What should I do about this band / drummer?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by CaptainGreen, Jan 21, 2022.

  1. CaptainGreen


    Nov 11, 2021
    Long rant I just need to brain-dump and get some feedback.

    timeline: My audition + 2 rehearsals so far.

    Man I really want to like this new band, great singer, great guitarist, I enjoy the music (late 70s early 80s rock & pop covers) and good attitudes. They want to bring in a keyboardist and backup singer and it sounds like it will be a good group to gig with.

    The thing is, the drummer… Nice guy but he appears to be brand new on the drums and has absolutely no natural feel for groove or timing. Overplays, no dynamics all hits are *PLAM PLAM POP BANG*. The meter is in constant rush & drag I mean like within each measure. It’s so hard to concentrate and just get a groove going. Fills are rushed & misplaced, sometimes looses the 1 or flips the 3 and the 1 and doesn’t realize it sounds off. Sometimes I just pause and correct for it which throws everyone off & other times I try to motion or establish some gestures when this happens to little avail. Any rhythm with a shuffle is way out of grasp.

    I am no drummer but I think that he’s trying to dance before he has learned to walk. He does take critique pretty well and I am really trying to not be an jerk or a bully about it. I will mention “hey on this next one is it cool if I throw on a click? I think it will help us all tighten up.” “Cool no problem!” so I put it on, LOUD, and we are playing and he’s still rushing the click, like, lapping it and just happily plowing through as if it’s spot on and it’s even more confusing so I drop that idea. Or I’ll mention “hey how about a very simple backbeat to keep this simple & clean, we don’t have to try to reproduce all of the complex things going on with the record we just need to lay down a good steady beat that’s the #1 job everything else is secondary.” I do this as subtly as I can, like lean over and discuss as a rhythm section; But his reply usually seems to go toward “yeah I think I’ve almost got it I just need to get this song down. It’s kind of like a boom ba cha tap tap thing” like no man develop a steady basic 4/4 or 2/4 for now, forget the song.

    I am pretty sure that everyone in the band is aware that the drummer is not great, but the problem is it’s a new band that the singer and drummer founded. I’m not sure how far the two go back or how good of friends they are. I’m the newest member so I don’t really have much of a say at this point. The guitarist has been in a project or two with the singer before so I think he’s just riding with this to see where it goes. Also the drummer has secured & is paying for the rehearsal space, which is great but also really kind of entrenches himself in the whole thing.

    Here’s the other thing: I’m no pro myself, I am pretty solid and I think that I am good with staying in the pocket and playing to the song but also I’m late 30s and have only been playing a few years. I have played with a few bands for a couple years up until this point and my personal goal is to work with a gigging band (when/if that is ever possible considering the pandemic) but none of these bands actually ended up gigging for one reason or another (pandemic, lack of clear goal to do-so, been-there-done-that, etc). For this reason I don’t have a ton of music connections or opportunities and a lot of working bands understandably see this as a red flag that I don’t have any gigging experience and there are not a lot of 30/40 year old groups that haven’t been playing/gigging for 20 years already. So my only source of connections is hitting up CL & FB musicians-wanted groups.

    Is there hope with this project / drummer? Should I cut and run? Can a drummer that is new and has a good attitude but seemingly has no natural rhythm come around in a few months? What would you do in this situation?
  2. 51PRI


    Aug 7, 2014
    You're kind of in a tough spot since he and the singer are tight and he's paying for the practice space. But, since you say the band has potential and the drummer seems willing to learn, maybe try to work with him one on one to lock in on tempo and timing. You never know, if he has a good attitude he may be able to become a good drummer if you work with him.
  3. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    It's TB and you're a bass player so you know the only answer!
  4. CaptainGreen


    Nov 11, 2021
    Good point. At rehearsal he seems to be receptive but also a little defensive & maybe nervous of his playing or of being called out which is understandable so I try to balance being blunt as well as diplomatic & like “hey no big deal but maybe try this other thing” I don’t want to come off as nagging or whatever because it ruins the vibe for sure and I don’t want that. Maybe if he’s open for some one-on-one I can at least try to get some coherence going between the two of us.
    JRA, Timmy Liam, tangentmusic and 2 others like this.
  5. joelns


    Mar 10, 2014
    Give the one on one a go. That is more likely to yield a favorable result, and you'll find out if you want to stick with this or not.
    andymcclure, Plectrum72, JRA and 5 others like this.
  6. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    It is good that he's receptive, but realistically you are going to need to recognize that people don't just get better when they're told about their faults. It takes a lot of time and practice to become a good drummer and he's not there yet, and won't be for a good while, even if he has the potential to become one, which he may.

    So if it were me I'd be examining my own expectations and the other aspects of this group. First, not every situation needs to be stellar. Everyone started somewhere, and when we were new at this people took pity on us and gave us experience we needed to improve. But in a situation like this, better players are only going to give so much before they move on. The players who replace them won't be as good, and this drummer will only be a little bit better. So the question is really how much you're willing to deal with in order to be giving more than you're receiving, because you're never going to receive musical satisfaction with this drummer.

    There's something to be said for giving something back, but you also need to have your own needs met. I can't play in a band like this forever because it gets painful and frustrating to be the one trying to hold the rhythms together. If the people are nice and I want to do it, I might give a year, but I have got to also have other projects that I find more satisfying.

    Bottom line TL;DR: He's not going to become John Bonham overnight. Accept that he's still learning and make peace with the situation for other reasons, or accept that you are not going to find everything you want in a rhythm section here, and neither are other good players.
    Freekmagnet, Troy Eggen, JRA and 5 others like this.
  7. Gregc57

    Gregc57 Supporting Member

    May 28, 2021
    Long Island, NY, USA
    You need a drummer.
  8. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    I say this a lot: record rehearsals; evaluate.
    Maybe you'll decide it's actually better than it sounded at the time.
    Maybe he'll realize he has a lot of work ahead. If he can't recognize and accept that he's a problem, it will never get better.

    What would you be doing with your time if it weren't this?
    'Cause it sounds like this is holding you back.

    Sometimes, playing with other people is the essential key to progress.
    And sometimes, it's staying home and woodshedding until you're good enough for the next level of opportunities...
    Mungo Zen, Geogio, tblurker and 18 others like this.
  9. surfguitar


    Jun 2, 2006
    Get him a pair of 'Hot Rods' sticks to practice with. They will help him with developing a gentle touch and assist with dynamics. Make sure he knows you two are the rhythm section and need to be next to each other. Have him get a visual metronome (lights) to help him see the timing. Some people are visual. I agree with recording the sessions. I also play/teach drums and have actually found the above works well.
  10. CaptainGreen


    Nov 11, 2021
    Some good insight here. I really want to think this will work out. I also don’t necessarily want to be an unsolicited drum teacher (which I am not qualified to be anyhow). As a self-taught bass player I definitely had some patience thrown my way when starting to play with others, so I am willing to work through some stuff if there is acceptance & progress. Definitely agree that you never get everything you want in a band. On the other side of the coin I am certain that I am not the ultimate bassist that everyone wants.

    But yeah there is a limit which I am still trying to determine. I’ve been keeping it going w/ 2 other bands also (bands? groups? doesn’t feel right to say I’m in a band if they don’t gig…) they are all fun in their own way but yeah…I just want to gig! lol
  11. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Sometimes it's a good situation if everyone's roughly in the same ballpark in terms of skill and experience, because in that situation everyone can grow together, provided they're all working at it. But it can be frustrating if you're way more skillful than the drummer and constantly trying to rein in the tempos.
  12. CaptainGreen


    Nov 11, 2021
    Good point. I do have a Zoom Handy Recorder I may suggest that we start using it.

    I don’t mind taking a more active role, but I also don’t want to come in making it seem like I’m calling the shots and telling people what to do and what they’re doing wrong ya know? So I’ll prob try to feel out the situation for a couple more weeks and see what kind of feedback or direction this thing takes.

    I think that I progress most when I know there is an expectation for me to learn new material, so that’s the great part about it even if the band is not everything I imagined. But yeah after a while it starts to feel like there is no output if we aren’t on a path to gigging or recording or something. That’s when I start to get burnt out with a group.
    Helix, Eric Wolfe and BlueTalon like this.
  13. CaptainGreen


    Nov 11, 2021
    I was wondering about this, if I would be getting too far out of my own lane by bringing some hot rods & tea towels to the next rehearsal lol. I guess it all depends on the situation and people. Maybe I can sort of “gift” them if we can do a 1-on-1. Also If/when we do a 1-on-1 I don’t want to just dump every flaw in him at once I don’t think anyone would like that I guess it’s a matter of what battles to pick first. like for me it would be not losing the 1
  14. Bail out! Quick!!!
  15. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Hot rods are not going to fix his dynamics. They will allow him to bash the drums hard while making less noise, which might solve an immediate issue but won't make him a better drummer.
    AGCurry, tblurker, Plectrum72 and 5 others like this.
  16. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    They say it's bout the music, the hang, the money - get 2 out of 3, and you're doing OK. 3 out of 3, and you're golden. A drummer that can't keep time means you're not going to make good music - strike that one. Without good music, you're not going to get gigs, let alone make decent money - strike that one. At best, this is a hang.

    You're not gonna get 2 out of 3 here.

    I'd move on - in a heartbeat.
  17. CaptainGreen


    Nov 11, 2021
    True. I guess it would be like me using a compressor pedal. Fine as a tool but if I have bad dynamics it’s not going to help me improve, just to hide that fact.

    In the short term though, like while we work on timing, maybe just hiding the PLAM PLAN BANG POW isn’t such a bad idea ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    LBS-bass likes this.
  18. jshinal


    May 28, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    I spent a year working with a drummer who simply could not play any pickup note or fill before the "1" downbeat. He never did fix it, and that is a fatal flaw for most modern music.

    I compliment you for you effort to work with this guy. You are doing well, but he needs a serious drum teacher. What you have now is a karaoke drummer. He hasn't learned to listen yet.
  19. CaptainGreen


    Nov 11, 2021
    my #1 hopeful scenario would be that the other members, who are really pretty good, recognize the deficiency and replace the drummer. Harsh as it sounds & nothing personal but that would make the most sense considering the disparity in skill levels.

    #2 would be for the drummer to improve drastically over the course of 6 or so months. Not sure how possible this is & I really don’t want to be the main driver of that, but I would if I saw consistent effort / improvement.
    Resonance129 likes this.
  20. Bullitt5135


    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    I just went through this same scenario with a sub-par singer. It was painful to fire the guy, but the rest of recognized we’d have a very low ceiling due to his lack of experience and ability to sing on key. We decided to tear off the bandaid and find a new singer. I’m glad we did, as the new guy is way better for the band.

    It sounds like you need to have a heart to heart with your bandmates and talk about goals and expectations.
    CaptainGreen likes this.
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