Freedom of drummers and percussionists

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Percussion is an art in itself. Even the humble tambourine can be mind-blowing in the right hands (L Shankar *coff coff*).

However, down here in the real world I left my band 18 months ago and they recently asked if I wanted to play percussion with them at an upcoming gig at their usual club (and they were rehearsing up a sax player for the occasion too).

I kept putting off going to the band practices and finally turned up to the last rehearsal before the gig armed with bongos, tambourine and a few shakers, figuring that I knew most of the songs and, hey, it's not as though it's hard or they're expecting me to be Airto, Ray Cooper or Sheila E. I brought along a recorder so I could check what worked and what didn't.

The recording was not good. You know how they say percussion is like spice? I served up shit sprinkles. Of course everyone was too polite to say aside from our singer quietly suggesting afterwards that I was dragging in one of the tunes. He was right.

So I actually worked on it during the week. I am normally a sloth these days but I actually put in some hours trying to tidy up my act and get the arrangements organised, and sitting out the ones that sounded shittiest on the tape.

Come the day, the band was in good form and after so long playing in small and medium-sized groups, it was a buzz being part of a big 7-piece sound - especially nice not having the drummer's responsibility of holding it together :)))

It was the best crowd and reception the band had had so everyone was happy.

I found it interesting how different it feels to just add touches to the music compared with having to be the rock on which everyone relies. How have others felt about gigs playing percussion when you usually play drums?

Blurry photo evidence of the gig below.
 

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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I have nothing positive to contribute. I don't do percussion. If I can't have a bass drum, I'm not interested. Plus I refuse to slap my bare hands on things. My hands take enough abuse. I just wanted to say how much I missed you in these parts. Cool pic. You look like you're getting into it.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I have been lucky enough to do a number of gigs on percussion with a couple of local acts, and they are some of the best gigs I have done - very laid back, easy to fit in a groove, and zero pressure for holding it together as often happens with drumming. Percussion voices (especially hand drums) blend more than drums do, so it's much less pressure as you don't stick out so much.

I usually pack a pair of junior congas, a cajon (doubling as my stool), some shakers, cowbells and other bits, and a cymbal with some rods and brushes. I love getting those calls. Best part of all - usually a very quick load-in and teardown.
 

MustangMick

Senior Member
Cool, the important thing is to remember you don't have to replicate what the drummer is playing (there already is one). It's all about choosing the sound and picking your spot to complement the song.

Sometimes that does means playing "nothing" because there is enough there already. A lot of fun, was lucky enough to see a friend of mine play gigs and sessions in Nashville. It's surprising how even a small shaker part can "glue" a song together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-RblMrRJns

Cheers
Mick
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I don't play percussion in bands, but on local projects we generally let the kids play the kit unless it's too hard and I definetly find a percussion part for almost anything.

First off, it's not a drumistic approach. I find a sound and let that dictate and then refine.

If the part works, but a slight change in tone is needed I'll see what I can about it.

I might choose to take away some hits to play inbetween the others. That can sound really cool.

We sort of have to have our producer/arranger ears on.

Lots of tools in the stick bafg helps. I might use brushes instead of shakers and so on....

It depends a lot on the other player(s). Everything has to be more strict to fully take advantage of the different textures available.

I might think in different ways. Like whenI'm filling in on guitar, sometimes it's useful to think of me as truly another singer in a duet. In some jazz situations I may think of myself as a horn section.

Same with percussion. There aremany different ways to react in many situations.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I have been lucky enough to do a number of gigs on percussion with a couple of local acts, and they are some of the best gigs I have done - very laid back, easy to fit in a groove, and zero pressure for holding it together as often happens with drumming. Percussion voices (especially hand drums) blend more than drums do, so it's much less pressure as you don't stick out so much.

I usually pack a pair of junior congas, a cajon (doubling as my stool), some shakers, cowbells and other bits, and a cymbal with some rods and brushes. I love getting those calls. Best part of all - usually a very quick load-in and teardown.
Exactly Al - easy blending (apart from tambourine at times), no pressure, hardly any lugging, setup or teardown. I guess if I was serious about getting gigs as a percussionist there'd be more pressure to do better than just adequate, which was what I was mostly shooting for.


Mick, I love the Tom Roady interview. Actually, I did double almost every note of the drummer on the bongos in Apache. I wanted to add a tribal vibe without changing anything since the tune is pretty well set in stone.


Arne, I agree about having "producer/arranger ears on" with percussion because it's about the details that provide lifts and changes in texture that can help define a song sections. It's the same with drums (or whatever) but the situation is more pronounced with "non essential" instruments - they either improve the music or they're just clutter and better left out.
 

Magenta

Platinum Member
I've never been fortunate enough to do a gig with percussion, but I love playing cajon and especially castanets: maybe it's the simple efficiency of them, but I always seem to be able to find a groove when I often can't on the kit.

There was a short interview on the radio recently with a percussionist from the LSO or some other top-notch orchestra about the triangle, of all instruments. He said it was probably THE most difficult percussion instrument to play, because it's used as a highlight and unless it's spot-on in terms of timing, it ruins the playing of the entire orchestra. So no pressure then, trianglists!
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
No problem agreing about the triangle in an orchestral setting.

Exact strike om conductors demand. It's a one note solo or accentiation of someone else that van onlyonly work in the right spot.

IT works well in a rehearsal, but when you're jumping from instrument to instrument, sweaty hands and all, it's certainly more stressful than keeping a groove going.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I've never been fortunate enough to do a gig with percussion, but I love playing cajon and especially castanets: maybe it's the simple efficiency of them, but I always seem to be able to find a groove when I often can't on the kit.
Madge, maybe your calling in life is as a castanetist (castaneer?)? :)

A lot of people can't play them, me included.
 

Magenta

Platinum Member
Madge, maybe your calling in life is as a castanetist (castaneer?)? :)
That's where I've been going wrong all these years!

A lot of people can't play them, me included.
Small things make a big difference. They are relatively easy or difficult to play depending on the angle you hold them. Much easier if you hold your hands in front of you and turn your palms towards you, so that you are almost cradling them; more difficult if you have your hands above the castanets and they dangle down. Even if you move your arms, the angle of your hands should change as little as possible so that the hand is always around the castanet even if it's above your head. The tension of the string has to be just right, too, so that they are held open and all you have to do is strike them. And you need some serious muscles in your forearms!

The other side of triangle playing ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvSS6_eDHiE
Golly gosh, that was amazing!
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I've never played percussion in a band.

I have play songs which only needed a hi-hat part, does that count?

Love the deep purple photo Grea ;)

Ray Cooper... Yay, I love that guy, his presence on stage is incredible.



Side note: Has anyone seen the matchbox poster advert for the Blue Mabels' gig, it's really great. You should post it here Grea :)
 

Nancy_C

Senior Member
No problem agreing about the triangle in an orchestral setting.

Exact strike om conductors demand. It's a one note solo or accentiation of someone else that van onlyonly work in the right spot.

IT works well in a rehearsal, but when you're jumping from instrument to instrument, sweaty hands and all, it's certainly more stressful than keeping a groove going.
Whatchoo drinking today, Odd-Arne?

(I'm sorry, just having a little fun. No offense intended!)
 
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Anon La Ply

Renegade
Small things make a big difference. They are relatively easy or difficult to play depending on the angle you hold them. Much easier if you hold your hands in front of you and turn your palms towards you, so that you are almost cradling them; more difficult if you have your hands above the castanets and they dangle down. Even if you move your arms, the angle of your hands should change as little as possible so that the hand is always around the castanet even if it's above your head. The tension of the string has to be just right, too, so that they are held open and all you have to do is strike them. And you need some serious muscles in your forearms!
Thanks for the coaching, Madge! I always had them dangling down.

Henri, Glenn (who is a pro designer) did the poster. Have attached as suggested. Everyone was happy with it, although I should say the photo he used of me is about 15 years old - I can tell by the old glasses.

PS. Just hi hat doesn't count ;)
 

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