Today I would like to talk about modern drum solos, more specifically, the problems with them. I’m not a big fan of today’s ‘epic’ solos, at least not anymore. Sure they are intended to showcase a player’s chops, but far too many have become huge pyrotechnic-infused productions that ultimately outshine the drummer. Turning your drums upside down or flying them above the crowd on a platform is great visually but it totally eclipses the individual. In other words, the exhibition has become the focus, not the musicianship it is meant to showcase. The goal then becomes strictly entertainment at the expense of the craft. The result is production over performance.
Now there are plenty of drummers out there playing tasteful solos that fit their unique style, but far too many just flail about the kit with thunderous double bass licks and stick spinning. I blame the 80’s hair metal bands that sported those humongous 360-degree kits. I absolutely loved those over-the-top and ridiculous setups in my youth. Today I look back at them and shake my head.
Take Tommy Lee for example (*pictured above). Tommy is a great performer and has always pushed the envelope on drum solos but I think he’s gone way overboard in recent years. First he tipped his drums up 90-degrees. Then he rotated them 360-degrees. Next he bungee jumped from drum platform to platform. This tour he literally rides his kit along a roller coaster track. Tommy’s playing has definitely taken a backseat to the manner in which it is presented. Folks now anticipate the exhibition, not the chops behind it. Every tour he tries to outdo himself. In the end fans end up watching his drum set, not his drumming.
My point is that drum solos work best when the drummer relies on their playing and personality, not a bunch of technical distractions. Look at the old days when Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Papa Jo Jones wailed on their kits with no gimmicks. That was musicianship at its finest. Players today could learn a lot from their forefathers about what makes a solo great. I want the drummer to showcase their skills and not how many flash pots they can incorporate into their solo. I want them to excite the audience and leave the circus antics to the carnivals. I want drummers to get back to performance over production.