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rehearsing without a drummer

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by hernameisrio, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    I'm feeling things out with a band that I worked with as an assistant engineer a couple of years ago. I'm friends with the singer and am already relatively familiar with the songs from working on the sessions. When I got word that their bassist quit, I figured it might be cool to contact the singer and see about auditioning.

    We met up and he gave me a couple of CD's and demos and we talked about influences, schedule/logistics, long-term goals, gigs, then listened to some of the songs and I played along through a practice amp...pretty low-key, nothing formal.

    The singer, the guitarist, and myself are booked for a rehearsal tonight. They haven't found a drummer yet. Even though I'm definitely getting more comfortable with the material and feel I'm in a good place as far as developing some good ideas, I suddenly find myself feeling kinda self-conscious and unsure of how to approach playing without a drummer. I've done it before and I don't MIND it, but it always leaves me feeling kinda empty inside!

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Stuff I can listen to in order to kinda wrap my head around being in a more stripped-down/acoustic setting? Strategies? Similar stories?
  2. Lunchbox4u_6


    Dec 1, 2008
    Dallas, TX
    I've played a lot without a drummer. In the last group I was in, the lead singer would take small gigs and we'd do them as a 3 peice (sax, guitar/vox, and bass). In that situation the sax did a lot of lead style stuff, the guitar did rhythm, and I kind of did the rest. I found myself playing more whole and half notes to create a kind of foundation. I was also playing with some percussive elements, not slapping, but left hand muting and varied styles of attack on the strings to help create some groove that the drums normally produce. Basically I was creating the pocket on my own. I had a lot of fun doing it and it can be challenging too.

    I consider myself a real meat and potatoes type of player and I really enjoy making everyone else sound really good, so that was always my goal on those gigs. I was always thinking "how can I make the sax or guitar stand out".

    Have fun!
  3. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    I'm in a project currently with a sometimes-absent drummer (he even bagged a gig without telling us!).

    I will say, it forces you to be a better player, fundamentally. You have to pay more attention, but in the long run, I think it helps tremendously!
    It's not as fun, and it can be humbling, but it's functional.
  4. Oneirogenic


    Nov 10, 2009
    Think about how can make it feel like drums are there when they aren't. Try to come up with kick and snare patterns with your playing. Low notes are your kick and high notes or ghosted notes are your snare. For example if you were just playing a root and octave of a chord you would hit the root on the kick beat and the octave on the snare beat. This is just one way you can make yourself feel "locked in" with a drummer without a drummer being there. You may also have to keep in mind that you are sole time keeper so try your best to keep it steady.
  5. Without a drummer, everyone else helps fill the percussive void in addition to holding down their traditional instrumental roles.

    I find that it's a lot more work. It forces me to establish the percussive pocket, not just say in/around the pocket as I would if a drummer were present. Establishing the pocket while maintaining the bass line that defines the song can be tricky business for some songs.

    Hopefully the guitarist will be savvy to the situation and help pull his share of the percussive load. It wouldn't hurt if the vocalist could shake a tambourine or work a wood block either.
  6. Also, a simple "foot stomp" can help out if it can be made audible. An recent example comes to mind; have you ever watched the Squidbillies on TV? The song at the end is played by a single instrument (guitar, maybe banjo?) accompanied only by a foot stomp. It's simple, but powerful. I think the Robert Johnson recordings may also sport this approach.
  7. No drummer at practice ?

    Another reason why EVERYONE should be comfortable playing to a metronome.
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Practicing without a drummer sucks.

    Practicing with a bad drummer sucks worse.
  9. +1 on the idea that everyone should be taking responsibility for maintaining rhythm.

    But yes, as the bass player and a fundamental part of the rhythm section, it's important for you to be able to hold down the temporal fort in the drummer's absence.

    Just get that internal rhythm-cycle churning and play with your own invisible drummer.
  10. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    for a practice... click track..

    I like to record them... and not have the drummer there.
  11. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    I play a lot without a drummer...particularly in a duo that is just me on bass with a guitarist...sort of a Flight of the Conchords type thing. I like it. Bass, in my situation, keeps the rhythmic structure and also does all the lead solos...which is really cool.

    In that scenario I don't miss a drummer at all.
  12. With the ongoing search for a drummer for band A and band 1's drummers knee injury, we're practically without a drummer as well. For jamming and new material development we usually put on a click track or a simple drum loop, but for all the finished songs we've made decent drum tracks either with software instruments or by recording the actual drums. Usually the drum programming falls on me and isn't much of a pain. Naturally, it's not the same as playing with an actual drummer, but it gets the job done. Most of our songs have drums playing most of the time, so this works for us.
  13. soulman969


    Oct 6, 2011
    I've done it many times with several different bands and still do. We've had sessions just to work out vocal harmonies, sessions to work out individual guitar parts, in the trio I was just in the guitarist and I rehearsed without drums all the time. I've played "unplugged" gigs with no drums. I just never found it to be a problem keeping my timing without drums and sometimes you can get more accomplished musically without the drums.
  14. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    It actually went really well and I felt a lot more comfortable than I thought I would. The singer brought a tambourine and even jumped on the kit to play a simple groove for one song. The guitarist was impressed with my ability to hold down the rhythm during his solo. So yeah, I had fun with it. Good news is, until we find a drummer, I get to do it again! ;)
  15. craig.p


    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    Hear, hear!

    It's one reason I like to do bluegrass whenever I get the chance. *I* get to set the meter, and there's never a bad drummer 'cause there's never a drummer.
  16. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    I suppose it would depend on your music style, but in my jam band, it can't happen. When I was a kid and we played top 40 rock stuff (70's early 80's) we could practice without our drummer, so I would guess it has to do with the type of music
  17. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    If you can't play without a drummer, you have a lot of work to do.
  18. I love those gigs without the drums! Then you have to be the bassist and the drummer. Very good practice when I do those gigs!!:)
  19. hernameisrio


    Sep 27, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    @ salcott, my point was not that it's difficult so much as it's different and possibly less desirable. I mean, would you rather play to your own left foot tapping, or to a real live drummer?

    At any rate, we're doin it again in about a week! :)