Are You a Bad Drummer? Nashville Bass Player Exposes Tell Tale Signs

Vistalite Black

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From Premier Guitar magazine. A bass player who is credited with playing with a Nashville Who's Who explains the negative qualities of bad drummers.

There's some risk someone here could recognize himself...


Here's a portion of the article about a session the previous week:


I hired the guitarist and keyboard player, but the lead singer insisted on bringing in his own drummer. When I first saw the drummers name, I didnt recognize it. And when youve been in Nashville as long as I have, not recognizing a name is usually a bad sign. Still, nobody is happier than I am when a new player rolls into town who can scare the pros twice their age by playing circles around them. I love a good shake-up, but lets just say that it doesnt happen that often, and in this particular case, my suspicion was justified.

I knew things were bad within the first 10 seconds of the first rehearsal, as did the other guys. The parts I was playing with these other musicians (who I knew to be world-class players and consider more talented than myself) were all sounding, well, wrong. So, you may be asking, how can the drummer cause this to happen? Lets talk about two of the main reasons.

The pocket. When I have the pleasure of playing with a great drummer and things are going well, I like to say its because the pocket is wide, rather than it being deep. They still essentially mean the same thing: that I have the freedom as a bassist to put the note almost anywhere in the pocket without compromising the groove. I can put it a little on the front, right on the click, or slightly behind. And because the drummer is so good and the pocket is so wide, it all somehow works and Id have to try exceptionally hard to actually ruin the groove. With a bad drummer, I cant for the life of me make it groove or swing, no matter where in the pocket I try to put the note. The pocket is simply too narrow or not even there at all. I am, effectively, out of options.

Dynamics. When it comes to bad/wrong dynamics, the most common culprit by far is playing too hard. I grew up playing hard rock, a fair amount of heavy metal, and even aggressive funk, but, in spite of that, I absolutely believe there are ways for drummers to kill the groove by playing too hard. When drummers play too hard, the muscles in their limbs are more focused on hitting the drum using full force, rather than actually letting the music breathe. This often results in a lack of bounce in whatever groove is left, and almost always causes the time between the kick and snare to be just a little off. Hitting too hard can also choke the natural sustain of the drums. And this results in bad drum sounds, which makes it damn near impossible for me to get a bass sound that sits in the mix and compliments the drums.

Another example of bad dynamics is the tentative drummer who is afraid to take charge and leadthe band with authority, usually by playing too softly. It makes me involuntarily dig in harder, which compromises my tone and my feel. And this, in turn, means the other band members are stuck with a bad bassist as well.

I am only as good as the drummer I play with. With that said, our job as bassists is to make sure we serve the music at all times, even if the seemingly impossible roadblock of a bad drummer is present. We just have to somehow do our best to get around it.

https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/25675-on-bass-the-bad-drummer-predicament

Victor Brodn is the host of The Lowdown Society Podcast. Victor has toured and recorded with more than 30 major-label artists, including LeAnn Rimes, Richard Marx, Casting Crowns, and Randy Houser
 

blueshadow

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Yeah I can somewhat agree but yeah its really a matter of all the musicians on stage being good or at least good at playing together, perhaps in the example it was a good drummer that's just not good at playing with others or at least with the others on that session. Dynamics are big, no one wants a drummer to play loud on the songs they know and soft on the ones they are trying to skim by on....I know I've been guilty of that, there's no place to hide drumming, if the band stops and you don't everyone knows it, if the guitarist misses a stop it seems a bit easier for them to slide back into the groove and most of the crowd won't notice, but drums....well "everyone is a drummer" right? So are job is a little bit harder because well "Drums are so easy to play so anyone can do it". Then to top it off... "Its only country music so drumming is even easier"
 

wflkurt

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This is interesting as I agree with everything he says. I also think it works the same way for a drummer dealing with a bad bass player. If the bass player is sloppy or his/her time is all over the place then it makes it equally hard for a drummer to keep things in the pocket. I think this is why Led Zeppelin was so damn good. John Bonham and John Paul Jones were so in tune with each other that it was scary. Those two could make or break that band IMO and while I'm sure they very well know it, Plant and Page were DAMN lucky to have the both of them back there holding it together so well.

I remember I did a fill in blues gig once with a bass player I knew a little and a guitar player I had never met. As soon as I was set up the bass player says to me "Hey man follow my groove and lay back. This guitar player always pushes everything way too hard and there is no groove". No sooner did I get this the guitar player pulls me aside and says "Hey man really drive this stuff. The bass player lays back way too much and the music drags big time". I finally said you guys need to communicate because I can't be in the middle of this crap. It was a hard night because the grooves were pushed and pulled all night with the two guys giving each other looks and trying to get me to follow them. That sucked....

It's also interesting because I see in the article that it says this guy toured with Randy Houser. I saw Randy play a few years ago and his touring drummer hit so incredibly hard that I thought his cymbals were going to explode. In fact he smashed a particular cymbal so much that it dented and I saw him laugh at it, point it out to the keyboard player and then flex a muscle. He was a pretty good drummer but I see absolutely no need to smash a drum set THAT hard. As it says in this article drums only get so loud and at some point they just distort. That set and cymbals took a hell of beating that night! It made me cringe the entire time.

On the other hand the opening band had a drummer that had a great feel with a nice even touch and his sound was much better. He didn't bash and his perfect consistency enabled the sound guy to give him an excellent mix. That's the type of live drummer I strive to be and like.
 

cymtrich

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seems to me that a lot of drummers "play for themselves" when they should be working with the band. bill
 

moodman

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I guess Kenny A might take issue with the 'playing too hard' comments. but he's KA. Maybe some drummers equate playing at a consistent level to LOUD.
Appropriate dynamics and pocket can't come from tentative playing, obviously.
Every player should have their own pocket, we groove by committee.
 

shuffle

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..well "everyone is a drummer" right? So are job is a little bit harder because well "Drums are so easy to play so anyone can do it". Then to top it off... "Its only country music so drumming is even easier"[/quote]
I get the same thing Chris,being a blues drummer.
They say that in both genres,I tell them go play a 4minute shuffle,country or blues w/o embellishments and make it feel good!
Harder than you think.
 

wflkurt

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moodman said:
I guess Kenny A might take issue with the 'playing too hard' comments. but he's KA. Maybe some drummers equate playing at a consistent level to LOUD.
Appropriate dynamics and pocket can't come from tentative playing, obviously.
Every player should have their own pocket, we groove by committee.
I often wonder if Kenny A is an exception. I saw him in clinic once and thank God I brought earplugs. It was beyond loud and again while I am not a huge fan of drummers that hit that hard, he has done some amazing things and his track record speaks for itself. He is the most busy session guy/touring drummer on the planet so obviosuly he is doing something right!
 

hefty

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My first thought reading through those negative qualities is that I'm doing pretty good with all of them, gosh darnit. But then I think that I bet most of us on here think that also, and we can't ALL be that good. And then I also think, how would I fare in one of those sessions with those players? And I get nervous just thinking about it.
 

bonzoleum

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wflkurt said:
I guess Kenny A might take issue with the 'playing too hard' comments. but he's KA. Maybe some drummers equate playing at a consistent level to LOUD.
Appropriate dynamics and pocket can't come from tentative playing, obviously.
Every player should have their own pocket, we groove by committee.
I often wonder if Kenny A is an exception. I saw him in clinic once and thank God I brought earplugs. It was beyond loud and again while I am not a huge fan of drummers that hit that hard, he has done some amazing things and his track record speaks for itself. He is the most busy session guy/touring drummer on the planet so obviosuly he is doing something right!
He only gets those gigs because he always brings his Acrolite.
 

Stone Wilcoxon

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wflkurt said:
I guess Kenny A might take issue with the 'playing too hard' comments. but he's KA. Maybe some drummers equate playing at a consistent level to LOUD.
Appropriate dynamics and pocket can't come from tentative playing, obviously.
Every player should have their own pocket, we groove by committee.
I often wonder if Kenny A is an exception. I saw him in clinic once and thank God I brought earplugs. It was beyond loud and again while I am not a huge fan of drummers that hit that hard, he has done some amazing things and his track record speaks for itself. He is the most busy session guy/touring drummer on the planet so obviosuly he is doing something right!
On a similar note, I saw Stanton Moore do a clinic and was surprised at how hard he was hitting.
 

tnsquint

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I agree with all of what he said. Really interesting insight.

I think the hitting hard comment is about really abusive playing in the studio. A lot of guys are hard hitters and you can hear it in the sound they produce. Bashing on the other hand is all about showmanship and there is no "show" in the studio.
 

Houndog

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I've been the "host" drummer at a jam for a few weeks now , only one guy so far has played with authority the rest hit so soft the entire time I could just barely hear them. The only way I knew they were playing the bass drum was by watching the head flex.. I believe in dynamics big time and strive to make my changes dramatic...
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I agree with the bassist, but it cuts both ways. I've played with plenty of bad bassists, too! The bass/drums need to be locked into each other as the rhythm section of any band, whether it is rock, blues, jazz, etc. When in doubt, follow the bassist. You can then speed the bass up or down if something doesn't sound right......but at least you guys will be tight.
I also play bass and I would do the same thing if the drummer sounded good but maybe I could not get the right feel. If I locked into him, then the rest of the band will have to conform to lock into us.

I just did a jazz gig (my first!) and played a couple of songs which I only casually knew, and had never jammed with the guitarist or bassist. I simply sat in cold turkey. I was pretty intimidated about the the full venue (jazz lounge at the local Hyatt) that I just tried to restrain myself and stay calm, but I was to keep the general beat by locking into the bassist and we let the guitarist jam over us.....it worked quite well.......
 

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