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So I got this drummer-less gig....HELP!

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by aaguudis, Oct 23, 2004.

  1. aaguudis


    Apr 3, 2001
    Got a gig tonight playing with a trombone and a piano player, and no drummer. I took the job because I very much need to learn how to get a great time feel playing without a drummer; it would do wonders for my playing. However I'd like to make this learning stage go as quickly as possible so that these guys will call me back.

    Especially upsetting is the fact that we are playing more than a handful of latin/bossa/samba tunes, which really highlight how poorly I play. Going back to swing after playing one of these tunes, I feel like Ray Brown!

    Do you guys have any recommendations of things I can practice to help me out with this, or ideas for keeping the groove on the bandstand?

    Thanks a lot.
  2. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    Try not to think about it too much. I play a lot of gigs with no drums, and I find if I think about it or worry about it too much that I'll play poorly. It's easy to rely too much on the fact that you've got a drummer. What I would do is make sure you practice often with a metronome (all styles) and make sure your time is good. As far as latin/bossa etc...I would just make sure you keep your groove as simple as possible. Same with your swing stuff too. Don't think you have to go off and show off that you know how to play out of time without a drummer. Basically, I think if you don't do anything too different from what you probably already do, you should be fine.
  3. In a jazz ensemble, the bass is as much a time-keeper as the drums, and as much a harmonic accompanist as the piano (or guitar). Try to get to a level of playing where you can be as dependable, rhythmically, as the drums are. This will ensure you feel comfortable playing gigs with no drums, but will also greatly add to an ensemble where the drums do happen to be present.

    Having said that, since there's a piano and no drums, try to stick to roots and 5ths with the latin tunes - don't deviate or be fancy. You're the only source of rhythmic stability - so let the piano provide the harmony and you just keep plodding along with a dependable (if plain) bassline. Same goes for the swing tunes too. Make your first priority just banging out 4 beats to the bar, and don't do anything fancy in terms of what notes you play. Playing a few notes that sound off, to you, will get you into a lot less trouble than playing with irregular tempo. You'd want to fill the job of a bluegrass bassist.
  4. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    Also, try and get some recordings of drummerless sessions. The ones I'd recommend the most are the Ron Carter/Jim Hall duos. I know they aren't exactly the same instrumentation as what you're going into, but it could still give you some insight on what you should be striving for in the situation...plus, they're just great recordings with great music and great playing.
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    So how'd it go?
  6. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    Practice with a metronome on 2 & 4 always, for starters. And learn tunes so you can focus on listening more than you have to focus on reading or remembering changes.

    Listen listen listen. If things rush or drag, the bass can keep it on track. If a horn player or piano player is rushing a line of eight notes in a solo, just dig in and accent the hell out of 2 & 4 until they figure it out. EVERYONE on the bandstand is responsible for swinging. It's not all on your shoulders.

    For a group to really have solid time, they have got to play together reguarly. You cannot expect a "jobbing" situation where everyone meets for the first time on the gig to sound like a Ray Brown trio. My trio rehearses and gigs with the same personnel about 95% of the time. After a hundred or so gigs, we still have to work at good time and swinging hard.
    If we get a couple weeks between gigs, it shows.
  7. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    With metronome on 2 and 4 I'd also suggest going out of latin/bossa feels right into swing so you can get used to difference between straight 4 of swing and dotted quarter of bossas. It's something that has helped me a lot with drummerless gigs. Everyone is different but I find I have to really think on top of the beat in my head to make it work on bandstand. But don't rush :D
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    If I'm playing in a group with 2 other musicians or 1 other musician or 14 other musicians, it kind of doesn't matter what instruments they play.
    How do you work on your time feel to begin with?

    I play pretty much the way I play for any gig I'm on, I don't "adjust" my playing because there's no drummer. I do try to listen to see how "interactive" the other two players want the bass to be, if the other 2 cats are listening it can sound like three parts intertwining with each other. Instead of 2 guys accompanying a soloist. But that goes even when one of the other musicians IS a drummer.

    You say you "need to learn how to get a great time feel playing without a drummer', I would suggest that working on your timefeel is best done by yourself with a nome. Gigs are great at showing you what you need to work on and what you got under your fingers and in your ears. But the place to WORK is in the SHED, not on the STAND.
  9. aaguudis


    Apr 3, 2001

    it was OK. listening to the recording there are some pretty bad spots. theres also some good stuff. my 2-feel sucks. bad. the bossa stuff's ok when I dont drag. same with the swing. gotta lotta work to do.

    thanks for all the help guys. gonna keep working at it.
  10. pedro


    Apr 5, 2000
    Madison, WI.
    I'm just a hack. Honestly don't know how you guys do it. My son plays a number of bass/sax duets and it seems like a lot of responsibility to me. No drums, no piano or guitar to help out harmonically. Just you and a sax.
  11. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004

    Personally, I feel that it can be very liberating. You get so used to playing a certain role in an ensemble, but in a case like this, for me and the people i play with, it's great because it's the ultimate in communication between two musicians. And as far as the responsibility, I like it quite a bit. I think every bassist should try it at least a couple of times...
  12. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Drummer?? What Dat? :D
  13. jstiel

    jstiel Jim Stiel

    Jun 5, 2004
    Lake Orion, MI
    I love playing w/o a drummer. It's very liberating. More of the end product is you.
  14. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    I have just started with a drummerless trio. I'm using an EUB, sorry. I do want a DB someday. We are getting to know each other. The keys player and myself seem to have solid time together. The guitar player tends to rush but I think as we get to know each other we will get tighter. The two venues we played at this weekend were interesting to me becuase the patrons were able to eat, drink and have a conversation and enjoy the music. The conversation part would have been difficult with a drummer. I find the whole experience very liberating as well. I'm even thinking about putting a few percussion things on the floor like a tambourine and tapping that for fun.
  15. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    I probably play more gigs and do more rehearsals without a drummer these days than ever before. It's due in part because our drummer in my regular group doesn't have much time to rehearse and/or practice, so we do what we can. But, by having played duo so much with either my guitarist or any number of pianists I work with, I have found that I am sometimes more comfortable in a duo setting than in a setting with a drummer. When I'm playing with a really good drummer after playing duo for a while, then it's almost effortless. Echoing what Ed said in an earlier post, I never really change the way I play to fit a given situation, with the exception of how I may approach things harmonically to better outline the tune in a situation without a chordal instrument. Your time has to be there from the start.
  16. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    For the last several years, due I guess to economics or whomever is getting the band together, it seems like on most of the little jazz gigs I play, it's usually w/o drums. I vaguely remember being uncomfortable the first time or two this happened, but after a while you realize this is a good thing and will make you a stronger player. It's good you are recording this, as the tape doesn't lie and will make you aware much quicker what you need to do and not do. A few years back, 3 of us went in and recorded a demo w/o drums and I quickly noticed I was overplaying and needed to "embrace the space" and not try to make up for what the drums should be doing. When you can get to the point where you just naturally do the job of laying down the bass line and not worry about what's not there, you're on the way to where you need to be in this particular situation.