Neil Peart Solo Number Five – R30, 2005

by Omar on March 12, 2009

in Drummers, Editorials

source:  Snakes & Arrows tourbook

source: Snakes & Arrows tourbook

This Is How It's Done

Coming in at number five on the countdown towards Neil Peart’s best drum solo is “Der Trommler” (The Drummer) from the R30 tour. This particular performance was recorded at the Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany on September 24, 2004.

Now you may be wondering why this solo, with all it’s complexities, with all the different movements, and the fact that Neil created an instructional video based on this performance, comes in at number five (just half way!) in the countdown. There’s no doubt that this is an exceptional solo. And if Neil were to pick a solo to base an instructional video on, this one, more than any other, would be the appropriate one. But even with all these factors going for this solo, there are four better solos than this one. This speaks volumes regarding the quality of the coming solos on the list. But enough of that for now – lets get into the nuts and bolts of “Der Trommler.”

This solo clocks in at about eight minutes forty seconds, the longest of all the solos in the countdown. It pretty much is a summation, a culmination of all previous solos to that point. It has a little bit of everything, hence the length. The solo is analyzed in great detail in Neil’s instructional DVD Anatomy of a Drum Solo. If you haven’t seen that DVD, well, what are you waiting for? 🙂 It is a unique solo in that, for the first and only time in this countdown, Neil starts the solo on the electronic kit rather than the acoustic one. As Neil mentions in the aforementioned video, this worked out really well because the solo ended up being, quite accidentally, a historical narrative of the evolution of drumming: African echoing-type drums (village to village messages), African rhythmic dancing pattern (Scars), the fast march (origin of European drumming), the ‘waltz’ (basis of European dance), and eventually all these influences merging to form what was later know as Latin, Jazz, Rock, and the like. It actually is a very educational solo, one that a drummer could glean from for ideas of their own.

“Momo’s Dance Party” makes its first appearance in this countdown, although chronologically it appears earlier. It’s not the whole song, just an excerpt that Neil includes in his solos:

Momo's Dance Party from Der Trommler

In all of the solos Neil does his ‘patented’ single-stroke accented roll, but in this solo he adds a little twist by making it sound like there’s a snare drum floating below another (I guess you could describe it that way):

Dual Snares

If you watch him play the aforementioned clip on DVD, the sound almost doesn’t match what he’s seen doing!

The Anatomy of a Drum Solo DVD did all fans of Neil Peart’s drum solos a favor by not only including the obvious R30 solo, which was the more recent at that time, but also including two other solos that otherwise we would not have seen, but are gems. One is a solo from the Counterparts tour, which has yet to appear in the countdown (“Man, this is gonna be good!”), and another is a solo from the same R30 tour, recorded at the Sporthalle in Hamburg, Germany on September 27th, 2004. This solo is basically the same as the one appearing on R30, but the R30 version is included in the countdown due to its ‘Rush’ packaging (or you could say the Hamburg solo is 5b on the countdown, whereas the Frankfurt solo is 5a). There is, however, a distinguishing characteristic of the Hamburg solo that’s worthy of an honorable mention here. In the Anatomy DVD, Neil mentions that he likes to shake things up a bit from night to night to make the solos challenging. On the Hamburg night, the echo-effects guys were going crazy and actually presented some effects that you won’t find on any other solo. Have a listen…

Hamburg Echo Effects Intro

Another part of this solo that's definitely worth mentioning is when Neil goes into the single-stroke accented roll. It's somewhat different from the one released on R30, but I think this was a little faster and livelier. And when entering the waltz section, instead of starting over on the right side with the floor toms (as on R30), he started way up on the high toms, a very interesting variation. There's also a little throwback to the A Show of Hands solo as well (see if you catch it!). But don't take my word for it, here it for yourself!

Hamburg March and Waltz

This tour has a special place in my heart because it was the only time my three brothers and I went out together, without our kids, without our wives, all by ourselves, and it was to a Rush concert! It was at the Sound Advice Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, Florida on July 29th, 2004. Gotta give it up to our wives for giving us that gift! I don’t remember how different (or the same!) Neil’s solo was that night, but it seemed to me that it was better than the one that later found itself on the R30 CD/DVD. I was mesmerized. One of the songs I was looking forward to seeing them play live was “Earthshine,” and right before near the end of the song, when Neil plays the two double-bass triplet combinations twice in a row, the bass drum sound was gone! I don’t know if his pedal(s) broke, or if the mic went out, but I was not happy! They later corrected the sound of the bass drum, but it didn’t seem to sound the same for the rest of the show. But no matter – we could hear it, and he (and they!) played most awesomely. Alex Lifeson was also “crying” because people were celebrating Geddy Lee’s birthday and not his, which was very funny.

But that was then! Now we need to know why this solo ranks fifth in the countdown. Well, for starters, the same reason that it was a good idea for Neil to make a DVD about soloing based on this solo is also the reason it’s number five. This solo is a culmination, a combination, if you will, of many of the concepts, patterns, triggers, and what not, that he had played before. It wasn’t so much a ‘new’ solo, but one that contained many familiar parts. Yes, he did add a few combinations in this solo, especially during the ‘waltz’ section, which were very fresh. We have to also consider the sound of the drums here. To me, on this recording they sounded a little too ‘muddy,’ or boomy – not so much crisp and defined. The solos still upcoming in the countdown had better sounding drums, be it because of the way the drums were recorded, or drum tuning, or post-production, or any other number of reasons.

Be that as it may, this is vintage Neil. It encapsulates most of what his solos are all about, with a little historical twist. And with its educational slant, it gives us an opportunity to explore the possibilities in our own solos.

But stay tuned! Number four on the countdown towards Neil’s best solo is coming soon. As good as it’s been, it gets better!

Number 6 | Number 4

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