Alternative Live Onstage Drumset Position?

Old Drummer

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Messages
505
Reaction score
363
One thing I've noticed is that in rehearsals band members will often form a kind of circle facing each other. I've also noticed this happening to a lesser extent in shows when standing band members will turn and face me and/or each other from time to time. The circle or semicircle seems the natural way to play.

As far as on stage, I've played in a lot of trios where we all lined up and I was on the end. (The star was in the middle.) Though I also played in a lot of bands where I was center back. My one gripe about center back, which I learned to anticipate, is that sometimes they'd put me where I couldn't hear. I learned to check that out immediately and pitch a fit if I couldn't hear. Hey, if I can't hear, I can't play along. I don't care where I am as long as I can hear.
 

AaronLatos

spang spang a lang
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
4,074
Reaction score
208
Location
upstate NY
Downstage left for me.

Unless I'm playing a quick changeover festival gig where there's not resources or time to move the drumset (stressing out the engineers and having a whole new set of mixing issues to deal with is never worth it), on a stage where it's not physically possible... I go downstage left whenever possible. I do it for my own bands, as well as most of the groups I'm a sideman for.

Benefits, as I see them:
Much superior eye contact between everyone. Good for signaling, following solos and energy
Find it more engaging for the audience. I'm a physically engaged and "dramatic" player... it's my job... so bandleaders often want to get their maximum money's worth out of that from a showmanship perspective.
I can see their lips and they can see mine... very nice when I'm singing harmony.
I feel that the added eye contact and engagement who really supports and encourages more emotionally interesting playing.

And I just love the vibe.

Small jazz groups set up this way all the time, but the first person I saw do it in person in a rock context was Levon. I was about three smushed bodies back from the front of the stage, right in front of him and his sweet red sparkle Gretsch kit and I was sold.
 

CC Cirillo

Very well Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2019
Messages
682
Reaction score
1,038
Location
Northern California
I had the exact same experience with Levon! Saw The Band live at an outdoor festival “opening” for the Grateful Dead. Very small crowd. I stood 15 feet from him on a low stage in that down stage left position. First drummer I’d ever seen play in that placement.

(My view was pristine and unobstructed. For that brief period watching him I learned everything I needed to know about drumming. Unfortunately in the intervening years I’ve forgotten it all.)
 

drummingbulldog

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2010
Messages
254
Reaction score
163
Location
Jacksonville, FL
I saw Sting in 93 and everyone was set up in a semi-circle with Vinnie kinda sideways. They sounded really good and all of them could see each other & Sting. I never saw drums set that way before or since. It seemed cool. A lot of the old big bands rhythm sections kinda set up that way and the horns in front. I have tried setting up sideways & liked the sound but someone usually says, "I can't play or hear it without the drummer behind me." I don't know if that's legit or if it's an "I need to be front & center" ego thing. I like having the bass amp next to me if I'm in the back. Guitar amps in front of me.
 

Topsy Turvy

Very well Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
752
Reaction score
251
Location
United States
Downstage left for me.

Unless I'm playing a quick changeover festival gig where there's not resources or time to move the drumset (stressing out the engineers and having a whole new set of mixing issues to deal with is never worth it), on a stage where it's not physically possible... I go downstage left whenever possible. I do it for my own bands, as well as most of the groups I'm a sideman for.

Benefits, as I see them:
Much superior eye contact between everyone. Good for signaling, following solos and energy
Find it more engaging for the audience. I'm a physically engaged and "dramatic" player... it's my job... so bandleaders often want to get their maximum money's worth out of that from a showmanship perspective.
I can see their lips and they can see mine... very nice when I'm singing harmony.
I feel that the added eye contact and engagement who really supports and encourages more emotionally interesting playing.

And I just love the vibe.

Small jazz groups set up this way all the time, but the first person I saw do it in person in a rock context was Levon. I was about three smushed bodies back from the front of the stage, right in front of him and his sweet red sparkle Gretsch kit and I was sold.
Do you have any pictures of this arrangement? Would love to see it in a "normal" band context as opposed to a huge act like the Band.
 

JDA

DFO Star
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
17,025
Reaction score
5,761
Location
Jeannette, Pa.
I like the freedom. Nothing worse than dead center with an amp (a small twin reverb) (or some box) right in front of you. Pat Metheny Imaginary Day tour was maybe 1st big act on a big stage I saw do it.


long version
 
Last edited:

mebeatee

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
507
Reaction score
243
Location
Sechelt(ish), B.C. Canada
It changes all the time for me because of many types of and different configurations.....I can be part of a duo to an eight piece band, or a piano trio that accompanies a single vocalist to a 35 person choir. Sometimes it's the usual middle setup, and sometimes I'm stuck off to the side of the choir in between a wall and the piano.
In live theatre you may be part of the "scenery" which has no "musical" set up at all for the musicians onstage.
The main thing is good visual communication with whoever you have to given the situation, while also being very adaptable in how and what you're hearing.
Playing to and for the situation....ie a good control of dynamics and sometimes playing opposite to what is perceived can be quite fun.....and amusing especially with a good sized choir....but that's another ongoing story...
bt
 

gronstadt

Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2020
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
I used to set up to the left or right on the stage in front for years with my funk band cuz I hated being in the back with 6 other players in front of me. I loved it cuz I set up sideways and I could follow cues and had better eye contact with everyone. Most venues were cool with it and getting a monitor wedge was no problem. I also play in a 3 piece loud as hell rock band and I try to set up as close to the front with the other 2 guys as I can. Since I’m on in-ears with this band there’s no need for moving a drum wedge and the sound guys have been great with no problems about me setting up where I want. I hate being in the back when all the fun is in the front.
I use a very similar set up and agree completely with being able to follow cues and make eye contact easier. Especially when it comes to improvising; so important to read the body language of your mates. I’ve also had issues with monitor placement and not being able to properly hear the guitar/bass. I think setting up more forward stage left is ideal or at least moving forward more if in the middle. I’ve noticed a lot of audience members like to watch my drumming and if I’m on the left side they can see me better and makes for a better experience:)
 

Han

Active Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2018
Messages
28
Reaction score
13
Location
Southeast
In a jazz quartet with either piano/keyboards or guitar I like Bass in the center/back. Drums facing across the stage so my hi hat is closest to the audience and ride cymbal is just to the left of the bassist.
The piano/keyboard or guitar player set up directly across from me...other side of the stage...facing me. Horn player center stage front. Closest to the audience.
 

MillerMav

Very well Known Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
674
Reaction score
180
Location
Michigan
For me it depends on two the things; the room/stage size and the gig/band. If its a big stage I will often set up a big more upstage left or purely stage left because I dig how it feels. If its a smaller stage I will set upstage center. Back when I was playing in my piano trio I always went upstage left because we were kind of ripping off MMW and that's how Billy always sits.
 

Formula428

Very well Known Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2011
Messages
1,245
Reaction score
38
Location
LA, CA, USA
Used to be in a band with keys, so while a 4 piece, we would setup like a 5 piece. The keys and I would split the back, and I'd often take upstage left. I liked it, but the sound guys hated it because they typically had their snakes and wedges running exactly to the center where the drums would "normally" go. I actually liked it, because I felt that I had a better view of the band as others have mentioned.
 

Latest posts



Top