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What Do You Do When The Drummer Sucks?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by StyleOverShow, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Did a gig last night, straight ahead jazz, with a group that I've been working with for three years and the drummer sucked. He was so bad that I couldn't actually tell where 'his' downbeat was on several tunes. The band doesn't really have a regular percussionist but for the last six months we've had a really amazing, imaginative, and 'follow the leader' player.

    To their credit the keyboard and the saxophonist clung to me for dear 'rhythmic' life, but I was severely limited in what I could do. I had to hold the center and in some ways it was very illuminating. Keep it tight on the dots playing is something that I've been working on (trying to minimize - pocket playing).

    I knew that this sucky drummer was going to be there and the next time I think that I'll first ask them to get another player, and if that isn't possible then decline the gig.

    It may jeopardize my job but what the heck.
  2. I remember my two best friends back in the 80s being amazed that I could just play Jazz type bass lines naturally...Jazz drumming is a true art and if you don't have it then you just don't.
  3. Fetusyolk


    Aug 7, 2008
    Oh god, i've played multiple times with a drummer who seemingly did not know anything about drums b ut had been playing for years. His technique consisted of hitting every tom/ cymbol as much as possible in no beat or order. He would also use his bass drum and hi-hat nonstop. It kinda sounded like this


    if you think that explaination sounds overly dramatic and does not sound like a drum beat to you at all, you're hearing the right thing.

    Try and ignore the drumming completely, these people tend not to take cues anyway.
  4. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Inactive

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    get rid of them
  5. bassplayertom77


    Sep 24, 2008
    I've been in that boat before. All I can say is, whatever helps you sleep at night. For me, playing with a sucky drummer is like playing hackey sack with a parapalegic.

    A bad drummer can really ruin everything. Sorry man.
  6. antontanzil


    Jun 5, 2008
    Jakarta, Indonesia
    MTD Bass (USA & Kingston) & Strings, R.Cocco Strings, Gruvgear, Noll Preamp, Nordstrands
    There is nothing you can do... it takes a certain level of playing to play in a certain level or certain kind of music... And maybe he's just not the right guy for the job... He can play everything but straight ahead jazz... Get a new one...

    I've been there... Played with a drummer who said he once played with a 30 ish piece jazz big band... But it's not a jazz gig, just typical pop-rock stuff... One day the keyboardist wants to jam playing 'New York-New York' Just for fun after practice... So we did... And dude... It was HELL for me... He could not hold it down, do fills that's just toooo much. And that time I know instantly why he's not with that jazz big band anymore...

    Thank GOD now I don't have to play anything with him... But surely if we did that song on a gig I would rather not play... So go ahead man, tell your bandmates/leader to find a new guy... Sorry it;s him or the whole band...
  7. shce


    Sep 27, 2008
    True hell is a drummer with really good chops but uneven tempo. Do I kill him?...do I marry him? There's no compensating for it when the rest of the band follows him.
  8. jugoziithouu


    Jun 15, 2008

    Its called punk :bag:

  9. You mean JUNK......:p
  10. We have the same thing going on in our church. We have a really good player and a player that's all over the place without a sense of dynamics. Last week our good drummer came down with the flu so our second string drummer played and let me tell you, it really makes you appreciate good musicians. I'm usually the guy that covers up the worship leader's mistakes and glues the rhythm and the melody together but I couldn't cover anything with this guy. He was all over the place with no groove or sense of dynamics. I'd constantly knock on the plexiglass shield to get his attention but he wouldn't even look up. It was hopeless and I just suffered through it. I left shaking my head and praying that my main drummer got healthy.

    Since the drummer and the bassist are the spine of the band, if the drummer can't hack it then you've got to get someone in there who can or you won't stand as a band. They don't even have to have awesome chops, just be a solid, go-to guy. That's all you need. A good drummer will make a good band sound great but a bad one will make it crash and burn on stage. I'd say get a replacement ASAP.
  11. hehe, i have always been with a great drummer.... hehe
  12. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Why wait until the the next gig offer? If the others felt the same as you, just talk to them and tell them that you'd rather not play with that drummer again.
  13. bonzo4880


    Sep 16, 2007
    Baltimore, MD
    you may just have to replace him outright. but if the guy is a decent human being and works well with the group, maybe he just needs some constructive criticism. record your next rehearsal or show, listen to it with the band sans drummer, take notes, and then let him hear it himself. he may notice the mistakes, and if not, youll be able to show him. we all have the ability to improve ourselves, and maybe he just needs a reality check. talent is cheap, and if you like the guy, at least give him a chance to rectify his mistakes. although with playing jazz, you have higher standards for musicians and would assume someone who has been playing a while would have their s**t together.
  14. Mark Moss

    Mark Moss

    Feb 28, 2005
    Redmond, WA
    I have been in similar situations. When I have felt it would be in the best interest of the "band" I have recorded a couple live sets, made a CD, and gave it to the player in question saying "YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO THIS, THEN CALL ME AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK."

    From there I just speak freely, but in a constructive way.

    I know this approach may not work for everyone, but when it does work everone wins.
  15. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    That's not half bad idea.

    Thanks for the "coaching" suggestions but he is past his expiration date for walking up on a band stand and playing without some serious practice time before the gig. He doesn't play that often and it shows. We often record our shows and his timing, particularly his splashy fills that come in late, are more than evident to all.

    About the drummer who has good chops and bad timing, I usually pound them into submission. Put a speaker next to them and stay in eye contact with them on every tune giving them visual cues.

    Its an interesting challenge like rhythmic scoliosis.
  16. shce


    Sep 27, 2008
    I do a lot of backup singing so I'm busy enough without having to babysit the drummer. I know where the door is if it become intolerable. I'm a great believer that tempo is nature, not nurture. He can improve but he'll never get my complete confidence, especially in front of a couple of hundred people.
  17. BAck in HS, I used to use a move I called "DJ MODE". If the drummer in jazz band did not have good time, my walking lines would digress into loud pulses on the root of each chord (BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM), combined with staring at him with a look of disgust and annoyance. It never really worked, since to them "DJ MODE" meant to play louder.

    If its a paying gig & you need the money - just thinking of the check is a way to get through the night. Poor drumming plus no pay = no bass.

  18. Joel S.

    Joel S. Reserved for future witty use...

    Jul 9, 2008
    ugh, I played a few times with a drummer who's time stunk. He would make DRASTIC changes in tempo and just look at me like nothing happened.

    I'm playing with a drummer now who's time is a little suspect. He'll be playing and it seems like he'll forget what he's doing and mess up the time for a second, or drop a beat.
  19. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    I feel your pain. If you are unwilling or unable to just walk away from the situation, the best advice I can give is to keep your parts as simple as possible while still being somewhat musical. Funky synocopated 16th note bass lines with a lot of runs and fills are fun to play but if your drummer isn't hanging with it, you (individually and as a band) are gonna come off sounding really bad.

    I have been in situations where I have literally cut my bass part down to straight quarter notes to help a bad drummer play somewhat in time. It was hard work and no fun whatsoever but it helped salvage the gig.

    The question you have to ask yourself is how long you want to play the martyr role.
  20. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town. Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    When the drummer sucks... Fire Him!

    As for, "if they won't fire him then what...." cross that bridge when you come to it. For now, just see if they will ditch the deadwood.

    As far as a drummer with good chops and poor timing, it's just as bad. I played for a number of years with a drummer who also sang. He was a good guy, he sang great backups, his chops were quite good, and his fills sounded very impressive. However, when he sang, he had a tendancy to rush, and when he played his fancy fills, he'd have a tendancy to rush. I'd have much rather had him play more simply and keep the freakin' time!

    Sum up, I'd much rather have a mediocre drummer who keeps good time. Unless the money is good, I'll do my best to never stay in a band with a bad drummer again.

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