Playing without a drummer

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

  1. littlemark


    Feb 13, 2011
    Discounted Gear: Euphonic Audio
  2. I've done it (playing without a drummer) many times, with rockabilly, blues, folk and Irish stuff...I think that's how I learned to slap, sort of accidentaly actually. I do miss the backbeat of a drummer, but with the right players you can work it so that nobody else does.

    For Rockabilly I'll use a 1/5 pattern in quarter notes with a single slap (bascially giving you an eighth note rhythm, so I guess those non-slapped notes ARE eighths), or I'll walk the same way, a good bit of the time. I do tend to simplify my walking lines to give the other players a good foundation. Another good rhythm is the eighth note followed by two sixteenth slaps, usually in a 1/5 pattern, works behind the Folsom Prison train feel...I hope I'm describing that right! I'm still working on the stamina to keep that going for an extended jam.

    I think that playing without a drummer is challenging but it's one of the more valuable things you can really tighten up your chops and your rhythm, and it can be really fun. Plus, when you get to play with a drummer again it's fun in a whole different way! I have a Swing/Rockabilly/Blues duo that occationaly expands to a trio, and I really like both formats for different reasons.
    Hoyt likes this.
  3. I forgot to add...always a great idea to listen to other people who do that! Early stuff like Slim and Slam, all that Sun Sessions stuff and other Rockabilly, Willie Dixon's Trio...and a little of the original Oscar Peterson Trio (man, with Peterson, Brown and Ellis, who needed a drummer?) to see how it's really done. Plus all the really fine contemporary groups like the Hot Club Of Cowtown, BRS 549 (are those the right initials?), and many many others. Great listening and really instructive!
    Hoyt likes this.
  4. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    I've done a ton of drummerless gigs on upright in duo and trio settings.

    Number one thing to do: realize you are the drummer.

    Play to the groove of your compadres and hold it, they'll be relying on you.

    Once you just relax into your thing you'll be good. Figure out if you need to play in 2, walk or a mix of the two (usually quarter note, quarter note rest and quarter notes on 3 and 4). It's not a full walk but it moves a little more than straight two feel and moves things along.
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  5. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    I play weekly in a drummerless trio and would take that over playing with most drummers any day. Yes, realize that you the drummer and plow through, resisting the temptation to go too far from home. KISS.
    There are some really fine drummers out there and then there are those who bash away without any thought about serving the music. That type does nothing but get in the way and give everybody a headache. The things we do for money. :bag:
    LeftyStrings and james condino like this.
  6. In my experience....

    Fine drummers- 7%
    Apes with sticks -91%
    Super fine drummers-2%

    none for me please......
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  7. Tom Howland

    Tom Howland Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003


    I will be your job to dictate time.

    Play strong, simple notes, that swing.
  8. Ouch. I wonder if drummers use a similar ratio for bassists?
  9. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    They would have to come out of their bubble and actually listen to have any idea. Doubtful.
    DONZI97 likes this.
  10. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    That is so freaking cool.
  11. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Zombie thread....

    Almost all of the Django style bands I play with use no drummers; it is pretty standard for that genre. Having played something like the last 156 Saturdays in a row at the same club as a drummerless trio, when I do play with a drummer I feel like I'm really compromising because all of the triplets and slapping and accents that are normally mine go to the drummer and my job is much more keeping everything in the pocket and simple; like telling Michael Hedges he can only use a flatpick.

    It often comes down to the same thing for all of the instruments. It can be a joy to play with someone who understands their instrument well and is tasteful but like being stuck on an airplane with a screaming child kicking your seat all flight when someone else tries to play beyond their skill level.
    John Chambliss and Treyzer like this.
  12. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I played my first gig with a drummer in years recently playing material we usually do as an acoustic 3 piece. While I don't slap much (just a bit here n there), I found myself changing a lot of what I usually do to accommodate the drummer. We meshed pretty well together despite only having one rehearsal together.
  13. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    Stumbled upon my own old thread here! Top of the page no less, after 6 years ...

    Much has happened in the interim. Sad to say I never fully focused on electric upright because my rockabilly band disbanded and shortly afterwards so did my blues band. Spent some time doing nothing, spent some time playing pop. None of which required an upright.

    Fast forward to February of this year and I got a call from the rockabilly band's guitarist, asking to get the band together again. I didn't plan on playing the electric upright (I'm lazy like that) but then our drummer had to bail on a gig for the singer's wife's 30th birthday party. Needless to say the singer wanted the gig to happen.

    So we had a group discussion, decided to do it drummerless and had two rehearsals. The gig went well and my playing was a lot better than it was 6 years ago. I left enough space and focused on providing a strong and - hopefully - consistent rhythm. I had a blast!

    As luck would have it, this Friday I am also meeting the singer from the OP's band for drinks, and hope to discuss a trio project with him on guitar and vocals, myself on electric upright and possibly ukulele (and if needed, vocals) and a third person for a lead instrument. I would definitely not mind revisiting some of the original tunes he wrote back then, as well as some deep blues stuff. Call it a fun-time project ...

    I will update you guys in 2022! :D
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  14. jthisdell


    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    I play in two trios, bluegrass and gypsy jazz, both on electric upright. It is important to lock in with whoevers playing rhythm. In my bluegrass group the other two switch off guitar, banjo, fiddle, etc. One of them is a good rhythm player and I can follow him. The other does not have as good a sense of rhythm so I try to lead him, keep a steadier beat and play simpler (R + IV). In the gypsy band there are two great guitar players who switch off, one is a fabulous rhythm player and I can lock in with him and he gives me more freedom. I have figured out that when the other plays rhythm I definitely have to lead on the beat and again, play a more forceful, simpler rhythm. Recently he complimented me on how we had been locking in so I told him how I was conscientiously leading the rhythm more.
  15. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    I have a few of those albums! Excellent stuff on there.

    I wish the guitarist and singer (who plays semi-acoustic guitar) would keep that in mind when I am providing the rhythm ... I have learned to not follow but instead keep a steady pulse (I hope) for them to follow. Or ignore ...
  16. jthisdell


    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    Yeah it's hard to do this and not come out and say "hey, your rhythm sucks, follow me".
  17. shaft311

    shaft311 Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2010
    Mt. Juliet, TN
    Hire a tractor.

    Hoyt likes this.
  18. I play bluegrass and folk with a guitarist. For awhile he used the kick pad and brain from my edrums to keep time. A couple weeks ago, he built a simple version of a Porchboard (PorchBoard), and it works really well. He's quite handy with electronics.
  19. DukeCC


    Nov 4, 2016
    Alec Fraser? Red Green would be proud, my Canadian brother. If only you had incorporated some duct tape somewhere in the project.

    If the women don't find you handsome, at least let them find you handy.
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