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  #1  
Old 12-11-2010, 09:32 PM
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Default Knowing your band's lyrics?

It kinda seems like I'm the only drummer at most of the shows I've been to where the drummers aren't mouthing the lyrics to their songs at some point. I literally have no idea what the lyrics are.

This the same for anyone else?
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Old 12-11-2010, 09:42 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Not for me...I wanna know what the song is about. For some reason, I don't like seeing drummers mouth the lyrics, but I do hope they know what the singer is singing about. It's part of understanding the feeling that the song is trying to convey. Is it a sad song? A happy song? An angry song? It's about transcending the notes and really understanding the human emotion that provided the inspiration and reason for that song. When I understand the song, then I can play a more thoughtful drum part that somehow conveys the feeling and doesn't clash with it. Or not. It's music! But you should understand, yes.
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Old 12-11-2010, 09:58 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

When I joined the originals bands I've been in, I chose not only because of the quality of the music, but also for the lyrics and what they say. In some cases, I wrote or contributed to the lyrics, so they have meaning to me. They also give me solid guideposts as to where certain hits or cues are, as well as the changes. Having said that, many times the vocalist is turned down in my monitor so if they decide to phrase off the beat to make a dramatic effect, it doesn't throw me off.
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Old 12-12-2010, 02:06 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I don't see how one could be in an original band and not know what the lyrics are, at least not after going through enough rehearsals and such.
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Old 12-12-2010, 06:36 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I sometimes mouth the lyrics of songs and, as Larry suggested, I think it looks goofy. Unfortunately, I can no more control my poise when I play drums than when playing tennis. I just do it and if it looks goofy, then too bad - that's the package, take it or leave it.

I don't think it's as important to know all the lyrics of a song than to understand the general thrust and message and the rises and falls ... you might not want to sound thrilled during the Thrill Is Gone or exuberant during You Don't Know What Love Is. Still, most times we take our emotional cues from the singer's accents and inflections without knowing the fine detail. When it comes to emoting songs, drums paint with a pretty broad brush.

Occasionally, it's fun to take a Zappaesque program music approach to lyrics, eg. I play "whooshy" cymbals in Wild Is the Wind, but you have to pick your mark carefully or it comes across as crass. About 30 years ago I used a trigger to do whooping sounds to mimic a police siren just after the line "They were broken up by the boys in blue" - it wasn't exactly fine art :) I knew the lyrics to that tune because I wrote them and at the time I was really into Zappa.
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Old 12-12-2010, 07:07 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

For me, the lyrics are mainly useful to learn (at least in a cursory manner) because that tells you exactly where you are in the song.
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Old 12-12-2010, 07:20 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Martin Chambers (Pretenders) was interviewed once...the interviewer brought lyrics for Chrissie´s (Hynde) songs. Martin was intrigued and wanted to know what they were. he had no idea.

i think the interview was from a Shure Microphone brochure ad from the early 2000´s.
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Old 12-12-2010, 07:37 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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For me, the lyrics are mainly useful to learn (at least in a cursory manner) because that tells you exactly where you are in the song.
LOL....until the singer screws up the timing, and/or the words.
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Old 12-12-2010, 10:43 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I don't usually know the lyrics to one of my bands' songs until I hear a recording, which can be months or even years after the song first surfaces at rehearsals and gigs. I'm always very interested to know what they are, but I can't work them out from what I hear live.
Actually, the singer in one band, who I live with, often says that he doesn't remember what they are either...
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Old 12-12-2010, 01:11 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I always know what the words are, or at least my interpretation of what the words are. As Larry said, keeping the lyrics running through my head is how I adjust the dynamics of my playing. I cant say that I know every word, Im not sure our singer does either, but thats another thread all together, I do however know the feeling and phrasing of the words as well as any guitar riff or bass line.
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Old 12-12-2010, 01:55 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I won't say whether or not you should learn the lyrics word for word, but can't help but wonder, as was said previously, how you could play and practice and not know most of them. I also remember Neil Peart saying in one interview that he doesn't count as he plays but sings along to himself to stay in the song.
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Old 12-12-2010, 03:31 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

When I play along to music the lyrics help me with my timing. However I can't sing and play at the same time. I don't know how some drummers do it like Don Henley and Dean Castranova from Journey.
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Old 12-12-2010, 04:42 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I only mouth the lyrics so that it appears that I know them and I am singing backup.
I really don't know the complete words to any of our songs.
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Old 12-12-2010, 07:01 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Through repetition I know most of the words to the songs we play, but I didn't really make an effort to learn them, except where the drum parts cue off the lyrics.

Funny story though - I once was asked to audition for an originals band after the singer heard me play. I auditioned with the guitarist, basically, though the singer was there - I think she sang, but I didn't have a monitor and couldn't really hear the words. Anyway, I got the gig, and we started preparing to record an album. Only then did I realize I had joined a Christian rock band! Not really my thing, but I stayed with that gig for about two years. :-)
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Old 12-12-2010, 08:07 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Unless I'm singing - which is rare - I'm not concerned with knowing the lyrics per se, any more than I'd need to know what key a song is in. But it is important for me to know where the lyrics are just so I don't step on them, and can cue off of them now and then.

But no, I've never mouthed lyrics or sung along with songs unless it was required.

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Old 12-13-2010, 04:10 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Funny thing about that... I usually don't know what the lyrics are to the songs I'm playing. I'm not proud of that fact, and often ask the singer to share with me what they are, but in my experience, they're often reluctant, unwilling, or at least flakey about sharing. My failing has been in not following up.

But in my defense, I don't like rehearsing without vocals. The fact is that I more or less consider the human voice as another instrument - and a really important one. Apart from locking in with the bass player, I'm perhaps most keyed in to the vocal parts. But it doesn't mean that I need to know what the words are, unless there's something there to cue off of.

I played in a band with a singer who was a heroin addict and I didn't have a clue. He had songs about it that, upon hearing the words later, made it quite clear what he was up against. I was pretty embarrassed to have never picked up on his habit having been exposed to his declaration of it every time we played that particular song. (he's been a clean and sober family guy for the last 15 years, FWIW)

Here's a first: The band I've been playing with the last few months has a singer that is more than willing to share her lyrics. She just emailed them all to me earlier today and I didn't even have to ask! Pretty dang cool, if you ask me. Really good lyrics, too (and what a relief!).
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Old 12-13-2010, 04:46 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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and often ask the singer to share with me what they are, but in my experience, they're often reluctant, unwilling, or at least flakey about sharing. .
Wow. That would be a red flag. I've found most singers are proud of what they wrote and want everyone to know!

And I can't imagine not being aware. If it's my band (i.e. not a hired gun), I'd want to know what the band is representing lyrically. I mean, what if the singer is singing about something controversial or illegal. I'd want to know, as it is it's a reflection of where my career is going (or not going).

And if the lyrics are really dumb, I'd have to question the point of being in the band.

I'm not saying I have to agree with or like every line or every song (because at times, I've not), or knowing every line, but I can't imagine not having a clue.

If it's a cover band, or you're just hired for the night, week, tour, whatever, then yeah, I guess it doesn't matter. But if you're a band member...
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Old 12-13-2010, 04:46 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

When I was playing originals, many I knew. Many more I didn't and many more again, I thought I knew......until we recorded and I heard an acurate playback. I can recall numerous times where I was surprised at what was actually being said, as opposed to what I thought they were. Personally, I like Bermuda's approach....."I'm not concerned with knowing the lyrics per se, any more than I'd need to know what key a song is in. But it is important for me to know where the lyrics are just so I don't step on them."

Can relate to the hammer addict Mike......I've had one of those too. I'm pretty convinced HE didn't know the lyrics from one week to the next either.....alas, neither he or his lyrics are around for it to matter now anyway.
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:53 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I never knew what the lyrics were in the very few original rock bands I played in. I guess it just didn't matter to me. I was there to play the drums. For all I knew the singer was going "blah blah blah blah." Anyway that's what it sounded like through the monitors. :)
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Old 12-13-2010, 06:00 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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... and many more again, I thought I knew......until we recorded and I heard an acurate playback.
I sooo relate to that ... not proud to say I'm the mondegreen queen. Not just my band's songs but almost everything. In my defence, I never thought Jimi wanted to excuse himself so he could "kiss this guy" ...

We're learning Eagle Rock for NYE as a joke (I hope it's a joke). I was trying to sing the backup vocs on first run through ... "Good old(?) Eagle Rock ... da da da da da ... I'm just crazy about the way you [sic] move ... doinnnn the Eagle Rock". Pathetic! Guess I never paid much attention to the song :)

Our singer gave me a quick primer afterwards so I could wrap my simple drummer head around the complexity of it all ...
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:40 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

My new group is a 2 piece, the singer/pianist and I write all the songs cooperatively. We both sing so I really have to know all the lyrics. Even if I were just playing the drums I suppose I have the personality that need to know everything about the song. After our practice today I snuck behind her keyboard and started learning her piano part for one of our songs. I'm weird I guess...
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Old 12-13-2010, 09:45 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I don't specifically set out to learn the lyrics to all our songs, but they do creep in after a while. So yeah, you'll probably often see me mouthing the lyrics live.

I also sing backup on a lot of songs (and lead a couple of choruses and verses), so singing and lyrics are a natural part of the process for me.
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Old 12-13-2010, 10:45 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I played in a band for awhile and the pratice pa wasnt that good. The music felt good but i could never really understand what the singer was saying. The singer and guitar player wrote most of the songs together and i was just the new guy. We went into alittle studio to make a demo and well uhhhh...The lyrics were really bad. At least i thought they were. In the studio was the first time i could really hear what as being said. And Im not saying I could have done any better myself. Im not a great writer. But after the studio i just couldnt really stick around. Well i was the odd man anyway. It can be hard to join a band where the other members have been friends since birth.
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Old 12-13-2010, 11:41 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I don't feel the need to know all the lyrics per se.
But if I'm playing a gig where the voice (and thus the lyrics) is the main focus of the music, and people are going to listen to them first, I think it's my musical responsibility to more or less know them and listen to them too, so I can consider them when I play my complimentary part.
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Old 12-13-2010, 05:53 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Frankly I'm a little disappointed in the general attitude about the lyrics here. I think it's in everyones, especially yours, best interest to not only know the lyrics, but know the key of the song as well. It combats the drummer stereotype, and gives you a more complete concept of the song. (OK knowing the key won't help with the concept of the song, but I love it when a player asks "what key is this in again?" and I can help them)

I used to be in a band with this one bass player. We used to play :"The Thrill is Gone" and he would be playing the most inappropriate bass line...too happy, too many notes, wrong attitude...totally wrong feel for the song. I kept telling him...this is a SAD song, lay it back...Waste of breath on him, what a hot dog.
I may not know every word of every lyric, but I darn sure know what the songs is about.
I must say I'm apalled!
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Old 12-13-2010, 06:17 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
Frankly I'm a little disappointed in the general attitude about the lyrics here. I think it's in everyones, especially yours, best interest to not only know the lyrics, but know the key of the song as well.
Tell you what: When the singer learns my drum parts, I'll learn her lyrics ;-)

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Old 12-13-2010, 06:55 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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Tell you what: When the singer learns my drum parts, I'll learn her lyrics ;-)
Zing, nice!

I won't claim to know what the lyrics are, but I could sing the melody for ya. Similarly, although I couldn't physically play the parts, I know what the bass and guitars are doing as well.

Like others, it's usually in the recording process that I actually find out what lyrics are. Even then, I've done recordings where after tracking my parts, the lyrics and melody completely changed.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:07 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I know the lyrics of songs I like, which is to say I never like 100% of the songs we play. I know the drum parts and that is my contribution and I take it very seriously. I don't know guitar chords or bass parts either but the music comes out the way it should.
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:53 PM
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I don't feel the need to know all the lyrics per se.
But if I'm playing a gig where the voice (and thus the lyrics) is the main focus of the music, and people are going to listen to them first, I think it's my musical responsibility to more or less know them and listen to them too, so I can consider them when I play my complimentary part.
This.

How can you write the perfect drum part for the song if you don't know the song?

I'm with Larry, I'm a little disappointed in the general attitude about the lyrics shown. I always assumed my fellow drummers were more interested in what they were doing, and not filling in the stereotype that we just play beats and fills and go home.

Perhaps I'm biased. I was a Rush fan before I took up drums, so I was aware Neil wrote lyrics from an early age. So I have always tended to tie lyrics and drums together. Even in bands where the drummer doesn't write lyrics, I can't imagine Larry Mullen Jr, Steve Smith, or Keith Moon coming up with the great parts they did in their respective bands without being aware of what the song was saying.
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Old 12-13-2010, 08:13 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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Originally Posted by DrumEatDrum View Post
This.

How can you write the perfect drum part for the song if you don't know the song?

I'm with Larry, I'm a little disappointed in the general attitude about the lyrics shown. I always assumed my fellow drummers were more interested in what they were doing, and not filling in the stereotype that we just play beats and fills and go home.

Perhaps I'm biased. I was a Rush fan before I took up drums, so I was aware Neil wrote lyrics from an early age. So I have always tended to tie lyrics and drums together. Even in bands where the drummer doesn't write lyrics, I can't imagine Larry Mullen Jr, Steve Smith, or Keith Moon coming up with the great parts they did in their respective bands without being aware of what the song was saying.
I guess I've never viewed the lyrics as integral to writing a drum part, and I don't really know how my drum parts in a song would change based on its lyrical content... I obviously try to find the best grooves, fills and flourishes that will compliment the melodies and riffs, but I must admit I never factor the lyrics into this.

It might be a genre thing though, or even a band thing. In my band, the music is written first (which is, as far as I know, the most common way to write rock songs). This usually means that the vocal melodies and lyrics will already be written to fit the riffs, chords and general feel of the music. Over time, the song will be rehearsed and evolve into its final form, which usually results in everything really fitting into place with everything else. Lyrics, vocal melodies, phrasing, fills, grooves, riffs, etc.

Maybe you're right though; maybe I should pay more attention to the lyrics. I do know most of the lyrics to most of our songs, but I'll admit that I generally only learn them because I've heard them so often, and this means that I'll generally have a drum part down before I ever learn the lyrics.
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Old 12-13-2010, 08:58 PM
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.

Perhaps I'm biased. I was a Rush fan before I took up drums, so I was aware Neil wrote lyrics from an early age. So I have always tended to tie lyrics and drums together. Even in bands where the drummer doesn't write lyrics, I can't imagine Larry Mullen Jr, Steve Smith, or Keith Moon coming up with the great parts they did in their respective bands without being aware of what the song was saying.
Peart is a good example and I would love to know his opinion an the subject.
Personally I don't think Moon played a 16th note fill versus an 8th note fill based on what Roger just sang. That just sounds silly.
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Old 12-13-2010, 11:02 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

i think its good practice to lern the lyrics. sometimes you can use percussion to accent certain words or parts of a verse/chorus. i do this in a number of our songs.
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Old 12-13-2010, 11:20 PM
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Tell you what: When the singer learns my drum parts, I'll learn her lyrics ;-)
That's actually how I got started on the drums. I was in a thrash 3 piece with a friend of mind, I played guitar and sang. I used to bug him till he showed me the basics of drumming. Later I used to mess around beind his kit and learn his drum parts. Now I'm a better drummer than he is.
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Old 12-13-2010, 11:26 PM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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Originally Posted by DrumEatDrum View Post
How can you write the perfect drum part for the song if you don't know the song?

I'm with Larry, I'm a little disappointed in the general attitude about the lyrics shown. I always assumed my fellow drummers were more interested in what they were doing, and not filling in the stereotype that we just play beats and fills and go home.
By listening to the music and the vocal phrasing. There's enough of the songs "emotion" portrayed there for me to be able to accurately determine what fits and what doesn't, without knowing what the 3rd line of the 2nd verse is.

I get your point, but personally I just don't find it necessary. I've gotta be honest and say that I don't know all the lyrics to some of my favourite songs....not the ones that I've had any hand in creating, but the ones I've been listening to all my life....yet the emotion contained within those songs is certainly not lost on me.

On the flip side, if you need lyrics in order to come up with a meaningful drum part, how can you do it in the instrumental sections of a song where no lyrics are evident? :-)
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Old 12-14-2010, 12:08 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

I think the lyrics set the mood of the song, and if anyone has control over the feel and therefore the mood of the song, it's the conductor/drummer. Like if someone is singing about being extroverted in some way, I might reflect that in the drum part somehow, with more out front fills perhaps....if the person is making a musical joke or dig, a little something right where the joke is would help get the message across better, things like that. It shows that the drummer is listening.
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Old 12-14-2010, 12:22 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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By listening to the music and the vocal phrasing. There's enough of the songs "emotion" portrayed there for me to be able to accurately determine what fits and what doesn't, without knowing what the 3rd line of the 2nd verse is.

I get your point, but personally I just don't find it necessary. I've gotta be honest and say that I don't know all the lyrics to some of my favourite songs....not the ones that I've had any hand in creating, but the ones I've been listening to all my life....yet the emotion contained within those songs is certainly not lost on me.
+1 nicely put. Those who have seen my band's vids know I try to respond to our vocalist's vibe, but I don't know lots of words ... when our singer can't make practice I try to fill in with place-marker vocals and there's a fair bit of dum-te-dum and shooby-dooby-doo going on ... I once scatted through almost all of My Baby Just Cares for Me. It was dire lol

Larry, I know what you mean about Thrill Is Gone. I always put the brakes on in Thrill because the others try to turn up the burners - and I've told them to lay back heaps of times. It's just that it's easy to see music in abstract terms and miss some of the emotional and literal content. If players are missing the point it's not hard for a vocalist to tell a drummy drummer, "Lay back on this one - it's supposed to be a melancholy song".
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Old 12-14-2010, 12:23 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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Originally Posted by larryace View Post
I think the lyrics set the mood of the song,
So there's no emotive element to an instrumental peice? Feeling or mood can't be set by music alone with little attention paid to the lyrical content? Your emotions can't be pulled this way and that, purely by what the instruments are doing?

What about a band like the Chili Peppers....one of my favourite bands because of what they do musically, but often times their lyrics mean squat. Would the drummer have come up with a different part if the lyrics weren't "what I got, you got to get it, put it in you"? Hardly deep, hardly meaningful and hardly a total loss if you didn't know what they were saying. It's a song that's driven for the most part by a bass line.....I don't know for sure, but I'd wager if we asked Chad Smith what vibe he locked into to come up with his drum part, he'd say it evolved around the bass line and not the lyric.

Come on, indeed me old mate. :-)

Music speaks in many ways....more often than not, it's the music that speaks to this drummer and not the lyric.
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Old 12-14-2010, 12:28 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Exactly! "The lyrics set the mood"
When one is playing a rhythm instrument, It is the spirit of the lyrics that we listen to.
We treat them as just another voice of an instrument that is playing in the band to set our rhythm to.
If we listened to them closely, and their meanings, we would be distracted from our job.
I note that the singer is in key, I hear the tone of the voice and phrasing. I play accordingly to compliment them just as I do any instrument in the band.
I try not to step on them as I play.
I tend to try and work around the lyrics. They are a really good sounding obstacle that I avoid.
Just as I avoid a pedestrian while driving. They have the right of way.
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Old 12-14-2010, 12:44 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

Oh Jules I don't disagree in any way with you about the instrumental stuff, but since the thread is about lyrics, I am limiting myself to that.
I don't need lyrics to emote, but since they're there....
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Old 12-14-2010, 12:46 AM
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Default Re: Knowing your band's lyrics?

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Originally Posted by TFITTING942 View Post
Peart is a good example and I would love to know his opinion an the subject.
Personally I don't think Moon played a 16th note fill versus an 8th note fill based on what Roger just sang. That just sounds silly.
I've actually read an interview with Neil in which he addressed that very subject. He said that once he gave the lyrics to Geddy, he treated the vocals as an instrument, and the lyric itself was no longer his focus.

Personally, I think if you can't tell the mood of the song from the sound of the vocal, regardless of lyric, you need a new singer...
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