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Drummer Woes

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by AlexFeldman, Feb 3, 2001.

  1. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Hey all. Maybe some of the jazz guys here can give me some advice.

    I find myself playing a lot with one drummer, in several groups around town. I get along with him well and he's into a lot of the same music that I am. In fact, I often give him things to listen to. When I gave him Bill Evans' Village Vanguard recordings, he listened to them nonstop for a month or so.

    Recently, he's been a lot 'busier' than he had been before. It's cool with me that he's trying to comp instead of just playing time, but recently its been getting on my nerves. It used to just be during my solos... I'd play something, and suddenly it would come back at me, usually through heavy bass drum kicks that aren't quite in time. It's gotten so bad in the past week that sometimes I will just stop playing in the middle of a chorus and wait for him to give me some space. Today we were playing 'Lush Life' with a pianist. The pianist was doing incredibly gentle, laid back things with the tune and it would've felt great, except that when it needed to breath there was all kinds of thumping and stuttering from the drums.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I want him to play out, and I want him to interact with the other people playing, including me when I solo. How can I tell this guy how frusterated I am without, say, pissing him off to the point where he plays four on the floor all the time, or where he's so conservative that he begins to resemble a drum machine?

    P.S. He's also laying on the back side of the beat in our big band. With all those nasty horn players I feel like I'm pulling a sledge. :(
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ahhh, yes, I remember those days....welcome to JAZZLIFE 101..."Me and my Drummer": a monological essay in six parts"

    When I was attending the camps as a student back in '89, it was as a pianist, and I ended up in a masterclass with Hal Galper every day for a week. One day, after teaching us some new voicings, he informed us that we were all to take the voicings and turn them into our personal "Harmonic Sledgehammers of the Month". When some foolish lad dared to ask what he meant by that, he replied, "listen - as soon as you learn that dominant alteration, you're gonna go out there and play that mother****er to death, you're gonna think it's so cool...you're gonna use it to alter every god**mned dominant chord in sight for the next month, and by about 10 days from now, everybody you play with is gonna be so sick of that voicing that they'll be beggin you not to play it on their hands and knees, but you'll play it anyway. Because THAT'S how you're supposed to learn to play ****in' voicings. The bitch of it is, you'll only really be sure that you've learned it when you get sick of it YOURSELF. Then, and only then, can you use it right"

    In other words: I hear you, but I'd try to get used to it in general...It sounds like he's learning by Hal's method (assuming his busy s**t is getting BETTER and not worse). It's not always fun to play with someone who's just learned a new trick, but in the big picture, it's all in the name of progress. One thing you can say to him is that you'd like him to comp brushes more often, and if you're real smooth, try to make it sound like a credit to his brushwork rather than a slam on his sticks playing. This is often a BIG FAT LIE, but sometimes it works...

    I'm guessing that I speak for many members of the forum when I say, "We Feel Your Pain".

    And if all else fails, learn one triplet-pull-off "bucket of sh**" drop pattern, then the next time he's doing the annoying stuff, stare him dead in the eyes (while raising only your left eyebrow) and play it over every single chord change in a very heavyhanded way until he either:
    a) gets the picture; or
    b) comes after your throat with a pair of Vic Firth icepicks.

    Hope this helps!
  3. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    Maybe he just needs to hear what he really sounds like. Sometimes the cat doing the playing is the last one to know that they're screwing up.

    Maybe taping rehearsals would help him see/hear the snafus.

    I hate playing with anyone that can't handle constructive criticism. I've played with people who took any critisism as a personal slam.

  4. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    You haven't mentioned a leader. Is there one? If the group thinks it can run itself as a co-op, you must commit to periodic group discussions of what each member is seeking. It's preferable these be on a time schedule basis. If they're only when there's a "problem", the one who is causing it will be very defensive.
  5. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Thanks for the suggestions.

    I ended up talking to him about it today. I approached it from a 'Hey, I noticed you were working on this technique' aspect and he was understanding about it.

    Chris - I did give him a look at one point today while we were playing, and it was enough for him to ask me what was up after the rehearsal.

    pkr2 - Gonna start recording... it'll be good for the rest of us to hear ourselves, too.

    Don - It's a piano/bass/drum trio... Perhaps I'll suggest that we go over the recording of last week's rehearsal at the beginning of each subsequent rehearsal.
  6. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Drumsticks are for turkeys.
  7. Another thing to do is the opposite - encourage each other to be really busy in practice (ed - I call rehearsal and practice both practice. if you want more detail on why, I can dig up mike watt's great essay "Why I practice and actors rehearse"), and get it out of your system. Its almost the opposite challenge - you'll want to settle back into a groove, but you'll just have to keep your brain and body waaayy too switched on for a while. Maybe do this first half, then spend the second half actually feeling the tune. I dunno - this is just an idea. I have never done this formally, but I know that I often play way too much in practice, esp when a tune is new to me. Its kinda just a way to explore the possibilities, but if you don't knock it off when playing live, or when trying for a good take of the tune, someone's gonna get miffed.
  8. Oh I couldn't resist. Here's the article I was talking about. By MIKE WATT.

    "why i practice and actors rehearse"

    When I'm either alone or together with my people going through the tunes I call it practice and not rehearsal. Actors rehearse. I practice the songs. I do not play the role of bass player - I am the bass player! I do not have to rehearse my role as bass player but rather I have to practice the tunes for the upcoming gig. I actually have to pluck the bridge cables the bass uses for string and not perform mime. Practice is not rehearsal. The semantics here are important. The wages of this lazy thinking lead me to the defense of my craft.

    By lazy thinking I'm talking about riding with the cliche, cooking up the angle, tying in the bll****, anteing up the bonus-hype - trying to sell something for what it ain't, in simple words. They got jerks saying "got to go rehearse" so they can somehow see themselves as players in the great rock dream and not as operators of god's engines, learning the way they work.

    Engines make sound, be it bass, throat, stomp, jug... whatever! Can you picture this at the practice pad: "ok, let's play this song and Thurston, when I wink - you do a 'townshend' and jump in the air". Sounds are created and dealt with not that "lights, camera, action!" ****. I mean that's fine for pictures and theatre but were talking about wailing out ****ing music! Gigs are spontaneous when genuine, everyone can agree to this, can't they? Practice for the gig but don't give in and try to rehearse it - let the gods' roll the ****ing dice!

    But the lazy thinkers have another agenda. They embody the pure spirit of the crap artist. They will try to talk you into salt after selling you canker sores. They won't let you practice medicine and maybe heal them sores. No, they'd rather have you rehearse your role as christ and after buying their salt (cuz salt is hip this week), cake it up and rub it into your sores. Forget about if it feels right or natural because what you're here for is to rehearse the great drama! You're no longer free to practice for your gig.

    Once they divorce you from your reality you have nothing left but the role they have for you, born of their lazy thinking, fresh from the cookie-cutter. People, defend yourself first with language. Don't let them pigeon-hole you - reserve the right to define yourself! Practice playing music and don't give in and try to rehearse it. Save that for the putzs who work for lazy thinkers! At least wonder about the implications.
  9. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    A wild guess: Watt plays BG?
  10. Yeah, but big deal. Read it for the point.
  11. Actually, I take that back. He plays DB too. Also, I can direct you to a pic of his old band, the Minutemen, jamming with Charlie Haden in the mid 80's. So he's no hack if that's what you're trying to imply.
  12. A) he's not from LA. b) learn something about the man and listen to some of his music before you judge him.
    And if that doesn't do it, open your mind a wee bit.
  13. FU**-WAH: What - are you an actor or something? I am really starting to see why you guys are perceived as isolationist, conservative, etc (hey tit for tat). I personally feel the man has a valid point. If you don't, that's fine - just don't resort to these knee jerk personal judgements about people who's history you know nothing about.
  14. Musicians practice and rehearse. What this nitwit Mike Watt has done is take a very narrow definition of two words and argue semantics in an attempt to fool posers into believing he's hip to something. He's full of sh*t.

    Next, someone will assert that the reason those of us who thinks he's full of sh*t say he's full of it is because he's shaken some sort of fundamental belief we have and we're upset by it because we rehearse (his definition). Give me a break. How much weed did he smoke before writing that?

    [Edited by David Kaczorowski on 02-05-2001 at 01:17 PM]
  15. Actually, he has taken a very narrow definition <b>others</b> have of music as a whole and tried to expand it. He isn't just knocking how people use those words, he is making the larger point of active engagement with music versus rote repetition/preparation. He isn't knocking actors, he is using the semantic discussion to celebrate the act of making music. The semantics are a springboard. Seemed DAMNED apparent to me. I thought you guys would enjoy this, I wasn't trying to start a flame war. And for those of you who feel like he is criticizing your use of a word, that's absurd. He is rejoicing in the idea that YOU CAN'T PLAY THIS TYPE OF MUSIC IN A CANNED FORMAT - he uses this semantic discussion as a rhetorical springboard. Apparently y'all think you are above him for some lame-ass reason I cannot comprehend. You aren't. Don't take it so personally, he didn't mention your name.

    Beyond the writing, Mike Watt is a a personal hero to many bass players, both for his history and his playing. If it wasn't for him, many electric players wouldn't know that you can play an 11th in a punk song if you want, or that the idea of 'punk' transcends 3 chords - its merely the attitude of thinking you CAN play and you CAN define the form of the music however you like. In other words, you are calling someone a nitwit who actually garners alot of respect from a lot of people. Like Nels Cline - or maybe even Charlie Haden (not sure how he came together with the Minutemen tho). Maybe someone who pays only "Fender Bass" can know somnething about music, maybe they can have a point. Maybe they can be given a chance beyond the first thing in the essay that you can use for a springboard for refutation...

    [Edited by lermgalieu on 02-05-2001 at 01:31 PM]
  16. Hmm, do you have a point? They play too loud? And.... Man, feels like we're watching old movie reels while the present is out there happening. I'm outta here.
  17. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    All because I asked if he plays BG? I didn't say anything. Broadly speaking, 'I' practice my skills, and 'WE' rehearse. In orchestra, we re-hear what we're going to perform; in jazz, our 'rehearsal' is pretty much deciding how the group will approach a new tune - mindset, tempo, when somebody lays out, etc. This is often done while you're playing a paid gig.
    I'm not concerned with tortured semantics.
    My question was generated by how he chose to express himself.
  18. You have a level head, Don.
  19. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Is that code for "flat"?
  20. LMFAO! There's some *sharp* witted humor.

    [Edited by David Kaczorowski on 02-05-2001 at 02:41 PM]

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