(My) Drummer Problem
Hey everyone. My name's Luke Hagerman. I've been lurking around here for the past four years or so. This is my first post :)
NOTE: Italicized passages are not necessary for full understanding per-say.
Real quick info:
-18 years old (17 when hired)
-Playing electric bass for nearly six years
I'm just going to get right down to it. The issue that I'm currently having is seemingly simple, but I'm going to add LOTS of extra detail in hopes that it can aid in coming to a conclusion. There's so many elements to this story and so much history to the band that this post is probably going to be pretty unorganized, but just try to bear with me. Heregoes...
In early September of last year, I got the bass spot in an 8 piece wedding band. The band is called *******. It's a very popular group in *********** **** and practically monopolizes the entire area. We play every Friday and Saturday.
Fridays are bars and Saturdays are receptions.
I mean, my calendar has bookings all the way into 2014. I don't know if this is a common thing with these kinds of groups, but I was kind of jarred by that. Anyway, the group is essentially a Top 40 band. We play everything from The Temptations to Outkast. Lots of Motown. Some Pop and Rock n Roll thrown in there too. When I got hired, I had two weeks to learn about 150 tunes. It was very short notice. I'm proud to say that I accomplished that feat and showed up to the first gig feeling pretty confident. It was a wedding reception, which are mostly 4 hour deals. I played the gig and thought I held my own for a 17 year old kid. This was the first real working band I had ever played in. I play bass in my high school jazz ensemble (grammy award winning music program) and I jam in local hot spots every now and then, but I had never been in a regularly performing band. I have played with a decent share of drummers and I would like to consider myself as a good musician. I can read and I have pretty damn good rhythm for not being a drummer.
The [b]drummer[b] and bandleader, whose name is *****, sits me down after the performance and compliments me, telling me that I had "a lot of balls" to play in the band and that, for someone my age, he was very impressed.
At this time I would like to note that the guys in the band have been doing this for nearly 20 years. The only changing positions have been keys and bass. Everyone else in the band has know each other for years. Here's the instrumentation:
I should also mention that the band has gone through, give or take, [b]EIGHT[b] bassists in the past five years...
So anyway, after ***** was done complimenting me, he proceeded to tell me that my playing that evening was "not the standard" of the band and that he would be expecting more from me as time went on. I had no problem with this, in fact, I was hoping that I would receive some critical feedback. Later the next day, he sent me an email with some specific things to work on within some of the songs. For example, "watch this transition", etc.
So, time passed and I played gigs every weekend, sometimes not getting home until early in the morning when I had to drive 3 hours home from Columbus. About two months ago was when things started to really get weird.
On a lot of the songs, especially the newer stuff that's more drum machine-esque, ***** will play with a click track or a metronome. But the click track isn't in an IEM or anything like that. The click track comes through his monitor which is directly between him and myself. Is this something that a lot of drummers do? I had never heard of anyone playing a click through their monitor during live performance. ***** says that his time "can't be wrong" since he's "playing with the metronome." My thought is, why doesn't he play with the musicians around him instead??
I'd like to go on record and say that the band doesn't use IEMs at all, and I really, REALLY feel like it would benefit from that investment. I haven't brought it up because I feel like I'm so young and it's not really my place to just go suggesting that we invest a couple thousand dollars into an IEM system.
The main thing that I want to get across here is that ***** and I are not clicking at all. I'm willing to give just a little bit and say that perhaps some of the issue is that I'm inexperienced. But I've been playing for a solid 6 months now, and like I said, I have inherently good time/rhythm. I figure any nervousness or stage fright has worn off by now. However, I honestly believe that the problem is not just me. ***** refuses to believe that he is at fault in any way.
This specific instance occurs on a lot of the tunes, but here's an example:
When we play "Jungle Love", the groove is pretty simple. We play all of our covers basically verbatim to the record, so the bass line is not super complicated. Just the same thing over and over again. Well, when we play, ***** will yell (mid-song) to me that I'm "not in time". Then, if I don't fix whatever imaginary problem that he's perceiving to be there, he'll start slamming his kick drum in effort to emphasize where he thinks I'm playing out of time. Usually on Jungle Love, it's the beginning of the bass line phrase, on the "one" beat. If that doesn't work for him, he'll proceed to both yell and beat the hell out of his drumset. Sometimes I'm at the point where I'm helpless. Unless there's some other kind of "beat one" that I was never taught, I'm playing in the only place where I know "one" to be.
I would like to take a second to say that I do know about playing around the groove. On Top and Behind the beat, etc. Just in case anyone might wonder. I have good knowledge of those concepts. My jazz ensemble director is also a gigging drummer in the area.
This problem occurs on almost all of the songs we play. ***** will yell and swear at me. Sometimes I have to think that the audience can hear it. I have thick skin, but I don't want to be bitched at when I'm just trying to stay in the groove. ***** has sat me down after gigs and said things like:
"When are you going to be honest with yourself and play like a rhythm section player?" or "Do you have any concept of groove?"
He will constantly yell at me to "relax" during a song, but once I do that, I hear him beating the hell out of his kit again.
The 8 bassists before me all quit or were fired by *****.
I talk with the other guys in the band and they've seen other bass players go through this same thing. Every weekend, dealing with the scrutiny and unwarranted criticism. They say that no matter what I do, I'll never be "right" with *****. The other band mates do tell me fairly often how much they love playing off my bass lines and that I'm very solid. I make a conscious effort to absorb the entire band's sound when I play and hear it as a whole. I've found that helps a little bit. I've even recorded some of the bar gigs. Honestly, it sounds really solid. I'm even impressed with myself when I listen to the tapes...
[b]BOTTOM LINE:[b] The money is so good for somebody my age, still in high school. I have more money than I know what to do with. I've gone so far as to spend some of it on clothes. And I don't even care about clothes! What the heck do I do? I've been waiting for the gig where ***** is finally satisfied, but to no avail... It's gotten to the point where I'm constantly checking myself, even when I'm not playing with the band, "am I in time?" It's ruining my confidence in my playing. Not to mention it's ruining my hearing as well-- ***** has asked me on more than one occasion to remove my ear protection because he feels that it inhibits my playing.
I would love to tell him to shove it, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it. I just need some input. Am I crazy? :bawl: :( :bawl:
Your bandmates have already told you that he'll never be satisfied. In my mind, there are three things you can do:
1. Quit. a band like that looks really good on a musician's resume, and you probably won't have a hard time finding another gig.
2. Just stick around until the BL eventually fires you. Ride it out, make as much gig money as you can, and wait for the axe to fall. Being fired won't look as good, but you'll still find other opportunities.
3. Try to get the other bandmates to sit down with you and the bandleader, and have them tell him what they tell you. Maybe the dude just needs the input of other musicians he respects to open his eyes.
Thanks for the input Hobobob. Sorry for all the verbal diarreah. It's just been under my skin for months.
Option 3 is weird only because I guess the sax player (who does all of our arrangements) told me that he tried to give ***** tapes of other great sounding bassists with the band at the time and ***** just couldn't see it. Still continued on with his same routine. There have been open arguments before I guess.
While the guys are nice to me, I'm great pals with the guitarist, I don't really feel like they're interested in sticking up for me since they've seen this happen time and time again.
If I were in that situation, I'd just bail. Finish all of the shows you agreed to in the somewhat immediate future, and then go find greener pastures. Just tell the dude that it's not the best fit for you.
If anyone's interested in checking out the actual band, here's the URL for the site.
Some of the info is not up to date. Any video/music files there do not have me playing, but rather one of the past bassists.
There's also a full song list.
Option 2. This guy apparently can't hang with any bassist, so just make that money and grin and bear it.
Or, have a talk with him and play nice guy. Tell him you'd like to integrate better as a rhythm section, and possibly the two of you could use a little one on one rehearsal to tighten things up and get to know one another's playing styles better.
Or punch him in the mouth :)
Tell him that even though you are young, you still deserve to be treated with respect -- and that if he treats you like crap during a performance again, you're going to walk. And then be ready to do it.
(Don't walk out during the performance, that will just make you look bad.)
Tried turning yourself down to see if there are still problems? ;)
Blows minds for those with imaginary bass problems if you tell them you made no sounds at all... From the sounds of it he won't take that lying down though...
I agree with the others, there isn't much you can do short of a coup d'etat firing the drummer from his own band. Imo you should make a point in explicitly stating that his behaviour cost him a dozen of bassists over the years and unless he pipes down, he will find himself running out of band members. Gotta love divas with overactive imagination.
Thanks for the words of confidence, guys.
lowfreq, I didn't include this in the original post because I felt it was already long enough, but I did actually meet with him at his house. He has his own private studio where he teaches his perc. students. I'm guessing he didn't find it important to sit down at his set and actually play with me. He often says that I need to be able to adapt as the tempos of the songs can change from night to night. From my view they don't really vary in tempo, and if they do it's such a minute difference that only he must notice it, because I really don't. So, what I'm saying is: He says it is useless to practice with him due to the fact that the groove "changes" from night to night. He says that I just have to adapt. This is pretty frustrating.
One other thing that I'd like to mention is that he had some footage that he took for a winter discount promotional video. During that same visit to his house, we walked over to his computer and he played some of the footage for me. He made an effort to point out flaws in my playing, but he couldn't because there aren't any problems. At this point he said something interesting. "Maybe I'm hearing it differently on stage, but when we're playing it is not together at all." When he tried to point out more flaws in my playing within the video, he blamed it on the video's audio and the bass being too low for him to hear it correctly :eyebrow:
I've wanted to tell him, "hey look, maybe it's not all me," but it just doesn't work because of the age difference. Because I'm 18 and he's almost 50, even if I am right, it can't be that way to him because I'm assuming it would be downright embarrassing. What would you say if you couldn't hang with a 16 year old drummer and you were 45? He has years of "experience" to excuse himself. I don't.
On another note, does anybody have any info on that click track through the monitor situation? Is he the only guy that does this?
EDIT: Just to be clear, I pretty much know what I'd like to, which is put in my six weeks and then leave. I just needed someone else to tell me that it wouldn't be unjustified to do so.
No offense, IMHO, but that really is a top notch band- if drummer who has a LOT more experience says you are losing your groove or not in time, he is probably right. DOn't get me wrong, doesn't mean he isn't a serious Douchebag as well. But that is a serious level band.
My advice, listen to him, step up your game, and do your best. If you can get better great, if not use the experience.
To be honest, I can't even see why that band would not have a bassist with a LOT more experience. I've been playing for 22 years and would even be slightly intimidated playing in a A-List group like that. I know a lot of people think you can become a great bassist in 2 years, but it isn't so. I am still getting better after 22 years, there is ALWAYS room for improvement. Keep with it!
Maybe you're really really good, but due to his haranguing, can get even better.
Just trying to find a positive spin.
Try a zen approach for awhile, and see if you really ARE as in time as a person could possibly be, and, if that doesn't work, then maybe find something else.
Record your band playing and show him the results. It might make him aware of your solid playing on the on the one hand and the actual problem on the other hand.
My guess is he uses the click because your front singers are doing some serious dancing, and they want all of this tight. One thing in his defense he is playing good SOLID simple drumming that everything can happen on top of, not over filling, playing too loud, etc. Kudos to this guy.
I've got to really disagree with you, Obimark. You don't think after 9 bass players, including me, that this drummer would find someone he could work with?? I know 3 of the past bass players. They are big names in the Cleveland area. They're no joke.
As far as the click track goes, there are many times, every gig, where he will slip off of it. Like, his kick won't line up with with the downbeats, or his snare won't line up. The beats will be slightly off. So, I know he slips.
Gillento, see my post from earlier. The sax player has already tried this a few times over the years.
No worries- if you can post some different videos of your playing with the band and that will tell the story- he could just be a douche-artiste as you say.
First off congrats at such a young age to land a gig like this. The travel from Youngstown to your home in Columbus would make me say no way but hey good for you. (NE OHIO GUY HERE)
IMO the drummer has the issues and some are tempo .He hears his tempo change and your's does not so he yells at you to adjust to him. Why does such an experienced drummer need a click track and why is he not feeling the band only picking on you? If the rest of the band is feeling you and saying your solid then your solid. He has an issue with his abilities and wont admit it. If there is one thing I hate is a musician that will blame others in a band for their own issues musically and I'm affraid this is the case here.
It appears from his background and the list of past bassist he will never get it. You can keep hanging out, sit down and have it out with him, or plow thru until you to will get fired I'm afraid. This guy will never be satisfied with any bass player since they will always be the fall guy for his short comings as a Drummer.
I would like to try and upload a tune or two from my recordings. The quality is by no means studio quality, far from it, but you can definitely hear the correlation between the kick and the bass. I recorded with my iPhone 5. Each recording is about a one hour set, so I'd have to trim it down. Can I post raw mp3/mp4 files here?
How about having a well respected bass instructor come to a show and critique you and the drummer. Sort of an unbiased opinion. It sounds to me like the Drummer is lacking in skills and the Click is proof of that. I couldn't stand hearing the click. JM2C
Bassbully, thanks for your input. I should clarify, I live in Youngstown and only commute to Columbus when there is a reception/business party down there. We don't travel that far for bar gigs. What is nice is that I'm compensated for travel time on top of my performance pay.
Great advice NYC! I think I know who I could have come out...
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