The best way to learn to solo? Learn some great drum solos played by your idols.

Drum Solo Transcriptions on PDF

A quick story

I wanted to learn to solo better. Specifically, I wanted to solo in a jazz context. I went to see John Riley, the great jazz educator at Manhattan School of Music. You know what he had me do? Learn a bunch of drum solos by one of my favorite jazz drummers (Philly Joe Jones). The method works. To do it, you need to learn how others did it. Simple. But it really works. To implement the method, you’ll need some reliable drum solo transcriptions to work with.

Below are a selection of drum solos written out for you (note-for-note) in various styles by a variety of important drummers

Simply click on the bolded RED titles to open the PDFs

  • Steve Gadd’s Solo on Cappuccino – this drum solo from Chick Corea’s Friends album always captivated me. It flows like water but is super aggressive at the same time. An inspirational thing of beauty with lots of great vocabulary. Here it is: Cappuccino Drum Solo Transcription
  • Philly Joe Jones – For me, PJJ was always the best example of a swinging jazz drummer who could solo like a beast. His solos were slick; they displayed blazing rudimental chops and included great hand/foot ideas as well. This solo from the song “Deep Night,” from Sonny Clark’s 1958 album Cool Struttin is one of my favorites. Here it is: Deep Night Drum Solo Transcription Because I love PJJ so much, I wrote this little piece called King Cadence in his honor. I think it is a good example of his style. Here it is: King Cadence Drum Solo
  • Vinnie Colaiuta is one of the most imitated drummers ever. If you want to learn to play drum solos, you can’t do much better than to learn from this master. Here are two examples. First, you’ll find an excerpt of Vinnie’s solo on the tune “Indian Time Zones” from the Warren Cuccurullo album Thanks to Frank here: Vinnie Colaiuta’s Drum Solo on Indian Time Zones  Next, from Karisma’s stunning album Document, here’s the transcription of Vinnie’s drum solo on the song Heavy Resin: Vinnie Colaiuta Drum Solo on Heavy Resin
  • Let’s take what may be an unexpected turn to look at Queen’s legendary Roger Taylor. On the Bowie/Queen track “Under Pressure” Taylor takes a drum solo. I remember being super surprised that the solo was there and I thought, “hey, that’s a pretty good solo!” It’s a departure from the other stuff on this page and it’s not a heavy technique based solo, but if you want a good example of a rock drum solo with some musicality, you’d be hard pressed to do better. Here it is: Roger Taylor’s “Under Pressure” Drum Solo Transcription
  • Tony Williams makes his way onto this page for two solo breaks that I found particularly compelling. The first is from a video on YouTube called “Awesome Tony Footage” where he is playing in an all-star band. Tony plays some eight bar breaks. The 7th break always knocked me out and so I transcribed it. This is not a chops kind of a drum break; it is simply a beautiful example of a mini musical composition that is perfect for the genre. Here it is: Tony Williams Drum Break from Awesome Tony Footage
  • This second solo break from Tony Williams is from a TV taping in New York City with his own band. The song is called “City of Lights” and you can check it out here: Tony Williams 8 Bar Break Drum Solo Transcription from “City of Lights”

I stumbled upon Justin A Scott on Instagram and I was knocked out by his playing. He has a very unique sound that I wanted to dig into a bit. Here’s a transcription of a solo he did in a video called “Broadcaster Demo” that will give you a taste. 

Here’s the PDF: Justin Scott “Gretsch Broadcaster Demo” Drum Solo Transcription 

Also check out the video to really get a sense of how fantastic this is. Really strong!  I just watched this again as I’m writing this and it’s truly stunning. 

Here’s something from little ol’ me, your drumming friend, Mark Feldman. It’s a transcription of me playing some solo breaks with my band, Mark Feldman’s LEVEL5.

We’re playing a song called “Opus One,” which was written by Oz Noy specifically for my band. 

Check out the live video of the solo breaks (begin at 4:20), and you can check out the transcription too. 

Here’s the PDF: Mark Feldman’s Solo Breaks from Opus One

Also, here is a written drum solo piece that I composed using ideas I like that some of you might enjoy working on.  The link follows here: Drum Solos You Can Play 1

Sonny Emory is an incredible drummer and his soloing talents are on full display in this tune from his own band. You can search YouTube for a video of this and it’s not a surprise that it’s come to be known as the “Master at Work” drum solo. Seriously, this solo is fantastic. Here it is: Sonny Emory’s “Master at Work” Drum Solo Transcription

Last but certainly not least is an idea/soloing concept that I discovered by studying Glen Sobel. 

It’s an ostinato idea that you can play with your left hand and then solo over. Check out how Glen does it in the video, watch and listen to what he plays between :52 to 1:03.

It goes by fast, so rewind a few times if you have to.

Then download the PDF to work on it. Here’s the link: The “E-And” Left Hand Ostinato

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