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We asked USA Producer, Composer, Drummer,
Vocalist, "the Groove Merchant", Larry Vann
to answer the following question...

Larry Vann

June 2009

The Question:
How do R&B/funk drummers keep the groove whilst soloing?

Response by Larry Vann share this - email, favourites, social bookmarks and more

When you look at great drum solos in all the many genres of music, be it jazz, R&B funk, or fusion, you must look at how the solo is put together. It starts with the opening statement, how the drummer tells his musical story.

I would like to focus on the R&B funk drummers and how they move and groove in and out of some of the funkiest drum solos ever played. It’s a very special talent to be able to solo within the groove and to be able to keep the groove, keep the people dancing or hold their attention throughout your solo; to be able to make a musical statement and tell your story through your rhythmical and melodic musical ride, and then also have the ability to land the ‘Mother Ship’ and keep it in the pocket.

Let’s take a look at one of the great masters in R&B and funk drumming, who is one of the fathers of funk drumming and the heart beat behind the JAMES BROWN BAND. At the top of my list is the great CLYDE STUBBLEFIELD. He is one of the founders of funk drumming. The foundation he laid down on the JAMES BROWN recordings is totally amazing. Clyde’s history making creation on “COLD SWEAT” totally changed the groove and direction of the music forever.

Now, for any drummer who is up for the challenge to not only play this pattern, but also be able to create an interesting drum solo with the groove of this piece of music, it is a wonderful challenge for any drummer. CLYDE STUBBLEFIELD moves and weaves in and out of the pattern so smoothly. On the recording, check out how he keeps the strong beat on the one, playing the eighth note pattern on the hi-hat, with the syncopation between the two and four on the snare drum.

There is live footage of JAMES BROWN at the Boston Gardens, where CLYDE STUBBLEFIELD is featured on COLD SWEAT, doing his ‘thang’. It is incredible how he performs this amazing drum solo with the groove of COLD SWEAT. He tells a wonderful story, at the same time, keeping the time and the groove, and then he slides the groove right into JAMES BROWN’S hand. Now that’s funky!

The challenge for us as drummers, when we get the spotlight to shine on us for the five or ten minutes, or whatever amount on time that’s given, is to remember you are telling a story. Make it interesting. Take your audience on a musical ride. And remember to MAKE IT FUNKY, YEAH! And keep the funk on the one.

© 2009 Larry Vann

Larry Vann demonstrates his creation...
the “Oakland Scratch Groove

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