point of the Song: If the point of your song is the drum solo, don’t wank around with structure or choruses. Write an epic guitar riff, roll through it a few times, and let the drums take over. Look no further than Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” for proof that this can be done, and done damn well. If the song has an alternate purpose, structure it such that incorporating a massive drum solo fits the organic dynamics. Bands like The Who and Smashing Pumpkins, both of which have top-ten-of-all-time caliber drummers, do this well. Tip: Before you try something like “Moby Dick”, be sure that you have the riffs and drum chops to pull it off. Nothing's worse than musicians who can't play worth a damn but wont' stop.
Indulge Your Psych and Prog Tendencies: If you’re all about incorporating the massive drum solo, look to psych and prog bands for inspiration and ideas. Japan’s Acid Mother’s Temple write twenty minute psych jams that melt like your mind on acid. An epic drum solo wouldn’t sound at all out of place on one of their tracks. If your main purpose as a musician is to create massive, intricate, complex sonic experimentation filled with drummage, seek out bands like Boris, Comets on Fire, and Cream for pointers. Tip: Getting really high and jamming, while a good place to start, isn’t the gateway to psych success. Members of aforementioned band might like to get blazed every now and then, but they’re also very dedicated and accomplished musicians.
- Indulge in Genre Splicing: If these ideas don’t appeal to you, try something left field. Look to Sweden’s defunct Refused for a band who’s done this extremely well. At heart a punk rock group, they incorporated cello solos, shredding metal riffs, electronic textures, and jazz breakdowns. In a template with the express purpose of destroying of templates, incorporating a massive drum solo is a cinch. Tip: Refused were well versed in the history of popular genres and music theory. Revolutionary music is a great thing, and can be enormously successful (see: The Clash), but you have to take it very seriously.
- If All Else Fails: Embrace ridiculousness. In an era when cartoon bands can sell millions of records (Gorillaz) and headline tours (Dethklok), pretty much anything goes. If you can’t figure out how to incorporate a massive drum solo….screw it, play the damn drum solo. Ultimately, if that’s what you want to do, don’t search for an excuse, just do it. Tip: This might piss people off. Prepare yourself.
With some thoughtful decisions, you’re on your way to incorporating a massive drum solo into your next composition, musical or otherwise.
Tip: Don’t think too hard about the “otherwise” in the “musical or otherwise” above. It doesn’t actually makes sense, it just sounds appropriately journalistic.