Playing without a drummer

Discussion in 'Rockabilly [DB]' started by EddiePlaysBass, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    So recently I was asked to sub for my guitarist's other band, and they told me to bring my electric upright. We played without a drummer (so vocals/rhythm guitar, electric lead guitar and electric bass) and performed a 40 minute set of original tunes. This went well, so now these guys want to start a new project with me in this formation, and play heaps of rockabilly tunes, both known and obscure.

    So my question is: how would you handle playing without a drummer? I did it for the sub gig and it went well but I found myself playing a lof of root 8ths to keep the rhythm steady and I feel I could do with more walking bass. Any tips are more than welcome!
  2. knoxville bill

    knoxville bill

    Mar 14, 2009
    The hard part will be adjusting to a tempo that doesn't speed up.
  3. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Pardon me for butting in with two quotes from the world of jazz:

    "It takes a pretty good drummer to be better than no drummer at all." -- Chet Baker

    "You have to play with the band on the stand, not the band in your head." -- Ed Fuqua

    Playing without a drummer IS different. But you don't have to be a drummer, and you don't have to play as if nothing was different either. Take the chance to embrace the difference, and hopefully everyone else in the band will too.
    LeftyStrings and james condino like this.
  4. Download/buy cds of the Jimmy Giuffre trios with Steve Swallow and Paul Bley. The early trios with Swallow on upright really mapped out this area and the later one with Swallow on electric are more straight ahead and still great.

  5. Playing in a duo or trio without a drummer is one of the best things that could happen to a bassist IMO. As a bassist, you aren't relying on someone else to keep time and you're time feel is either making good or bad things happen. You can learn a lot in these situations and after awhile, these drummerless gigs can become lots of fun. :cool:
  6. TobyBrodel

    TobyBrodel Guest

    Mar 3, 2008
    last month I had my first drum-free trio gig (keys, sax), great fun, but you've got no one to rely on in case you lose concentration.

    it went ok except when I was thrown the occasional solo the pianist REALLY struggled to hold the tempo without a rhythm section, but when I was back in it was sweet times, and sweet time.
  7. TobyBrodel

    TobyBrodel Guest

    Mar 3, 2008
    rockabilly, whoops, maybe my input isn't helpful....
  8. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009

    Different genre, maybe but playing without a drummer is still playing without a drummer ;-) Any and every input is always welcome ...

    And it looks like I have a few albums to check out!
  9. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Inactive

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    I play without a drummer in two bands, and with a rockabilly band, often play when the drummer can't make it.

    Here is an example of me playing with out a drummer (it's hawaiian music) please listen to the songs to get an idea how much fun it can be!

    My jazz group is just me, a guitarist and a vocalist. Bare minimum.

    One thing that has helped me is yes, to play as simple as possible (not as much walking, except for the solos) and also to remember what my classical teacher tells me :Internalize the beat.

    As far as the Rockabilly goes, we have played whole gigs without a was like Elvis sun sessions! (Though probably not as good!)
  10. derft

    derft Guest

    Aug 10, 2010
    Burleson, Texas
    Try this for fun.
  11. hofner

    hofner Guest

    Dec 7, 2003
    none of my two bands have drummer. We play both rockabilly and jazz/swing... Its really push you to find a new way for playing, but once its done, its a wonderfull experience.
    Upright bass can really create an ambience, its maybe different with an electric bass imho.

    as the band play soft without drums, we easily found places for play (bar, restaurants, etc) and you really hear what you and other plays.
    for rockabilly, slap improve the rythm, but you have to find some others ways (mix of slap, walking, etc) to not to be boring...:D
    (sorry for my strange english)
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  12. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Inactive

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
  13. Haha, I think he said "hope you didn't see my bum"...

    Still funny though.

  14. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    So what's he hitting? Just foil over cardboard? Any idea what kinda bass?
  15. OP: Although not rockabilly, you may be able to get some ideas from John Mayall's three drummer-less albums:
    - "The Turning Point" (1969)
    - "Empty Rooms" (1969)
    - "USA Union" (1970)
    BluesOnBass likes this.
  16. He explains it in another video.

    It's a car sponge (like you wash a car with) with a coated drum head cut to fit and glued to it. It then slides under the finger board.

  17. Also, I don't think drums are always needed (I play drums by the way). But, I really like it when a band just uses a stand alone snare like this...

  18. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I made one of those Brush Bass things. Yes, it just a car sponge. Hollow out one end and glue the piece of drum head. There is a video to explain it there as well.

    Also, I sometimes hold an egg-shaker in my right hand or use the upper bout to make a conga like sound to add to the tonal colours.
  19. I do it in a trio, electric bass and two acoustic guitars, doing old time, Grateful Dead, ska, and reggae covers. I love it. We keep saying eventually we'll need a drummer, but haven't hit a gig yet where we didn't get people up and dancing. Well except for this tiny pizza parlor we used to play at where there wasn't really room to dance, everyone sat at their tables and listened. I tell the guys that a drummer is just going to be problem, and honestly I think its true, we're going to need a special near-perfect drummer to not upset the apple cart and support what we already have going. More likely it will change, possibly even to the point where the guys will need to play electric and I'll need to bring a real rig, instead of a 1x12 and a micro amp. Sigh.
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  20. I have the oposite problem, being an old bluegrasser. I need to learn to play with a rockabilly drummer. See my other thread.

    Any tips?