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  #1  
Old 07-09-2016, 07:50 PM
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Default Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Let me start with two observations: 1) I watched a recording of me playing with a recent band and noticed most of the (un-mic'd) fast cymbal and hi hat work I was putting so much effort into, was largely unheard by the audience. 2) a number of gigs by pro bands where by accident or design you could barely hear cymbals but toms were high in the mix, and sounded great.

So, ignoring certain genres (eg funk/disco, loud rock/metal, jazz), and appreciating drums should be hit louder than cymbals, should maintaining fast and complex hi hat or ride work take second priority to tom fills? That's not been my usual approach, but I'm increasingly thinking I'm wrong, and possibly I'm wasting effort on fast/complex cymbalwork. I'm not talking crashes or other accent effects.

Example: currently working on a cover of Boys of Summer. The original has loads of percussion effects, echo, synthetic sounds (and I'm assuming drum machine at least for the hihat?) which is a very distinctive part of the song's sound. But, I'm just not good enough to both maintain that hihat rhythm and also add tom fills, eg in the instrumental section. So which do I choose to take priority? Keep a basic pedalled hihat stomp going while I'm adding fills? I don't want to use backing tracks.
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Old 07-09-2016, 08:14 PM
Matt Bo Eder
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

My first consideration when playing any song is laying down the time and not screwing that up. So in your case, laying down the solid foundation trumps getting any syncopated tom fills in there correctly. In fact, if I couldn't execute the fills, I'd come up with something else. A lot of drummers don't realize that their part, although it could be identifiable, is just not as important as the other instrumental parts or the vocal. On this Henley song you could play a straight cut-time country beat and no one would notice so long as the band didn't alter their parts.

I'm all for covering songs correctly though, but unless you bring along a drum machine to play the other half of the drum part, you can't really cover it 100% - this is why I recommend playing something, but it doesnt have to be 100% correct. Just don't mess up the time because you're the bedrock of the song.
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Old 07-09-2016, 11:01 PM
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Winston_Wolf Winston_Wolf is offline
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

I agree with Bo, the time must be the main thing because that's what the drummer is for.

Talking specifically about The Boys of Summer, I'd look into how the Eagles have played it live. No drum machine, and I think the part strikes the right balance of what things can be played on the drum set to drive the song while evoking all of that drum machine busyness.
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Old 07-10-2016, 01:33 AM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Thanks guys, good advice I'm going to have a complete rethink how I use hihat, de-emphasise it. And looking up the live Eagles version is surprisingly dissimilar to the record version so yeah that confirms both your comments!

I might even remove my hihat stand from some practicing and see how that inspires me!
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Old 07-10-2016, 02:18 AM
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Morrisman Morrisman is offline
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Excellent thread. I've recently seen audience videos from gigs where I couldn't hear my hihats at all, so I can relate. I often do doubles and left hand ghost strokes on my hihat, but this didn't show up on video.

I've also had to learn Boys of Summer recently. I've chosen to play the hihat & click part in the opening, then for the riff I add the kick every two bars plus one snare hit on the last beat of each phrase. For the verse and chorus I play a basic quarter note rock beat. In the verse I mostly play the kick only on beat 1. In the chorus I play kick on 1 and 3, plus some extras at times. I haven't bothered with toms much. Maybe I should?
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Old 07-10-2016, 03:44 AM
FlayOtters FlayOtters is offline
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Remember, you're a drummer not a cymbaler.
I think tricky hi hat work sounds good (and impresses other drummers -- like me) on teh YouTubes, but good tom fills sound best (strongest) live.
Unless you're playing quiet, open jazz, high end subtleties tend to get lost.

Keith Moon toured without a hi hat for a while, just double bass drums and crashing cymbals. But, of course, his style was very... particular. :)
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Old 07-10-2016, 04:18 AM
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Pocket-full-of-gold Pocket-full-of-gold is offline
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

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Originally Posted by FlayOtters View Post
.......high end subtleties tend to get lost.......
Often times I'm not convinced that's a bad thing though. Subtleties and nuances can really add to the overall feel without actually becoming an identifying characteristic of it. A casual listener isn't quite able to distinguish why something feels a certain way, but take that subtlety away and something is noticeably missing.

Ghost notes are a classic example. I've seen a million threads here where guys are asking how to make their ghost notes "pop" so that they are noticed. More often than not I think that misses the point of adding them. They work best when they stay 'behind the scenes' and allow the accents to pop. They can help create a tension, drive, or even a release, that enhances everything else around them. I believe little subtle hi hat flourishes can be used in much the same way......as a groove enhancer as opposed to actually trying to define the groove. They are able to create a texture that simply "implies" a feel, rather than creating it in their own right.

Of course none of this helps the OP much. It appears he has to make the decision that all cover bands eventually come to when trying to represent sounds that have been layered on tape, (to which my advice would be to play the part that would sound most noticeable to a casual listener if it wasn't played). But I thought the issue of subtlety warranted further discussion. My take is, just 'cos it isn't immediately audible, doesn't mean it shouldn't be included.
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Old 07-10-2016, 04:31 AM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

I agree about ghost notes - you see drummers on video clips doing all kinds of stuff with their left hand, but all you can hear is 2 & 4...
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Old 07-10-2016, 04:46 AM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

I think you're talking about a couple of different things here - your first question being about nuanced playing that can go unheard in the muddle of a high-volume gig, and the second being how to reproduce an overly produced song with a lot of e-drum effects with an acoustic kit.

The nuances of cymbal playing should be just that - nuanced. Felt, not necessarily heard. They should help to push the groove forward without necessarily injecting themselves into it. And the fact of the matter is, not everything you do in a volume-intensive gig will be heard, no matter what your instrument is. (Except your guitarist. If he touches his finger to the wood of his instrument, his amp is probably turned up so high you would hear it go thump.)

As for the Boys of Summer: The Ataris did a great punk cover of it; also you have apparently heard Don and the Eagles do it live. Get the feel and don't worry about all those hits. If you have a keyboard player, have him do some of those noises. If not, just get it as right as can be and make it feel good. Same goes for all such songs.
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Old 07-10-2016, 05:31 AM
Matt Bo Eder
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

I remember reading a Liberty DeVitto interview from the 80s and he said then, all he used was a standard 5-piece kit with an extra 10" tom, and two crashes, hats and a medium ride. He said when you play arenas, nobody can tell the difference between the different sizes of crash cymbals, and presenting alot of different tom tones just gets lost. That made alot of sense to me, but this was before he became a Sabian artist and then for the live shows he played after that he had ALOT of cymbals and maybe a couple of extra drums!

But when you think about Charlie Watts, 4 drums, a couple of crashes, ride and hats, you aren't missing anything there, either ;)
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  #11  
Old 07-10-2016, 04:21 PM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Thanks, all thought provoking ideas. Mention of nuance and ghost notes reminds me of David Garibaldi discussing making ghost notes quieter, and emphasising the main beats with maybe rim shots. So increasing the dynamic range between the rhythm and nuances. Maybe I don't do that enough, and both cymbals and tom fills are either (loud) accents or (quieter) nuances? All food for thought!
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Old 07-14-2016, 03:28 AM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

I think a tamborine and hats would make the "Boys of Summer"really work. Forget any special effects.
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Old 07-15-2016, 08:17 PM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

The lesson I get from this post is the importance of listening to a recording of the band after the show. If you hadn't heard that recording, you'd still be struggling to supply some fancy licks that no-one ever hears.

I record every rehearsal and review what worked and what sucked. I've learned a lot this way, much of it discouraging but all of it helpful!
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Old 07-15-2016, 09:57 PM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

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Old 07-16-2016, 03:18 AM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Sounds like the typical band that isn't good enough and doesn't have enough players to cover the songs they need to play to get the gig, so they play the songs the way they would play any other song and just totally butcher the song in a horrible way, hoping that if they play it bad enough it will make the other simpler stuff sound acceptable or good. It happens a lot to funk songs and songs with subtle rhythms. Fundamentally what happens, is that the guitarist or bassist isn't good enough or nuanced enough to fill in the rhythms so they just pound it out. Remember, the drummer isn't the only one with rhythm. Happens "a lot".
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Old 07-16-2016, 04:08 AM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pocket-full-of-gold View Post
Often times I'm not convinced that's a bad thing though. Subtleties and nuances can really add to the overall feel without actually becoming an identifying characteristic of it. A casual listener isn't quite able to distinguish why something feels a certain way, but take that subtlety away and something is noticeably missing.

Ghost notes are a classic example. I've seen a million threads here where guys are asking how to make their ghost notes "pop" so that they are noticed. More often than not I think that misses the point of adding them. They work best when they stay 'behind the scenes' and allow the accents to pop. They can help create a tension, drive, or even a release, that enhances everything else around them. I believe little subtle hi hat flourishes can be used in much the same way......as a groove enhancer as opposed to actually trying to define the groove. They are able to create a texture that simply "implies" a feel, rather than creating it in their own right.

Of course none of this helps the OP much. It appears he has to make the decision that all cover bands eventually come to when trying to represent sounds that have been layered on tape, (to which my advice would be to play the part that would sound most noticeable to a casual listener if it wasn't played). But I thought the issue of subtlety warranted further discussion. My take is, just 'cos it isn't immediately audible, doesn't mean it shouldn't be included.
Good stuff right there. Play the ghosts. Don't worry if they're not heard.

Don't discount the "behind the scenes" stuff.
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  #17  
Old 07-17-2016, 12:12 AM
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Default Re: Choose between playing toms or cymbals

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmoothOperator View Post
Sounds like the typical band that isn't good enough and doesn't have enough players to cover the songs they need to play to get the gig, so they play the songs the way they would play any other song and just totally butcher the song in a horrible way, hoping that if they play it bad enough it will make the other simpler stuff sound acceptable or good. It happens a lot to funk songs and songs with subtle rhythms. Fundamentally what happens, is that the guitarist or bassist isn't good enough or nuanced enough to fill in the rhythms so they just pound it out. Remember, the drummer isn't the only one with rhythm. Happens "a lot".
V helpful replies from everyone, thank you! And SmoothOperator you raise an interesting point I've often felt playing with some bands where sometimes the guitars are only aiming (roughly) at playing on the beat, when oftentimes the feel of the song is all about what happens between the beats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by larryace View Post
Good stuff right there. Play the ghosts. Don't worry if they're not heard.

Don't discount the "behind the scenes" stuff.
Yes! Thanks everyone for reminding me to 'keep the faith' in those nuances! :)
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