1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Anyone play gigs with a drum machine?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Uncle K, Apr 12, 2014.

  1. Uncle K

    Uncle K The bass player doesn't get a sandwich Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2011
    Erie, PA
    My punk band is thinking about getting a drum machine for some gigs this summer. Tips? Advice? Warnings?
  2. Piggy8692


    Oct 2, 2010
    Northern Utah
    I'll point out the obvious as my band has considered the same idea.

    Make sure everyone can play dead on; even after adrenaline and nerves. Your drum machine will be perfect so try to follow suit. Maybe you could program some cool drum intros rather then the standard 4 count click.

    Let's consider this a bump.
  3. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    When I walk into a club and hear "canned drums" or for that matter canned anything, I do a 180 and move on to a venue with real musicians. JMO
    philvanv and Remyd like this.
  4. Helaskold

    Helaskold 100% Mediocre

    Jul 22, 2012
    Austin, TX
    I've strongly considered it, but mainly because I couldn't find a real drummer. I would never consider it a permanent solution but I would absolutely do it while in the process of looking for a drummer... mostly as advertisement, i.e. "Thanks for coming out, if there are any drummers in the audience who like our style, contact us for an audition!"
  5. TIP/Advise: Instead of using a drum machine - program the drums (and other backing tracks) with a DAW, then put the finished songs/tracks into a little MP3 player (have two loaded MP3 players too - one for backup).

    Warning: Be prepared to be teased by some (counter respond with fun witty humor that makes them laugh) - and get a real drummer (one that can play with backing tracks) as soon as you can.
  6. Noonan


    Oct 27, 2011
    Only in my nightmares.
    philvanv likes this.
  7. Nope. On top of that I would leave a venue if a band used a drum machine
  8. My main band plays with additional backing tracks and I've seen a lot of (good and not so) bands using drum machines and backing tracks, so here's what comes to mind:

    - It won't sound like real acoustic drums played by an actual drummer. Kind of a no-brainer, but still a good thing to remember. It's an instrument of its own, so don't be afraid to mess around.

    - Regardless of the method (DAW + computer, drum machine, mp3 player...), the hard/software can be a critical point of failure (prob' comparable to your amp blowing up mid-set). Get a backup solution (ie. a second machine/player/whatever) and be sure you know how to setup/operate/troubleshoot it quickly if things go south.

    - Shop around for a machine with good samples, ask for recommendations for live use. Lots of variance in quality and purpose. Do you want an acoustic kit or an electronic one?

    - Make it as easy as possible for the soundguy, ie. Put effort in getting the mix as good as possible for the FOH. Ideally, all the soundguy should need to do is get a mono or stereo cable from you and open up the channel.

    - Monitoring, monitoring, monitoring. If you can't hear the machine, it'll be a trainwreck.

    - Nobodys going to walk away from your gig just because you're using a drum machine (except for JoeDog & PortlandBass77 :) ). However, I remember a couple of drum machine -powered bands losing some audience because either they or the soundguy had _totally_ f'd up the mix (my money is on the band), the end result sounding really muddy. So - learn your new instrument well, make it sound awesome, handle things professionally, rock it and no one will give a damn about you using a drum machine - except on TB ;D

    - A live drummer brings in a lot of stage presence, especially in rock/punk/metal/etc. high-energy settings. Putting some extra energy to your live performance won't hurt.

    - Have a listen at rock etc. artists who are using a drum machine / sampler for reference on good practices, for example:
    -- The Sisters of Mercy (http://sisterswiki.org/Doktor_Avalanche)
    -- The Cult (f.ex. on She sells sanctuary
    -- Filter's early albums, if I recall correctly
    -- Tom Petty (f.ex. Don't come around here)
    -- Genesis albums from the 80's
    -- Depeche Mode (duh)
    -- Nadja (more drone/doom, but anyway)
    -- google search is your friend.

    Also, +1 to piggy above:
    Also #2, this might be of use to you as well:
  9. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010
    I used to see new wave band Wall of Voodoo ("Mexican Radio") live in LA circa 1980 and drummer Joe Nanini always used a drum machine, which he supplemented with novelty percussions.

    We love it, but WOV's singer, Stan Ridgeway, complained long and loud that the repetitiveness drove him mad over time. He eventually left the band.
  10. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    That's what we did. Only with a CD, cuz it was a while back.

    There are definite advantages, and disadvantages, and IMO it's up to you whether it's going to work or not. The advantages in our situation were that we were making more money, and it was a lot easier to organize gigs. And load in and out. We were doing institutional shows, at odd daytime hours, for a company that paid pretty good per gig, if it were 2 people.

    The disadvantages are that it always feels and sounds stiff. Haven't heard a drum machine (or tracks) yet that sound like real drums in a club. Not sayin it hasn't been done, just sayin I haven't heard it.

    I can't see any reason whatsoever to not have a go at it. Your attitude towards it is what I think is most imortant. Worst case scenario, it doesn't work out so great. Big deal.
  11. generation zero

    generation zero

    Jul 24, 2012
    If it was techno/industrial music, I'd say maybe... But for (presumably original) punk/hard rock, I would absolutely advise against it if your goals are set any higher than just getting on stage for the fun of it. I'd rather watch a bad drummer than a drum machine any day, especially for a high energy genre of music. Singer/songwriter, perhaps, or techno/industrial NIN type stuff maybe (even then a live drummer is preferable), but personally I would never go on stage without a live drummer unless I was doing a solo acoustic gig.

    Now, having a drummer who plays with a click and uses a drum machine and/or tracks and samples to augment his parts, that's a whole different story. That I love, when done right.

    If you eventually plan on having a drummer and just haven't found one yet, I would recommend being patient. Otherwise you will quickly become known as "that punk band with a drum machine", which is likely not often going to be said in a complimentary fashion. If you want to be taken seriously, find a drummer.

    My two cents, FWIW, YMMV, IMHO, TGIF, etc...

  12. The first time I used backing tracks (many, many years ago) we had to haul around keyboards, a drum machine, and sequencer (midi). Back in the cassette days. ;)
  13. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

    Apr 15, 2013
    fyi the drum machine may become self-aware and try to kill you
    Hasty, rodl2005 and knumbskull like this.
  14. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    This is the only type I would consider gigging with - a Mississippi Drum Machine!

  15. Wow, that looks like way cool fun - how does it work, what does it sound like, and where can I get one? Or is it just a joke type pic?
  16. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    DM's cause cancer and make you want to wear a leisure suit. Although I do like the looks of the one above!
    rodl2005 and Remyd like this.
  17. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA
    It can be done, but you won't find much respect for it. I know I'm predisposed not to like it, regardless of how skillfully it's done. But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. If your overall sound is dynamic and exciting, no one's going to bust you on it, but it helps if you're a genius.
  18. GrumpiusMaximus

    GrumpiusMaximus I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe

    Mar 11, 2013
    Kent, United Kingdom
    It really depends on what you're doing with it.

    If you're simply imitating a drummer, you're going to have issues with people deriding the machine. If you're creating parts live with it that couldn't be played by a drummer, then it's more interesting. It also helps if you have a performance element to it.

    Aside from being a bassist, I'm a drummer and a composer. I used to use a device called an Arduinome live. The beauty of the arduinome was programming my own software to run on it - I ran a sequencer most of the time but also used it to control other things. All the time, there was an element of theatricality to the device. Here's an example of somebody using one:


    You can do a lot more with that device. But you could certainly use it as a drum machine - or something similar.

    It's just important that you're performing with the device rather than simply plugging it in and playing it. Once you've set it up for each piece, then you're free to play the bass and you can certainly sequence it to run itself. I personally just think it's important to perform, regardless of the instrument you're using.
  19. oldcatfish


    Jan 8, 2011
    I used to fill in at a small church that had a couple of phenomenal keyboard players, but was often short other musicians. When they couldn't find hired guns like me, the keyboard player on that week would use his keyboard/ laptop and using backing track instruments.....guitar, drums, whatever they needed. It worked out really well most of the time, but there were a couple of times where someone missed a cue or something--which became a train wreck, just no way to recover from it. Definitely wouldn't be my first option.
  20. Lichtaffen


    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Punk rock with drum machine? Better be an old school drum machine. Dub reggae comes to mind too. I think it could be great. You guys beter be 'on', because a drum machine always will be. I say do it!