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How To Get The Most Out of Your Drum Solo Transcriptions (Part 2)

Hey guys, welcome back to my monthly lesson!

Last time we discussed some basic concepts I use in order to learn new soloing and comping vocabulary on the drums. We went over breaking long phrases into smaller pieces, so we can digest it faster and incorporated it into our playing easily. In addition, we briefly talked about “paraphrasing” music.

In this part of the lesson, I’m going to go deeper into that concept: giving you ideas about how to “paraphrase” musical ideas we obtain by transcribing from the masters.

Let’s get to it and do a quick recap:

We were working on a 4 bars phrase I transcribed from Philly Joe Jones:

Then, we broke up the big phrase into 3 smaller motifs (remember that the motifs, even though they are shorter phrases, have to feel like complete and coherent statements.)

Motif 1

Motif 2

Motif 3


So, now we should be pretty comfortable playing those motifs as they are, right? It is easier to internalize smaller pieces of information and incorporate them into our playing than a long 4 or 8 bars phrase solo.

Let’s Paraphrase

The idea of paraphrasing music, as I said in the previous lesson, is to make these motifs your own, all while keeping what makes these motifs part of the traditional jazz language. It is exactly the same thing we do when we learn something from a textbook. We make it our own, nonetheless, the message that is being conveyed remains intact.

There are several ways in which we can alter or modify a phrase without losing its meaning.

The first and most obvious way is by re-orchestrating the motif. When we talk about orchestration in the drums, it means, where the phrase is played in the set, which drums or cymbals are we going to be using. So, here already we have numerous possibilities.

Let’s take motif 2 and orchestrate it in a different way. Using the toms we can create different shapes with the same motif and make it a longer phrase, which as a result is going to make our soloing more cohesive.

We can do the same with motif 3. This time besides using the toms, we are going to add the bass drum and cymbals. Again, making a longer phrase based on a short motif which as a result becomes a more developed and coherent idea.

Another thing we can do is change the sticking of the phrase or add an embellishment like a Flam or a Drag. As a result, our orchestration possibilities are going to open up even more.

By now, you get the idea of the limitless choices we can have by simply changing the orchestration of a motif.

Let’s move on to the next paraphrasing concept, which is Rate Change.

When we talk about the rate of a phrase we mean the kind of notes in which the motif or idea is based on. For instance, let’s take motif 2 again. We can say that it is pretty obvious this motif is based on sixteenth and eighth notes. So what happen if we change that rate? If we keep the basic structure and shape of the motif and change the kind of notes, from sixteenths notes to eighth notes triplets for instance.

We have come up with a completely new idea. It is still based on the previous one, but it sounds entirely fresh and new.

Let’s do the same with motif 1. This time we just changed the rate of the second beat. From eighth notes to sixteenths notes and then to eighth note triplets.

Next step is combining both concepts. Orchestration and Rate Change. Here a few Ideas:

It is pretty amazing how many phrases we came up with and how much information we got out of just 4 bars of a Philly Joe Jones Solo. This is the way you can create your own language or better yet a jazz language which sounds more like yourself. It has worked for me and I’m pretty sure it will for you as well.

Remember to start transcribing simple ideas you like, and then with imagination, you can develop them into interesting and unique phrases.

Now, let’s create a new 4 bar phrase based on Philly’s solo, but applying the concepts we have discussed:

Notice on the first bar I’m changing rates, on the second and third bar I’m changing the orchestration, and the fourth bar is a combination of rate and orchestration. I came up with a nice solo, which sounds more like me, but still, keeps the essence of the original Philly’s solo.

Please, go and try your own ideas and concepts, feel free to get deeper into it.

If you like what you come up with, please share it with us on the Learn Jazz Standards Facebook Page, Tweet it at us, or share in the comments below!

I’ll see you guys soon.

Keep on drumming!

Diego Maldonado
Diego is a professional jazz drummer, composer, and educator. He is originally from Venezuela and currently living in New York City. He attended The Collective School of Music and The City College of New York where he earned, with honors, a Bachelor degree in Jazz Performance.Diego has become an active member of the exciting city’s jazz scene, both as a performer and educator, playing with artists such as Will Vinson, Doug Weiss, Kenny Werner, Tim Hagans, Mike Holober, Mimi Jones, Lukas Gabric, Josiah Boornazian, Antonio Mazzei, Brent Vaartstra, Coyote Anderson, among many others.Diego is an Agean Cymbals and Vater Percussion Artist.


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