Anatomy of a Drum Solo, by Neil Peart


Composite release; unofficial

Anatomy of a Drum Solo DVD released December 12, 2005

8 min, 1 sec

Neil Peart is a man that, in most circles, needs no introduction. A world-class drummer, on a level of technical skill and flair that very, very few in the world could compare to, Peart revolutionized Rush’s music and songwriting process upon his arrival in 1974, replacing founding drummer John Rutsey and solidifying Rush’s iconic power trio lineup. Peart’s drumming helped Rush to become one of the most universally beloved bands of all time; his lyrics less so, particularly his Ayn Rand-influenced lyrics around the time of 2112 (an influence that, mercifully, went away shortly after the 70s came to a conclusion). An inductee of the Order of Canada for his musical contributions within and separate from Rush, Peart is one of the greatest musicians of all time.

It is only natural, then, that Peart would begin producing instructional videos regarding the art of drums. Peart himself has never been above refining and redefining his own craft; in 1992, he famously began studying under iconic jazz drummer Freddie Gruber, even taking time off from Rush in order to improve his technique. The lessons resulted in Peart widening his style even more, taking on elements of swing and big band music following the electronic-heavy style of the 1980s. He subsequently produced a video in 1996 entitled A Work in Progress, where he shared, in depth, his approach to the composition and recording of drum parts for the entirety of Rush’s 1996 album Test for Echo.

1997 and 1998 marked a span of severe personal tragedy for Peart. First, his daughter died in a car accident in August 1997. Peart informed his bandmates at his daughter’s funeral that he was essentially retired as a result. His wife succumbed to cancer just ten months later in 1998, and Peart subsequently began traveling the country by motorcycle, attempting to rediscover meaning in his life. Upon the conclusion of his lengthy travels, Peart returned to Rush, and the band produced the (unfortunately, terribly mixed) comeback album Vapor Trails in 2002, bringing the Rush musical machine back to life, where it continues to this day.

Following the conclusion of 2004’s 30th anniversary tour, Peart produced another instructional video on DVD, entitled Anatomy of a Drum Solo. This, finally, is where today’s “album” comes from. As you may have guessed, this isn’t an album in the traditional sense, as these two tracks are sourced from the DVD, as opposed to any official album release. Both tracks feature in the DVD because Peart had been incorporating aspects of the two songs into his iconic drum solos during live concerts for several years, emulating the main rhythms of the songs on MIDI pads.

“Pieces of Eight” originates from a flexi-disc (a vinyl record pressed on incredibly thin material, so that it may be included in magazines without breaking) included in a 1987 issue of Modern Drummer, recorded specifically for inclusion in the magazine and to show off Peart’s new Ludwig brand drumkit. Peart began incorporating parts of the track into his solos shortly after. “Momo’s Dance Party” dates back to 1991, and was featured, in part, on A Work in Progress, before being released in full on Anatomy of a Drum Solo, where “Pieces of Eight” is also featured. “Momo’s” iconic rhythm is sourced from a melody that Peart heard when in Togo in 1989 – the rhythm was stuck in his head, and he used it for both “Momo” and the Rush track “Heresy.”

Neither track is a work of genius, to be sure, but they are certainly the works of genius, and both are fascinating insights into how Peart’s mind works when composing and performing, as the two songs could not sound any more different from each other. They came from separate mindsets, using separate instrumentation, but both incorporate complex, interlocking rhythms, and showcase the dexterity and range of Peart’s ability. Outside of his work in Rush, these two tracks help to serve as supporting reasons for why Neil Peart is widely regarded to be one of the greatest drummers of all time.

Spoilers: the next five posts, including this weekend’s Specials, will be about Nine Inch Nails, so if you aren’t into that sort of thing, you may want to back out until Wednesday.


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