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Drummers' timing and how it affects your playing

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by The Mock Turtle Regulator, Jan 21, 2005.

  1. on thursday I depped at a jam at a rehearsal studio for a quite well-known session guitarist's (and also bassist) new project (the now ex-singer of my covers band fronted his previous project)-

    he, the second guitarist and the drummer all have loads of experience touring, recording and doing TV appearances too with several name artists, and it was an intimidating prospect, to say the least-
    the bassist who usually works with the drummer was busy touring with another band (Weapons Of Mass Belief, if anyone in the UK has heard of them).

    also having to pick up bass parts off a CD on the spot was tricky-
    however, what surprised me was how easy it was to play with the drummer, whose timing was flawless (despite him also having to pick up the song parts on the spot too)
    even playing Muse "hysteria"-style 16th note basslines was reasonably straightforward.

    it got me thinking about all the times I've had to put up with less than solid drummers :mad: (not to mention a drummer with an attitude problem too :mad: :mad: )

    my covers band drummer has pretty good timing, but sometimes falls out of time during fills (although he criticised my timing a few times- i blame monitoring problems...).

    I was wondering how everyone else developed their sense of time- were you lucky to start out with a rock-solid drummer, or did you gradually realise drummers' flaws over time, like I have?
  2. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Life is too short to play with bad drummers! In October, I left two bands that I was playing in, (simultaneously), mainly due to drumming issues... One band re-formed with a new drummer, (that I turned them on to), and it totally revitalized the lineup. I was helping them until they found a new bassplayer, we tried jamming with my buddy, and viola! Totally different band. The guitarist is playing a ton better, and I can only attribute it to not having to anticipate a misplaced crash on the and of two, or the random extra beat in a measure :)

    Since the search for a bass player isn't going well, I've decided to stay with this group for a while... My other current group is a large Blues Brothers tribute band with an excellent drummer. The most fun I've had playing in years!

  3. I quit an Yngwie/Steve Vai-worshipping guitarist's band at the start of last year (actually in the middle of recording) largely due to the drummer he was using not being up to the task (certainly not for technical guitar riffing) - sloppy timing, frequent mistakes, inconsistent attack. worst sloppiness being on the bass drum- horrible.

    however, the guitarist didn't notice most of this- nitpicking only on drum things which were miniscule in comparison- I suspect non-existent- and expecting another take from me along with the drummer.

    a couple of days ago i got an email from him saying he's finally completed his demo.
    =he wasted money and time trying to use the above drummer when i told him not to and use the drummer he eventually did.

    I've decided to file said guitarist in the "nutcase" category.
  4. BassmanRon


    Dec 31, 2004
    For me, nothing spoils the fun quicker than a bad drummer who 1.) speeds up when the guitarist gets excited and rushes during his solo, and 2.) is gonna finish his busy drum fill that is SO darn cool nobody will mind him being late for the downbeat, or 3.) clutters up a slow-cookin' blues song with a bunch of busy, attention-getting crap and defends it as "creative" or "innovation" when everone else is saying "chill out."

    I am lucky to play with three excellent drummers ... no, actually, it's not luck. I just have learned to get out of situations featuring bad drummers. Life IS too short.

    With a good drummer, your job does become easier and more fun. With the guys I'm talking about, there isn't some huge conscious effort to "lock up" together. We seem to just fall together naturally into a groove more or less dictated by the song. When the drummer is so steady, I can step outside of predictable fundamentals without worrying whether things will fall apart. A good drummer will say the same thing about a bass player who can be trusted to hold steady while he does a fun little flourish or off-beat accents.

    Oh, it gets even better. The drummers I play with always know the song arrangements better than anyone in the band. Nobody needs to remind them what's coming next. They are the ones cueing the band by building up to the chorus, and so on. They start out at the right tempo and keep it clicking all the way through.

    I have to admit I am spoiled. It is, as you noticed, SO much easier to play WITH a drummer than to fight with one. When you have a true partnership built on competence and mutual respect, you have the kind of team that makes everyone ELSE's job easier, too. (Ask any guitarist or keyboard player how much a solid rhythm section affects what they do, especially for solos.)
  5. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
    heh, just yesterday a had a gig with a great drummer, and it was fantastic: you can concentrate on the groove and play off each other - in short, just make some music.

    with not-so-competent drummers you always have to play "babysitter", so to speak, and it really takes a lot of the fun out.

    for me the difference is especially noticeable because i've always known and played with to kinds of drummers from the beginning,
    both the "no-time-amateur" and the "nail-it-to-the-click"-pro.
  6. I've only played with 3 drummers since I took up the bass. Weirdly enough, all 3 were brothers, And were human metronomes. The oldest is currently the drummer in my cover/original band Zippo and the Slinkees. He has that rare combination of speed, touch, and taste. Never (hardly) over plays and always right on time. We established the telepathy thing instantly. While the guitarists haggle over what they are doing we just smile and hold down the groove. life is good.
  7. definitely.

    also it can feel like your bassline is "floating" if the snare and bass drum aren't locked to the bass notes (unforgivable when it's a simple straight eighths rock line), and when a fill comes up it can feel like trying to stand on tiptoes in a rowing boat in the middle of a lake, or jumping off a moving train....

    a certain infuriatingly sloppy and argumentative drummer claimed that "music should BREATHE" and some Zeppelin track or other increases by 10bpm from start to finish etc....- and "if you want perfect timing, get a drum machine" :mad: :rolleyes:

    thursday's experience proved that he was very much in the wrong- and showed the difference between amateur musicians (with delusions of grandeur in this case) and professional musicians.
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I've always been pretty lucky that I've never had to play with a bad drummer. I play pretty regularly with these two drummers -- one in the main band I'm in is a really good rock and funk drummer. He can do some pretty nutso stuff (I saw him in a drum-off kind of thing recently and was pretty surprised mysefl!) Most of all, he can drum alone and not bore me to tears. Unless a drummer's doing a solo, then solo drumming bores me 99% of the time, but this guy puts in just the right spices.

    Note: There is a vast difference between a(n) _____ solo and solo _____.

    The other drummer I play with is a phenomenally talened (primarily jazz) drummer. We play in the jazz and concert bands at school, as well as a jazz trio we're getting together, and on occasion to drum and bass jams. The D&B stuff we do is much farther in the direction of fusion/prog kind of stuff. We've only really performed once at a school Coffee House for 10 minutes -- completely improvised modal fusion in which I took a couple short solos and he did a totally sweet, massive solo in the middle. He's a really great drummer with a spankin' kit that I'm aching to see (6 drum Yamaha Stage Custom Advantages, a set of roto-toms, and a bunch of cymblas) in its fully assembled glory. Lately we've been jamming out latin jazz fusion with double kicks. Pretty tricky for him, but it sounds so cool.
  9. Roberto


    Dec 24, 2004
    I've played with some pretty good drummers in the past but now I'm playing with a guy who has been playing for only 3 years. He's pretty talented but he's in the stage of 'annoying fills' and 'not really listening to anybody else' but he's steadily getting better. My timing is pretty much on the dot, his isn't sometimes, very frustrating :mad:
  10. ezstep


    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    I agree with the general concensus here. It is far easier to play with a drummer than to fight one onstage all night long.

    I have made a decent living by ignoring drummers. . . . :p
  11. I have had mixed experiences with drummers. If they had problems with time but were nice guys I just took my metronome to rehearsal and suggested to use it. If they were nice guys still after the suggestion I kept playing with them.

    Nowadays whenever I see them playing live, they can be amazing, good or just decent, but all of them can keep the beat. I'm happy that I have helped them. Join BPEAD! (bass players educating amateur drummers)

    80% of the guys that didn't even consider to use the click gadget are no longer playing...I suppose their egos just grew so much that squashed them :D

    edit: My current drummer rocks BTW!
  12. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    I've played with a lot of drummers, some great! and some... not so.

    But my wife's cousin George, absolutely phenomenal. He's played all kinds of gigs, from Steely Dan in the 70s to Jane's Addiction a couple years ago. He's sat in with my band on percussion several times (we could never afford him, normally the congas don't leave the house for less than $150, but hey, I'm family!) His timing is rock solid - our guitar player starts a lot of songs and often sets a tempo that is off from where we want the tune to be, and without George the drummer and I will adjust to settle in to our pocket after a few bars - but George will not allow a tempo to change (he can do this while barely playing anything... a glorious mystery, goes beyond how much we respect him). Yeah, sparse or busy, he always plays the 'right' thing. A joy to play with someone of his caliber and experience.

    But what I notice most is how easy a gig is with him - he fills in a lot of the spaces where I would usually be busy, he locks the tempo - the drummer quits doing so many fills, my job becomes just laying down a fat bottom, getting the whole dance floor to groove and bounce as one. So easy, so satisfying. Every bass player should have a cousin George.
  13. dhadleyray

    dhadleyray Guest

    Dec 7, 2004
    I've been noticing a trend lately of drummers getting technically better, but their "feel" is getting worse. I work mostly in studios now and had a meeting with a drummer yesterday. I'm the MD, so I had to tell the guy why he wasn't being used on the pop stuff. He's great at jazz and latin, but overplays everything else or never nails the time. If he gets excited, we speed up. If he's way behind the beat, he can't make the corrections. I'm also noticing drummers are "ignoring" the bass more and playing off whatever melody is happening at the time (voice, sax solo..). This is becoming an issue with me from a bizness and playing perspective. Furthermore, nobody wants to believe "they" could have bad timing... They want the money, but can't take criticism. If I'm paying you $500 to $1000 for a couple of hours, I better damn well be able to ask for what I want! It's hard to rectify a problem when you won't acknowledge you have one! We've decided to pass the work around to more than one drummer. A shame really.. I like the guy, but bizness is bizness. :eyebrow:
  14. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    I now have a drummer who is used to playing to a click. We currently aren't doing so in the new project and some parts have suffered for it, but not horribly so, he's still rather tight.

    I came off a 3 year stint with a horribly timed drummer. I mean, changing speed DURING a song and throughout it, coming in late or slower during changes, the works.

    I can't believe how sloppy I got in that environment. I walked into this new gig sounding like a complete ass. Thankfully the other guys saw through that and were willing to stick by me while I caught my stride again :)

    Things are going well, and the drummer wants to start working to a click again. Sounds good to me. I know we can all benefit from it.

    I liked the quote from earlier in the thread "Lifes too short to work with sloppy drummers" (paraphrased). Words to live by.

  15. andruca


    Mar 31, 2004
    Madrid (Spain)
    Kicked on of my band's drummer on december (along with the singer too). Bad timed drummers suck!

  16. here's another question-

    how do you approach playing with a live drummer as opposed to playing to a drum machine/loops/sequenced keyboard lines/metronome?

    do you play exactly the same (if you have a good sense of time, stick rigidly to it regardless of a drummer's deviation in fills, stabs, etc.), or do you deviate from strict timing to tie in with the drummer?

    over the years I've become more confident in my own timing-
    when I started out I played along a lot to root-note rock basslines eg. Def Leppard, AC/DC, Van Halen, The Cult, and although I later felt a bit embarassed about playing such simple stuff, i've since come to appreciate that it greatly contributed to my sense of time and also plucking consistency.
  17. Eldermike


    Jul 27, 2004
    I take the path of least resistance with drummers. I adjust what I play with drummers all the time, not that I want to, but it's just makes life easier. The thing I really hate to see when playing with a new drummer is double bass pedals. I move up the resgister when the bass pedals start sounding like machine gun fire. I also have learned to have "it's not me" look on face.

    One of my current bands in on it's third drummer in a single year, all due to timing issues. It's a common problem in my experiences.
  18. I spent my first year+ as a gigging bass player thinking I was horrible because I couldn't get tight with our drummer. Joined a side project and loved the drummer - busy but solid and powerful, and the whole project fell apart when he left as we couldn't find a suitable replacement.

    I've now been playing with a 'pro' band for the last year or so and I have the most fun playing with this drummer - the guy is an absolute metronome and all of a sudden I find myself being a good groove bassist and being able to play very tight with the drums. Unfortunately, he died last week and I'll greatly miss having the musical chemistry I had with him, I can only hope to find someone else so close to being on the same plane as I am.

    The point is that yes, it has taken me a while to figure out what a good drummer is, and I'm really starting to realize what a poor drummer I've been playing with in my main band the last few years.
  19. WickdMOnkey


    Nov 18, 2003
    I am fortunate to play with a very good drummer. I would say easily the best in the area. I call him the human metronome haha. Unfortunately I don't feel we are really connecting together well yet, but we are getting much better. I mean we can play a song and be really tight but when we do anything improve or with not much practice we just don't have the psychic connection yet. The keyboard player and and I really good at that though and the guitar player follows the keyboard player well so we usually are decent on new stuff.
  20. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    our drummer doesn't have an exceptional sense of time, but neither does anyone else in the band, myself included... but what I do is try to match his idiosyncracies exactly, and it can be effective and 'characterful' if the whole band are doing the same thing...

    we had one song where he would pause, almost imperceptibly, at the end of each bar i.e. coming in slightly behind the beat on the following 'one', so instead of fighting it, I did it myself and made it a feature of the song :)

    even the best drummers in the world are not immune to tempo drift... in fact the 'undulation of tempo' is one thing that adds to a band's dynamism... lemme tell you a story...

    I decided to do some transcroptions of a few live 1988 Frank Zappa songs... and I imported the songs into Cubase, and the plan was to snychronise the tempos with the bars in Cubase and then recreate the melodies, bass & drums etc...

    and all the songs drifted tempo to one degree or another... it's just a fact of life... and I'd be willing to bet that any recording by any of the other great bands in history (that werent recorded with a click track obviously) would show a surprising degree of temp variation... it just happens

    so, i'm not as worried about tempo as I am about 'togetherness'...

    also, a drummer isn't just there to provide a steady beat... look at Keith Moon... his drumming worked by providing an overwhelming avalanch of dynamic propulsion... with strict metronomic accuracy not even a consideration... and he was one of the grestest rock drummers ever... so, who knows how important timing (in the traditional sense) really is? :)