Asking questions


Gold Member
Just curious here. How many of you ask questions of your bandmates when rehearsing a song? For example, if the band introduces a new song to learn, like an original, or a cover they are putting their own touches on, do you ask a lot of questions regarding tempo, time, meter, tembre, sound, how a particular part needs to be played, etc. I'm not referring to asking the same questions over and over, but asking specific questions on how to make the song as good as you can get it.

I ask this because I'm getting asked more and more to play in bands or to fill in for other drummers while they are on vacation, can't make gigs, etc. And the styles are many, from country to country rock to blues to jazz to rock to classic rock, to praise music, etc.

From what I am noticing, about 1/3 of the musicians I play with get annoyed and believe if I ask quesions it shows incompetence, inexperience, etc. The other 2/3s are grateful I asked and am willing to cooperate and collaborate on the song(s) and with them to help make a better product - the song.

Granted whenever I'm asked to sit in, I always try and do my homework and learn the song, but always there questions to ask and such.

Has anyone else run into this problem of being looked down upon for asking quesitons?


Silver Member
I tend to go for the overview if it's a new band and see what their reaction is, ie do you do exact copies or is it your own interpretation.

If it's exact copies you're answwers are all there in the original!

Also if they've recorded any of the songs themselves as you can see how they do them especially if you're covering for another drummer and they like the way he plays them.

If you're asking quetions and they get irritated (the 1//3rd that think your incompetant) it may be they don't know the answers themselves and don't want to appear stupid and don't appreciate the value of what you're asking. The best form of defense can be attack - or so some seem to think.

Think it's one of those you really have to judge the response in each situation and take it from there.


Platinum Member
Assuming you're asking to be helpful, not because you really don't know what to play- you might just ask one time up front for them to please let you know if they want something special, otherwise you'll just play what you think is appropriate. A lot of times even that isn't necessary- if the group is playing ultra-standard covers (Proud Mary and the like), or if the musicians aren't well enough educated musically to know what they want from you.

Keep in mind that what leaders generally want from a sub is for you to play the tunes acceptably well with a minimum of supervision. I suspect that part of what you're doing in asking questions is trying to show him that you're taking the gig seriously, but what you may actually be doing is just making more work for him. I try to keep questions to an absolute minimum- maybe about the style/feel (as in "what's the feel on this?"), or if something in the chart is missing/unclear, or if something isn't working after you run the tune a couple of times.


Gold Member
When I join a band, I will ask a lot of stuff as I try to pick up the pieces and take what their last drummer did, or what their own idea for their songs is, and meld it with mine. When I'm filling in, however, I rarely ask questions, unless I really don't have a clue how to approach a song or there is something very specific that I need to know. 9 times out of 10, I have found that other musicians can't really explain what their drummers do. I have also found that asking questions does get looked down upon frequently, as you said. I go in and play the songs the way I think they should be played. Most artists I have worked with will tell you if they don't like what you're doing, and then the dialogue is opened...but if they don't say anything, I assume they are happy with what I'm up to and stick with it.


Platinum Member
sometimes at blues jams the leader will say something like "ok we're gonna play goin downtown to see my gal in E" and i'll have no idea what that song is or anything. i always feel like an idiot trying to get someone's attention to ask them whether that's a rock feel or a shuffle or whatever, and a lot of times the leader won't seem very happy about me interrupting him, but what can i do? i don't want to start a shuffle song with a rock beat!


Platinum Member
It seems you have a rare issue. In my experience anyway. I almost always ask what kind of feel or beat someone wants in a song and usually get very positive comments about it.

For example, in my band, our singer will usually bring a song to the band with a rough idea for how it should end up and the (other) guitarist and I will ask him what he hears or how he imagines it going. Then we hammer out our parts for the verses, chorus, etc. together. Our singer doesn't really read music that well, so we think it's hilarious that he can actually write lyrics that aren't ever in some weird time signature or something. He does, however, write the occasional bridge with 5 measures or something like that. At any rate, it's almost critical that we all ask what tempo, time, feel, etc. he is going for.

Also, at my church, we change the arrangement of some songs slightly and we also do a few original songs from our piano player. Every time we've done something new, I've asked something along the lines of what you asked. At first, they seemed a little surprised that I asked...but in a good way. Apparently they were all used to a drummer that just played boom; chick; boom; chick...

So I can't really say I've ever had your 'problem'. At least you have the majority of folks that are glad you want to contribute more to the music than a simple beat.


Platinum Member
If I need a question answered, I've never been afraid to ask.....and to be honest, I've given absolutely no thought to the fact that it may be painful to some self appointed primma donna to answer. If they want me on the chair, then it makes sense for them to make for an easy transition. The other players have always bent over backwards to ensure that the gig goes off without a hitch and I've always found them to be upfront with any changes or nuances that I'd be unlikely to know about. Example "we extend the bridge on this tune and add something different to the original track...let's run through it, hey"

Maybe I've just been lucky, but I haven't encountered half the attitude from other players that I read about on these forums.......what's up with you Yanks? All I read here are pages and pages of horror stories of guys all too willing to "lord and master" over the rest of the band. I've worked with my fair share of dickheads, no doubt, but nothing like this. :)