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  #1  
Old 11-01-2009, 09:35 AM
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Default Super-simple drumming

There's long been controversy about Meg White's primitive approach to drumming.

Meg's playing style and sound appear to be mostly Jack White's brainchild. He came from the punk scene and was obviously attracted to playing that didn't aim to impress, and even sometimes actively tried not to be impressive.

It was a clever experiment. Get his ex, Meg, who is totally untrained to play drums ultra-simply, under his guidance. Anyone could program it into a drum machine but few drummers would have the patience for it. But Meg's amateur technique gives the music an organic feel with plenty of push and pull.

Generally we get our rhythms to groove by making them sound as simple as possible, even complex patterns. So with Meg-style the only thing you lose is the detail; the bare bones of what's needed are still there. For instance, in Icky Thump Meg sounds a helluva lot like John Bonham at times - for a few bars when she smashes back into the song after the refrains (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5roz5-wdjBg).

The only other hard-rocking bands I can think of where the drumming is even close to as simple as Meg's are The Stones and ACDC.

I see it like this. Super-simple drumming works if you have a strong singer or soloist because it pushes a listener's attention to the music's front line. After a few bars a listener realises the drumming isn't going to do anything new so their attention is immediately deflected to the stars. Either that, or the drumming can be enjoyed on a visceral level ... boom - pow!

What role does simplicity play in your drumming, if any? Or are you more attracted to complexity? What keeps you from playing more simply or more complex than you do now?
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Old 11-01-2009, 10:20 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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What role does simplicity play in your drumming, if any? Or are you more attracted to complexity? What keeps you from playing more simply or more complex than you do now?
I, for the most part, keep it simple. I listen to the song, try to figure out what I can do, as a drummer, to best compliment the song, and see if it flies. And adjust, if necessary. If I find a particular song (original) sounds familiar (example: Stone Temple Pilots), then I might ask myself, what would Eric Kretz do here? If a song sounds Beatle-esque, then I pull out my Ringo alter-persona. I never try to be Mike Portnoy.....when the songwritter sounds like Crosby, Stills and Nash. On the "other" hand, if 13/8 is what the guitarist wrote the verses in, then 13/8 it shall be. As long as the groove swings.
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Old 11-01-2009, 03:13 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post
What role does simplicity play in your drumming, if any? Or are you more attracted to complexity? What keeps you from playing more simply or more complex than you do now?
Simplicity is the foundation of my drumming. Song wise, I usually start in real stripped down (especially with jams) build it up from there. When I see heads bobbing and or people are dancing, I make sure to keep it simple. Nothing worse than watching everybody in the audience stop moving because the space gets all filled up with too many notes.
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Old 11-01-2009, 04:48 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

I think you can take a wild guess at my response to this. I like to start with questions to myself; what part do the drums play in this, what is their purpose? In most popular genres, the drums main role is to tap into that primeval human response to rhythm. The primary rhythm as I call it, should be delivered with power, authority and reserve. Anything more than fulfilling that role is flavour. Nothing wrong with flavour, but just like cooking, the dish often delivers more impact with few ingredients, beautifully prepared.

Now I can happily eat a bowl of Jersey Royal new potatoes with a little butter & chopped chives all day long. Superb dish so that is, I might get bored of that after a while. Drumming's the same. I'll typically structure a drum track such that the primary beat is dominant & naked but I'll introduce just a little flavour to keep the audience interest. Even more than that, to please myself, I'll occasionally drop a tiny chops snippet in there just the once.

I take Polly's point though. Simple drum parts shift the attention to other artists, usually the singer. This, after all, is the main purpose of a backing band. As our singer is yet to gel fully with the band and find his inner power, I may have to add a bit more pepper to the mix. Typical drummer, any excuse.
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Old 11-01-2009, 05:04 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

All of my favorite drummers keep it simple, construct remarkable grooves, and play for the song..Charlie Watts, Kenny Arnoff, Billy Kreuzmann, Ringo. Everytime I hear myself on tape I think, how can I play fewer notes and be more effective at the same time. I'm not a big fan of 16th note descending tom fills, but I use 'em if I think it works.
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Old 11-01-2009, 06:49 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

Great thread. If you think you are the main attraction, then you need a reality check. Drummers are the lowest member of the food chain, but soooo vital to a great sounding song. If you are they type that needs the spotlight, good luck finding guitar players and singers who want that. In their minds a good drummer is a person who knows their place, and doesn't cut in on their territory, ever.
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Old 11-01-2009, 07:12 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

say whatever else you would like to about Jack White, but the man understands the one thing that seperates the great artists from the mass of average musician's through time - groove

The Beatle's, AC/DC, and Johnny Cash are three of my favorites, their music is as simple as apple pie, but the groove, the feel, the rythem - the heartbeat of any good music - they could all put their finger squarely on it - and i believe Jack White can do this as well, regardless of which musician's he works with...
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Old 11-01-2009, 08:41 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post
There's long been controversy about Meg White's primitive approach to drumming.

Meg's playing style and sound appear to be mostly Jack White's brainchild. He came from the punk scene and was obviously attracted to playing that didn't aim to impress, and even sometimes actively tried not to be impressive.

It was a clever experiment. Get his ex, Meg, who is totally untrained to play drums ultra-simply, under his guidance. Anyone could program it into a drum machine but few drummers would have the patience for it. But Meg's amateur technique gives the music an organic feel with plenty of push and pull.

Generally we get our rhythms to groove by making them sound as simple as possible, even complex patterns. So with Meg-style the only thing you lose is the detail; the bare bones of what's needed are still there. For instance, in Icky Thump Meg sounds a helluva lot like John Bonham at times - for a few bars when she smashes back into the song after the refrains (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5roz5-wdjBg).

The only other hard-rocking bands I can think of where the drumming is even close to as simple as Meg's are The Stones and ACDC.

I see it like this. Super-simple drumming works if you have a strong singer or soloist because it pushes a listener's attention to the music's front line. After a few bars a listener realises the drumming isn't going to do anything new so their attention is immediately deflected to the stars. Either that, or the drumming can be enjoyed on a visceral level ... boom - pow!

What role does simplicity play in your drumming, if any? Or are you more attracted to complexity? What keeps you from playing more simply or more complex than you do now?
Keeping it simple is great for the White Stripes it works and most of their music is really good. However i must say that i do not think that Meg is a good drummer i hear a lot of people trying to disguise this by saying she holds back and doesn't play more than is needed and she is great for that etc etc. I honestly believe that Meg is not a good drummer yeah what she does fits the music but man honestly it's like she has learned the basics and nothing more. If i came on here and played something like Meg White and then announced i had been playing as long as she has, people here would say get some lessons lol. But anyhow if she had some hidden talent not even massively complicated but enough to make you go 'COOL!' i might think different but she does not wow me in any way.

As for playing. I'm a fan of making something sound cool and making it work with the guitars etc. If that requires a standard 4/4 beat then so be it, if it requires more groove and more fills then so be it. I used to think playing lots of fills etc was the key to being good. Complicated is good (now i know the error of my ways). I recently recorded a drum track for my band and i thought when i played it, it sounded too basic with not enough character to it but when i heard it back i was shocked at how good it actually sounded. Sometimes less is definitely more but even if i play simple stuff i will add in small parts to make it sound cool but i don't overdo it.
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Old 11-01-2009, 09:00 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by Ainulindale View Post
say whatever else you would like to about Jack White, but the man understands the one thing that seperates the great artists from the mass of average musician's through time - groove

The Beatle's, AC/DC, and Johnny Cash are three of my favorites, their music is as simple as apple pie, but the groove, the feel, the rythem - the heartbeat of any good music - they could all put their finger squarely on it - and i believe Jack White can do this as well, regardless of which musician's he works with...
It's always about the song. Always. And that's all that there really is.
Apart from my opinion that I don't really think that The Beatles' music is "simple". Find us another band which has an oeuvre of songs that just never leave your consciousness, and I might change that statement.
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:47 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

JT, yep. On a technical level Meg isn't a good drummer. If being a good drummer means playing in such a way that it makes the music sound great, then Meg's a good drummer.

Apart from anything else, she's not supposed to be technically strong. Jack doesn't want her to practice because he wants what she plays as is. A pretty bold creative vision IMO - an experiment that worked.

Like most experiments, the results tell us something - as per KIS's apt food analogy - that playing the bare bones clean and solid can sound outstanding. Just as a guy like Billy Cobham introduced us to a new level of complexity and virtuosity in the 70s, Meg and Jack stretched our conception the other way. We now know that extreme simplicity can sound great.

What really works IMO is the idea of making bold and clear musical statements. I've spent much of my drumming life focusing on the spices - the little hi-hat swishes, the ghost notes, ruffs, fills so as to avoid what I'd thought was an unacceptable level of unsophistication. Too often the spices came at the expense of not only the groove but also my broader vision.

Often I hear players fiddling around at the edges. I see our guitarist playing all the way through every song but never making an impact. I see good pro guitarists sit out altogether for a number of bars - leaving the floor to the others - and then when they come back in they pack a real punch that adds to the total song. That approach works with any instrument. Miles and Jeff Beck made their careers out of leaving space and then ... POW!

I enjoy killer drummers like Billy C and Dave W and Bonzo and Ian and Aaron Spears and Ron Bruner taking an equal and sometimes dominant role in the music with their bands. There is no one formula, but dozens of them. This thread is about just one forumula.

At the moment my mission is to get rid of the notion that any drum line can be too simple per se or that drumming must be impressive. My focus at present is on more clarity and catchiness and trying to play with good feel.

I've found that it's harder than it looks. It's easier to get away with mistakes if you play a lot of notes because when you mess up it just sounds like the band is not in the pocket but when you play simply and mess up there's nowhere to hide!
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:54 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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At the moment my mission is to get rid of the notion that any drum line can be too simple per se or that drumming must be impressive. My focus at present is on more clarity and catchiness and trying to play with good feel.
Mine too. I liked the way Questlove played on a tune on Al Green's latest album. He played the hi hat with his foot on 2 & 4. That was it. And it worked perfectly.

So many drummers want to crowed the music with notes and it often does not work in the big picture of the song. Yet they do not hear it. They effectively impose themselve on the music and many other musicians do not appreciate it. Myself included.

There is a drummer I like to use here in Sydney. He has a wonderful philosophy. He told me: "I like to play with a band for months before they realise I have chops."

He puts the music before his ego. This is why I call him and recomend him.

By the way, Pol has her own feel and it is nice to play with.
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Old 11-02-2009, 04:09 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

I like the concept of simplicity, but this WS lady looks like someone looks when they have to playu a drummer on camera, not an actual drummer. You know how it is, you watch a movie and the fake musicians jump right out at you. That's how I read the White Stripes player.
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Old 11-02-2009, 04:17 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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I like the concept of simplicity, but this WS lady looks like someone looks when they have to playu a drummer on camera, not an actual drummer. You know how it is, you watch a movie and the fake musicians jump right out at you. That's how I read the White Stripes player.
Good enough for a Simpsons episode. Her playing has sold many records. She's not Buddy, but I think she is okay.
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Old 11-02-2009, 04:34 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

I am all for simplicity when it fits the song, but I believe that a little more is better for the music then what she plays.

I know the White Stripes are a fairly popular band, but I personally cannot listen to their music for a long time because it all starts to blend in and sound the same to me. No real depth or a lot to keep me interested. This could be because I am biased, and as a drummer I always listen to the drum part in a song, but I also think it's the band as a whole, with no bass player and only Jack and a very limited Meg.

Personally, I enjoy to listen to one of Jack's other band's more, the Raconteurs, who are also fairly popular, but not as quite. While the drummer (whose name escapes me at the moment but he was in Modern Drummer and played with the Greenhorns) is no Cobham, he plays simply but enough for what the song calls for, and does not try to be overly simple. I think this makes the music more interesting while still being simple at the same time. I find his playing very tasteful and the music more cohesive and groovin'.

So I guess I am for simplicity in playing, while still keeping it interesting, which is how I personally try to play.
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Old 11-02-2009, 08:18 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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The only other hard-rocking bands I can think of where the drumming is even close to as simple as Meg's are The Stones and ACDC.
I prefer not to be that simple...

I understand your reasons but I reject that. If you can play a money beat...that can be replaced by a drum machine so much more easily than if you can at least be a bit more creative than those people who tell you to play a money beat. Chops, flourishes, groove patterns and making it musical can make a difference with-out being what you would call "too complicated".

Ask Chad Smith, Stewart Copeland, Dennis Chambers, John Dolmayan, Zoro and those kind of drummers and they'll tell you something along those lines. (I'm just using examples here!)

There are some who break away from that tradition eg. Mike Portnoy, Danny Carey, Niel Peart, Thomas Haake etc. but they are very good because they can give that complexity significance, make it musical and still suit the style of their bands.

...but in this cruel world, the difference is how many gigs you can get.

...and...

"Please...complexity in moderation"...take that whatever way you want, but must always have balance to make it musical.
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Old 11-02-2009, 10:31 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

Spreggy, Meg isn't a fake musician but a component of Jack's stylistic approach. I doubt that she can play paradiddles but she doesn't need to when playing packed stadiums or appearing on The Simpsons :)

Dunno about you guys but I think Meg's drum track on Icky Thump sounds fantastic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5roz5-wdj

The kit sounds great and she plays clean and with good energy. She's simple so it deflect listeners towards Jack's writing, vocals and guitar playing - which is great if you like the WS. If he was less talented then he'd need more action from the drummer.

Bassdriver, Meg couldn't be replaced by a drum machine because she sounds organic and a machine doesn't.

I like simple drumming. It heps me focus on the groove and gives the other musos more options.

In the 80s I had a call from a pro band to help them in a songwriting rehearsal. They were much better players than me - the bassist was doing all these Jaco-type licks FFS! All I could think is, "Don't stuff up!" so I played dead simple, keeping things steady while the bassist was flying all over the place. At the end the bassist complimented me on my drumming.

It's like the writer who had a conversation with a stranger. He mostly he just listened. At the end, the guy who did all the talking complimented the writer for being a great conversationalist. Music can be like that. If I was a great "conversationalist" like Chad Smith, Stewart Copeland, Dennis Chambers etc, then I'd seek to play with a more upfront style.

Interesting approach, Wy - "I like to play with a band for months before they realise I have chops". I guess he was reminding himself to stay tasteful. It takes willpower to lay back like your friend does. First we have to overcome the basic human urge to beat the tripe out of the drums (starting with pots and pans :) and then there's the urge to play all those cool things we heard people play AND the natural wish to have credibility amongst our peers.

But just grooving along sounds and feels so good ..
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Old 11-02-2009, 11:27 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post
I see it like this. Super-simple drumming works if you have a strong singer or soloist because it pushes a listener's attention to the music's front line. After a few bars a listener realises the drumming isn't going to do anything new so their attention is immediately deflected to the stars. Either that, or the drumming can be enjoyed on a visceral level ... boom - pow!
I agree with you... but I am a Who fan!
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Old 11-02-2009, 02:50 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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It's like the writer who had a conversation with a stranger. He mostly he just listened. At the end, the guy who did all the talking complimented the writer for being a great conversationalist. Music can be like that...
Great analogy! It definitely pertains to most of the stuff I play.
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Old 11-02-2009, 03:58 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

Every breath you take- The Police

Actually Stewart Copeland wanted more than just basic time keeping but Sting was opposed to that. Reviewers may say, the drumming is simple, excellent,..Copelend left space for other things, no overdrumming etc.. etc... This is just because the song has only one version.

If this song were released only with the way Stewart wanted to play, it could have been a hit as well but the point is we dont know what we missed!! and we dont what Stewart had in mind.

..my honest thought.
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Old 11-02-2009, 06:51 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

I'm a huge fan of simplicity... What you are not playing is just as important as what you do play. Space in music is sometimes a hard concept for people to understand but I think space and simplicity are what make a lot of great music swing and breathe.
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Old 11-02-2009, 07:28 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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I'm a huge fan of simplicity... What you are not playing is just as important as what you do play. Space in music is sometimes a hard concept for people to understand but I think space and simplicity are what make a lot of great music swing and breathe.

I'm a big fan of simplicity too...not Meg simplicity, but more tasteful, groovy playing.
One thing I've noticed is, as drummers, we are often obsessed by the 'drummy' drummers like Mike Portnoy, Dave Weckl, etc. It's good to be inspired by them, but if your particular genre of music doesn't call for machine-gun double bass or advanced polyrhythms, don't try to play them.
Another thing I've seen is the drummers that OTHER musicians talk about are the really classy ones...or the 'simple ones'. I've never played with anyone that said, "Hey, can you give me a 'Thomas Lang' feel here?" No, they usually know and appreciate the playing of simple, tasteful drummers like Charlie Watts, Jim Keltner, Kenny Aronoff, etc.
Just my 2 cents...
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Old 11-03-2009, 12:29 AM
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I'm a big fan of simplicity too...not Meg simplicity, but more tasteful, groovy playing.
One thing I've noticed is, as drummers, we are often obsessed by the 'drummy' drummers like Mike Portnoy, Dave Weckl, etc. It's good to be inspired by them, but if your particular genre of music doesn't call for machine-gun double bass or advanced polyrhythms, don't try to play them.
Another thing I've seen is the drummers that OTHER musicians talk about are the really classy ones...or the 'simple ones'. I've never played with anyone that said, "Hey, can you give me a 'Thomas Lang' feel here?" No, they usually know and appreciate the playing of simple, tasteful drummers like Charlie Watts, Jim Keltner, Kenny Aronoff, etc.
Just my 2 cents...
Good comment, Brady. What I like about Meg is she shows us just how deep the rabbit hole goes. She shows us how simple drumming can be just as Dave Weckl and the "drummy drummers" show us how complex it can be. Using her approach can lend a distinctive flavour to songs or song sections. It expands our options and is all grist for the mill. Just as drummers may be influenced by Dave Weckl you wouldn't expect them to take Dave's entire approach on board. The same goes for drummers at the simple end of the complexity scale like Meg.

In my experience what most musicians want from drummers is tastiness when they have their spots (most of the time) but with the ability to stretch out when they want the energy buzz of showoffy drumming. When I see how effective ultra-simplicity can be I figure that's another thing to add to my arsenal. Before Meg I never imagined such an approach to be possible, weird as that may seem. the urge to throw in "credibility building" details was irresistable :)

Last edited by Pollyanna; 11-03-2009 at 02:22 AM.
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Old 11-03-2009, 02:39 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

Simple works. Simple gets hired. Most other musicians don't care for over the top drummers. That's a fact. They want someone who knows what to do and more importantly what to leave out.

Resisting playing something just because you can is a lot harder than you think.

And simple SOUNDS good, Space sounds good. I don't like getting aurally raped when I listen to music, I wanna be transported, soothed, and pleasured.

Drums can be the most obnoxious sounding of all the instruments, in the wrong hands.
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Old 11-03-2009, 06:52 PM
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I cant explain- The Who.

This song can be played by super simple drumming , leaving space and air for breathing but may not sound as great as the original version to some rock fans.
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:04 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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I prefer not to be that simple...

I understand your reasons but I reject that. If you can play a money beat...that can be replaced by a drum machine so much more easily than if you can at least be a bit more creative than those people who tell you to play a money beat. Chops, flourishes, groove patterns and making it musical can make a difference with-out being what you would call "too complicated".

Ask Chad Smith, Stewart Copeland, Dennis Chambers, John Dolmayan, Zoro and those kind of drummers and they'll tell you something along those lines. (I'm just using examples here!)

.
I see your point about adding flavor and making a unique part. Even in the slower laid back tunes I play, I like add something to make it original like ghost notes or extra hi-hat note.
However, I have to disagree about the simple drumming being replaced by a drum machine. I used to think like that too about simple playing when I was younger, but I realized that the imperfections by a drummer add so much more to feel of a tune.
Drum machines sound good in Techno, Hip-Hop, or Industrial music. A human playing the money beat will groove so much better than the drum machine in Rock, Punk, or Fusion.
Could you imagine The Ramones using a drum machine? No Way!
He rarely plays fills, and usually plays four on the floor on almost every song but the energy and tempo fluctuations make the song move much harder.
Drums are not typically a lead instrument (except for maybe Fusion, or Prog.) and meant to provide a back beat but you can play simple beats and add subtle things to make it you own. Heavy parts of songs, drum breaks or solo's, are a chance to use your chops.

And on another note, I always thought John Dolmayan was more along the line of a Keep it Simple player. He usually adds 2 extra notes the snare or does 16th's on the hi-hat to add tension and doesn't play drum fills very much, in the traditional sense. I like SOAD and would definitley say the whole group influenced my playing though.
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:41 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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I see it like this. Super-simple drumming works if you have a strong singer or soloist because it pushes a listener's attention to the music's front line.
Drumming doesn't need to be complicated. Most of the excitement in pop music - even funk - comes from guitars, keys, horns and bass... not the drums. But as always, the music at hand, and the genre somewhat, will dictate what the drums do, not the other way around. I don't think anyone should be surprised that simplicity works so well, and so often.

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What keeps you from playing more simply or more complex than you do now?
I try to play exactly what the music dictates, without trying to make it 'mine' or influence in a way that's distracting or incongruent with rhythms that serve the genre. Unless instructed otherwise, it's not my mission to put a fresh spin on something just because.

So, I suppose the rules I follow, or some will say the box I appear to be stuck in, are what keep me in touch with the music, and also keep me working. And 99% of the time, those rules say keep it simple.

With regard to Meg White specifically, my boss and I recently cut a track as an homage to the White Stripes, and as usual, it was my job to get inside her head and figure out why she plays what she plays, and approach the session as if she had been called to do it. We also played the track live on Jimmy Fallon last week - see http://bit.ly/2KK4Yg - and the parts work perfectly, as do the parts that Meg plays with Jack.

Should her parts be different? Would their songs sound better with more complex drumming? I think not. One thing we need to understand when we hear music, is that we're hearing the parts that the artist wants us to hear... or else they wouldn't have released them!

The only artist I can think of that always wished things could sound different was Zappa, who was constantly replacing musicians in an effort to achieve that. Who knows if he was ever satisfied?

Anyway, simplicity rules. Always has, and in our lifetime, always will.

Bermuda
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:55 PM
jon e rotten jon e rotten is offline
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post

At the moment my mission is to get rid of the notion that any drum line can be too simple per se or that drumming must be impressive. My focus at present is on more clarity and catchiness and trying to play with good feel.
I was in the exact same mindset a couple of years ago. I thought other musicians would understand and appreciate this approach, but that didn't really seem to be the case.

Everyone says they want Phill Rudd behind the kit, but there is a reason everyone, even non-musicians, know who Neil Peart is. To make a baseball analogy "chicks dig the longball".
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Old 11-04-2009, 12:03 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Everyone says they want Phill Rudd behind the kit, but there is a reason everyone, even non-musicians, know who Neil Peart is.
Well, I doubt that most non-musicians know who Peart is, and certainly nowhere near the familiarity of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ringo, and probably Keith Moon.

And to be certain, there are bands that require more than basic beats. But in the scheme of music for the masses, technical skills represent a small minority of what most people listen to.

It's not good, or bad, or whatever, that's just how it is.

That doesn't mean drummers shouldn't learn and desire and hope for a gig where they can show off, but it does mean those drummers are going to have to play Mustang Sally and Brown Eyed Girl and Jenny/867-5309 a lot before they might possibly, if they're very lucky, make any money being more technical.

That's not fair or unfair, it's just the way it is. Perhaps in 30-50 years when everyone who likes blues and oldies and danceable rock & pop are dead, working bands will have to play Primus and Rush and early Genesis for a bit of nostalgia.

I don't know why this hasn't changed yet, but it hasn't.

Going beyond the norm may be enticing, but it's still not easy.

Bermuda
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Old 11-04-2009, 04:11 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

If you want to trance out the folk on the dance floor, keep it simple yet with heavy groove! Trance drumming doesnt change but it does grow in intensity though.
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Old 11-04-2009, 05:02 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Well, I doubt that most non-musicians know who Peart is, and certainly nowhere near the familiarity of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ringo, and probably Keith Moon.

And to be certain, there are bands that require more than basic beats. But in the scheme of music for the masses, technical skills represent a small minority of what most people listen to.

It's not good, or bad, or whatever, that's just how it is.

That doesn't mean drummers shouldn't learn and desire and hope for a gig where they can show off, but it does mean those drummers are going to have to play Mustang Sally and Brown Eyed Girl and Jenny/867-5309 a lot before they might possibly, if they're very lucky, make any money being more technical.

That's not fair or unfair, it's just the way it is. Perhaps in 30-50 years when everyone who likes blues and oldies and danceable rock & pop are dead, working bands will have to play Primus and Rush and early Genesis for a bit of nostalgia.

I don't know why this hasn't changed yet, but it hasn't.

Going beyond the norm may be enticing, but it's still not easy.

Bermuda
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  #31  
Old 11-04-2009, 10:50 AM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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I was in the exact same mindset a couple of years ago. I thought other musicians would understand and appreciate this approach, but that didn't really seem to be the case.
It depends on the musos, doesn't it? What I notice is that most pros seem to play a lot simpler than non-pros most of the time. But what they play has better dynamics and (especially) timing, and it brings out more in the songs - that is, makes the songs communicate more clearly.

I also hear some of the more sophisticated top drummers play difficult parts, but you only realise it when you try it yourself. It's as though they try to make their parts sound as simple as possible. On the other hand I've heard hobbyists and semi-pros (including me in my old rocking life) try to make the simpler things they play sound as impressive as possible. The thinking behind each approach it pretty clear :)

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Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
With regard to Meg White specifically, my boss and I recently cut a track as an homage to the White Stripes, and as usual, it was my job to get inside her head and figure out why she plays what she plays, and approach the session as if she had been called to do it. We also played the track live on Jimmy Fallon last week - see http://bit.ly/2KK4Yg - and the parts work perfectly, as do the parts that Meg plays with Jack.

Should her parts be different? Would their songs sound better with more complex drumming? I think not. One thing we need to understand when we hear music, is that we're hearing the parts that the artist wants us to hear... or else they wouldn't have released them!
Haha - love the wig, Bermuda. Perhaps a bit dark :)

You imitation was maybe a bit too sophisticated and the timing was a bit too good, and you moved too ... butchly (to coin a word) but for me you otherwise captured the essence of Meg extremely well. Did you find it fun to play like that? I reckon it looked like fun :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
I try to play exactly what the music dictates, without trying to make it 'mine' or influence in a way that's distracting or incongruent with rhythms that serve the genre. Unless instructed otherwise, it's not my mission to put a fresh spin on something just because.
I like very much.
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  #32  
Old 11-04-2009, 03:08 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

Great posts here in favor of the simple approach. To me, musicians sound more mature after they get past the "I'm gonna impress you" stage.

Also, I have to say, having Bermuda input here is such an asset. This man is in the thick of things, yet is cool enough to let us in. Bermuda, I have to ask, did you used to wear Bermuda Shorts alot? Is that how you got the nickname? BTW, I caught your inside cover in Modern Drummer this month. I'm like, yea I know this dude, kinda.....
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Old 11-04-2009, 04:32 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Most of the excitement in pop music - even funk - comes from guitars, keys, horns and bass... not the drums. Bermuda
Dear Bermuda, although I completely agree with most of your thoughts, I do think you're underestimating the excitement delivered by the drums in most popular music. The ability of simple beats, powerfully & dynamically performed, to excite the listener is huge. Such beatwork taps into the primeval rhythms that are imprinted in our brain and syncronise with our own electrical rhythms flowing through our body. Take a look at video footage of any popular music concert. You'll see the audience doing two things. They're reciting the lyrics to the song they know so well and gyrating to the beat. Ok, you could say that the beatwork merely acts as a vehicle for the other performance elements, but I think it's much more than that.

All of this brings me back to the central point, simple is, to all but musicians, the only way to deliver the foundation of a good performance and drums play at least an equal part in that. Any musician who believes playing simple parts that deliver on all levels is easy, has yet to learn their craft. Nothing wrong with adding a bit of spice or flavour to the mix, but be aware that doing so will serve only to personalise the performance. The more spice you add, the fewer people will appreciate the experience, until you get to the point were you're playing to the smallest audience in the world, musicians!
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  #34  
Old 11-04-2009, 04:53 PM
jon e rotten jon e rotten is offline
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
Well, I doubt that most non-musicians know who Peart is, and certainly nowhere near the familiarity of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ringo, and probably Keith Moon.

And to be certain, there are bands that require more than basic beats. But in the scheme of music for the masses, technical skills represent a small minority of what most people listen to.

It's not good, or bad, or whatever, that's just how it is.

That doesn't mean drummers shouldn't learn and desire and hope for a gig where they can show off, but it does mean those drummers are going to have to play Mustang Sally and Brown Eyed Girl and Jenny/867-5309 a lot before they might possibly, if they're very lucky, make any money being more technical.

That's not fair or unfair, it's just the way it is. Perhaps in 30-50 years when everyone who likes blues and oldies and danceable rock & pop are dead, working bands will have to play Primus and Rush and early Genesis for a bit of nostalgia.

I don't know why this hasn't changed yet, but it hasn't.

Going beyond the norm may be enticing, but it's still not easy.

Bermuda
For fun I took a little poll around my office (civil engineering office, so not a bastion of hippness). I asked 10 people between the ages of 30 and 50 if they knew who the drummers on your list were, and I included Peart:

Peart = 7 Rich = 3 Krupa = 0 Ringo = 10 Moon = 7

Ringo is pretty obvious, but I was a little suprised by how many people knew of Moon.
The age of the people polled probably caused Krupa and Rich to be so low, but still, only Ringo could be considered a "keep it simple" drummer and at least part of his fame is due to circumstance.

I started a thread awhile back called "underplaying" about this same issue. I am not a Niel Peart fan at all, and get into frequent agruments about his drumming with non-drummers, but the guy has certainly made an impact/impression, and that is my point.

I to enjoy simpler drumming, but does it really get you hired? At some point you have to make an impression on people. I've heard Robben Ford (who happens to be my favorite guitarist) say, "Everyone would like a drummer who justs plays 2 and 4", but then every time I see him live he's got some kick*ss drummer who's doing anything but that.

No one wants to hear a crappy drummer trying to show off, and I think it goes without saying that keeping time is the most important thing, but in a live situation I think people want to be inspired and entertained and 'super-simple' drumming may not always work.
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Old 11-04-2009, 06:01 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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You imitation was maybe a bit too sophisticated and the timing was a bit too good, and you moved too ... butchly (to coin a word) but for me you otherwise captured the essence of Meg extremely well. Did you find it fun to play like that? I reckon it looked like fun :)
Can't do anything about the timing, Al is married to clicks or at best, an occasional tempo map. Let's just say that we cut the original track the way Jack probably would have preferred. :)

I didn't really get to act like Meg much, not compared to the video where I was a little more dreamy and less under the gun of a live performance. And that was literally the first time we'd played the song live, so we'll get some 'choreography' down for the tour next summer. Hopefully Al won't make me do the flirty stuff that Jack and Meg have done onstage. :O

I find it fun to play drums, so yeah, even the simple, mindless stuff is fun for me. If Al had come to me with no instruction about copping a White Stripes feel, and I didn't already know how Meg approaches songs, I would have played a very similar part... perhaps playing 8ths on the hat instead of 1/4 notes, and probably not bashing the crash. But pretty straight 2 & 4 really serves that song. It's raw, it's great.

Bermuda
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Old 11-04-2009, 06:08 PM
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Dear Bermuda, although I completely agree with most of your thoughts, I do think you're underestimating the excitement delivered by the drums in most popular music. The ability of simple beats, powerfully & dynamically performed, to excite the listener is huge.
Of course. When I said 'excitement in pop music' I meant that the drums didn't have to be busy... that the other instruments often create the funk and energy via stabs and syncopation and runs. I didn't mean to imply that playing straight time without a little 'oomph' would be sufficient to drive a band.

I like to think I'm good at providing a solid, confident backbone for the bands I play with, and I've been told I play with "economy and authority", a line I rather like. :)

Bermuda
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Old 11-04-2009, 06:19 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Also, I have to say, having Bermuda input here is such an asset. This man is in the thick of things, yet is cool enough to let us in. Bermuda, I have to ask, did you used to wear Bermuda Shorts alot? Is that how you got the nickname? BTW, I caught your inside cover in Modern Drummer this month. I'm like, yea I know this dude, kinda.....
Thank you, and I hope I don't sound like an elder statesman reflecting on days of yore. Then again, I'm playing/programming all the stuff the 'kids' are playing and listening to, so I'm somehow strangely current for being in the business for over 35 years. But I'm happy to add some perspective here and there, and I learn a lot as well. I wish I could say that some of the age-old notions about music and playing and audiences were evolving, but little has changed in the rock era, which is regarded as 50+ years in progress.

Al gave me the nickname Bermuda very early, when he thought we should both have names in quotations. By the time Jim and Steve came along a year later, it seemed less important the band to have nicknames... but I kept mine. :)

Bermuda
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  #38  
Old 11-04-2009, 06:29 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by jon e rotten View Post
For fun I took a little poll around my office (civil engineering office, so not a bastion of hippness). I asked 10 people between the ages of 30 and 50 if they knew who the drummers on your list were, and I included Peart:

Peart = 7 Rich = 3 Krupa = 0 Ringo = 10 Moon = 7
I'm a little surprised at both the Peart and Krupa recognitions, but you're right, age is probably a factor. I guess because even middle-aged folk grew up listening to at least the Beatles, possibly Hendrix, Cream and Led Zep, and rock bands in the 70s, they might be familiar with the band members.

It occurred to me that at least 2 more drummers have probably become household names by now: Tommy Lee and Travis Barker.

I wonder where a more scientific poll could be conducted to find out the average-person recognition of names already familiar to the drumming & music community, like Bonham, Max Roach, Mitch Mitchell, Joe Morello, Mike Portnoy, Jim Keltner, etc. You'd almost have to do it on the street, as web responses could be influenced by a discussion of the names, or people doing a quick search and answering based on that.

I've obviously got too much time on my hands today.

Bermuda
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  #39  
Old 11-05-2009, 02:38 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by Bermuda
Can't do anything about the timing, Al is married to clicks or at best, an occasional tempo map. Let's just say that we cut the original track the way Jack probably would have preferred. :)

I didn't really get to act like Meg much, not compared to the video where I was a little more dreamy and less under the gun of a live performance. And that was literally the first time we'd played the song live, so we'll get some 'choreography' down for the tour next summer. Hopefully Al won't make me do the flirty stuff that Jack and Meg have done onstage. :O

I find it fun to play drums, so yeah, even the simple, mindless stuff is fun for me. If Al had come to me with no instruction about copping a White Stripes feel, and I didn't already know how Meg approaches songs, I would have played a very similar part... perhaps playing 8ths on the hat instead of 1/4 notes, and probably not bashing the crash. But pretty straight 2 & 4 really serves that song. It's raw, it's great.

Bermuda
Al could have remained married to the click and just had a quickie with Meg (so to speak) for maximum effect, but it probably only makes a difference to the handful of nerdy WS fans out there. No big deal.

I've not heard of a tempo map before. An alternative to a click?

"Dreamy" is a great word to describe Meg's drumming demeanour - sort of ta-la-la skipping through the fields while demurely beating the tripe out of the kit. I guess how Al chooses to interact with you next tour in that number will tell you just how weird he is :)

I like this comment:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bermuda
that the other instruments often create the funk and energy via stabs and syncopation and runs
I hear you doing that on the kit too, Bermuda. Beat beat beat DUM!-DA!-DUM! I like drummers who are like meerkats - they stay out of sight for much of the time but make an impact when they pop their heads up.

Playing with economy and authority ... I hope to achieve the latter before retirement age.

I asked a woman (Gen Xer) at work if she could name any drummers at all. Phil Collins was the only one. Of the four drummers listed she'd heard of Ringo.

This suggests the kind impact we drummers seem to have on most people :) ... at least as individuals.
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Old 11-05-2009, 06:31 PM
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Default Re: Super-simple drumming

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Originally Posted by Pollyanna View Post
Al could have remained married to the click and just had a quickie with Meg (so to speak) for maximum effect, but it probably only makes a difference to the handful of nerdy WS fans out there. No big deal.

I've not heard of a tempo map before. An alternative to a click?
A tempo map is simply a click that's got fluctualtions built-in, as not every song sounds 'good' when one exact tempo is applied. Some things sound more natural if allowed to move a bit in sections, such as a chorus being 2bpm faster. It doesn't sound out of time, it's very subtle, but it would sound draggy if allowed to stay at the same tempo as the verse.

We've 'engineered' tempos a number of times. Earliest I recall was Smells Like Nirvana, where doing the song in perfect time just didn't sound right, so the choruses were sped up a bit to match Nirvana's energy. But when you listen to Nirvana play Teen Spirit, it doesn't sound like it fluctuates, it just sounds right for the music. In fact, the tempos are all over the place.

So we could have created some natural sounding fluctuations for the WS soundalike, but it sounds right at a perfect tempo, too. For live, if we weren't running a video, I wouldn't be on a click, we'd just go for it. It's only guitar and drums, and the guitar player and I work very well together time-wise.

Bermuda
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