In today’s drum lesson, drum instructor Zack will help you with expanding creativity in drum fills by giving yourself constraints.
Expanding Your Creativity
Oftentimes, my students will ask about drum fills. They tend to get caught up with not knowing enough fills or not having enough vocabulary on the drum kit. To help out, I’ve decided to write about sparking creativity. A great way to achieve that is to set limits. I know – that sounds like the opposite of what we want to do. In reality, these limitations often spark more creativity than you could have imagined, simply because we have constraints. The constraints we put on ourselves allow us to focus on different options and can really expand our vocabulary and help us create drum fills galore.
Constraint Option Number One: You must build a solo with only ONE rhythm.
Just eighth notes. No quarter notes, no sneaky eighth note triplets, no rests. Our solo will have eighth notes and eighth notes alone, and it will be glorious. After trying that out, it will seem like we only have 5-10 seconds of material before we’ve exhausted all of our options. Man, eighth notes on a snare are boring.
Well, what about dynamics? Play the entire bar as a crescendo or a decrescendo. What if you go up and down or vice versa? Start as soft as you can, crescendo to a medium soft volume, back to soft and crescendo to medium loud, and finally back to soft and grow to maximum volume. Even though the audience might know what you’re doing, it is very exciting to share that moment with a performer as an audience member. It allows people to connect with your music, and it pays off when they feel like they understand what you’re doing.
That’s when you sweep the rug out from under their feet and do something totally unexpected. You lean in to play an extremely quiet note after one of these crescendos because everybody knows you’re about to play something soft, and then BOOM. You start loud this time instead. You subvert their expectations, and you just created an interesting solo with eighth notes on a snare drum.
Move around the Drumkit
But yes, we play the drumset, not just snare drum, and we’ve got to have a reason for lugging all of our gear around all the time. So, move the solo around the kit. There are so many options we can explore with this. Move around the drums in a logical order, then try moving around in an illogical order. Try hitting the drums in an order you’ve never hit them in before. Start adding in your feet. Alternate between hands and feet. An entire section of the solo with just your feet can add some really cool flavors or phrasing within a solo.
We’ve exhausted all of our options already, right? No way. Up until this point, you’ve just been hitting one voice or surface at a time. Think about all of the crazy options you can do once you start combining them. Snare and tom, tom and floor tom, snare and bass. There are so many interesting sounds when you start mixing, matching, and overlapping different voices against each other. You can create a compelling eighth note solo just by playing snare against bass. There’s so much variation, detail, and nuance you can achieve by varying dynamics and surfaces within one rhythm alone. Again, start playing with different surfaces that you’ve never played at the same time before. Have you ever explored a solo consisting of only the middle tom and crash cymbal? The motto is, “Don’t knock it until you try it.”
Now, that’s a lot to think about. So, get out there, start exploring some of these ideas, and stay tuned for Constraint Number Two!