Has anyone had success in getting a drummer to go from "going through the motions" to playing dynamically and interactively with the band?
Right now our drummer plays in time but he does not play with the theme or direction of the song. He puts random fills in where he wants. He plays catch up on major transitions in the songs. He has a hard time getting on the same page as the rest of us.
I guess I am looking for ideas to get a drummer to hear the overall sound/dynamics and recognize he can do more than keep time with random beats and fills.
Sounds like he's not the man for the job.
My experience is that you can't 'break' a drummer from that kind of behavior (I've tried). The best drummers I've played with are also great musicians. They're on top of playing 'musically' and thinking melodically and they're LISTENING to what everyone is doing.
I've played with some who could keep time but had no taste when it came with what to do with a song...
We went through five or six drummers before we got a guy like that. It was worth the effort. If he left, I would seriously consider shutting this band down.
1. He plays by "feel". Which means he plays whatever he feels like.
2. He's a follower, not a leader.
Does he really "know" the music? Encourage him to lead the band through a song. Let his playing tell the rest of you where the changes are, and where the song will end. If my drummer wants an outro to go an extra few bars, we know it just by what he played, or didn't play, right then and there.
Super mellow drummer
We currently have a "drummer", who made a career of being an acoustic soloist. He would be a fine drummer for a soft folk trio, but we are known to break out into some real rock n roll. He's over there pecking away at the high hat, like the intro to "Shaft", I'm hollering for him to pick it up and go. He just sits there looking bewildered. Probably thinks he should be using his brushes about now.
I'm not always sure what our drummer is doing. Sometimes I believe he's lost in space trying to escape a black hole because he's relinquished his grasp on time and left behind the mostly appropriate beat that he was just holding. Occasionally I will have to turn around and bang out the drum part using the root, octave and fifth as kick, snare and hat or ride to get him back on track.
The real issue with drummers of this ilk is that they haven't taken the time to learn the music, or are incapable of doing so because it is too complex. Our guy can get the easy stuff, and play the odd time signature stuff as long as it doesn't have too many changes, but does nothing to telegraph the changes in the more complex stuff (one song goes from 7 to 4 and needs a good fill to get there without sounding like switching from English to Afrikaans.) There's a real problem with letting these drummers play because they will create havoc, as is the case with our drummer. We've played with guests and drummers from the past and been quite capable of nailing complex songs that we've never played before because the drummer let's us know where we're going only to get back to "our guy" and fumble through changes we've played dozens of times before.
A good drummer is a navigator and has, not only a Swiss timepiece, but also a compass in their head. A good drummer needs to be intimately familiar with the music and know exactly what the rest of the band is heading for so that he (or she) can guide the changes in a fluid, meaningful way.
What you and I (and the others whose drummers put fills in random places and play only in a vaguely similar direction and theme to the band) have are bad drummers. The problem with having a bad drummer, of course, is that they are quite adept at making good bass players seem like bumbling idiots even when the bass part is being played spot on...
(Can you tell that last night was a frustrating rehearsal?)
It's almost certainly hopeless. You can't turn a hack into a musician. Not overnight, at least.
I have a guitar player these days who's got some of these traits. ;)
Lately he's taken to playing things that are puzzling in the context of our music. Usually if there are two guitars on board for the night he stays in line, but if there is only him, it gives him enough room to make some very bad choices. Also sometimes he really 'loses it' not playing for the song or the part...and then he says "I was just 'feeling it' and HAD TO"...which doesn't fly when you've got 5 other people on stage with you.
OP: Its a waste of time - just replace him.
Lack of ear. My drummer is like that. But he is also a very dear friend, so I've learned to live with it. Not much you can do.
I played with a best friend drummer for years. Great guy...came around the kit in a big fill and 70% of the time there was 'something extra' by way of time tacked on. I knew and could hear it coming and play on it just fine from years of it...but it confused the hell out of anyone else who saw us or played with us, and certainly would qualify for what I would consider 'not a great drummer' given that. Other band people would come up and say to me, I don't know how you do that...follow those fills like that...but once you know someone and what they do, you know them.
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