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How can I get drummers to do this...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Tbeers, Oct 26, 2005.

  1. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I have this problem where I struggle to play a good solo unless the drummer is playing a certain way. I'm not sure what bothers me, but I think it's the tendency for drummers to play too busy. What I am sure of is what sounds good to me, and what will make it easier for me to keep my time straight. I can give a few examples of recordings where I TOTALLY dig what the drummer is doing behind a bass solo. The two that really stand out in my memory are these:

    • Paul Chambers' solo on "It's a Blue World," recorded with the Red Garland Trio
    • All of Red Mitchell's solos on his CD "Presenting Red Mitchell"
    Also, one of the guys I've been playing with lately is very easy to solo over. He's the one playing in the recording I posted in this thread:

    Anyway, I am so perplexed because I don't know what I hear, for example, in Billy Higgins' playing on the Red Mitchell stuff. But I know that I love it and I have a feeling that it would be really easy to connect with a player like Higgins in terms of time.

    Any guesses what it is that attracts me to the kind of drum playing I've referenced? I hope it's just the simplicity of the time they are keeping. But there's something else in common between all the tracks... brushes. Is it possible I just prefer when a drummer plays with brushes? That would seem to be an odd preference. At any rate, even if I do find out what it is that I want from a drummer, how can I ask someone to play more in that style without offending him/her? I sometimes ask pianists to keep their comping voicings fairly simple while I solo, and some of them get a little irked at the suggestion.

    It's a complicated situation but a lot of the time I feel like drummers I play with are just making it harder for me, rather than easier.
  2. Good topic. Would you be irked if someone requested something specific from you when comping for him/her ? I bet not. Don't let anyone think it's "just" the bass solo. You know what you like and you have a right to request it. I'm guessing this is all relatively unchartered territory for the guys you play with, and playing for the bass solo is probably not a major focal point for most drummers or pianists at this stage. Go ahead and lend a copy of those recordings to the drummer in question, encouraging him to check out how Billy or Philly Joe (?) plays behind the bass solo. I'm pretty sure Red Mitchell chose Billy Higgins for that record and for his band in part because he knew how to play behind the bass solo. (How long before Paulie jumps in?) As long as you are not insulting when you bring this up, others should welcome your input.

    As a disclaimer, I would mention that it is also healthy to have the attitude that if something doesn't fit in with your notion of "the way it should be", it is not necessarily a Bad Thing. This has become evident to me as the years roll on. At least during the gig, if something is going on that is not ideal for me, I try to make the most of it by being open to the possibility that it could lead me to some places I wouldn't ordinarily go. Instead of obsessing over the fact that it's just not "right". After all, it is supposed to be more like a conversation than a monologue, eh? Or as Mr. Ed Sez, try not to let what you think ought to be happening get in the way of what really IS happening! An "in the moment" mindset like that could help you cope with your situation unutil it improves.
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Agreed. On the rare occasions I actually take a solo in rehearsal/on a gig, it just goes so much smoother with the drummer playing time. I love Tony Williams, but it's not the kind of stuff that I can solo over due to my own limitations.
  4. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Drummers are untrainable...
  5. I know of a couple of bass players around here who wave everybody out on every one of their solos.

    If the drummer decides to turn the bass solo into a drum solo, I generally just lay out without further comment. They get the picture pretty quick.

    The worst is when the piano player decides to "help you out" by playing a walking bass line during your solo.
  6. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL

    But it's really no better for me when the pianist is playing sparsely, but does something annoying like comp staccato on the and of 3 and not play anything for the rest of the measure. My problem with pianists is many of them seem to be either too restrictive or too loose. I want sparse but simple, light but tight!

    As for drummers, I guess my personal favorite is when they are using brushes, because a lot of times they'll stay on the snare and hi-hat in those scenarios. But even when they're using sticks, some element of regularity in what they play is crucial.

    A lot of other instrumentalists don't seem to realize how hard it is to make a bass solo work. You're taking away the quarter note pulse and yet the time has to be there somehow! Too many pianists and drummers don't seem to get that. And I hate to make generalizations, but I have had a much easier time with guitarists for some reason.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    If you want somethng specific, just ask for it. I do this all the time with pianists on gigs, usually before a single note is played, and as far as I know, no one has tried to send me a letter bomb yet. I think that much of the time, pianists aren't really sure what bass players like, and seem to welcome the input. Drummers are a little different, but the principle is pretty much the same: it's all in the way you ask. :)
  8. If it’s a drummer you pay with a lot, work it out in rehearsal. If you’re sitting in with someone for the first time I agree with everyone else in speaking to all the players about what would help you in your solos before downbeat.
    Sometimes it helps to maintain eye contact with the drummer and give cues as to what you want. Most experience drummer understand the frozen-eyed-head-shake and the smiling-nod…
  9. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    What's with this frozen-eyed-head-shake? Even If you dispise what the drummer's doing, first and foremost, you are carrying on a performance, I assume in front of customers. You don't even need the old vaudville cats to tell you, SMILE! Don't think the audience can't read faces. That often tells them more than the music. Whatever it is, talk it over on the break.
    Tbeers: some solo suggestions:
    1. Have the drummer tip on the ride cymbal during your solo. After all, he rides for everyone elses solo, why not yours?
    2. Have the drummer drop the high hat unless you like it. Sometimes for me the high hat on 2 and 4 just doesn't make it. The drummer should know the difference, but that's not always the case.
    3. Ask the pianist to play with his soft pedal. Often times the sharp hammer is distracting and ask for it on one every four bars or so. This should help keep your intonation straighter than no piano at all.
    4. Maybe the busy drummer has no clue, or maybe he was busy to give you soloing ideas. If you have a busier drummer, have him solo along with your solo. That can often be lots of fun and can lead to some creative directions.
    5. Trade 4's with the drummer. You don't have to talk this over, just raise 4 fingers at the start of your solo, he'll catch on.
    6. Unless the pianist and drummer haven't a clue, before you cut them out of the solo, try your best to play with what they have to offer. Their ideas may be something they heard an accomplished pianist or drummer do behind a great bassist. They are trying their best.
  10. Well I’m all for showmanship, I guess even matching outfits have their place :D
    But if you’re working with new people, instant feedback can be your friend. I’m sorry, my bad, maybe not the laser-beam glare but eye cues are critical. Improvisational music requires that you communicate during the performance, this is stuff everyone does.
    And calling 4’s are all fine and good but I thought we were talking about getting the drummer to play in such a way that you can solo as you want to.

    Last night I had a sub drummer who I was assured was solid, LA hired gun, studio guy, bla-bla-bla… It was a tough night, I should have known something was up when the guy pulls out a double bass peddle… Never have one of your regular guys pick his own sub.
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    On the double-bass pedal note...the drummer in my quintet has doubles, but doesn't use them with us. About a year ago, though, he and I were recording some improv jams and did a really sweet latin-fusion jam (slab) and I got him to start throwing in doubles with the latin beats. Properly done, it can make for some pretty cool stuff.

    Luckily, that same drummer and another one I play with frequently, who also uses doubles coincidentally, have an innate sense of how to play when the bassist solos.
  12. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    You just got that one, fred? :)
  13. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I also think the tuning of the drums is huge. I've played with some heavy-handed cats that have not bothered me because their drums were tuned to play with DB. Every jazz drummer that I've enjoyed playing with really listens to the tone that the bass produces and takes that into account when they tune. I played with a drummer the other day that had his bass drum tuned to a D (same as the D string). Worked great.

    I loathe the thud. When I hear a drummer warming up and 'thud' comes from his bass drum I know it is going to be a long night.

    (begin rant)
    On making faces... If I am leading a gig and I see one player make a sour face at another on the band stand I don't call them again. Sometimes this is unavoidable in sideman work. A few years back I had a life changing medical emergency and ever since I recovered I have no patience for bad attitudes. I (we) do this because we enjoy it.
    (begin rant)