I can confidently say that after a over decade of using the books “The All American Drummer: 150 Rudimental Solos” & “Modern Rudimental Swing Solos for the Advanced Drummer”, that they are my absolute favourite for working on applied rudiments. Mr. Wilcoxon took the standard rudiments of drumming and created logical solos that not only are challenging to play from a technical standpoint, but that are also incredibly musical. From my perspective, as a professional drummer and educator of nearly 20 years, these books have been pivotal in my development and in the development of my students.
I first came across the Wilcoxon books by accident. I was at a music store and I saw one of them in the book section. I read through it a bit and decided it was well worth the $13.95 to see if I liked it. I brought the book home and began to play through some of the solos. At first I guess I didn’t quite understand how deep these solos went, because my original thought was “cool, I’ll check these out later on”. I was too young and was too obsessed with speed and playing endless permutations of paradiddles. Fair enough, those are things to work on as well and they definitely helped my development. But shortly thereafter I was reading a Modern Drummer interview with the great Virgil Donati where he talked about studying with Philly Jo Jones and how much importance was put on the “Modern Rudimental Swing Solos for the Advanced Drummer” book. So I thought to myself, “Well if one of the greatest jazz drummers who ever lived taught these solos to one of the greatest fusion drummers who ever lived, then maybe I should take another look at them”.
So why are the Charley Wilcoxon solos so great? For me it boils down to a few points:
1. Combining Rudiments
Once we learn the basic rudiments we must then work towards learning how to apply these rudiments to actual musical situations, and the Wilcoxon books are the perfect way to learn this concept. First of all, the books use the 26 Standard American Rudiments to great effect by combining the rudiments in many different ways. Take for example Solo #1 & Solo #2 and how they use the flam taps in different, but both very effective, ways.
2. They Become Progressively More Difficult
Now I will say that this cannot be thought of in a completely linear fashion, as you will run into solos at different points that will be sometimes easier and sometimes more difficult. But if you flip through the book about 20 pages at a time you will see things building up to the point where you might think that it wouldn’t be possible to play those solos. But if you work in a diligent manner and learn one solo at a time, then you won’t have too much troubles working your way through the books.
If you don’t understand something, then as always, contact a knowledgeable teacher and work through the trouble spots. If you don’t have a drum instructor in your area, or are interested in studying with me, then contact me here.
3. Thematic Development
One of the secrets to creating intelligent improvisations is to have a strong understanding of thematic development. This basically means taking a single idea and exploring it until you have a lot of things to say with a single idea. The Wilcoxon solos do a great job of this by stating an idea and then stating the idea in a different way later on in the solo. For example if we look at Solo #1 in The All-American Drummer we see that the stated theme at the beginning (a flam tap and then a flam paradiddle) is restated 5-measures later. It’s interesting that Charley chose to restate the theme a measure later, rather than on the same place he placed it at the beginning of the solo. Why do you think he did that?
He did what composers have been doing for centuries, which is to re-state themes throughout the piece as to solidify the melodic content. It gives the listener something to connect with. If there are no theme then there is no recognizable music. Charley Wilcoxon very much understood this, hence why he uses this idea very well in his solos. Or if he doesn’t restate the theme, he takes it and uses it in a different way in a different part of the piece.
Look closely and you will begin to see his genius.
4. Very Focused
Rather than fill up the solos with too much content, Charley chose to make one or two rudiments the themes of each of the solos. Again, taking simple ideas and showing ways to develop them, but also allowing the student to work out a single rudiment and to really focus on it.
5. Always Challenging
Strange but true, I have yet to be able to play through a solo with ease without having to first struggle and work very hard on one or two measures in the solo. This point has always baffled me, but Charley really knew how to get his students to work hard by making the solos accessible but also difficult to master at the same time.
What a great teacher!
6. Many Applications
I am currently working on a video series about the numerous ways you can work on applying these solos to the drumset. I would highly encourage you to be as adventurous as possible and to practice playing the solos in as many different ways as possible. The more you can think of the better.
I would also recommend that you subscribe to my YouTube channel, as I will be releasing the first videos of the video series “How to Apply the Charley Wilcoxon Solos to the Drumset” on May 1st. Subscribe and turn on the bell so you don’t miss it!
by: Brandon Goodwin
Montreal, QC, Canada
Check Price for
Modern Rudimental Swing Solos for the Advanced Drummer
Check Price for
The All-American Drummer: 150 Rudimental Solos
As I often mention, there is no substitute for a good teacher. If you have questions, or perhaps need clarification then I strongly encourage you to find a teacher and work through these ideas with them. You will develop much more quickly and will eradicate any bad habits that could develop if practicing without guidance. You can always contact me about lessons at my studio in Montreal, or on Skype. But this isn’t about me, it’s about the art of drumming, so find the best teacher you can and stick with it.
Brandon Goodwin Bio
Brandon has worked with renowned jazz musicians such as Braxton Cook, Grammy-award winning artists Delfeayo Marsalis, and Kebbi Williams, as well as some of Canada’s top talent, including Fraser Hollins, Al McLean, and Samuel Blais.
Brandon has studied with some of Canada’s top drummers, including, Nasyr Abdul Al-Kabyr (Dizzy Gillespie), Dave Laing, and Dave Robbins, and has also studied privately with internationally acclaimed drummers Ari Hoenig and Dan Weiss.
He has taught masterclasses at high schools and universities in Canada and the U.S. and is the owner/principal operator of Studio Drum MTL. Based out of Verdun QC, Brandon services Greater Montreal, Lasalle, Lachine, NDG, Westmount, and Cote St Luc with his high quality drum lessons.
Brandon’s group B’s Bees has performed concerts in North America and in Asia, at major jazz festivals and in some of the best jazz clubs in the world. The group has also performed masterclasses at high schools and in universities in Canada, the U.S. and in Asia.
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