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DrummerCA35 08-22-2017 08:41 PM

Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Our band is going to open for a couple of (formerly) nationally famous 60s/70's bands, some with timeless songs. It's a at a festival that may have up to 2,000 people. It's at a "hippie" type festival. OUr band isn't even of that genre, we are doing our disco/fuck/R&B, with some rock thrown in. Of course, we are just the opening band, and aren't even in most of the flyers/publicity. Gates open an hour before we play, and it's general admission. So there may be very few people, or there may be a lot. I flat out don't know. All I know is that this is different from the usual weddings, bars, and casuals that we play. It has the POTENTIAL to be in front of the largest audience I've ever played for. I feel nervous about this.

What do you guys do about handling your nervousness, when doing something out of your element? For any of you that get nervous? I doubt the headliner would even be there when we play, but if they are, I find that in and of itself making me nervous. I've been playing a long time, but again, never anything like this.

And, would you guys "risk" playing something that you find very challenging to play? I have a separate thread I just posted about physically challenging drum parts. Our band wants to play "American Band." I can play the intro, but it's a physical challenge (which I wrote about in the other thread) and I know I'd be worrying if THAT is the time I end up not pulling it off, despite having practiced it thousands of times. The pressure of doing this in front of (potentially) hundreds or maybe a thousand people and some (formerly) nationally famous acts is different than doing it at a wedding or club or casual. On the hand I like giving myself a challege. But, on the other hand, I see the value of "playing it safe." But is playing it safe a cop out? Our singer won't do certain songs, our guitar player won't do certains songs if they don't feel comfortable.

Would you guys play it safe or risk it? "American Band" is one of our one-offs and the band doesn't even usually do it anymore in our sets.

Any thoughts are appreciated. And yeah, maybe I'm overthinking this. As opening band, likely no one cares anyway.

Thanks

PorkPieGuy 08-22-2017 08:48 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
As an audience member, I'd rather hear a simple song played well as opposed to a difficult song played sloppy.

You could always practice until your more difficult songs become easy.

DrummerCA35 08-22-2017 08:53 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Thank you, agreed. However, I don't know if that drum intro will EVER become easy for me and will always remain a challenge. (Separate thread I posted.)

Hollywood Jim 08-22-2017 09:18 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
I had to learn that song (We're An American Band) a few weeks ago. Since I use a single bass drum pedal and I'm not all that fast, I played the bass drum 16th note part on the floor tom. And the left hand on the snare drum. It's much easier to play that way. And it sounds very much the same as the original recording. Just ask yourself how many people, including musicians know that the drummer in the original recording used his bass drum for that part? Oh, and don't forget to bring your cow bell.

Make sure you play drum parts that you know you can play.

Just remember that their might be one drummer in the audience who knows how to play that one song, or any song, on the drums. And I stress the word "might". And if that one drummer is disappointed, that is his or her problem. The other 1,999 people there will love it. Audiences are mostly dumb when it comes to playing a musical instrument. But they enjoy listening to someone else make music.


.

Dr_Watso 08-22-2017 09:45 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
As stated above... If you're the drummer for the set, and your options are simple and solid, versus flashy and sloppy... That should be an easy decision.

Play stuff that everyone can nail. No harm in working on something, but if it can't be done well (comfortably) by the time of your big show, scrap it.

Woolwich 08-22-2017 09:52 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Play it safe.
The best band I was ever in (well until 4 of the 5 of us got back together and formed our new band) was offered a gig at a Bike rally 4 years ago almost to the day. Huge tent, massive crowd, what could go wrong? What went wrong is that one band member wanted us to do different things including learning a song we'd never covered before in a very short space of time because he thought it was a good idea. It was the last straw and that gig went ahead but was our swan song as we had decided to split before it even came off. And the fact is, we were hired by the organiser because he knew what we did and he wanted us to do it for his audience.
And if you're already nervous why make things even harder for yourselves.

larryace 08-23-2017 12:52 AM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
As a general rule of thumb, it's usually better to play live....well within your limits.

However it's a signature fill, people know it. Your choices are:

Do the best you can with it. Maybe try Hollywood's suggestion to play it safe. At least you will cover the triplets with the hands, instead of the hands and feet.

Change the fill, and damn the torpedos

Skip it and just keep the beat through that section.

Also, don't project about getting nervous, because you are laying the groundwork for that. It's your imagination, be kind to yourself for Pete's sake. If you want to succeed, then picture yourself nailing it, not getting all nervous over it. Getting out of your own way is the very first step in growing past your boundaries.

It's only music, no one gets hurt. You will get through it.

williamsbclontz 08-23-2017 07:59 AM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Just have fun and don't worry too much about it, or you will mess up. That's obviously easier said than done, but when you look back on the gig after it's over I'd rather say I had fun than say I stressed about it. I've played worry free at big gigs and I've played way too nervous at small gigs, and the other way around too. I try not to think about it too much. As long as you keep the timing clean and look like you're enjoying yourself the audience will like it.

As for the drum solo, it's pretty quick, and if you aren't confident with it then it might be hard to pull off. I usually never copy exactly what another drummer is doing, but not because anything is ever too hard, but because I feel like I could come up with something equally as cool. As for other drummers getting offended by it or whatever, screw them. I'd rather hear what another drummer could make up on their own rather than hear a drummer play something that's already been done before. Change it up, it's way cooler that way, in my opinion anyway.

Wave Deckel 08-23-2017 09:42 AM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by DrummerCA35 (Post 1519182)
...OUr band isn't even of that genre, we are doing our disco/fuck/R&B, with some rock thrown in.

I never played fuck, but maybe should give that style a try. :-)))))) I guess the vocals are pretty onedimensional with that style, with lots of Ooomphs and Aaaaahs'. :-D

Okay, I stop joking now...

Quote:

It has the POTENTIAL to be in front of the largest audience I've ever played for. I feel nervous about this.

What do you guys do about handling your nervousness, when doing something out of your element? For any of you that get nervous? I doubt the headliner would even be there when we play, but if they are, I find that in and of itself making me nervous. I've been playing a long time, but again, never anything like this.
My 2 cents. It is completely irrelevant if you play in front of two people or 2000. You play in front of people. It really the same thing basically, whatever number of audience you have. Try to not think about the audience, if possible. Think of it as just another jam with your band. Concentrate on your band-memers for the start, mesh with them. Once you are grooving, you will be able to sit back there, grooving along, looking at the audience. Then you will see a bunch of happy people. Everything's okay.
No one will think that you are superstars and will never make mistakes. See the audience as some friends who just want to spend some nice time with you. They are there because they like music - not because they want to find the one mistake you make. Even if you make mistakes... they will probably barely notice them.

Quote:

And, would you guys "risk" playing something that you find very challenging to play?
No, better play it safe. You can though - at the very end - include the risky part, but just state in front of the audience that this is a rsiky thing and that you will definitely mess it up. Everybody will be relaxed then, wait for the moment where you mess it up and have some fun. You raise expectations in a certain way ("Whoah, that fail - I hope it wil be epic. Maybe he falls off his chair...." "place your bets"). If you mess it up, just make fun out of it together with the band and the audience. We're all mortals. ;-)

As Simon Phillips said: "Even the best drummers mess up things at times." The trick though is to not let people notice that you made a mistake. Just continue playing. Most people in the audience will then think that what you messed up was not a mistake. Phillips: "I made a really bad mistake once, but people later came to me and said, Simon, that fill was brilliant, a genius thing, so unexpected. They did not realize that I completely messed up that part of the song."

Wave Deckel 08-23-2017 09:58 AM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Hollywood Jim (Post 1519191)
Just remember that their might be one drummer in the audience who knows how to play that one song, or any song, on the drums. And I stress the word "might". And if that one drummer is disappointed, that is his or her problem.

Such guys will be disappointed quite often. Hmmm... which version of "Superstition" has the "correct" drumming part? Which one is "messed up"?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59m6BoEVkng
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ul7X5js1vE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekkkD8HU944
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTUYKHOdHCc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS3XJQA6voE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l04cDUVVR7I

Woolwich 08-23-2017 10:41 AM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wave Deckel (Post 1519280)
I never played fuck, but maybe should give that style a try. :-)))))) I guess the vocals are pretty onedimensional with that style, with lots of Ooomphs and Aaaaahs'. :-D

Okay, I stop joking now...


My 2 cents. It is completely irrelevant if you play in front of two people or 2000. You play in front of people. It really the same thing basically, whatever number of audience you have. Try to not think about the audience, if possible. Think of it as just another jam with your band. Concentrate on your band-memers for the start, mesh with them. Once you are grooving, you will be able to sit back there, grooving along, looking at the audience. Then you will see a bunch of happy people. Everything's okay.
No one will think that you are superstars and will never make mistakes. See the audience as some friends who just want to spend some nice time with you. They are there because they like music - not because they want to find the one mistake you make. Even if you make mistakes... they will probably barely notice them.

No, better play it safe. You can though - at the very end - include the risky part, but just state in front of the audience that this is a rsiky thing and that you will definitely mess it up. Everybody will be relaxed then, wait for the moment where you mess it up and have some fun. You raise expectations in a certain way ("Whoah, that fail - I hope it wil be epic. Maybe he falls off his chair...." "place your bets"). If you mess it up, just make fun out of it together with the band and the audience. We're all mortals. ;-)

As Simon Phillips said: "Even the best drummers mess up things at times." The trick though is to not let people notice that you made a mistake. Just continue playing. Most people in the audience will then think that what you messed up was not a mistake. Phillips: "I made a really bad mistake once, but people later came to me and said, Simon, that fill was brilliant, a genius thing, so unexpected. They did not realize that I completely messed up that part of the song."

Some good advice but I disagree with the idea of stating ahead of time that you're about to play a song you haven't fully rehearsed or that you might mess up. I think that is a disservice to both the band and the audience. The "fly in the ointment" band member from my previous band regularly did this despite being repeatedly asked not to. Every now and then one of the members in one of my current bands does it too. Being humble and realistic are good qualities to have but proactively telling people to look out for your mistake and that you haven't prepared for the gig is stepping too far in my opinion.
I don't know the song under discussion and I'll look it up now, but if it contains a genuinely signature drum part that has to be played in a certain way and you can't do it comfortably yet, then don't include the song. I would happily listen a to a version of Layla played in a different key, a different style, with distorted Metal guitars etc but it would always have to have that melody played on lead guitar.

Woolwich 08-23-2017 11:03 AM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
I've listened to the song now and I see what you mean, that's a very tricky intro! The rest of the song seems straight forward though and from the YouTube comments I'm guessing it's a full on crowd pleaser. The three options I can think of are to drop the song, to practice that intro at every available opportunity as if your life depended on it, or to play it as triplets with the first two strokes on the snare as opposed to what I'm hearing which is the second two strokes on the bass drum. Not the real thing but so similar that 99%+ of the audience wouldn't know or notice, and the only people who might criticise would not be the ones on a stage playing to 1999 smiling faces.

mikel 08-23-2017 11:29 AM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Control the controllable. Play the songs that the band play best, and if possible the ones audiences enjoy the most. Choose your set list NOW, practice like crazy and stick to it.

Regarding nerves, again stay in control. Try to set up as much as possible as you always do as a band. If its a huge stage and you are used to smaller stages get the rest of the band to at least stand in the same positions they do at a "Normal" gig, If they can move closer to you to keep it like a band setting, so much the better.

Good luck, and don't forget to enjoy it.

Wave Deckel 08-23-2017 12:30 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Woolwich (Post 1519285)
Some good advice but I disagree with the idea of stating ahead of time that you're about to play a song you haven't fully rehearsed or that you might mess up. I think that is a disservice to both the band and the audience.

It depends. I would go the safe way, but I have encountered it twice already at concerts (one rock, one jazz), where they did just that. Not as part of the regular program, but as a "final experiment" sort of. It can work and be a fun-element with an entertaining factor and maybe also a nice surprise factor (if you don't mess it up). But you have to present it right - which is an art in itself again, I guess. As stated before, I'd rather play it safe.

hawksmoor 08-23-2017 12:43 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
I had a very, very similar situation last month. I'm in a band specialising in 70s-style funk, a lot of James Brown, playing on the same festival bill as some big name seventies and eighties bands. Biggest gig we've done and I loved it, but then we did our well-rehearsed set. It went down unbelievably well, mainly because we were unlike anything else on the bill. I was a bit concerned about following a really loud rock band, with my funky ghost notes. But when we got on I just went with what I do best.

A big UK star, whose band were topping the bill, watched us in the wings (I didn't know he was there while we were playing), and said he loved it and would've preferred if we'd gone on before his band to warm the crowd up.

We got a lot of love from a lot of people, from the organisers to the official photographer to the festival DJ.

Try to enjoy it, man. You may get a very similar response.

fac 08-23-2017 02:13 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
When playing live I always play what feels natural to me. Especially because I also sing.

Of course, as you practice, things that were difficult will become easier, until the point when you can play them live.... with your eyer closed... while singing.

When we started our band I told them right from the start: I can't play too fast and I don't do solos. We all know our limitations and don't try to push songs that might be hard for anyone.

IDDrummer 08-23-2017 05:04 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wave Deckel (Post 1519282)

That was great! The only one I didn't care for was the Beck, Bogert, and Appice version. A fantastic example of how different parts work just fine.

To the OP - if the rest of the band has the song down, and if YOU have the song down except for the opening drum fill, I would do the song. If the fill makes you nervous, leave it out or play an alternate. You and maybe two other people will notice. Be sure to let your bandmates know you're going to do that, though. If they think you forgot a part or screwed up, it could throw them off!

CommanderRoss 08-24-2017 05:23 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Hollywood Jim (Post 1519191)
Just remember that their might be one drummer in the audience who knows how to play that one song, or any song, on the drums. And I stress the word "might". And if that one drummer is disappointed, that is his or her problem. The other 1,999 people there will love it. Audiences are mostly dumb when it comes to playing a musical instrument. But they enjoy listening to someone else make music.

This is SO true when it comes to playing live. Our singer and band leader is in other bands around town & has been in the music scene here for 15 years. Knows many in the business & is always fearful that one of his musicians will start messing up & making him look bad (and thus he not getting hired by other bands).
We tell him "No one noticed...trust me", but he maintains they know & will judge us accordingly.

Makes for playing live gigs a nerve racking ordeal, but the venues pay well, so I guess it balances out.

Living Dead Drummer 08-24-2017 11:30 PM

Re: Playing it Safe or Taking a Chance
 
Don't stress.

I get nervous the first time I play with a new artist. It's the first show, so I want to make sure I do a good job and keep the gig. After that I don't feel that way anymore. Large crowds don't bother me. In fact the bigger the crowd the more comfortable I am.

If you can't nail the drum part I would say ask the band to take it off the set. You could change the part as suggested. And I agree that most people watching won't know the difference, HOWEVER I personally like to stick to the way songs are recorded.
The majority of my work is with original bands, so it's a good bet few people watching will know if I did something different, but the band will know. In my experience they want it note for note accurate, even when they tell you "do your own thing".
On the rare occasion I do a cover gig I REALLY want to play the songs accurate, because more people out there will know those songs even if they don't know the actual part.


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