How does a drummer think?

alparrott

Platinum Member
Welcome to drumming! You've already got a lot of great answers stacked up here, but I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents on your questions.

I'm trying to figure out how a drummer thinks and what is important. My plan so far is to devour the Igoe Grooves and start learning stadium rock songs note for note. I also have a snare book on rudiments and want to mix them in to my set playing. I figure that once I have about 10-20 covers and most of the grooves under my belt, I should be able to jam with others in my style (blues, rock, pop).
All in all, not a bad beginner strategy. I have the Groove Essentials posters behind my kit in my practice space for working on and there's plenty of great ideas and beats in there. If you are planning on playing with other musicians (which it sounds like you are), I think a good idea is to set your collective sights on songs that you can pick up easily as a group that are at or slightly above your current playing ability.

When playing covers with a band, are you as a drummer expected to be able to pick up the original beat from a quick listen, or are drummers given time to woodshed and learn the song note for note before practice?
It depends on the band, the drummer's experience, and what the object of the band is. If you are in a pickup blues jam at a bar, you are not going to get every note like it is on the record. In that situation, you're expected to get the band through the song as musically as possible. If you are playing in a tribute band, you'd better have every song as close as you can to the recorded version. Every other situation is somewhere in between those two extremes. As far as what prep time you get, that is on you as a band. Some bands have meetings where they pick songs, and then they get the songs form whereever and learn them first individually and then as a group. Sometimes members will bring a CD or iPod to a practice and play a song for the other members and then they learn as a group, or he may have a chart he passes out.

Also, keep in mind that even the original drummer normally doesn't always play the drum part he wrote note for note live. The exception would be a drummer such as Neil Peart who strives for perfect reproduction of the drum part every time; but most don't try to carry that off. Another point is that when drummers change out in a band, often they play the old songs differently than the first drummer did. (Case in point: Look up videos of Porcupine Tree's "Hatesong" with the original drummer, Chris Maitland, and then with the current drummer, Gavin Harrison. Chris plays the song live almost note-for-note the way it was on the record, but some things, such as cymbal hits, he does vary. Gavin, of course, plays the song completely differently, breaking up the groove with goofy little fills and hits.)

For original music how do you decide what kind of groove a song needs? When you hear the progression, do you try out different grooves and variations before settling on something? Is this guided by your "inner ear" (ie, you hear the beat in your head and then figure out how to play it?)
It depends who comes up with the "riff" that starts the songwriting. If the bass player or the guitarist or whoever comes up with it, the drummer should write a drum part around that riff; if you have a beat in your head, play it for the guys and see what they put around it. As you get more advanced and find out what the "rules" and conventions of your style are, you can start to "break" them in interesting ways. For example, rock and pop styles usually put the snare backbeat on 2 and 4. In one famous case, Ginger Baker put the snare on 1 and 3 on Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love".

Does the bass player rely on you to play the groove the same way for each performance, or do you have some leeway to make changes over time?
Once you have written a song with a specific groove, or learned a cover, it is in your best interest to keep that groove as consistent as you can between performances. For a rhythm section, it's about the same as consistently playing a song in the same key on guitar. Sure you could do it differently every performance, but it would be awkward to play it a way you're not rehearsed in doing. Also, think of why we call it a "groove". That implies some real close cooperation and interplay between the bass and the drums - which can be more difficult if you don't play it the same way twice.

For a given song, do you make a mental note of the groove that was used? Or do you do it by feel/intuitive memory? (It seems like a drummer needs to have some way to tag and memorize his different techniques, like a guitar player might memorize chords and progressions.)... Do drummers have a catalog of grooves and variations that they choose from when playing, or is it mostly done by feel?
Every drummer's individual method for remembering what to play is different. I am blessed with a pretty good memory and can actually recall what the song sounds like on record for the most part. I estimate I have about four or five hundred songs socked away up there, and another four or five hundred I could refresh my memory on with a quick listen. Some drummers have charts they refer to for certain gigs. Some work like dogs to learn and retain songs. It is the same memory that allows you to remember chords on guitar or lyrics if you sing; and if you use charts and cheat sheets on those instruments you may end up doing the same on drums. Some drummers learn a few basic grooves and apply them to all the songs they play, simply varying the tempo. While this approach sounds very limiting, think of the drum parts to most of the Rolling Stones' hits over the years. Charlie Watts hasn't done very much in terms of variation between most of the Stones songs you can likely name, but then, that's what their music calls for, and ten bajillion fans can't all be wrong.

Some parting shots: Don't overthink the whole process. Probably the best thing you can do if you think you want to be serious about drumming is to get a teacher and take some lessons. It is completely possible to teach yourself drums, and you have a decent strategy for doing so, but a good teacher can cut a lot of time off your learning, and prevent you from picking up bad habits that will inhibit you later on.

Have fun and best of luck.
 

groove1

Silver Member
I play jazz, blues, brazilian, some rock and pop on the guitar along with being an active
jazz drummer. Many of the soloists who hire me to play on their gigs tell me "I love the way
you play because you think like a drummer, not like a guitar player"...there may be something to that but I can't put a finger on it other than I am conscious of continuity in
rhythm, having a drive to it, etc. I also encourage rhythmic variety in the setlist...anything that
can help to give the audience a pleasurable experience. Subtle things, like vamping around
in a key 1/2 step below where you kick off your first tune etc can work.

Having said that I think if "I thought more like a guitar player I would be a better one!"
 

bvoom

Junior Member
Have fun and best of luck.
Thanks, great answers! I am going to keep working through the Igoe grooves, but I'm at the point where I am going to start picking some easy songs to learn and get myself accustomed to playing a whole set without any big mistakes or needing to take a break.

Also, I think I need to work on my rythym and overall stick control. In guitar playing you sit with a metronome and work on alternate picking and sweep arpeggios for hours on end, and there is a certain subtle "logic" that builds into your fingers over long hours of practice and pays dividends in everything you play. Am I correct to assume that rudiments practiced on snare or a pad is going to be similar to (say) alternate picking (mechanics) exercises?

The more I work through the Igoe grooves, I see that it can be the basis for advanced study across styles. This isn't the kind of dvd a beginner will finish in a few weeks. I am going to focus on Pop Rock styles and learning covers before pushing into more advanced stuff. I also think I will look into gettng a teacher but cost and location are a factor. I also want to be reasonably coordinated so when I show up to a lesson I can do the things he is showing me.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Thanks, great answers! I am going to keep working through the Igoe grooves, but I'm at the point where I am going to start picking some easy songs to learn and get myself accustomed to playing a whole set without any big mistakes or needing to take a break.

Also, I think I need to work on my rythym and overall stick control. In guitar playing you sit with a metronome and work on alternate picking and sweep arpeggios for hours on end, and there is a certain subtle "logic" that builds into your fingers over long hours of practice and pays dividends in everything you play. Am I correct to assume that rudiments practiced on snare or a pad is going to be similar to (say) alternate picking (mechanics) exercises?

The more I work through the Igoe grooves, I see that it can be the basis for advanced study across styles. This isn't the kind of dvd a beginner will finish in a few weeks. I am going to focus on Pop Rock styles and learning covers before pushing into more advanced stuff. I also think I will look into gettng a teacher but cost and location are a factor. I also want to be reasonably coordinated so when I show up to a lesson I can do the things he is showing me.
There is a lot less fine motor control involved in sticking than there is with guitar picking and fingering chords. I think the actual movements will be much easier to learn and do correctly, consistently, from the start. It is, however, one of those "minute to learn, lifetime to master" skills.

A good teacher can meet you where you are and take it from there. As a brand-new drummer, even how you hold the sticks needs to be set correctly from the start. Don't worry too much about what you can and can't do at your first lesson - if you knew it all, you wouldn't need a teacher, right? Consider the pros who have famously taken lessons long after their fame was determined (very recently, Neil Peart was taking lessons from Freddie Gruber and Peter Erskine). The point is, we could all use a lesson sometimes.

But you've set at it in a very measured and considered manner, so I think you have a lot less to worry about. Just don't forget to enjoy it =)
 

SticksEasy

Senior Member
As far as drumming goes I think about the where 1 is. To me that's almost always most important, even if it isn't being played. Focus on the quarter note lets you be a precise time keeper and developes your ability to be a metronome for the band.

Everything I do is in time. If I'm practicing in the car with my hands and feet, and my wife is listening to the radio, even if I dislike the song I have to go with the rhythm of the song. I've never been one to speed up or slow down during a show, unless I feel that we're playing at an unusual tempo. If the crowd is really into the music, I'll rush a few slower tunes up a couple of notches, but the band I play with even tells me that it does need to be done.

I also think about food a lot... I mean a lot.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
You mainly just need to get some road time to let the instrument grow on you.

I dig Groove Essentials I also like Deve Weckl's Ultimate play-a-long series a lot as they give you a longer song structure to work with and cover what I'd consider the main basics. Don't hesitate to play with real people, though. It's not the same, and connecting with the bass player, to me anyway, feels pretty different from when I play the guitar. The tasks are so different in many cases.

If you have the disipline rudiment work is great, also do some reading pages and move accents around to toms and crashes with BD support.

For general fill work do a reading page whil edoing a foot ostinato. No need to do anything complicated. 1 &3 on BD with 2 & 4 on HH works fine. Then play the rhythms with just the RH, then LF, then one bar each and then alternating. Move your hands around the drums and make melodies. Do this along to a metronome, drum machine or why not a Groove Essentials track.

Best way to work on independence is the New Breed/Syncopation way. Just choose an ostinato. 1/4 notes on HH or rode is enough to start with and play the melody on the bass drum. Make it comfortable, musical and groove before you move on. If you push yourself on this there's no need for additional BD conditioning. If you want more just play a samba for 15 mins. :)
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Do drummers have a catalog of grooves and variations that they choose from when playing, or is it mostly done by feel?

You will use use what fits the moment based on what you have experienced. Or what is written for you. You are a combination of what you were taught and what you have learned, and will use what you can recall at the moment. just like anything else in life. You are a product of your environment.
 
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