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Working with a drummer who doesn't get the importance of the kick. Am I weird or is he?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Dana S, Oct 24, 2020.


  1. Dana S

    Dana S

    Jan 22, 2019
    Hello! A few months back, i joined a then two-member alt/fusion rock band. The drummer and the guitarist have worked together for a decade, and not done much from what I see and hear. One or two gigs, no albums. Apparently no real ambition. Shame, because the guitarist is phenomenal on the instrument and has amazing composing ideas! The drummer knows his stuff too, but is unbelievably "free" with the kick. At first I thought he must be playing some complex odd rhythms or polyrhythms that I can't grasp (I guess i'm an intermediate player/musician ATM) so when I asked him what the pattern he was playing was, he replied: "No pattern, it's jazz!". I tried explaining quite a few times how it's difficult for me not to have the groove from the kick and that it makes me pick the groove from the guitar instead, to which both the guitarist and the drummer said: "Well, what's the problem with that? What does the kick have to do with you, just listen to the hihat". What I hear, in recordings too (admittedly, recorded on phone because we've been trying to get into the studio for months to record but something keeps preventing us to go - no ambition probably), is sonic chaos - the low end is all over, from my groove and the kick's randomness, but neither the guitarist nor the drummer hear it. Last time we spoke about it we actually went into a fight. This frustrates me to such an extent that I'm considering leaving. I'd hate to leave because I want to work with the guitarist and I love our music. I've started not to care about the drummer really - the guitarist does want to record and play but needs a bit of a nudge, which i try to do, yet the drummer keeps being indifferent and my impression is that he even pulls the guitarist back to status quo (i hope I'm wrong). The two of them are friends so the only option I see is either me leaving or staying and shutting up about it, pretending the kick is unimportant.

    So this kick vs. bass things problem - is it even a problem or is it in my head only? I am honestly doubting myself now.

    A reminder - we play rock - alternative, sometimes bluesy. We absolutely do not play jazz or anything even outside the 4/4 or 8/8 rhythms.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2020
    leftybass54 and dbsfgyd1 like this.
  2. Yeah, that's about as standard as it gets with jazz drumming. They are fundamentally two different disciplines, and if you're playing fusiony stuff, your drummer is probably pulling out every jazz trick he knows. The only issue I see here is that you're expecting rock drumming in a jazz group.

    Another thing to bear in mind about the relationship between the bass and drums in jazz is this: You're the timekeeper. Drummers listen to the bass for time cues, not the other way around. And yes, the closest thing to a timekeeper in jazz drumming is the ride or the hi-hat.

    Sounds like this could be an interesting learning experience for you!
     
  3. Dana S

    Dana S

    Jan 22, 2019
    Thanks for this insight! I started thinking I was losing my mind! :)
     
    Raoul_Duke, Reedt2000 and Lobster11 like this.
  4. You're welcome. If you're thinking about continuing with them, I'd recommend spending some time listening to jazz to get a feel for how the bass and drums interact (or don't). I wouldn't start with fusion, because that gets complicated quickly, but rather with some of the more standard stuff from the Coltrane and Miles Davis era and just before then. Listen closely to how steady the bass is as it walks, and how much the drums go off the rails in that stuff. That's what your drummer has been taught to do. After you've got a head full of that, pick up some fusion and listen there. If you can come at this with some understanding of where your drummer is starting from, it might help. And if he's open to it, offer him some listening suggestions of your own, to bring the two of you closer together in your thinking. After all, there's a reason it's called "fusion."
     
  5. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    The kick drum in jazz is not as fixed as in rock, but it certainly isn't random - listen to some good jazz drummers.

    Sounds to me like you have three choices:

    1. Accept the status quo, and don't plan on it going anywhere.
    2. Move on
    3. Ask the guitarist if he wants to move with a different drummer. When he says no, move on.
     
  6. I’ve been a drummer professionally for decades. (Way before I played bass). What LBS-bass said above, exactly.
    That’s the style.
    It really depends on what they believe your band should sound like.
    If you’re looking for more bass drum, a more rock, or hard rock based , drummer may be in order.
    I don’t see why any drummer can’t just play in any style. I always have.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2020
  7. garp

    garp

    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    As others have noted, the concept of being "locked in" with the drummer's kick is emblematic of rock and pop. Perhaps consider starting another group using the same guitarist where the genre is more in conformance with your preferences.
     
  8. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    LBS-bass covered it for you, OP, both in terms of what's going on and what you can do to familiarize yourself with music where bass and drums are more 'independent' of each other.

    since you didn't know any better: you might take her advice and then re-evaluate whether or not this is the right fit for you. it sounds like they know what they want and what they're doing! i'm surprised that they aren't schooling you better and giving you some guidance since your frame of reference is limited. you could ask either one for some help/examples.

    sure, but they're obviously doing some 'reinterpretation' from a jazz point of view. FWIW: the vast majority of jazz is written in 4/4. in the whole history of jazz: only a fraction of a percent represent tunes that aren't. so if you can count to four = you'll have a lot of freedom with these cats. a bass player's paradise! (the hi-hat is your friend --- but it's not like following the kick!) good luck reframing the bass player's role! :thumbsup:
     
  9. Seanto

    Seanto

    Dec 29, 2005
    USA
    It's not the jazz, it's the fusion. Straight ahead jazz drumming actually has a pretty tame and understated kick, traditionally. Fusion is the exact opposite and is full of the drum equivalent of guitar shredders. Complex bass drum patterns, lots of syncopation and polyrhythms. This can make it hard to locate the groove within all that complexity.

    A few thoughts:

    1. I need to hear this drummer to really know what is going on. But i never bought into the idea of "locking in" with any particular part of the drum kit as a rule. I tend to listen to the whole of the groove that the drummer is laying down. Generally, a drummer is communicating an overall feel to me and i need to jump into that feel, or me to them. Really don't care what the drummer is doing with the bass drum as long as it is in time and relevant to the overall feel. The bass drum can be totally contrary to my bass line and that is perfectly fine because we are still playing in relation to the beat and feel.

    2. If i don't really understand the feel a drummer is communicating to me, i might just ask him/her some questions to see where they are coming from. I could ask about the actual drum part in question, or just try to see where this drummer draws from. What are their influences? What do they listen to? That is actually really helpful context to have. Knowing that a drummer is really into Billy Cobham for example, tells me ALOT. Oh, your into Antonio Sanchez? I get it. As bassists, we should be very familiar with the great drummers of present and past.

    3. Sometimes you just won't click with a drummer and that's OK. I've been lucky to say that these situations were few and far between, but it can happen. It might be because the experience is just not there, you are coming from totally different places, or one of you is being stubborn/inflexible. Something to keep in mind is that as bassists, we need to be flexible and should pride ourselves in being able to support whatever the other players are doing. That might mean we play something very simple that fits, while they do something more complex. It might mean we have to play a bit differently than we are used to in an effort to serve the music/band. We may also have to do the homework and brush up on whatever the music is demanding. There's a sort of zen to it in that you are sacrificing your own ego to make the music sound the best it can.
     
    Omega Monkey, Saint70, chaak and 14 others like this.
  10. I love to play with weird drummers. It's always an unpredictable experience that teaches me a lot.
     
  11. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I agree with all of the previous comments. I'll just add that if he isn't defining the groove with his kick he's probably doing so with his hi-hat -- so try focusing on that instead.
     
  12. Abington

    Abington

    Dec 25, 2007
    Yes, I'd add to what others here have said and recommend you do a dive into bebop/swing rhythm sections. I'm not super hip to this stuff, but it's been very interesting to learn about way that the ride and the hat are the more fundamental and solid pieces of the kit in those contexts, where the snare and kick play more of a comping role and are often syncopated. Even if this doesn't fix the problem here and you don't end up going deeper into the jazz world, it's a worthwhile endeavor. There's a bunch of good instructional material on youtube, moreso from the drummer's perspective.

    Other than that, record the practices and show him where it sounds bad. You might also find that it doesn't sound bad.
     
  13. Rabidhamster

    Rabidhamster

    Jan 15, 2014
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  14. aprod

    aprod

    Mar 11, 2008
    I think you missed the OP's last sentence. They are not playing jazz where feathering the bass drum would be appropriate.
     
    AuBassMan and Rabidhamster like this.
  15. aprod

    aprod

    Mar 11, 2008
    The OP is not playing jazz!
     
    StayLow and JRA like this.
  16. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

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    DrMole, Max Bogosity and Abington like this.
  17. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    I guess it depends who is defining the music. Drummer says jazz, bassist says no.

    Maybe someone should ask the guitarist. ;)
     
    Joe Bob, chuckNC, obieito and 5 others like this.
  18. It might just be that their music just works that way and that you have to adjust your expectations. I'm pretty sure the drummer isn't going to change and if the guitar is ok with it you don't have any leverage. Maybe just try and go with it, try some different feels than you're used to playing. Maybe they'd prefer you do more harmonic and rhythmic exploration rather than sticking with the more common 'lock and load' approach. Or maybe you're absolutely right and it sucks. : D If you really can't get into it after some length of time I suppose it's time to move on but maybe give it a chance for awhile.
     
    Omega Monkey, Bruno1950, bbh and 3 others like this.
  19. BarfanyShart

    BarfanyShart

    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    I'm the bass player equivalent to that drummer. I've irritated a lot of mediocre rock drummers by refusing to lock in with their LAAAMMME kick drum grooves.I mean, if you're playing an old R&B or rock tune, of course play the style - but a lot of pop/rock/hip-hop/r&b/edm music moved past this theory of groove, like, 25 years ago.
     
  20. I didn’t miss it. The drummer is playing like a jazz drummer in a band that was initially described as fusion. He may have different ideas about what is appropriate for the music since fusion is heavily influenced by jazz.

    OP didn’t seem too familiar with the very different skill set a jazz trained drummer is going to bring to the table so I made him aware. Not my job to decide if this drummer is right for the project but it’s rare you’ll get a jazz drummer to play like a rocker.
     
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