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Bad drummers - how do you deal with it?

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I play with various people but in the last 2 weeks I've had to play with 3 different drummers who have been really annoying with their timekeeping. Meaning that they either speed up constantly, or their timing is just really shaky.

The standard advice I always read is that when the drummer is crap, it's up to the bassist to take charge and lead the way. BUT HOW?? Taking this advice, I tell them they're speeding up, they acknowledge this, I then turn up a bit, face them and keep time in a simple 8th note pattern, but regardless of that they just steam ahead, and eventually, everyone gives in and just goes at their pace, because they're pounding the living sh!t out of the drum kit, thereby steamrollering their authority all over the tune. (And then as far as the band is concerned, I end up being the one that's playing too slowly and out of time, and then my over-inflated alpha-male ego is also crushed in the process).

So in a nutshell, if discussion and playing 'helpfully' doesn't work, how the hell do you bring drums under control? (Keep in mind these are all nice people, and my friends, so I can't be too nasty to them).

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Rehearse to a click? I hate playing with unfunky drummers but it does happen. Even turned up to one rehearsal and the guy laid all the parts of his kit on the floor. Scratched his head and said, 'Let's see if I can remember how this goes together.'

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You can't play bass alongside a bad drummer, not if you want to enjoy yourself, not if you want to improve as a musician.

Walk away.

End of.

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It's a shame, but HJ is right ^ . A drummer (or any other musician, really...) trying to play above their level of competence cannot be reigned in on the spot. They have to go back to their rudiments and get them down 'pat' first, and gradually hone their skills. You put up and shut up, or walk, unfortunately.
If these really are buddies, recording the session and performing a 'post mortem' is a good way forward, at least to get the problem recognised as such. There is no rapid cure, though, so the repertoire that they're bashing out with such enthusiasm will take a hit. Will they support playing 4/4 to a metronome for a few weeks..? Maybe, maybe not. Are there no drum teachers in the vicinity..?

Edited by Dad3353

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HP? None of your sauce, old boy.

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Humble apologies, [i]mea culpa[/i]. I'd put it down to old age, but I've always been scatterbrained, so... :blush:

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Recording is a great idea, I'm going to do this next time. The weird thing is they do know they're going out of time, but for some reason they go out of time despite of that. Like they can't help it. If I balls up a bassline or solo, I try to correct it the next time round, it's weird to just carry on and do the same thing again. Maybe just nerves on their part.

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Yep, walk away. Anyone that far below the level of basic requirements will, unfortunately, almost always need a long time in order to catch up. Plus, the experience, as unpleasant as it may be, may give the drummer the impulse to address the issue i.e. you are actually doing them a favour.

Edited by SICbass

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[quote name='Happy Jack' timestamp='1463863488' post='3054669']
You can't play bass alongside a bad drummer, not if you want to enjoy yourself, not if you want to improve as a musician.
Walk away.
End of.
[/quote]

This is true unfortunately. I've been privileged to have worked with some world-class drummers and a really good drummer will make you sound like a genius bass player (if you're any good to start with) but a bad drummer will make the whole band sound terrible. It's really hard to find a good drummer, but if you don't have one, essentially you're wasting your time.

The thing is, you CAN teach good timing and rhythm, but the very worst drummers think they don't need to learn. So they're crap AND deluded. My current band got round the problem by simply not having a drummer. One of the guitarists plays a kick and the singer plays percussion. This works really well for retro 1920s western swing/country music, but I'm not quite so convinced it would work very well for a rock band... :rolleyes:

Edited by discreet

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Yep, forget it. It's really hard to keep a wayward drummer between the lines. I've had to play with a few that speed up, and slow down, and slowing down is far worse. Feels like your trying to run in treacle.

I've played with a few drummers where the timing is just shaky, as you say. It's not 'on point', although it may not actually slow down or speed up during the course of the song they tend to be out of time with themselves.

By far the worst I've had is a drummer that just keeps changing the pattern. The timing was one thing, but the actual pattern drifted around as they got excited- for example (use your imagination here!)

BOOM-TACK, BOOM BOOM TACK, BOOM TACK, BOOM BOOM TACK

would become

BOOM BOOM TACK, TACK BOOM TACK, BOOM TACK, BOOM TACK BOOM TACK

Totally and utterly mind-drillingly irritating. Of course, the guitarist that likes to get stuck in thinks it's my fault when it all starts drifting about. As far as he's concerned, the drummer is just giving it a push.

Anyways, we sacked him.

(Hopefully the BOOM TACK makes sense! :) )

Edited by cameltoe

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[quote name='cameltoe' timestamp='1463867924' post='3054693']...
(Hopefully the BOOM TACK makes sense! :) )
[/quote]

So he's a [i]jazz [/i]drummer, then..? :sleep:

Edited by Dad3353

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:) yeah it makes sense! That sounds awful.
Another weird thing with one of these drummers was that he could play complex poly-rhytmic latin parts and solos flawlessly, but when it came to straight ahead swing feel on a blues tune, BAM - all over the shop.

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[quote name='cameltoe' timestamp='1463867924' post='3054693']
Hopefully the BOOM TACK makes sense! :)
[/quote]

An explosion in a saddlery..?

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[i]I [/i]can play a solo flawlessly; by definition, there's no-one around to keep time with. Keeping a solo in time is not that easy. An exercise, to illustrate..? Listen to the original 'Take Five', with Joe Morello on drums. Count, mentally, the 5/4 before he starts the solo, and keep the count going as he plays. You'll find that, throughout, he's spot on, and comes back in exactly 'on the beat'. Impressive stuff.

Edited by Dad3353

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In a nutshell you are wasting your time with poor drummers. If you start carrying drummers because they are weak then your playing suffers IMHO. A drummer is the most important member of the band and if this isn't right it wont sound right. The moment you find the right drummer that is good at timing etc your job is more enjoyable and your bass playing will groove and improve.

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Playing with a duff drummer is murder. Sometimes there's nothing you can do other than take the money and run.

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Possibly the reason they are ignoring your "discussion" and "helpful playing" is because their ears are switched off. I agree with everyone above - not a lot you can do in that situation.

If they actually care about the overall performance, you could try to encourage them to reopen thier ears with the tack of "I love the energy you are bringing by pushing the beat all the time, but the singers/guitards/bagpipes are really struggling at that tempo".

Good luck!

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[quote name='scalpy' timestamp='1463863037' post='3054665']
Rehearse to a click? I hate playing with unfunky drummers but it does happen. Even turned up to one rehearsal and the guy laid all the parts of his kit on the floor. Scratched his head and said, 'Let's see if I can remember how this goes together.'
[/quote]

Consistency is where I have trouble with drummers.

The guy really funked it up in pocket last time we played, this time he's playing everything straigh?. WTH

Blue

Edited by blue

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We have a great drummer 90% of the time.
Its as if in some points of the sets, on the easier songs usually, and he slows down.
It's really frustrating, as going slower can really make a good song just drag.
I've noticed it always happens when we play "September".
Talk about killing a great song.
I now force the speed along myself.
It's like i say, he is a good drummer, so he hears whats happening and comes with me.
Guess it was just a case of making him aware he was doing it

Edited by FuNkShUi

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I think the issue with most drummers is that they only play the drums when they're in a band environment. The very nature of the instrument determines that home practice is impractical.

The drummer in my band is a nightmare during rehearsal but it always comes together at gigs. It's the journey to the destination that's the rollercoaster ride.

We've suggested clicks etc. but nothing seems to work...he arrives at every jam/gig like an excitable hyperactive kid.

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It's a difficult one with drummers because so much of how the band sounds depends on them, that they are going to be more susceptible to criticism. If the guitars balls up, it's really easy to just ride past that and carry on with the tune, but when drums go weird the whole thing goes weird. But yeah the overall suggestion seems to be to just walk away from it, I guess that's what I'll have to do.

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[quote name='blue' timestamp='1463890766' post='3054739']


Consistency is where I have trouble with drummers.

The guy really funked it up in pocket last time we played, this time he's playing everything straigh?. WTH

Blue
[/quote]Maybe a punter said he was overplaying and he took it to heart?

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[quote name='paulbass' timestamp='1463870384' post='3054706']
In a nutshell you are wasting your time with poor drummers. If you start carrying drummers because they are weak then your playing suffers IMHO. A drummer is the most important member of the band and if this isn't right it wont sound right. The moment you find the right drummer that is good at timing etc your job is more enjoyable and your bass playing will groove and improve.
[/quote]
I was about to say I'm lucky because I've never had to play with a bad drummer, but thinking about it I have. Going back at least 20 years, there was one fella who was a nice guy but oh god what a woeful player. No sense of tempo, played a fill and came back in on the wrong beat, etc, and yes it just sucked all the enjoyment out. Thankfully he acknowledged his shortcomings and bowed out gracefully, and even recommended us a replacement who turned out to be excellent. It was like a totally different band.

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I've always thought of a rhythm section being a double act. The two play off of each other. It isn't a race, If you are trying to meet your drummer half way (you've gone further than that by what you said) and he isn't there to meet you, how can you ever feel confident?

I agree with the "walk away" comment because you have not mentioned any support coming from the other band members. It's a hard lesson for them but a good one.

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Why walk away?

If the band is good enough and the rest of the guys to agree, find a new drummer. You can't play with a drummer who can't do the basics, so find a new one.

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