What you learn from 'taking over'


Senior Member
By 'taking over' I mean you are the new drummer in a band that already has a record out. You are the new guy, having to learn the old guys stuff.

I joined a band last year, taking over from their (original), long time drummer. They have a few records out so I can study and try and shoe-horn myself in. I have been trying to play mostly whats on the record but I find a little smile on my face when I hear something is slightly weird for me and I think "hmm, I wouldn't have done that like that!"

For me this has been both daunting and exciting for me, as the old guy has years more experience that me.

But, artistically, its really interesting, as I realise what makes his drumming 'his' and my drumming 'mine'.

For example, I try to drive the music much more with snare and bass drum, whereas he focuses on the riding hand, be it hi-hat, ride of crash. Our way of mixing upper and lower limbs is very different.

Also, I found that he usually plays the cymbals at double the rate I go for. I.e. if he is playing 16ths on ride, I am doing 8ths, him 8ths, me quarters, e.t.c.

I have tried playing the bits his way and it's a steep learning curve for me but it's adding stuff to my arsenal I might not have tried otherwise.

Overall, a great experience.

What has everyone else learned, following in others footsteps?


Senior Member
Interesting post and topic as it obviously happens all the time where people take over for an existing player. Especially where the music is documented via recordings.

Sometimes the greatest leaps we make as players is when we are forced to improve and/or grow, we focus, we have a purpose and a deadline with consequences potentially.

Your observations are pretty open-minded. Sounds like the original guy is driving the tempo and feel with the cymbal patterns "up high" in the mix while you are used to laying down as solid foundation and back beat. Any idea how the mix was when they played live? The whole ride/hats out front of the mix could be a studio mix preference but live it may have been different. Maybe check with the band to see what they prefer. They chose you for a reason....maybe they want the whole "anchored" foundation of kick/snare etc

Also, some songs need that driving/rocking 16ths with the right hand or the feel of the song is lacking, think Tom Sawyer with 8ths on the hats or Sturgill Simpson's "Keep it Between the Lines" without that hi-hat pattern driving the tune. Feel may go away.

All up to the band man and what they want.....

Good luck, sounds like a fun project.


Senior Member
Thanks River19,

It's a super experience for me, as I love their music. I would happily listen to it (as a fan) in my free time.

It's definitely about deadline/being forced.

The songs are very fast for me and when I quizzed the original drummer on how to build that speed he basically said I would get it from playing with that band. And it's true! Saw a great video from Derek Roddy about this;


Kind of goes against the 'start slow and build up' approach, which is what I always adhered to. And the music is kicking my butt, but I am improving with each practice, so the 'just play it' method does work!

To be fair, I have no idea about their live mix unfortunately, as I am new on the scene here. And their recording situation was a bit ghetto, so I guess it could be an artefact from that?

The guitarist did say he liked my bass drum playing. I wear that compliment with pride :)




Gold Member
I have "taken over" the drum chair for existing bands on several occasions. In fact, I am in this situation right now as I am helping out a friend by subbing in for some gigs while they look for a permanent replacement. What I have found is that feel is more important than precision. Unless you are taking over Neil Pearts seat, the actual mechanics of nailing the fills is less important than getting in and out on time with the same general feel. Like playing other peoples guitar solos, there are important parts to hit and the rest is making sure you are in key.

Im my last take over I was following a drummer who was very busy (fill every 4 kind of guy). I am more straightforward and tend to save fills for leading into transitions. When I asked if they wanted all the fills I was told that they didn't care as long as the song felt the same. I thought it felt better with less fills, so that's how I played it. Nobody ever said a word and eventually that is how the songs came to be played by the guy who replaced me.


Senior Member
That is perhaps the biggest thing I have learned, good point.

Most guys don't need to hear the exact fills in the exact places.

I was really worried about this at the beginning and tried transcribing note for note what was happening and play it back.

But I am like you and only fill on transitions, and (as in your situation), the records are fill heavy.

This is actually another thing I have taken away from the learning curve, and that being able to play more fills!

Great stuff.


Platinum Member
I've found it's all dependent on the other band members.

You can end up in a band where they expect you to be a clone of the last guy, which isn't particularly fun.

I like the bands where they let you be yourself and express yourself. I joined a prog band where the drummer I replaced had approached the parts from opposite poles to me and played a crazy big set up with stacks. Luckily the bassist told me to do my own thing. Fortunately the music allowed me to do that. Sometimes you don't get that luxury.

Wait until you're a hired gun for one gig. That's another sport :)


Platinum Member
As I sit here and think about it, there have only two times I have "taken over" for another drummer. I did one fill-in gig with a really horrible band YEARS ago, so I just played the same garbage that the original drummer played so the band could stay together and there were no surprises (we didn't even practice). Even though the band was really bad, there was one song where the time jumped around like CRAZY and didn't make sense. When I nailed it, all of the guys gave my high-fives and hugs and yelled to the crowd how I had "nailed" their hardest song. Even though the band wasn't good, it made me feel really good to play the song right for them so they could have a good show.

The two other times I "took over" were church gigs. If this says anything, my stepping in was an improvement over what they had before (and I'm not that great of a drummer!!!). It's funny to think back how times have changed in terms of playing Praise and Worship music. Keep in mind that in the early to mid 1990's, not everyone had a CD of every popular worship song because CD's at Christian bookstores were the ONLY places you could get worship music, and they were expensive! (This was a time before Walmart started carrying them.) It wasn't uncommon to walk into a Christian bookstore and see CD's with a tag of $17.99, and we paid it. Because of these crazy prices, MUCH of the music back then was learned by a handful and then passed around.

Over time, each church sort of developed it's own style of playing due to available instrumentation. I remember playing songs for YEARS (like, maybe over a decade) without ever hearing a recorded version of them. So, when it came to taking over another drummer's position at a church, you basically just followed everyone else for the time being, and you tended to keep things simple because the songs were much simpler then than they are now.

It's amazing what all is available now. In some ways it's good because there seems to be more of a consistency across the board in terms of what to play in a song. With that said, it can be seen as a negative because it can stifle creativity as well. Overall, I like it better now. Church music culture (in my area at least) has gone through an absolute whirlwind the past 20-25 years, and I hope that I have helped pave the way for drummers to take it beyond what I ever could.


Silver Member
In my case, I took over the rockabilly gig from a girl who joined them from the punk scene. She was really loud and bombastic and in that scene, it didn't really fit. She looked the part of a pin up, so they made it work.

I show up from a jazz background and gave the songs more of a swing feel (think Brian Setzer). The bass player/singer said he didn't care how it sounded, but did notice the audience up and dancing more than before.
So we rolled with that formula and it's been good ever since.

A sometimes unfortunate side effect of filling in for the usual drummer is you might play the songs in a way the rest of the band hadn't considered before.
Then the regular drummer comes back and the band wants them to play the songs the way you did & drama ensues.

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I took over a spot in a band that was previously held by a famous drummer. I took over for Ringo.

I was asked to be the drummer in a new Beatles tribute band. It would have been an easy thing to do except I learned that some Beatle song drum parts are not as easy as I thought they were. I know every word to every beatle song, but I never studied the drum parts. After a few rehearsals I nailed the parts. BUT, I found out that if the other band members don't have a good sense of tempo, a lot of the drum parts that Ringo played are not designed to help keep the band together. For example the song "Come Together". So I had to add some clicks (hi hat, base drum and stick clicks) during the drum breaks to keep the band together.



Senior Member
When I joined the band that I'm currently in, they had just finished recording their first cd. I had to crunch that whole record, in addition to the covers that they were playing (we're really a bar band that does some of our own stuff, too).

I tried to copy the original drummers style, but there is something just a bit different in how he plays that I can't duplicate. I play the form of the songs just fine, but his fills are simply impossible for me to get the feel for. Not from being too technical, just the feel.

I just ended up making them my own. It still frustrates me to a small degree when I listen to that CD, on a couple songs...I wish I could duplicate that feel. Most of the rest I'm happy with what I do, but in those couple instances....


Platinum Member
Different drummer = different way of playing and interpreting. Its a given, its what makes music in general, and playing with others in particular, interesting. Not better or worse, just different.


Platinum Member
When I take over for another drummer and the record is already waxed, I like to ask them directly. "Hey, do you guys want me to copy what's on the record, do my own thing, or a combination where certain things you want exact?"

Not once so far have I been asked to copy exactly.