The silent drummer

Tbonez

Member
In one of the bands I'm in there is the constant complaint that I play too loudly. I tuned my snare lower which wasn't good enough. I moved from sticks to rods which wasn't good enough. I added a muffling ring to my snare which wasn't good enough. I have now been asked to drape a towel over my snare while still using the muffling ring and rods...At this point I'm not really playing an instrument. There is no feel, no rebound and the drums don't actually make sounds drums are supposed to make..... How would the guitar or bass player feel if I asked them to play their guitar with winter gloves on 100% of the time? That's in essence the level of feedback I have from my instrument....


What bothers me the most about it is that I'm a self conscious drummer to start with so I tend to use dynamics and play lower volumes anyway. I've never been asked to continuously play quitter over many years of playing. When I go into 9/10 bars drummers are playing louder than I ever have and aren't using muffling and rods. I've thought about investing in a drum shield but I think its absolutely ridiculous to carry around a drum shield from bar to bar and completely mic the kit up for a 100 person show...

I'm not sure where to go from here and I'm contemplating stepping out and moving on. I really like the music and the band members but I'm so focused on my volume I cant enjoy playing. Have any of you run into bands that want a drummer on the stage but they want the drum volume so low that the drums can barely be heard. Why is it fine that the guitar players can "fight" for volume all show but I'm supposed to as quiet as possible?
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
One of the bands I play in plays a lot of southern rock and country. I can sort of do whatever I want.

Another band I play in, I play a cajon, hi-hats, one cymbal, a snare drum, and brushes. They say they play "Americana," but it sound an awful lot like bluegrass with one Tom Petty cover in it. My first practice with them, I kept getting reminded that "less is more." They were pretty happy with me though.

What kind of music do you play?
 

Tbonez

Member
One of the bands I play in plays a lot of southern rock and country. I can sort of do whatever I want.

Another band I play in, I play a cajon, hi-hats, one cymbal, a snare drum, and brushes. They say they play "Americana," but it sound an awful lot like bluegrass with one Tom Petty cover in it. My first practice with them, I kept getting reminded that "less is more." They were pretty happy with me though.

What kind of music do you play?


We play the best of 70s, 80s and 90s at bars...I definitely have a cajon and that may be what this gig calls for which probably means I'm not the right drummer for this gig. I've spent 25and years playing practicing thousands of hours to build respectable capabilities. I would rather drink beer and hang out with my friends vs hunched over a cajon all night in a bar....and I'm not taking shots at cajon players. I've played dozens/hundreds of gigs with a cajon, its just not where I'm at right now. I have too many other opportunities on the kit.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
We play the best of 70s, 80s and 90s at bars...I definitely have a cajon and that may be what this gig calls for which probably means I'm not the right drummer for this gig. I've spent 25years playing practicing hundreds of hours to build a respectable capabilities. Would rather drink beer and hang out with my friends vs hunched over a cajon all night....and I'm not taking shots at cajon players. I've played dozens/hundreds of gigs with a cajon, its just not where I'm at right now. I have too many other opportunities on the kit.
Well, if you are playing covers, you gotta be able to play with some volume, especially if people are dancing. I mean if they aren't happy with you playing with rods, then sheesh, will they ever be happy with anything you do? Even though I don't know everything about your current situation, unless they are wanting to do all of these songs with an "unplugged" feel, then it's time to go. And best of luck for them trying to find what they are looking for.

Just my 2¢.
 

Tbonez

Member
Well, if you are playing covers, you gotta be able to play with some volume, especially if people are dancing. I mean if they aren't happy with you playing with rods, then sheesh, will they ever be happy with anything you do? Even though I don't know everything about your current situation, unless they are wanting to do all of these songs with an "unplugged" feel, then it's time to go. And best of luck for them trying to find what they are looking for.

Just my 2¢.
Thanks! The band definitely has an identity crisis. They have the idea stuck in their head we are an acoustic ballad band while our set list is 90% rowdy covers directed towards a bar crowd...
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
It sounds like they have a sound in mind, but don't know how to achieve it. Desperate for any solution, they ask you to "turn down". Don't assume that they're being hostile -- it's probably just lack of expertise.

Thanks! The band definitely has an identity crisis. They have the idea stuck in their head we are an acoustic ballad band while our set list is 90% rowdy covers directed towards a bar crowd...
Do they play acoustic guitars? Is there a bass player? Are they trying to emulate "stripped down versions" that are so popular on YouTube these days? A low-volume, acoustic guitar group can be good in the right restaurant/bar/club, but it really depends on the venue. Usually, you're trying to keep people's attention, and help them blow off steam after a long work week -- not lull them to sleep. But there are places where people would prefer to talk, and will go somewhere else, or home, if you're too loud.

Cajon/djembe/percussion work best when accompanying an acoustic guitar. Brushes are great, too, if you're swirling and sweeping, and not just using them as low-volume sticks.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Thanks! The band definitely has an identity crisis. They have the idea stuck in their head we are an acoustic ballad band while our set list is 90% rowdy covers directed towards a bar crowd...
And therein lies your problem. For an acoustic ballad band, sure, acoustic drums could be a bit much. But it sounds as if they're booking venues and choosing songs that don't fit that vibe. And it's certainly not what was on the tin when you signed on.

So my advice is you need to straight up have a conversation with them about what they're trying to achieve. If they just want to do quiet coffeehouse acoustic versions of top-40, that's a valid artistic choice, but they need to communicate that to you and let you decide if you're on board or not. If I were to get a list of those tunes and no other guidance I'd be playing them to make people dance, too.
 

Tbonez

Member
And therein lies your problem. For an acoustic ballad band, sure, acoustic drums could be a bit much. But it sounds as if they're booking venues and choosing songs that don't fit that vibe. And it's certainly not what was on the tin when you signed on.

So my advice is you need to straight up have a conversation with them about what they're trying to achieve. If they just want to do quiet coffeehouse acoustic versions of top-40, that's a valid artistic choice, but they need to communicate that to you and let you decide if you're on board or not. If I were to get a list of those tunes and no other guidance I'd be playing them to make people dance, too.
Definitely good advice^^^

I think its time to have a band discussion and see where to go...I'm definitely at the end of my rope with "play with less volume.....
 

Tbonez

Member
It sounds like they have a sound in mind, but don't know how to achieve it. Desperate for any solution, they ask you to "turn down". Don't assume that they're being hostile -- it's probably just lack of expertise.



Do they play acoustic guitars? Is there a bass player? Are they trying to emulate "stripped down versions" that are so popular on YouTube these days? A low-volume, acoustic guitar group can be good in the right restaurant/bar/club, but it really depends on the venue. Usually, you're trying to keep people's attention, and help them blow off steam after a long work week -- not lull them to sleep. But there are places where people would prefer to talk, and will go somewhere else, or home, if you're too loud.

Cajon/djembe/percussion work best when accompanying an acoustic guitar. Brushes are great, too, if you're swirling and sweeping, and not just using them as low-volume sticks.

We have an acoustic guitar and an electric bass so a Cajon would probably fit the idea of how they feel the band should sound. Its just so awkward because one practice we are discussing adding keys, bringing in an electric and adding in songs that are high volume and high tempo. The next session we are talking about how loud the volume is and how we can mute the drums....I feel like I need ADHD medication after the constant flip-flopping....
 

trickg

Silver Member
If I was in your shoes, I'd walk.

I've been in bars where things were ear-bleedingly loud and believe me, the drummer most definitely wasn't playing with rods and a towel draped over his snare. I'm not saying that's the ideal, but if you're playing in a bar, you should be able to play with sticks as long as you aren't hammering the drums like a gorilla.

Keep in mind, I'm a church drummer, so I understand firsthand when it comes to volume considerations. In my current gig, it's for a church that is trying its hand at having a one-off contemporary service before their traditional service, so we're in a regular church sanctuary that was designed for acoustic instruments and voices - I'm behind a shield, I play with ProMark Lightning Rods, AND I'm careful not to lay into things - even split rods can be loud if you hit the drums and cymbals hard.

With that said, a bar is not a church sanctuary - it's ok to play with a little bit of energy and to use real sticks, especially if your music is 70s-90s top 40 and classic rock hits.

Definitely have a band discussion, but if they won't come around and be a bit more realistic, find another gig.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Sometimes people have trouble articulating what they want from the drums. "Too loud" may not actually mean too loud. I've noticed that sometimes it's really about relative dynamics, like the hi-hat is too loud relative to the bass drum and snare drum.

I subbed for another drummer last year and the sax player told me during a rehearsal that it sounded great, but I play way louder than the regular drummer. I tried to be accommodating and brought the volume way down.

Then we played the gig and he recorded it on video. I was WAY too quiet. The regular drummer plays much louder than the sax player realizes. As long as I've been playing, I still have these kinds of learning experiences.

If I were you, I would walk away from this gig. There are too many fun gigs out there to waste time in a situation where you aren't having fun.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
We have an acoustic guitar and an electric bass so a Cajon would probably fit the idea of how they feel the band should sound. Its just so awkward because one practice we are discussing adding keys, bringing in an electric and adding in songs that are high volume and high tempo. The next session we are talking about how loud the volume is and how we can mute the drums....I feel like I need ADHD medication after the constant flip-flopping....
Who knows? Maybe they feel the drum set swallows up the sound of the acoustic, or they've realized how difficult it is to sing with a full voice (which one needs to do, even with a PA) over real drums.

Just tell them you're not crazy about the "low-key percussion" thing, which is what they really want, and to please call if they decide they want to have a real drum set on their gig. You don't have to "quit" -- you were asked to come play a drum set, but it turns out they want percussion, which some drummers are into, and some aren't. It's okay; a band is allowed to find its sound through trial and error. Sometimes, it's the only way.

EDIT: If I get called to play drums with an acoustic and a bass, I'm going to bring my thinner, darker cymbals.
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
Something that I have found helpful in these situations over the years is to put the responsibility on THEM to tell you what they are specifically lookng for. This helps save me a whole load of aggravation searching for it on my own.

Ask them to provide you with specific examples of what they want to hear from you, then YOU tell them how that sound or feel was accomplished by the drummer or percussionist in their example and whether or not you can provide it...and what it would take to do so.

If they can't do that the even they don't know what they want and you have identified at least one of the problems.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
We have an acoustic guitar and an electric bass so a Cajon would probably fit the idea of how they feel the band should sound. Its just so awkward because one practice we are discussing adding keys, bringing in an electric and adding in songs that are high volume and high tempo. The next session we are talking about how loud the volume is and how we can mute the drums....I feel like I need ADHD medication after the constant flip-flopping....
And how is the acoustic guitar sound reaching the audience? I should hope miked or plugged in. Their sound could definitely work with drums and getting folks dancing if the volume on 'stage' and to the audience is correct.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Just a note about rods - they are almost as loud as sticks when it comes to the snare and toms. They have a misleading reputation as brushes for some reason, but they have a lot of attack on drums (cymbals, not so much though.)

I never use rods as a volume regulator, only for more textural work at a normal volume. Instead, I prefer the Flix orange 'brush' sticks, which are a soft plastic rods configuration. Basically, they sound like aggressive brushes with a lot of punch. While they don't sound like sticks either, they allow more natural playing style with reduced volume. That's important because in order to regulate volume, drummers have to play differently. It's not simply enough to use a lighter stick, although that's a step in the right direction. With the Flix or other plastic brushes, arm and hand movement is more natural and not as halted as it would be using regular sticks, and 'holding back'.

Unfortunately, drums also sound different when played differently and with less force. It's not like a guitar player who simply turns the volume down, plays normally, and the result is a quieter version of the same sound and energy (although guitar plays dispute this, mostly in an effort to keep their volume up!) So given that the drums sound different at a lower volume anyway, it's not worth worrying about the stick vs. brush sound, it just goes with the territory.

The only way to truly maintain a rockin' drum sound and playing action at a low volume is to use an E-kit, and adjust the amp volume as required by the gig at hand.

Bermuda
 

TMe

Senior Member
What Bermuda said.

I recently watched a show on Netflix called "Hired Guns". There were clips of Liberty Devito playing a kit with brushes. Somehow, it never occurred to me to play a kit using brushes (pretty much) like sticks.

Now I'm working on that and it seems like the perfect way to Rock out at lower volume. I can play with lots of force and enthusiasm and the result is that the sound is rather quiet (compared to playing with sticks), but still has the energy one would expect for a Rock song.

I would rather drink beer and hang out with my friends vs hunched over a cajon all night in a bar....
Nothing wrong with the sound of cajon, but that has to be the most uncomfortable posture for drumming. I tried it for about two minutes and decided I'd only be interested if it were mounted on a stand. But a cajon with padding on the front, that makes a nice quiet bass drum. Drop a mic' in there, and you've got a good stomp box.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Working on playing soft and having a bunch of tools.

I have a ton of brush like things in my bag, because when going really soft you'll probably have to try a few things to get a sound you feel is working.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Just keep your stick heights down. If you are really playing quietly with correct technique then they aren't being reasonable or they don't really want a drummer.
 

Tbonez

Member
Just a note about rods - they are almost as loud as sticks when it comes to the snare and toms. They have a misleading reputation as brushes for some reason, but they have a lot of attack on drums (cymbals, not so much though.)

I never use rods as a volume regulator, only for more textural work at a normal volume. Instead, I prefer the Flix orange 'brush' sticks, which are a soft plastic rods configuration. Basically, they sound like aggressive brushes with a lot of punch. While they don't sound like sticks either, they allow more natural playing style with reduced volume. That's important because in order to regulate volume, drummers have to play differently. It's not simply enough to use a lighter stick, although that's a step in the right direction. With the Flix or other plastic brushes, arm and hand movement is more natural and not as halted as it would be using regular sticks, and 'holding back'.

Unfortunately, drums also sound different when played differently and with less force. It's not like a guitar player who simply turns the volume down, plays normally, and the result is a quieter version of the same sound and energy (although guitar plays dispute this, mostly in an effort to keep their volume up!) So given that the drums sound different at a lower volume anyway, it's not worth worrying about the stick vs. brush sound, it just goes with the territory.

The only way to truly maintain a rockin' drum sound and playing action at a low volume is to use an E-kit, and adjust the amp volume as required by the gig at hand.

Bermuda

I have plastic rods that are similar to the flix brushes. You can roll the band down on them that makes them rods and they basically become brushes. The challenge that I have with them is they basically become a fan when playing anything above 100bpm and it feels like you are "running in mud". I personally believe these types of sticks are meant for low dynamics but also lower bpm. We have a couple of 130+bpm songs and I feel exhausted after them trying to keep time with the resistance and no bounce.....


An ekit is an idea I hadn't thought of. Not sure if I want to go out and drop a couple of grand but will consider it - Thanks!
 
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