Playing Boring Songs Well

Scott K Fish

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boredom.jpg

SKF NOTE: You're a drummer working steady with a piano trio six nights a week in a club. The piano player is the leader, the main attraction. The trio has a steady repertoire the pianist updates sometimes.

You like playing the trio's songs. They're all either fun, challenging, or simply enjoyable to play as support for the pianist or bassist.

But there's always one song you hate. It's boring. You've played it so often you have nothing creative to give it anymore. (Drummer Ben Riley, who spent three years with Thelonious Monk, told one interview he hates playing, I think, "Blue Monk.")

You have nights on the bandstand praying the bandleader won't call the hated song. When a night ends without the hated song, a weight rises off your shoulders.

The real professional drummers suck it up; they block their reservations and "go on with the show."

There's no faking it, no phoning it in. Audiences can tell when musicians onstage are unfocused. Certainly fellow musicians can tell.

Playing boring songs well is one part of being a pro drummer.

SKF Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals - https://scottkfish.com/2020/11/22/playing-boring-songs-well/
 

frankmott

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I kinda like playing boring songs. I take it as a challenge; how can I serve this song to make it sound even better.
Yes! I agree. When that dreaded boring song gets called, I try to find a way to make it better. Sometimes, with repetition, I actually grow to enjoy a song I formerly loathed.
And even playing a mind-numbingly boring song is better than working for a living!
 

CSR

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You’re not playing the boring song for you, you’re playing it for the audience. They probably haven’t heard it to death like you have. They want to hear it as much as you dread playing it. Remember that you’re providing a service to those that pay you. Do you think the plumber is excited by every leak he fixes, or the taxi driver exited by every fare? If you think you’re an “artiste”, go play only what you want for people who want to hear what you want to play. Otherwise, shuddup, grab your sticks and smile while you play a song for the audience’s pleasure. And be grateful that you have the opportunity to do this.
 

blkcortex79

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I know my place and accept it readily and with pride - I'm a sideman, an accompanying musician - I'm there to keep time and make the band sound better - that's my take on boring songs - it's also my take on soloing - Unless I'm the band leader - solos are for my practice time - or solo play time - My 2.5 cents.....
 

cochlea

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I'm not a gigging drummer but I'll provide my take on this from a practice perspective. When I'm feeling frustrated with my playing of more technically challenging songs, I often resort to dedicating an hour or so to playing only simple (boring) songs. It allows me to focus on the basics of playing and usually does a world of good in boosting my confidence.
 

JDA

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man I'd find it hard to get bored in a piano trio!!
I'd love one about at this point.. Freedom; less players (trio) Acoustic (everything you tinkle or trill gets heard..) what wouldn't be hard to like! in a (good) piano trio.
maybe if it was corny
like if it played "the Sting" and or oft-repeated Show tunes..
You're a drummer working steady with a piano trio six nights a week in a club.
 

kdgrissom

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Gonna throw down the gauntlet here. In high School (70's), our rock band HAD to play this at every dance and party because the girls loved it. It was tough to pull off after "Tush" or "Call me the Breeze".

 

thin shell

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I played in a band with a guy who believed there had been no good music since the 70's. Most of what he selected for us to play was boring pop stuff but he was also a huge Beatles fan so we played lots of their songs. We also did a lot of his original songs. One night I was watching TV and a commercial came on for one of those Ktel type compilation CD's. They were listing all of the songs that were on it and several of the tunes we did were on it. Most memorable was Summer Breeze. It was at that moment that I realized that I hated most of the music we played other than the Beatles tunes but I always tried to do every song justice. From that point forward I looked at that gig as an opportunity to play songs I hate well. In the long run it was worth it.
 

mebeatee

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Sometimes it's like acting out a part...which a performance can be.
When I work(ed) for various folks....especially choirs...some of the ditties they chose I would roll my eyes but play with conviction and do my job. This can be a good challenge in that you can try to do something that may be a little more interesting but still not detract from the toon and no one will really notice. In one situation the piano player and myself play subtle musical games which usually makes the "boring" songs interesting, while only a couple of the singers catch on.
I use this in teaching.....try to find out something interesting in a boring or pedestrian song/arrangement and exploit that in a good way.

What is a lot worse and is a good excercise in mettle is if it's one of your own songs. Two songs stand out in my career with different bands....great songs but ya grow to despise them because they were the toons the crowds shouted for and for that toon I would have to suck it up, smile and go for it. But in the end the royalty statements make up for it.
I like to lead by example so here's an example.....the toon is an underground classic and even though the vid
is cool....imagine this happening say...100-150 shows a year on tour. You are grateful for the "hit", crowds going nuts....but it gets boring.
All relative....
bt

 

RIDDIM

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Play left-hand lead if you are right-handed.
- That's exactly what I did on a steady country gig in the winter of 1980. 2-3 months of that brought me a long way in terms of acquiring the necessary facility, and helped me stay true to the Buddy Harman approach behind much of that music.

Now if I was really ate up, I'd have swapped the bass drum and high hat around....
 


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