Monday, April 16, 2012

Transitions 7: Building Momentum Throughout a Solo Section

Building Momentum Throughout a Solo Section
In one of my previous posts in the "Transitions" series I discussed some techniques for moving between soloists.  In today's post I want re-examine how to transition between soloists, this time from the larger-scale perspective of how to build momentum throughout an entire solo section.  

Chuck Redd!
If you go back and read through my earlier post, you will notice that I discuss the possibility of the "smooth transition" between soloists, carrying the energy from one solo directly into the next solo instead of trying to start building momentum afresh in each solo.  If you can do this same smooth transition through several solos, you can essentially create one large-scale climax in the entire song.  It is easy to lose sight of this bigger picture when you  are in the moment, and it takes a very sympathetic, mature, and sensitive group of musicians to really pull this off, but the results can be really thrilling. 

I had the pleasure of playing with just such a group of musicians the other night (Chuck Redd on Vibes, Chris Grasso on Piano, Nicki Parrott on Bass, and Lyle Link on Sax), and the video of the beautiful Bossa-Nova "Once I Loved" at the top is a great demonstration of how this can work. 

Two Simple Strategies:
Nicki Parrott!
As I mentioned, getting this continuous building of momentum to work involves a lot of complicated moving parts, so there are no guarantees that any one strategy will always work.  In the video above though, two simple things that I did were to change implements (from brushes to sticks) and gradually build up the dynamics.  

I start quietly with brushes during Chuck's solo, only moving to sticks once we get to Lyle's solo at 3:52.  To continue to build momentum when we get to Chris's solo (at 5:27), I stuck with sticks and started to build up the volume and energy on the cymbal.  As a result, Chris's solo, which is also the final solo of the solo section, really feels like the climax of the entire song.  In addition to being really musically exciting, this also makes the transition back into the head out feel totally natural.  

Using strategies like these (and others) to build momentum throughout a solo section is something that master drummers are doing constantly!   Hopefully this post will give you some insight into how to apply this very important technique in your own playing. 

I also wanted to say that I had a great time playing with this group, and I hope to put up some more video from the gigs soon.  I hope you all enjoy listening to the music as much as I enjoyed making it!

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