Is a pop/folk/indie-song ever better without a fitting drumbeat?

dazzlez

Senior Member
I'm surprised on how many acoustic guitarist/vocalists that doesn't bother to get a drummer. I mainly think of the typical open-mic guitarist that written his/her own songs and think that drums is for rock music.
I think a beat always brings the music to a higher level and if a song doesn't fit a heavy busy beat it's always nice with a subtle touch of a feathering the bass-drum and play with brushes.

Seems to me that most people that sing and play have already made up their mind on what the drums are and that they can't be played soft and in a musically fitting way to their music?

The only thing these artists I think of let us drummer play is djembe or cajun these days? Or they get a bass-pedal and stamp on it themselves which I agree is better than nothing...

I've hard to imagine any acoustic folk/indie/pop songs that wouldn't be a little bit better with a little bit of drum in it from a drumkit.

I agree that there are some music that actually sound better without drums and it wouldn't be anything like it with a drumbeat for example: Classical, Instrumental music, Vocalist group etc. The only thing that bothers me is the indie/folk/pop-songs where a gentle soft beat fit the song perfect!

Crossticking, dynamics, brushes doesn't seem to exist in a lot of peoples head when thinking of drummers.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
You'd have to ask those players why they don't use a drummer, and I think you'll get these kind of answers -

They don't feel the music calls for it, and that's certainly their decision to make. Any attempts at persuasion from a drummer just appears like they're looking for a gig (selfish motive.)

They can't afford a drummer at the venue in particular, or there's no room, or a drummer would be too loud (it's unimaginable how many drummers claim to be able to play quietly, but can't.)

The foot tapping they're doing is all the song requires, and they don't feel it's right to ask (or pay) a drummer to do that.

All valid reasons, and all the player's call, not the drummer on the outside looking in. I never see someone playing and think to myself it should be different somehow. It's their gig, and they're doing what's right for them, at that particular time. Even when I think that there could be an obvious void without drums or other instruments, I always know why they aren't there (venue attributes, for example.)

Bermuda
 

dazzlez

Senior Member
Well the reason I started to think about it is the more guitar-players/songwriters/singers I get to know the more I learn about this huge ignorance about what kind of beat a drumkit can bring out and djembe and cajun can be much louder and in the way of the music than a drum kit.

I've been on only a few open-mic nights in my life but all times there was a drumkit there and a willing drummer to play. Still there was many acts that preferred to be alone with their guitar.
In one of the cases there was an really awesome house-band drummer that was truly amazing to offered to jam with acoustic sing and guitar group but they said no and the music would have been so much better with a simple beat to it.

I think that it can be about the venues attributes of course but there is also a strong fear of getting on stage with a drummer that plays too loud and too busy.

And when there is no venue I still see truly great artists to continue year after year on their own with their indie-songs without any other instrument except a guitar putting videos on youtube and there's always something missing.

Another example is a great friend of mine who I think is a truly amazing drummer joined a singer/guitarist like that and on almost every recording I've heard he's playing djembe or cajun! Something he pretty much was forced to learn to be in this guys group and only have now only played a few months instead over a decade on the drums. He sounds alright on the cajun but on drums he's something truly special. He doesn't mind it that much but I think it's a big shame because the music is suffering because of guitarist/singers authority and ignorance regarding the drumkit. The only time he plays drums is when they play with electric guitar, which is annoying... Drums are a acoustic instrument just like an acoustic guitar and fit great together.

My opinion at least.
Think I will start a project, start putting beats to acoustic songs I think need it ^^ Maybe start with some Dylan classics -.-
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Well I get to know the more I learn about this huge ignorance about what kind of beat a drumkit can bring out and djembe and cajun can be much louder and in the way of the music than a drum kit.

I've been on only a few open-mic nights in my life but all times there was a drumkit there and a willing drummer to play. Still there was many acts that preferred to be alone with their guitar.
In one of the cases there was an really awesome house-band drummer that was truly amazing to offered to jam with acoustic sing and guitar group but they said no and the music would have been so much better with a simple beat to it.
Just because someone can play drums, does that automatically mean he should? You're coming from the perspective that a solo artist is ignorant to the 'fact' that he needs a drum of some sort, when there are a number of reasons he probably doesn't. Besides, a drummer providing the solution is a bit self-serving, no?

If a solo player has had bad experiences with drummers, do you blame them for being hesitant, especially with a drummer they don't know?

Suppose you had a group, and a trumpet player walked up and said "You guys would sound so much better with a trumpet player, and I'm him!" Whether or not he's right, how would that sound to you?

You have to accept that most players know what they need, and that they will probably resent being told something by someone who then wants to fullfil that need.

Ya gotta play it cool with musicians, and artists... and people.

Bermuda
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I am a little familiar with the issue you are describing. I think often times it is a competence issue, they can't play in time, and the audience usually plays along as long there aren't drums there to remind them. As has been said about Dylan, "He didn't do too bad for a guy who couldn't sing or play guitar." Other times, I think guitar tends to attract somewhat anti-social musicians, which is the only reason, I have for why there are so many guitarist singer song writers, they basically just can't stand the thought of someone else on stage with them, who might also possibly play nice music, that would just be a distraction they don't need.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I think guitar tends to attract somewhat anti-social musicians, which is the only reason, I have for why there are so many guitarist singer song writers, they basically just can't stand the thought of someone else on stage with them, who might also possibly play nice music, that would just be a distraction they don't need.
True, I hadn't accounted for personality disorders or egos. :)
 

dazzlez

Senior Member
Just because someone can play drums, does that automatically mean he should? You're coming from the perspective that a solo artist is ignorant to the 'fact' that he needs a drum of some sort, when there are a number of reasons he probably doesn't. Besides, a drummer providing the solution is a bit self-serving, no?

If a solo player has had bad experiences with drummers, do you blame them for being hesitant, especially with a drummer they don't know?

Suppose you had a group, and a trumpet player walked up and said "You guys would sound so much better with a trumpet player, and I'm him!" Whether or not he's right, how would that sound to you?

You have to accept that most players know what they need, and that they will probably resent being told something by someone who then wants to fullfil that need.

Ya gotta play it cool with musicians, and artists... and people.

Bermuda
I actually do play it cool and haven't told anyone that their music would be better with drums. I would certainly not offer myself either because I don't feel confident/competent enough to do that.
I understand that I don't sound like a guy with a lot of patience here on the forum but I'm very different in person. I'm usually quiet and polite and just try to get as many connections as I can when I hang around musicians.
I just observe and make up my own mind and opinions on this subject which I let out here sometimes, in hope no other musician (expect drummers) that knows me IRL read it :)

The reason I started the thread was because I wondered if other drummers done the same observations and have the same opinions as me. I know that the amateur guitarists/singers prob don't and I'm not really interested in having a argument with them either.

The question is really the topic:
Have you ever found a pop/folk/indie song that doesn't have a drumbeat and you don't feel that it would be better with one?
Because I can't think of a single one, even though there are loads of great tunes(folk/indie/pop) without I personally feel that they would all sound better to myself with a drumbeat as a listener...


Singers skip the drums but almost never the melodic instrument when going on stage. Just as a guitar/piano adds to the song in almost 99% of all pop/indie/folk songs, a drumbeat would too in my opinion..
That's what I wonder if my fellow drummers agree with me or not :)
Would be grateful for a song example if you feel a song wouldn't be the same if it had any sort of drums in it.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
The question is really the topic:
Have you ever found a pop/folk/indie song that doesn't have a drumbeat and you don't feel that it would be better with one?
Because I can't think of a single one, even though there are loads of great tunes(folk/indie/pop) without I personally feel that they would all sound better to myself with a drumbeat as a listener...
Well, there's an obvious bias... you're a drummer, not just a "listener".

I don't think I've heard anything that can be improved upon simply by adding drums, and the concept is the same as those who wonder if there are better drum parts to songs that already have drums. The Beatles/Ringo is a favorite target, with people suggesting that Vinnie, or Bonham, or Keith Moon would play amazing parts. Well, I'm sure they would, but it would no longer be The Beatles as the world reveres them.

The fact is, the way we hear recorded songs is exactly the way the artist and players and producers want us to hear them, and I have to afford that same perspective to solo players who make an artistic decision to not have drums. Or bass. Or a piano, or violin, or flute, or another vocalist. If they feel that their music is right with a minimal approach, then it's right. A drummer or any player who suggests otherwise to that artist will be perceived as just looking for a gig, not making a constructive criticism.

As a drummer, would you suggest to a solo guitarist that they get a piano player? Doubtful, because you're drum-centric. On some subconscious or conceptual level, you want to play drums with them. Deeper down, you may even feel resentment because they haven't hired you. But it's important to understand and accept that not everyone needs a drummer, and that more often than not, it's a legitimate artistic decision they're entitled to make.

But I will confess to doing it, one time, about 33 years ago. I suggested to a solo player that he needed a drummer, but I won't bore everyone with the details of how that worked out. :)

Bermuda
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Would be grateful for a song example if you feel a song wouldn't be the same if it had any sort of drums in it.
Would one of the greatest drummers of his generation have added or detracted to/from these tracks?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ty_WlmIKvY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TANKvE3sI3w

Dunno about you, but I reckon it's a big claim to say that a drum beat would naturally improve either of them. And given the fact that they had ready access to one of the all time greats, yet chose to let him lay out on both, the songwriters didn't feel it was a necessary addition either.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Would one of the greatest drummers of his generation have added or detracted to/from these tracks?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ty_WlmIKvY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TANKvE3sI3w

Dunno about you, but I reckon it's a big claim to say that a drum beat would naturally improve either of them. And given the fact that they had ready access to one of the all time greats, yet chose to let him lay out on both, the songwriters didn't feel it was a necessary addition either.
Since I mentioned The Beatles, I will cite a very telling situation that kind of demonstrates this.

"Yesterday" was a huge hit for the Beatles, one of the most recorded songs in history, and perfect as a guitar-vocal piece with string quartet. It didn't need drums, bass, piano, or harmonies. it was perfect. So in 1966 during their final days of touring, they played "Yesterday" live, adding drums and bass and guitar. It was pretty bad. Not even Ringo could improve upon that song, in his own band!

Bermuda
 

dazzlez

Senior Member
Well, there's an obvious bias... you're a drummer, not just a "listener".

As a drummer, would you suggest to a solo guitarist that they get a piano player? Doubtful, because you're drum-centric. On some subconscious or conceptual level, you want to play drums with them. Deeper down, you may even feel resentment because they haven't hired you. But it's important to understand and accept that not everyone needs a drummer, and that more often than not, it's a legitimate artistic decision they're entitled to make.

Bermuda
Fine I'm a drummer and I can hear when a beat is missing. But would you tell a pianist that complains about a singer singing great pop-songs without a instrumental melody that the pianists is biased because the pianist plays piano and therefore hear that the melody is missing while a 3 year old kid wouldn't think of that when singing his nursery rhymes...
My theory is that everyone are listeners and can feel when a drummer do a great job without even knowing it's the drums that does it.


I wouldn't suggest much to anyone except if it was a really good friend. But if a friend went up on stage without any instrument and just sang I would think that was a bit dry and suggest to that friend to jam with a pianist or guitarist next time. Or even learn a few chords himself/herself which won't take more than a few months. But I would of course also mention that the beat is the third layer that's need to be put there to complete the picture and feel of the song.

To me a minimal approach is: A beat, melody and a song for a pop/folk/indie song. That's what I think. Now... I realize there are different way to have that beat, it could be a guitarist drumming/slapping the guitar on 2 and 4 while playing and/or have a bass-pedal and sometimes that's just perfect for the song. I also seen pianists that stomp their feet in quarter notes and it fits their boogie woogie well.
But there are definitely a lot of players that don't even do that.

If the beat ain't part of minimal approach for a typical indie/folk/pop song, how come a huge majority of the folk/indie/pop music that finally make a record get drums on their CDs eventually? I can't think of any indie/pop-song that don't have drums on it that have been produced by a major label.
My guess is that the producer and the audience prefer folk/indie/pop with a beat.
Even those of artists that only had a guitar and a singer for years until they finally catched a break have drums on their records... I don't think the producer pushed them into have a drummer/percussionist/drum machine, I think they agreed when they finally heard the difference they were happy with that full sound.



(Changing a drum-part in a song vs adding a beat is a completely different subject. I feel that if you change the beat is like changing the melody or the lyrics and it will be new song afterwards even though it reminds a bit of the old one. Then afterwards you can't really compare if one song is better than the other it's too subjective)
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
What about drummer singers? You know people with a cajon or conga and get up there and sing, do they need a guitar? I don't think so.
 
W

wy yung

Guest
To quote Jamie Muir speaking to Bill Bruford.
"You exist to serve the music. The music does not exist to serve you."

Your attitude suggests you place the drums before the music. If this is so, it may be an idea to reverse this position.

If I am incorrect, my apologies.

I'm surprised on how many acoustic guitarist/vocalists that doesn't bother to get a drummer. I mainly think of the typical open-mic guitarist that written his/her own songs and think that drums is for rock music.
I think a beat always brings the music to a higher level and if a song doesn't fit a heavy busy beat it's always nice with a subtle touch of a feathering the bass-drum and play with brushes.

Seems to me that most people that sing and play have already made up their mind on what the drums are and that they can't be played soft and in a musically fitting way to their music?

The only thing these artists I think of let us drummer play is djembe or cajun these days? Or they get a bass-pedal and stamp on it themselves which I agree is better than nothing...

I've hard to imagine any acoustic folk/indie/pop songs that wouldn't be a little bit better with a little bit of drum in it from a drumkit.

I agree that there are some music that actually sound better without drums and it wouldn't be anything like it with a drumbeat for example: Classical, Instrumental music, Vocalist group etc. The only thing that bothers me is the indie/folk/pop-songs where a gentle soft beat fit the song perfect!

Crossticking, dynamics, brushes doesn't seem to exist in a lot of peoples head when thinking of drummers.
 

mymarkers

Senior Member
Personally, I prefer the sound of a drummer without a pop/folk/indie singer/songwriter.

If every song had some kind of drum or percussive beat, what would be interesting about songs that have a drum or percussive beat? Drums are like frosting on cake. Some cakes like angel food are so delicate that frosting would completely overwhelm the cake. Others, like a pound cake, are so rich that frosting would be complete overkill. Many cakes are good with or without frosting. But a wedding cake would not be a wedding cake without a rich velvety buttercream.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Fine I'm a drummer and I can hear when a beat is missing... My theory is that everyone are listeners and can feel when a drummer do a great job without even knowing it's the drums that does it.
But I would of course also mention that the beat is the third layer that's need to be put there to complete the picture and feel of the song... To me a minimal approach is: A beat, melody and a song for a pop/folk/indie song. That's what I think.
And as I said, it's a matter of opinion. And you also have to respect the artist's opinion that they don't need a drummer, and definitely know when the presence of a drummer is nobody's choice because it isn't possible.

If the beat ain't part of minimal approach for a typical indie/folk/pop song, how come a huge majority of the folk/indie/pop music that finally make a record get drums on their CDs eventually? I can't think of any indie/pop-song that don't have drums on it that have been produced by a major label.

My guess is that the producer and the audience prefer folk/indie/pop with a beat.
Then that's the producer's call, not the drummer's. An artist will listen to a producer as a more objective and experienced observer, than a drummer who might be coming from a place of resentment that he didn't get a gig he apparently thinks he should have. I'm just saying, that's how it would sound to the other person.

I'm glad you're not out there telling people, because I assure you it would ruffle some feathers, and make you, as a drummer, appear pompous and arrogant for suggesting that you can make their music better with your drumming. That's not your place as a sideman.

There may not be too many rules about music, but there are still a lot of rules about human relations, and musicians are among the most sensitive of all.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Personally, I prefer the sound of a drummer without a pop/folk/indie singer/songwriter.

If every song had some kind of drum or percussive beat, what would be interesting about songs that have a drum or percussive beat? Drums are like frosting on cake. Some cakes like angel food are so delicate that frosting would completely overwhelm the cake. Others, like a pound cake, are so rich that frosting would be complete overkill. Many cakes are good with or without frosting. But a wedding cake would not be a wedding cake without a rich velvety buttercream.
Um... yeah... what you said!
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
But I will confess to doing it, one time, about 33 years ago. I suggested to a solo player that he needed a drummer, but I won't bore everyone with the details of how that worked out. :)
Knowing you a little bit, I bet things just got weirder and weirder from there.
 

drummerjims

Senior Member
I am in a pop/folk/indie actually more (folk rock) band, before me their was no drummer. The band really wanted to step up their game and get a more live/bigger venue sound. The music before me did not need drums and I can say that it really didn't. However when they decided to take on a drummer they really had to fill the music out. When you listen to folk music you can't really look at "will drums fit here" because the answer is generally no IMO and in the opinion of my band mates. Really you have to realize how much the overall sound orchestration of the song has to change to sound good.

Also understand that my description might not be the truth for every act but it is for most folk acts. The whole neo-folk revival sound was based off of a formula that most folk musicians are going to follow. Very few bands get away from that formula which is not necessarily a bad thing.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Drums are so common that the average listener finds the structures even when a drummer isnt playing.

In that homogenized sound scape, not having drums can be a nifty way to imply a structure on a song without forcing the structure on it.

Look up some of Imogen Heaps drum free interpretations...(search YouTube for "Imogen Heap 103.1". Electronica type originals with very clear drum beats...wonderful versions without the drums.)

...do the same for Damien Rice, Gabriel Aplin, Peter Gabriel....the list is nearly endless and appropriate across genres.

Seeing beyond our interest in drums to what serves the song is a major step in finding a greater facility in creating something interesting when a drum voice IS called for.
 
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dwsabianguy

Senior Member
There are plenty of songs that are perfect without any percussion.

The first thing that comes to mind is the entire bluegrass genre. Sure, it's peppered with the occasional brush train beat-type pattern, but the vast majority of bluegrass tunes are carried along by the band's group strumming pattern and tends not to need any drums whatsoever.

The second example that came to mind is Crosby Stills & Nash's Hopelessly Hoping. It's just acoustic guitar and vocals and there's nothing that could possibly be added to it that won't take away from the feeling in the voices. With a lot of personal songs, sometimes the best way to produce a piece is to eliminate anything that could make it less personal; that of course includes drums.

And if memory serves, The Rite of Springs doesn't have any percussion in it. Just really scary strings.
 
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