Good drumming to the audience

Pkaneps

Senior Member
I know what most drummers consider good drumming (I know there are a wide variety of opinions about groove and chops) but what does the audience (non-musicians) consider good drumming?

I once had a lady tell me when I was first starting out that you're not a good drummer until you can play wipeout...which I could, a few months later. Do you think most of us are overrated or underrated by the audience?
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Rock and pop audiences pick up a lot without knowing what it is that they're picking up, just that a band sounds fantastic, cool, good, okay, boring or bleagh. If the grooves are strong and clean and there's bit of flair in the right places, people will like the drummer.

As often as not, drummers are barely noticed unless they are flashy or sexy, but a good, confident drummer's influence gives a band a strong platform that gets audiences going.

The extramusical matters a lot more to non-musos. Smugness, pretentiousness, massive egos, being uninterested or over-serious etc can be a major turnoff, even when the playing is strong. Musos are more likely to forgive those social faux pas if they like the music IMO
 

Neil

Senior Member
Most audiences I've played for only notice the 'overall' sound and if that sounds good then by definition I'm good. If my kit sounds terrible but I'm playing well, I suspect that people would say 'the drummer is no good' along the same lines if a guitar is out of tune but the guitarist is wailing away like a pro, it's not going to sound good to 'Dave'

I'm not sure too many non-drummers would know the difference between a paradiddle and a hole in the wall. And I say that with all due respect.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Do you think most of us are overrated or underrated by the audience?
Harry Conway once said something in a thread, not unlike this one and I've been hangin' to "steal it" ever since.

It went something like........"95% of the audience may or may not have been aware that there were some drums on stage"..........brilliant!! (thanks H)

Never put much thought into what benchmarks a punter would use to rate my playing. Personally, as long as they dig the music, have a good time, leave happy and hopefully want to come back, then I consider whatever it is that I'm doing must be working.
 
Honestly, I have found that playing in a classic rock band, if we play a couple of tunes where the drums open with a strong 4/4 beat with maybe a double kick on 3, and you put in a few round the kit fills, most ordinary punters will think you are a good drummer.
I am fully aware of my own limitations and know that any other half decent drummer would also be able to spot them but I comfort myself with the knowledge that there are not so many drummers at my gigs!!
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
in my experience, i get the most compliments if i really go nuts on stage. i know it's not good to overplay, so i try to avoid that, but i've learned that some crazy fills or other tricky stuff at appropriate moments tends to get people excited.
 

Witterings

Silver Member
in my experience, i get the most compliments if i really go nuts on stage. i know it's not good to overplay, so i try to avoid that, but i've learned that some crazy fills or other tricky stuff at appropriate moments tends to get people excited.
I think this is largely true, I think Joe Public like the drums to be out there in your face and will notice a drummer thats overplaying and loudish and think it's good whilst another drummer listening to the same thing may well be cringing.
Take the op's mention of wipeout as an example, if you break it down it's not actually hard to play and yet the average audience like it and think it's highly skilled but if you dropped in an F - Off Vinnie or Gavin Harrison chop with the accompanied subtlety they play it with that most of us on here would simply be drooling over and I think you'll find it'll go straight over Joe Publics head !!
Again it's not a critism of your average audience but simply they don't know what they're looking for same as someone going over a jump on a horse I wouldn't have a clue if they're a relative newbie at the local stables or national champion but I'd be impressed anyway as I sure as hell can't do it !!!
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
I think this is largely true, I think Joe Public like the drums to be out there in your face and will notice a drummer thats overplaying and loudish and think it's good whilst another drummer listening to the same thing may well be cringing.
that's absolutely true! my sister, who is professional guitarist, says if you want to get noticed, play "loud and fast". i'm not saying we should all do that, because the band is not all about us, but it does work.
 

stasz

Platinum Member
Harry Conway once said something in a thread, not unlike this one and I've been hangin' to "steal it" ever since.

It went something like........"95% of the audience may or may not have been aware that there were some drums on stage"..........brilliant!! (thanks H)

Never put much thought into what benchmarks a punter would use to rate my playing. Personally, as long as they dig the music, have a good time, leave happy and hopefully want to come back, then I consider whatever it is that I'm doing must be working.
That's an awesome quote. I mean, the way I see it, since my band just plays covers, I notice people get the most excited when we play a song that a lot of people like. And if you were to think about it from their perspective, they're not thinking, "Oh! I love this song because the drums are so tough to play!" or "That drum part is so exciting!" It's just because they know the song, and are exciting to see a live band playing it.

That being said, I suppose if the song has a particularly noticeable drum part, or an instantly recognizable fill, then that may be a reason why the audience likes the song, and they'll get excited when they hear that part being played. But for the rock/pop that my band plays (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Vampire Weekend, Weezer, etc.), most of the time, the songs are known for having a nice, steady 4/4 rock beat. It's often not the most stand-out part of the song, and it will probably go right over the audience's head. For the songs that we play, I think the audience will probably get most excited by the melody/vocal line that they recognize, or just from the overall energy of a live band (part of which may come from the drumming, but your average non-musician will probably realize that). That's just the way I see it. But there are a lot of different bands and a lot of different audiences out there, so it could vary depending on the situation.
 

Witterings

Silver Member
Just thinking it through further we had a band practice last night and we're doing a Joe Cocker version of With A Little Help Of My Friends. I was playing a kit that I wasn't used to which never helps but as it was a new song for us as a band I was pushing the boundaries to see what I could do with it.
On some of the fills I know I was way out and missing beats as well playing 32nd notes but they were loud and over the top and the other guys thought they were great and whilst they're not drummers they are very competant musicians and I was suprised they weren't chastising me.
It's one of those if I can tighten them up for when we do a gig then I'll use them but if I don't feel they're tight enough I'll do something else instead but the others will probably be saying how come you didn't do that fill.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
or just from the overall energy of a live band (part of which may come from the drumming,
So true Stasz, a band is the sum of many parts. The drummer is just one of them. I think the generally, punters really only lock into what those "parts" are creating as a unit. My wife is not musical, she can't identify bass lines, pick out keyboard parts or hear a kick drum or hi hat unless I point them out to her......she just "listens to the music"......or predominately the "melody/vocal line " that you referred to.

I really don't think she's that far removed from the rest of the genral listening public, to be honest.
 

azrae1l

Silver Member
i've seen so many down right terrible bands play around here. i mean really bad, out of tune, out of time, vocals sound like your beating a trash can with a dying cat. and i hear the people walk away saying they were so bad ass, they rock, their awesome. and for the longest time i couldn't understand why until i really looked at it from something other then a musicians point of view.

i see 2 things really, these guys play songs people recognize, they hear then on the radio all the time and they can sing along and dance to it (even if it's being played badly) then they get out with the audience and interact, get the crowd moving get them singing along and make them part of the show, people dig that.

on the opposite side of the coin i've seen superb musicians, tons of skill, sound incredible yet stand there and do nothing but stare at thier instrument and play then done. and the audience just sits there talking amongst themselves like no band is even playing. when you ask them what they thought of the band they look at you and ask "what band? oh them? they were ok i guess".

i would say it goes back to the energy you deliver rather then how well your playing. if you can harness both you'll be in the spot light for a long long time....
 

Spectron

Silver Member
In my opinion the drummer along with the singer make or break a band. Guitar, bass bleah you can get away with blooddy murder if you have a great drummer and vocalist....

Vice versa - you have a great guitarist but the drummer lacks that steady - confident
on-time playing and your vocalist is off pitch.....forget about it!!!

Then again if your guitar is out of tune - you have no business being on stage in the first place.

I have played with many drummers over the years (I am first a guitar player) and there is a HUGE difference between an OK drummer and a great drummer and it's not in the chops either - it's that solid groove laid so deep the rest can't help but fall in place.....

Chops don't mean a thing in the real world musical sense if there;'s not that fundamental
solid timing behind it....and I think the audience can pick up on that even if they don't know exactly what it is....

Bottom line take a great band and give them a crappy drummer and I bet most of the audience would pick it out in a heart beat and say that band sucks.....

The drummer is underrated - he is THE foundation. and if that foundation is shakey...
the house WILL crumble....

I won't even entertain the idea of being in a band with a so-so drummer anymore
the difference is so night and day it's not even funny.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
What gets noticed is contrast. If you do the same thing all night, it becomes wallpaper. No matter how sophisticated, loud, or wild. It's when you catch people off guard that they notice you. So the trick becomes to catch them off guard with something they like. Dynamics, playing a big fat groove for 3/4s of the song and then dropping a cool gospel fill that maintains the groove into the song right when the band it peaking. Busy here, open there.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
This might apply here:

I recall an old Max Roach interview where he said he was partaking in some jazz drum night, and the big stars came out to play and wow the crowd. Max, Elvin, among others went up on stage to show how strong they were to the audience. I'm sure it was a flurry of notes and licks. Then here comes Gene Krupa at the end of it, and all he did was his Sing Sing Sing solo (basically 8ths notes on a floor tom), and the crowd goes wild! Max said that was a great drum lesson that night.

I think (if everything else in the band is equal) great drummers know when to play above the audience and when not to. If the songs are grooving and people are dancing and drinking, then you're doing your job and you're good. If you can go over their heads for a bit, and continue to make the audience dance, drink and have a good time, then you're still good!

One of my biggest lessons was when I figured out why my band kept getting fired from steady gigs. Musically, we made ourselves happy by "experimenting" with tunes, when the audience just wants to hear the 3-minute version so they can stop dancing at the end of it. Once they stop dancing, they stop drinking, and the bar isn't making money. Why do you think DJs are so popular?

I think the modern drummer gets really caught up in working on his craft. And sometimes that's a good thing. We can always have better polyrhythms and better grooves in 17/16, but the key to success is to know when to forget everything and make everybody feel good. If you're at a Greek wedding that means grooving in 7 and 13 alot. If you're in Alabama then you better not stray too far from what Butch Trucks and Jaimo Johnson played in the Allman Brothers! And everything in between.

I would say that since the audience is what pays you, then thats who you play to. If an artist is paying me, then it's my job to make him happy. And really, alot of drummers say "grooving with the band" as if it's an easy thing to do, and everybody can do it. I've been watching alot of drummers on YouTube putting up their stuff lately, and alot of people really need to get the 'grooving' part down. That's really your bread and butter. But do continue to work on every page of Gary Chester's New Breed, or whatever the hard book is today, too!
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Ah, doggone it, Bo, I liked your last avatar better!

To the OP: a lot of good opinions here, and let me add in my $.02: Joe Public doesn't necessarily know what makes a good song. He doesn't necessarily hear a bad band and cringe, either. Does the music make him feel good? That might be accomplished as easily as playing his favorite song at least recognizably.

Audiences appreciate something that drives the music forward. A strong beat will do that. Audiences can easily get confused on anything other than 4/4, so if you DO do music that isn't 4/4 it has to be "telegraphed" so that they can get it. Otherwise you'll lose them, both in the figurative and literal sense of the word.

The drummer is NOT the focus of the band from the audience's point of view, so long as they are serving the music and not obviously screwing up all over the place. At one gig a rack clamp broke and half my kit fell over. I kept playing on what was still standing as best I could (and amusingly enough as I look back at it, despite my desperate attempts to get my wife-slash-roadie to come help, she didn't know anything was the matter). The audience didn't even seem to notice or care, since I was keeping the band and the music going forward.

The performances that in my mind stand out as the worst ever, still resulted in someone coming up to me at the end and complimenting me on how "I killed it" out there. That means they didn't even know how horrible the set felt to me - I was able to make it feel good to them.

As a final note: Joe Public doesn't know what's hard or easy about playing drums, and he doesn't care about your years of studying Stick Control, The New Breed or Syncopation. He wouldn't know a Moeller stroke if you hit him on the head with one, and single and double strokes sound the same from the 20th row. He doesn't know if you bury the beater or bounce it, use heel-up or heel down, or even that there's a pedal back there. But Joey Jordison's kit flips upside down with him on it while he plays steady 16th notes. "He's an awesome drummer." Why is that? Showmanship. One word.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
2 votes for the return of Monique Bo...

Great post Al. Musically speaking, we talk Greek, the audience talks Sesame Street.

I believe you have to dumb it down for them to enjoy it, generally speaking.

There's only a few things that a non musician audience member notices.
1. If they know the song
2. If the show they see entertains them
3. If they like it or not

It's really very simple to them, they either like it or not, or don't care. But they don't dissect it, they have other, more pressing concerns. (their buzz, who they want to get next to etc.)

Now the musicians in the audience...we're not discussing them, different take.
But for the non musicians, they want a show of some sort. If the music is so so, but the show is good, that'll work for them.

If audience members had to pick a show that has:

1. Great music, but no real entertainment...or
2. So so music and a great engaging, entertaining show..

They'll pick #2 everytime.

What's in it for them? That's the bottom line. 4 way coordination? They couldn't care less, was it fun for them?
The audience, like girls, just wanna have fun. It's simple. Show them a good time, whatever that means. The music is secondary, the show is what they are looking for.
 

last man to bat

Senior Member
A lot of what Al said.

I play in an originals band and for most of the audience they are hearing songs for the first time. Despite this, I always get complimented on my drumming at the end of a gig. Now I am never really sure why, I don't play anything that could be considered very flash, or anything that stands out, but I always get compliments, form drummers and non drummers.

I find it strange that anyone has even noticed me as there is six of us in the band including banjo and fiddle. I have been told I put a lot of energy into my drumming, but I don't even think that I really do that.

So as for what the audience is looking for in a drummer, it sure isn't the same as what I'm looking for.

I think the best thing is to not worry, just play what you want and what makes you and your band happy and the audience will pick up on that. Like Al says, trying to be flash is lost on most non drummers, just be yourself and play with your own style, that's what makes music good to watch.
 

BrewBillfold

Silver Member
I play in an originals band and for most of the audience they are hearing songs for the first time. Despite this, I always get complimented on my drumming at the end of a gig. Now I am never really sure why, I don't play anything that could be considered very flash, or anything that stands out, but I always get compliments, form drummers and non drummers.
It could be just a factor of your natural feel--you could have a great sense of groove, a great feel, but not think much about it, because that's just the way you play.

As a listener, I'm a big fan of drummers like Charlie Watts, Ringo Starr, and Phil Rudd (and lots of guys with a similar approach but who were slightly flashier, like Peter Criss). A lot of it is the feel those guys play(ed) with, which came down to factors that are so subtle that they're hardly analyzable--and it's nothing conscious they were doing aside from not trying to be too flashy. It's just the way they naturally played. It's kinda like a gorgeous girl not being able to figure out why everyone is going all gaga over her. It could be nothing she's doing consciously, and to her, she just looks like a normal person.

It's also not that I admire those players because I take a similar approach myself. I'm a very busy player--probably someone who a lot of folks would consider to overplay. If I were playing "Satisfaction" I'd approach it--at least as far as I could get away with it--more like a combination of, say, Bill Bruford, Elvin Jones, Carl Palmer, Jack DeJohnette, Mitch Mitchell and Terry Bozzio, lol.
 
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