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Advice needed on good drummer with so-so timing

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by DaftCat, Dec 22, 2004.

  1. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat

    I am in a trio with a working cover band.

    On some tunes the drummer is right on and on some others he is either too fast or more likely too slow.

    Is making a drummer play to a click an offensive thing to do?

    Could any of you who had experience in this situation advise me on what to do about it?

    I like the drummer as a person and he is pretty damn open minded with the material we choose to play.

    I'd hate to have him be let go over something that a $50 piece of equipment can resolve.


  2. zero7


    Apr 16, 2004
    I had the same problem recently in my band.

    Conclusion : bad timing is not something you'll be able to cure just by plugging your drummer to a click during reharsals.

    However, he will greatly improve if he uses the click as a practice tool. You will too, btw.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    There are tempo meters that attach to the snare drum. One brand is called the "Russian Dragon" (it's a pun, doods). Better idea than asking him to play to a click!
  4. Is it tempo that's the problem or reliable and consistent timing? If it's the latter, he is not a good drummer and you have a problem. If it's simply tempo, set the beat for him at the beginning of the tune.
  5. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    Lots of drummers work to clicks, especially if there are sequences going.
    It's a skill all drummers should cultivate, so it wouldn't hurt to have him do it, but there's no guarantee he can. Apparently it can be pretty tough to learn in the initial stages.

    Most frequently a drummer is called upon to play to a click during recording sessions. You could tell him it's practice for future recording... or something.

    I use one on songs with sequenced keyboard lines, like Rush's 'Red Sector A' or Depeche Mode's 'Enjoy the Silence.' You really have to lock in and be able to hear those keyboard lines to keep it tight.

    That brings up another issue though; monitoring the click. How would he do it? Headphones? Earbuds? Can take some getting used to. Would you all monitor the click, or just the drummer? If he's having trouble now, it could take time to get used to the click. You might not want to rely on him alone at first.
  6. Our drummer plays to a click for rehearsal and live performances. It only took a week or two for him to get use to it. We found that it really improved the tightness of the band. It is also great for locking in a tempo that really suits the song. Amazing what difference a few beats +/- can do to a song. We use the the tama metronome. It's super easy to set the tempo and you can save tempos in order for playing live.
  7. Another option that you may want to consider is to take the tempo out of his hands by using sequences and loops. YOU become a loop guy, playing looped basslines or sequenced samples, and make him play to them. It may change your band around music-wise, but you might just try it for a while as a learning tool for everybody.
  8. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    I get it! :D

    Who's singing these songs with the wrong tempo? Usually, the singer will get steamed if the tempo is "wrong". It messes up their phrasing and breathing etc...

    I would try to fix the tempo problems with rehearsals. If that doesn't work, work on some signals to use on stage to tell him to speed up or slow down. If he doesn't come around on his own after that, then...

    ...Drummer Wanted!....
  9. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    There is no such thing as a "good" drummer with "bad" timing.

    If, by good, you mean he can play some awesome things, then have him cut back and play it more straight until he gets the timing down.

    There are alot of drummers who can keep time until they try to get fancy and then lose their sense of timing. Have him play it up straight for awhile. It might be boring, but it is effective.

    I can't tell you how many drummers I've played with where I had to play harder and faster or lighter and slower to get their tempo corrected. Usually in rehearsals, I'll tell them to play it straight for a while and that usually fixes the issue.

    But every "good" drummer I've played with had excellent timing and some of the best were the ones that had great timing, even if they weren't fancy.
  10. atldeadhead


    Jun 17, 2002
    Amen, brother. Amen. In my 15 years of band experience there is no middle ground with drummers. IMHO, Either you got it or you don't.
  11. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    So true. Timing is everything. A drummer needing a metronome? The drummer is supposed to be the time keeper for crying out loud. A drummer who can't keep time is like a bass player that can't hold down the bottom end. Useless. :)
  12. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    Thanks for the replies.

    We have in-ear monitoring so the click(if we get him to do this) would be heard by all of us. I've been told(and I've read here also) that this tightens the band overall to boot. I'm all for it if it helps.

    Great, now for the hard part... hahaha

    Do we just go ahead and force it or do we reason with him?

    Is it silly to bother using it for some tunes or for all tunes?

    Again, I value the feedback.

  13. If you just tell him his timing sucks, then it'll hurt his feelings. If you put it on all of you, it's an easier pill to swallow. Say, "Hey, we're all rushing through some parts, WE need something to tame the tempo. Let's all listen to a click."

    If he's resistant or has his ego bruised, then prove it to him by recording a practice, setting a metronome to the tempo the song starts at, then listen to both the metronone and song. Once he sees how loose he gets, he should wise up.
  14. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    are you saying he starts them too fast or slow, or he starts slowing down or speeding up during the song?
  15. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Well, if he just starts them too slow or fast, then that's not a big deal. Well, it is, but it's easily corrected.

    But if he's all over the place during the song, that is something I've never found to be corrected without replacing the drummer (unless he tries playing it straight and can hold the time that way...then there is something to work with).

    I've found over the years that there are good and bad drummers...and all the good ones I've worked with had an impeccable sense of time. The bad ones never developed a good sense of time, no matter how much they tried (not while I played with them anyway).

    But sometimes drummers will start a song too fast (which can make it very difficult for the guitarists or singers to play complex parts), but that's not really a bad sense of timing...it's just not knowing the appropriate speed to start off with. It's easily changed.
  16. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    How can you tell if a drummer is knocking at your door?
    The knocking gets louder and faster

    Great advice thus far, so let me ruin things by adding some of my own :D

    Make sure you guys are counting in the song properly. If he's counting them in then he shouldn't have an excuse. If you guys are make sure you're counting clearly and indicating the tempo/feel with your count.

    Is the drummer leading or is he following? If the drummer is following you guys then something is gonna give. He'll adjust to you, then you to him, then him to you, etc. Drummer should lead and set the tempo, feel, and volume. Let him know that you are following him, and counting on him to keep things together.

    How are is his fills? This has to be the one spot that I see drummers tending to speed up. The guy goes from playing 16th notes on the toms, to going back to 8th notes on the hats. The guy can't seem to get control of his hands fast enough and the tempo goes up a few BPMs. Just like when you are driving a fast moving van, you can prepare ahead of time to stop or make a turn instead of slamming on the brakes and going past the stop light. Being able to do fills while keeping the groove and tempo takes practice.

    Nip the problem when it happens. Don't wait till the end of the song to tell him where he's speeding up or slowing down, tell him soon as it happens. Stop the tune and work that piece over again until the tempo is right. If it's the transition from the bridge to chorus that's causing everything to speed up, then work on that over and over. Have the drummer count in the segment of the tune so he internaizes what the tempo and feel should be.
  17. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    Love the answers. I sure hope others just reading the thread(not answering) benefit from this discussion also.

    I've made up my mind that we are going on a click. I don't really dictate how things go in the band, but I am sorta the Yoda in the crew.....and Yoda is going to speak next rehearsal. :)

    jive1: Yes, I notice when some fills kick in the tempo goes up and it is noticeable(especially to the singer).

    xush: Usually at the beginning, but I've noticed some tunes slow down a tad toward the middle/end.

    mo'phat: I think I'll do just that. I prefer to me more tactful at changing something rather than the "do this or you're canned" way.
  18. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
  19. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Using a click in practice is absolutely recommended. Even when the problem goes away you should work to a click every once in a while. It does a lot of good.

    What you shouldn't do (IMO) is use one live. Using loops live is a good suggestion, but even that can be a bad idea unless the loops are really cool and they add to the music.

    The advice you were given regarding the flashy drummer with bad time needing to lay back is probably the best starting point. Don't rule out the idea of him ramping his flashiness back up, but he definitely needs to cut it out until he's solid. I was lucky enough when I started drumming that before I got really good on the kit, I did a summer in drum and bugle corps. Our drumline had a decent show and we were rock solid. Other corps had flashier shows but they took heavy losses in the points department because they didn't bother to work on the timing. As I started playing drums in bands this lesson stuck with me. I luckily didn't have to learn the hard way. :)

    One of the best pieces of timekeeping advice I've seen on here (in multiple threads) is to record yourselves and listen back with a critical ear. The tempo issues will be obvious and everyone will know right away whose fault it is.

    One thing that needs to be addressed is the whole "the drummer is the one responsible for the time" thing. This is not a good attitude to have. EVERYONE in the rhythm section is responsible for keeping time. That is why bassists and guitarists practice to metronomes too. The drummer may be the loudest at a show but time is a team thing.
  20. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    Why not use one live? Plenty of drummers do, and you don't have to be a slave to it. You can still push and pull it, though I wouldn't really get into that with a drummer such as this thread is about. That's a bit further down the road...

    Most bands I've played with expect the drummer to set the lead. A timid drummer, just following along, doesn't really do anyone much good. Sure, everybody's working together, and is responsible for keeping in time, but I think generally it's the drummer who's expected to set that time.