Ed Soph – You Can’t Just Think Rhythmically

Ed Soph

SKF NOTE: At 4:30 this morning I was reading a typed copy of my 1978 Ed Soph interview. Soph was always interesting to interview. Smart, curious, a strong grasp of drum history; a player who seemed always willing to re-examine his thinking about drumming and music.

Reading this morning what Ed Soph had to say over 40 years ago — his thinking still holds value for drummers and drum teachers.

I asked Ed to describe his concept for his drum soloing. Here’s his 1978 answer:

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Ed Soph: I’m thinking of the melody and the tune when I’m soloing. It may be an extended solo rather than a chorus or two.

I always try to approach it as making a statement.

Take a tune like Straight, No Chaser which has a strong rhythmic identity. I’ll play through the head of the tune and then take some rhythmic or melodic motif — ideally a combination of the two — and build another solo off that. Maybe I’ll go out of time or free up the time and develop a theme and variations, then come back in and play the head again. Just like a good narrative framework in a story.

Nothing sounds worse than when a group’s playing an Elvin-ish swing and the drummer goes into his solo and it comes out like Drums on Parade.

It’s all so easy. It’s all right there if you just open your ears.

Like a horn player, you can’t just think rhythmically. It’s impossible. You have to think in terms of dynamics, articulations, phrases, color, mood, melodies, and tempo.

Which brings me to another point. All drummers should learn some melodic instrument. It’s good for your chops and it’s the best thing in the world for your ears.

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