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What to do when the Sub is better that the actual drummer?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by NZBassman, Sep 18, 2019.

  1. I play in a casual / part time covers band and we have a gig coming up that our regular drummer cannot do because of a prior commitment

    We're a bunch of older guys / gals in our mid / late 50's (although I'm the youngest and don't hit 50 until late next year!)

    Keyboardist and Guitarist know a younger local guy (in his early 20’s) who plays drums and has an electric kit, so they asked him if he could do the gig and he said yes

    Had a rehearsal with him the other night and he was very good – his kit is a newer Roland kit and he plays with so much vigor and enthusiasm… and was able to pick things up very quickly – even a song like Watching the Detectives (Elvis Costello) he just nailed it after only listening to the intro once

    With our regular drummer I sometimes have to watch his kick pedal to make sure we are both ‘in the groove’ – but I didn’t have to with this guy... he was band on the money

    When drummer packed up and left we all agreed that he is a fantastic drummer…. We’d love to have him in the band, but keyboardist said he (drummer) is busy with work / study and probably wouldn’t want to join permanently

    Plus how would you tell the regular drummer (who’s been in the band for over 10 years and does great backing vocals) that the band is going to getting a new (much younger) drummer?

    Has anyone else played with a ‘sub’ that is better than the actual band member they are replacing for the gig?
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Yes I have. Super tasty guitar player. Great licks, great dynamics. Pretty much perfect. But he doesn’t join bands. He subs only.
    zon6c-f and smogg like this.
  3. Man, this is a tough one. Honestly you need to consider the group goals here. My guess is that a group of guys in their 50s casually doing covers part time probably has a different goal than a guy in his 20s. Chances are he plays with such vigor because it's still exciting to him to dream of being a rock star. I was there once too, and my vigor was way more than these days. Even though your current drummer may not be as good as this kid, chances are he fits the group dynamic and goals better.

    Just my random thoughts from the cheap seats......over there in the back corner.......far from the stage lights and sheltered from those loud speakers. ;)
    RSBBass, gumtown, CalBuzz51 and 18 others like this.
  4. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2017
    Fire the drummer, of course.

    But, since this sub guy probably won't be interested in the position, you might not want to do that.

    There are always players out there who are exceptionally good; sometimes you don't know what you don't have until you experience it. So now you have experienced your sound with a very good drummer. The question then is whether or not your existing drummer is doing the job well enough for your current aspirations. If he is, I wouldn't risk making a change; it'll just lead to ill will and possibly create more problems. If he's been a thorn in your side for a while, then you could feel things out with this other guy, but I think you have to be careful there. The grass always seems greener, but usually it isn't, really.
    gln1955, hrodbert696, Ewo and 8 others like this.
  5. If the band picks up a new gig off of the sub drummer gig you can offer that gig to the sub. That's as far as I would take it.
    HolmeBass, superheavyfunk and Ostie like this.
  6. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015

    I have a group that sounds like the OP. We play "blues" in my basement and gig occasionally. 5 guys: two guitars, harp and bass.

    The drummer often plays too fast and too busy for blues. He's a rock drummer. I played with him in a basement jam at his buddy the bassist's house for a couple years. Basisst was flaky (what?) and would call off jams at the last minute. We had some great times. They are HS buddies in their 50s. I'm 10 years younger.

    Anyhow, drummer had to be out once and we wanted to jam, so I invited a guy that I knew (not well) from the blues jam circuit. Guy was always a little loud at the jams but really dialed in his sound a bit. He was terrific. Doesn't have a band but was so much better than my regular drummer.

    Last night the bassist was out and regular drummer was there, so I invited flaky bassist from original project. Second time he's joined us while normal bass player is having surgery. He just locks in with our drummer. True we did some of old material but he plays more "simply" and has a better grasp of the material. Rock and blues. Don't get me wrong, usual bassist is Good: great ear, nice fills, super human being, is a pro musician (not usally bass player). He doesn't know the material and I think gets a bit bored on bass. So when we played Hard to Handle last night, sub bass just knew where it was going...where to drop whole notes, didn't need the charts for stuff we've played a million times.

    I've thought many time of blowing this band up. Then I realize, for my goals, station in life right now, I have people that tolerate me, I tolerate them, we make a (very) little money, get along. I need to set my expectations accordingly.
  7. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    The band has to make a decision together on what to do. It's a hard call either way. Do you know that the new guy is interested, and will be as dependable as the old guy?

    If you decide to make the change, talk to the guy in person. It's going to be tough. But don't chicken @&($2 out and do it by text or email. You owe it to tell him face to face.
  8. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    Just because a person is a better player, doesn't make them a better fit for your project. So many angles to consider.... YMMV
    quickfix, megarat, HolmeBass and 17 others like this.
  9. thanks for the replies..... the regular drummer is a great guy and is a pretty ok drummer, but over the summer he has a weekend job and the 4? gigs we played this summer (January - April) someone else had to take his kit to the gig and I set it all up and plugged it in - which takes all of 10 minutes. I play the drums for the sound check, then drummer comes later and tweeks his kit placement and vocal mic
    However, this is likely to continue with the next summer coming up....
    Plus he lives over 1 hour drive from rehearsals and has had to miss the odd rehearsal this year

    We had previously discussed the possibility of getting another drummer, but nothing came of it - mainly because we gig fairly irregularly
  10. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    What to do? Nothing, I’d say. There will always be somebody better at any position and it’s always a hoot to gig with them. Enjoy the experience. But if somehow you can’t live with your regular drummer after that, maybe you should be looking around.
    quickfix, getrhythm, kentiki and 5 others like this.
  11. bwildt


    Mar 21, 2017
    Wichita, Kansas
    I think that any musician that does sub work on a regular basis needs to know his stuff, which 1) gives him the ability/confidence to jump into an unknown situation, and 2) keeps him on everyone's sub list.

    Subs that I have played with are uniformly good players. If these guys are not in a regular band, it is not because they are not good or they are not team players.

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    If the sub is better than the actual drummer, we all know what to do.. But if you fire the actual and hire the sub, then you might need to find a new sub for the now new actual drummer as the new actual drummer (old sub) is a better drummer than the original drummer and would be in demand by others. And there's always a chance that the new new sub will be better than the now old sub, so you fire the new actual drummer (old sub), and it starts all over again..

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    New York
    If the sub is better than the actual drummer, we all know what to do.. But if you fire the actual and hire the sub, then you might need to find a new sub for the now new actual drummer as the new actual drummer (old sub) is a better drummer than the original drummer who would be in demand by others. And there's always a chance that the new new sub will be better than the now old sub, so you fire the new actual drummer (old sub), and it starts all over again..
  14. SactoBass

    SactoBass A retired civil engineer who likes all-tube amps! Supporting Member

    Well stated!!! :thumbsup:
  15. avvie


    Oct 12, 2010
    Maui, HI
    A skilled sub is a skilled sub; he's not a band member. Just be glad you have a good sub available.
    Also keep in mind an old adage: one of the worst kind of band members to have is the truly talented... Their phone is always ringing and they rarely commit to any one gig.
    waveman, bass-icly me, jgroh and 4 others like this.
  16. Yep, lots of times but, that's why we have who we have regularly playing in the band. Because those good sub cats are always busy, always on call and the fact that they really don't wanna play regularly with old cats like me. :D
  17. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I was on the opposite end of this situation several years ago. Subbed for a friend (who is, frankly, a terrible bass player, but a wonderful human) and the band leader called me the next day to say they would fire her if I wanted the job.

    I told them she was their bass player until she decided to quit.

    She got transferred to a different state 6 months later and I stepped in for their next gig. Sometimes doing the right thing works out.
  18. BluesOnBass

    BluesOnBass Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2010
    By the Big Lake
    Very similar experience with a sub drummer. What made it worse was that we actually were looking for a new full time drummer but the sub was only available to sub ☹️
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  19. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    properly done, you are supposed to send a sub that is better than you.
    properly done, the sub is then obligated to NOT capitalize on it
  20. Where is this ideal world where you live?

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