Myth: drummer's main role is to keep time

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Well I think everyone can agree that if the drummer, or anyone else in the band, doesn't have good time keeping skills it will suck! I like the point of an orchestra. I use to play percussion toys in an orchestra-crash cymbal, wind chimes, triangle and simple snare parts so you are tacit the majority of time-just keep time and follow each measure untill your part comes. A note off and you get the conductor gleam of death, but it is amazing just how beautiful something so simple as a single triangle note can be at just that right moment. At Christmas I loved playing the sleigh bells-there is a correct way to play them I discovered. But everyone is tacit as some point and just following along-you play your "notes" only when required (hey I like the sound of that-I'm making that my new motto" lol. Play your notes only when required. maybe some radioactive signs on either side to get my attention.
 

drumbler

Member
I play in a blues / swing covers dance band. I have to wear a click, and hang on to it for dear life, cuz the guitar player rushes the beat, has lousy rhythm guitar repertoire and technique, and has a tendency to start NOODLING and PICKING ahead of the tempo, when he SHOULD be locking in with a discrete rhythm pattern. This is very tiring, cuz when the guitar player rushes, the rest of the band sounds "draggy", and it's a constant mental fight to NOT listen to HIM, and try to concentrate on the click and feel of the song. If I WASN'T using a click, it would be "off to the races!!!".
 

BranoFabry

Junior Member
This thread might be useful in another instrument's forums. I think every drummer knows that time is not only his/her matter but there is a lot of guitarists who think the opposite.
 

Frank

Gold Member
To each his own. I feel it's a huge burden when I can tell they are using me as a metronome, playing to me and not playing with me. I don't want to be in charge of the time, I want the people I play with to have good time within them so I can worry about making great music.

In my lowly opinion, real musicians don't need the drummer to be in charge of time.
I'm with you.
__________________
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I think it's a privilege to be in charge of the time.

Yea, I'll take that, thanks!
To each his own. I feel it's a huge burden when I can tell they are using me as a metronome, playing to me and not playing with me. I don't want to be in charge of the time, I want the people I play with to have good time within them so I can worry about making great music.

In my lowly opinion, real musicians don't need the drummer to be in charge of time.
 

jimzo

Senior Member
*Hired guns are exempt and do get paid for their meter. They are not hacks.

My meter is by no means perfect, but I naturally try really hard to keep things as tight and as loose as possible, because; I am one of four in this band and there is music being created and worked on.
When you start thinking and talking more like a Musician and less of a drummer the dialog changes and the respect level is never lost. You are heard. Most effectively you are not the Percussionist, but do not alienate yourselves in"drummer' myths. People go to school and have the desire to learn, and to learn in real-time. They really get to educate themselves on an exponential level because the are focused on the musicianship. Armed with those tools can help make your music endeavors hassle free.

Keep in mind if you are replaced, it is no longer the same song with the same feel, groove, intensity and dynamic's, that only you have brought forth.
e.g. John Rutsey's Working Man, or drumming, is not Peart's. Both extremes nice.
Get the respect you have worked hard at and deserve. If you need work, by all means lock yourself up in a room and have at it, but keep in mind you are more than just a meter. You can change the whole feel and meaning of a song that has been played a thousand times over. Your accents. Your phrasing. Find your place and make it clear to the others what you will be offering the others to hear. You most valuable asset is to listen to the music as it is being created. The music that is being brought forth by the other musicians already has a rhythm ! It is not your job to keep time but create the timing.

It is great to have a command of your instrument when you can go from thought process to sticks. If you have an offering for the part presented do not hold back at rehearsal, but at least have an idea from practicing what beat or timing you might be able to pull off and offer in real-time.

Don't be "that" drummer. Be a Musician. Less drama, less heartaches...
 

MJD

Silver Member
I feel there is a situational element to this. When playing with beginners you absolutely need to be a human metronome for them. They need that and need to get used to playing accurately in time with other people. In a more professional situation your job isn't so much metronomic but you are the primary purveyor (with your bassist usually) of the time feel of whatever composition you may be playing. You fail to maintain it at your peril. I tend to think of both as keeping time though. At the same time I agree that once the tune is counted off the time is in the room and a shared responseabilty. If the other musicians don't then it won't matter how well you play.
 

dboomer

Senior Member
Not sure if it's been said, but to me there is a big difference between keeping the "pulse" and maintaining metronome like time.

I don't believe it is the drummer's job to be a metronome.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Well I think there is a difference between playing "in time" and keeping the tempo. The time is everyone playing together, coming in and going out as appropriate (everything fits together no odd notes-it gels) -the tempo can stay the same or may vary in a song from fast to slow. If any player is not in time then it stands out and if any player is off tempo it stand out, but you can play in tempo and not be in time and be in time and out of tempo. Hopefully that confused you as much as me. That's all I got ta say bout that. And of course I could be wrong I reckon.
That makes a lot of sense, and an excellent explanation. However, in practical applications you will have instances especially in introductions when other tempos will be implied or converge/diverge, this happens often in "hooks" when the musicians "connect" with their audience and their surroundings.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Any instrumentalist has the job of expressing themselves on the instrument within the bounds of the arrangement and bandmates' tastes. It doesn't matter if they play like Meg, Buddy or the Studio Steves, just that some ways of playing pick up more gigs than others. Having timing that's compatible with decent musicians is just part of what is required to get music sounding enjoyable.

It would be a dull world if we all did the same thing.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Well I think there is a difference between playing "in time" and keeping the tempo. The time is everyone playing together, coming in and going out as appropriate (everything fits together no odd notes-it gels) -the tempo can stay the same or may vary in a song from fast to slow. If any player is not in time then it stands out and if any player is off tempo it stand out, but you can play in tempo and not be in time and be in time and out of tempo. Hopefully that confused you as much as me. That's all I got ta say bout that. And of course I could be wrong I reckon.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
It appears that there is a misconception amongst many drummers that "keeping time" is the same as playing simple patterns. Since when does musical expression on any instrument mean bad time? One would hope that a drummer can understand that all musical expression, from the most basic backbeat to the most out of the box polyrhythmic playing should be executed with the adherence to keeping time.

"Keeping time" should in no way impede our ability to express our creativity behind the drum kit; it should be the anchor we hold on to as we express ourselves. Musical expression, groove and feel are not seperate from time keeping they are branches off of the same tree.
Everything you say here can and should be applied to all musicians who are playing. It is not the drummers job to keep time for others who aren't doing so. We aren't a time crutch for guitar players who can't express themselves and keep time simultaneously.

Our "job" is to give the music a basic framework while we embellish and enhance the themes and rhythms of the song. We give the listener much more of a time reference than we should ever be for the other people playing the song with us.

If the musicians on stage are all following one another around time wise, you've already lost the "good time" game and are playing catch up.
 

vindrums

Senior Member
It appears that there is a misconception amongst many drummers that "keeping time" is the same as playing simple patterns. Since when does musical expression on any instrument mean bad time? One would hope that a drummer can understand that all musical expression, from the most basic backbeat to the most out of the box polyrhythmic playing should be executed with the adherence to keeping time.

"Keeping time" should in no way impede our ability to express our creativity behind the drum kit; it should be the anchor we hold on to as we express ourselves. Musical expression, groove and feel are not seperate from time keeping they are branches off of the same tree.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
It's funny I detect a lot of....I don't know what it is actually. But it seems like some of us don't care to admit that establishing/maintaining the time is our main role. I say embrace it. I feel that drummers should have the most developed time sense out of anyone in the band, by a large margin. We study time, it's necessary. It's not quite as crucial for a guitarist for instance...to study time when they are practicing. (I don't believe that, but I suspect many guitarists do.) How many guitarists out of a hundred practice to a metronome? I'll guess 10% and I think I'm being overly generous.
If everyone in my band can't keep time after it's counted off and they're constantly following me, I'm looking for a new band soon. I'm a person and I'm going to listen and react and make small changes and lead into changes. If they need me to "keep time" that means they have bad time, which is unacceptable from an adult seasoned musician. Whenever I play with someone who has good time, neither one of us has to think about it or "keep time" for the other. Not at all an exaggeration.

Literally, the only time I'm the "timekeeper" is when I'm playing with bad musicians. I say that with total confidence. I know the difference.

I will concede that the drummer absolutely must have great time, but again, that literally goes for everyone with an instrument in the song.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I agree singers get some slack, it's hard to count and sing at the same time, but some can do it, at least during the rests.

I think what confuses many is that timing is one of the main forms of expression that drummers have at their disposal, and minor timing differences are noticeable on some percussion, as compared to a muddy chord strum. However, their are many other forms of expression on a drumset, and I appreciate drums in free time.

I also really dig dance and marching music, pretty much everyone in these genres are expected to comp a beat.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
It's funny I detect a lot of....I don't know what it is actually. But it seems like some of us don't care to admit that establishing/maintaining the time is our main role. I say embrace it. I feel that drummers should have the most developed time sense out of anyone in the band, by a large margin. We study time, it's necessary. It's not quite as crucial for a guitarist for instance...to study time when they are practicing. (I don't believe that, but I suspect many guitarists do.) How many guitarists out of a hundred practice to a metronome? I'll guess 10% and I think I'm being overly generous.

Everyone feels time differently. There's just no question that drummers have most of the power/control over the tempo and meter. Yes people can keep time on their own (not a given) but how many study time? Like I said, people feel time differently. So in order for the band to run like a well oiled machine, I would think that they kind of have to put their trust in our time and follow our version of the time, because we can't adjust the time like they can, without it sticking out like a sore thumb. They must pander to us lol. But with that pandering comes responsibility. We have to be bang on or yes we suck. We have probably the largest responsibility out of anyone in the band. If the time is problematic, that's worse that a bad note or 2 IMO.

Yea, our #1 job (out of like 15) is time. IMO, their job....with respect to tempo and meter only....is to trust us and play within the framework we establish. Don't be questioning the tempo or meter, we don't question their note choices. We trust them to play the right notes, they need to trust us to feel the time the way it feels best, after all that is our forte.
 
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BruceW

Senior Member
Sadly it is not always true. I have encountered it repeatedly with other musicians that even a bassist needed the drums for orientation now and then. (Many guitarists I know have a tendency to play faster when soloing or when playing a part wihtout drums. Then I have to slow them down again - gently of course)
A LOT of truth in this!

If they don't need us to keep time, why are some guys always needing more kick in the monitors? :)

I have to hit the toms in a certain way on a couple songs in order for my bass player to know where we are in the solo section. Years ago, the lead player in my band at the time couldn't find his way out of solos without a cue like that, as well. It happens...
 
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