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Drum Solos for Dancers

Hi Yasmin,
Here are my notes from the class lecture and discussion on "What Makes a Good Drum Solo?"  -- June 13, 2006


Artist:  Said El Artist

Album:  The Belly Dancers Drummer


  • -sounds like it was recorded in a tile bathroom
  • -very repetitious
  • -what’s with the bass guitar?  A drum solo is better with only percussion instruments.
  • -like synthesized smooth jazz with a dumbek
  • -repertoire limited
  • -there is only one drum solo on “The Belly Dancer’s Drummer” album
  • -the drum solo’s only redeeming quality was that it had a build at the end and it had an ending
  • -sounds like background music—your mind drifts off
  • -the problem was not just with the rhythm but with the tone
  • -continuous repetition of riffs that were boring
  • -on the same level the whole time
  • -his rhythms were flat lining
  • -the sound engineer put a 70’s echo to this
  • -we were bored after 2 minutes and the solo is 6:17 minutes long
  • -he’s trying to get an Americanized sound


Artist:  Hossam Ramzy

Album:  The Best of Hossam Ramzy

“The Master”


  • -stilted
  • -sounds like an elementary school recital
  • -no repetition in the beginning, it’s all 1’s
  • -one would have to choreograph to this
  • -the only riffs he is repeating are the boring ones
  • -half way through the drum solo we were wondering when it was going to end
  • -seems he’s teaching drum solo by going through the rhythms/sounds like an elementary drumming instructional/ from exhibition playing of one of each to instructional
  • -this is not for dancers
  • -CD says, “the best and most danceable”
  • -no build at the end
  • -disjointed, not smooth, and at times he is off beat
  • -he goes from 1’s to 16’s (repetitions) with nothing in between
  • -he sounds chaotic - because he’s off beat and tries to mask it with over-instrumentation


Artist:  Nourhan Sharif

Album:  Nourhan Sharif Presents Arabic Rhythms for the Advanced Dancer Vol. Talata 3

Tracks:  12 and 13


  • -this starts with old, classical rhythms from 1000 A.D.—32+ count rhythms
  • -you would never do a drum solo to these/this is just an exhibition of the old, classical rhythms
  • -you would have to be a very good dancer to dance to these.
  • -absolutely no build—teaching solos only.
  • -It’s a drum solo because there are only drums playing, but it’s not a dancer’s solo


Artist:  Al-Ahram Orchestra (?)

Album:  A Tribute to Nadia Gamal


  • -sounds like the drummer was on Ritalin
  • -reminds me of “The Flight of the Bumblebee”
  • -for “energizer bunnies” this would just be a nightmare-we would try to hit every beat
  • -the beginning was as if it was shot out of a cannon


Artist:  Gamal Goma

Album:  Shake Me Ya Gamal:  Hot Tabla Solos


  • -it dove right in
  • -no slow build up and no peak of any kind
  • -predictable transitions
  • -monotonous
  • -all the same rhythm
  • -straight line
  • -the rhythms used were very predictable. Typical riffs, but not a typical progression


Album:  Jalilah’s Raks Sharki 1


  • -traditional rhythms
  • -rhythmic intricacy
  • -it metamorphoses
  • -predictable, and yet each section is totally different
  • -these rhythms are all traditional
  • -the tone varied
  • -you could anticipate the changes but you couldn’t predict what the drummer was going to do
  • -never have to completely jump from one rhythm to the next
  • -this is a dancer’s drummer
  • -revisited themes, which makes it easier for the dancer to intuit
  • -has feeling


Artist:  Issam Houshan

Album:  "The Dancing Drum"


Tabla solo 3.  Close to perfect drum solo:


  • -started with traditional, predictable riffs, continued with variations on a theme, gets faster, gets slower
  • -variety of tone
  • -dynamic changes
  • -long riffs
  • -short riffs
  • -little surprises
  • -time for a long shimmy
  • -good build
  • -clean ending
  • -gives you a lot of variety to work with so your show is interesting to watch


Good build and a clean ending are the two basic things you need to look for.


A good drum solo interpretation should have:


  • -intuitive flights of fancy, but they need to be structured
  • -repeat-- what you do on one side, do on the other
  • -repeat with a variation
  • -no choreography but loose structure  

“Tent Music”


  • -there is a difference in the timing between the natural reverberations in a music hall vs. electronic echo.  Natural reverberation is better for primitive instruments.
  • -focus on the instruments
  • -find inspiration in the essence of a good drum solo: variation of rhythm, variation of amplitude, slow vs. fast, syncopated vs. even rhythm, soft vs. loud
  • -it’s the dynamic changes that make a performance interesting


What Makes a Bad Drum Solo


  • Cardinal Sin:  Off Beat
  • Lack of Variety - monotony
  • No build/drama
  • Unintuitive rhythm changes
  • Inappropriate length - too short or too long (figure 9 minutes will loose people's interest, even if you are the best dancer in the world)
  • Rhythms not repeated. Ideally, a dancer likes 4 sets of a rhythm, unless it is long and complicated.


There needs to be a beginning, middle, and end!  There is supposed to be some kind of auditory crescendo. If there isn’t one the dancer needs to make a physical crescendo.


Look for waves of sound, dynamics—that’s what builds suspense. You have to have suspense!