band direction

davor

Senior Member
Hello drummer friends,

My band (who have still not managed to get out of rehearsals and into doing live gigs) are moving focus from rock/punk covers to original songs. Everyone in the band seems to be loving this idea …. apart from me

My main issue is the original songs are quite average sounding in my opinion. One of them is good and would stand up well amongst a set of covers I think, but in general I’m just not feeling this new direction.

I’m also thinking in terms of potential audience (most probably small pubs etc) – are they more likely to want to hear some rocking covers of tunes they’ve not heard in a long time, or a set of average sounding unknown tunes from aging dudes (40s/50s)

Considering putting a message on our group chat to this effect, but I know already I’m in the minority.

The other thing is – I don’t seem to be getting as much out of doing original songs as the others (seems coming up with lyrics/ guitar riffs etc is possibly more rewarding than coming up with drum parts? I’m quite new to doing original songs so perhaps I’ll enjoy it more in time)

Any thoughts most welcome!
Thanks
 

BonsaiMagpie

Junior Member
I have to disagree. I really only play originals, and when I do covers I rarely play the exact beat of the song, because i have so much fun coming up with stuff and trying new things. It's definitely harder to come up with drums on the fly than it is for guitar bass and vocals, but give it a shot man. Maybe some 50/50 gigs for a while and see how the crowd react.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
As a drummer, you're much less involved in the songwriting process. Your role on the drums is as an accompanist, first and foremost. Chords, riffs, and melodies are going to be the focus of most songs, and your drum parts should simply accompany those, in most cases. A unique drum beat can, on rare occasion, drive the creative process of songwriting, but mostly your parts will be developed in response to an idea coming from another musician. On the whole, you're correct that the creative process is more rewarding for others in your band (unless you play another instrument, and can contribute in that way).

It's also totally reasonable to want to play gigs more often, for the thrill and challenge of playing live. Find a cover band that wants to gig regularly, let go of your personal preferences (for punk rock), and just enjoy playing music (any music at all) well, in front of a crowd. Scratch that itch!

No reason to quit the original project, yet, but place a healthy limit on your time spent there. If the original project's jam session starts at noon, tell them you need to be out the door by 2:30. The time restriction will help the others to be as productive as possible, while you're there, and also to show up with prepared ideas to share. Lots of songwriting should happen individually, BEFORE an idea gets brought to the group. Group jam time should be for sharing new ideas, and further developing promising ones.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
My main issue is the original songs are quite average sounding in my opinion. One of them is good and would stand up well amongst a set of covers I think, but in general I’m just not feeling this new direction.
The situation you describe is fairly typical. A newly formed band starts with covers, and before getting gigs, decides that they want to transition to originals without knowing exactly what it entails.

My only advice would be..... Record the next rehearsal. Take the recording, trim the fat, and run it by a producer. The producer will let you know if the endeavor is worth pursuing. If you don't have a producer you work with, place it on SC as unlisted (with your band's permission) and link it here for a brutally honest teardown.

50% of the work I do as a producer is what I like to call the "Band Whisperer", and deals with workflow, communication, collaboration, etc. Playing in an original band 'can' be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. If you decide it's not for you, it's better to bail (diplomatically) sooner rather than later so that the band can find someone whose goals are aligned with theirs.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
It's also totally reasonable to want to play gigs more often, for the thrill and challenge of playing live. Find a cover band that wants to gig regularly, let go of your personal preferences (for punk rock), and just enjoy playing music (any music at all) well, in front of a crowd. Scratch that itch!

No reason to quit the original project, yet, but place a healthy limit on your time spent there. If the original project's jam session starts at noon, tell them you need to be out the door by 2:30. The time restriction will help the others to be as productive as possible, while you're there, and also to show up with prepared ideas to share. Lots of songwriting should happen individually, BEFORE an idea gets brought to the group. Group jam time should be for sharing new ideas, and further developing promising ones.
These are both excellent thoughts.

If you want to play drums in little-town USA, you have to be open to other genres. Right now, there's a newly-formed heavy rock band in our town. They are ok-sounding, but even if they were the best thing ever, they will NEVER play anywhere in this town. People around here want bluegrass, Southern rock and country, and that's about it. I don't even know where they would play even if they got booked. I mean, I hope the best for them, but I just don't know.

In addition, I like setting limits on practicing too. I do this as well. If they want to stay afterwards or show up before your time, that might be a good thing too.

In closing, an all-original band has to write an absolute crap-ton of songs before getting a handful of good ones. I realize there are exceptions out there, but most people have to work, work, work on songwriting. It can be an absolute grind. Also, songs evolve over time, so who knows? One might evolve into something that you like more. :)
 

K Chez

Member
In general, you stand a better chance at playing in front of people and making a little money playing covers, but being a punk rock cover band is so niché, that you might have a hard time getting gigs. Doing original music from the ground up - don't expect to see any expenses getting covered (breaking even) and get ready to play for a handful of people until you can establish a following.
On the song writing side, original material is where it's at. You can deviate on covers a little bit, but too much and you're getting away from the "playing what people want to hear" philosophy of doing covers, unless it's a straight up remake. Originals let you think outside the box and push creativity and that can go a long way in making mediocre songs into something much better. A way I get involved with the writing process is with arrangments since I don't play any other instruments (I should learn some guitar or bass, would be immensely helpful) I'll have the other guys send riffs or loose ideas and cut them up into loops and make them into something besides the typical 4/4/4/4/4. I even do that with drumless tracks to challenge myself with tricky arrangements.
 

BonsaiMagpie

Junior Member
In closing, an all-original band has to write an absolute crap-ton of songs before getting a handful of good ones. I realize there are exceptions out there, but most people have to work, work, work on songwriting. It can be an absolute grind. Also, songs evolve over time, so who knows? One might evolve into something that you like more. :)
That's true, our 8 song set is derived from roughly 90 original songs or ideas. And even then, there's 2 we are gonna drop and replace when we have the next two gig ready.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
In closing, an all-original band has to write an absolute crap-ton of songs before getting a handful of good ones. I realize there are exceptions out there, but most people have to work, work, work on songwriting.
This is true, even for musicians who have bothered to study music theory, chord progressions, etc. Of all the musicians I know, I have two (TWO) who I consider good songwriters. They are both extremely knowledgeable about music theory (but so are a lot of others). I asked one of them how he was able to string chords and melodies together so well. His response:

"I learned like 200 Beatles songs. You start to get it after that." It was true; he showed me a well-worn anthology of Beatles songs on the shelf.

This is not to discourage you from hanging out with musicians and being creative. But know that if you're thinking a song is bad, you're probably right. And you won't be in a position to help, not being skilled in music theory or song-craft yourself. So you have to decide what to do. You can:

a) learn guitar/piano and theory, and help
b) silently offer your drumming skills to songs you know are not good
c) move on, knowing that most bands can barely write well, if at all.

Choice a is not as intimidating as it seems, but it will take time.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Sing!
it's fun, you can contribute, and ponder parts making your part fit. You might even come up with some words too. Also it forces the instrumental part to be something you feel pretty much to the core in order to have the attention to get the vocal out. Plus it just elevates the band to have many vocals imo.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I've never been in a band where any songwriter even remotely cared about what the drummer thought in terms of songwriting.

Can the drummer tweak a few musical parts? Sure thing.
Suggest adding an extra chorus? Absolutely.
Contribute in any shape or form to the actual wording of the music? No.
Suggest adding a line to a verse? Absolutely not.

(Wait for it...)

Can the drummer write songs and then suggest the band play them? Now you've lost your mind. Don't even try it.

(I'm sort of kidding with these, but not really. :) ).

I'll throw this out there too...if the primary singer/songwriters are really wanting to make a "go" of it, then he/they should go play coffee shops, open mics, or whatever as a solo or duo act. This will do a multitude of things:

  • Gives them a chance to try out new material and see the audiences' reactions (or lack thereof).
  • Gives them some experience in playing out without dragging you through it.
  • They will simply get better at what they do.
  • They will promote themselves if they are any good.
  • After they are established as songwriters and maybe have a little following, THEN they could build some excitement with the idea of "We're putting a band together! Come see our first band show!"
  • Even after the band thing starts, then they could still occasionally do solo shows.
Most importantly: I've shared this before, but I'll tell you something that changed my life reading these boards - someone on here (I wish I could remember who and I would give him credit) mentioned that he doesn't consider themselves a "band member" anymore. As a matter of fact, that's the last thing he wanted to be. He considered himself an independent contractor finding work by playing music. The more genres he could play, the better. It's a totally different mindset, and I've adopted it. And you know what? It's working. This month alone, I'm playing with 5 different bands/groups. I'm not really a full-fledged member of any of them. My name and face isn't on any of their promo materials or anything. I'm just there to play, have a good time, collect my check, and leave. Going this route has been very liberating. I'm no longer in charge of booking, promoting, providing practice space, hauling PA, repairing the PA, PAYING for repairing the PA, emailing venues, cancelling gigs last minute because someone got sick, getting directions to places, setting up performance times, etc.

I don't miss being a "band member," and maybe having this different mindset can help you too! It's not easy to adjust to, but once you do, it's pretty darn liberating.
 

trickg

Silver Member
I'm with everyone else - give it a shot for a few gigs, but see if you can get the band to lean heavily on the covers rather than the originals - that's what's going to win the crowd and make it so that the venues hire you back.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
Mostly comes down to your personal goals. If you want to be a drummer focused musician you'll be better off playing covers for a few hours at a gig than doing the original band thing. If you want to go the musician songwriter direction then you'll be better off collaborating on songwriting with your group where you'll probably only play for 30-45 minutes per gig while pursuing music theory knowledge.

So it comes down to your goals as a drummer. What is it that you'd rather be doing and is there opportunity for that?

If you feel a better situation likely exists I'd have an open conversation with the group, wish them well in their direction and let them know you're going to pursue a new group. These things can always be done calmly and professionally. Maybe you can stick with these guys and join another band as well.
 

TMe

Senior Member
I don’t seem to be getting as much out of doing original songs as the others (seems coming up with lyrics/ guitar riffs etc is possibly more rewarding than coming up with drum parts?
I'm curious what other people think about that comment.

In my experience, guys who play covers usually aren't great playing original material, and guys who've spent their time in original bands aren't so great at playing covers (unless they can rewrite the songs in their own style). If you're good at playing covers, but find it easy to come up with drum parts for original songs, you might be more valuable as a drummer than you know.

There's definitely a trade off. People who've only been in original bands often don't develop or maintain the same chops because they've spent more time on songs than on playing. People who've only been in cover bands often have great chops but are completely adrift if someone asks them to write a part for an original song.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
I'm curious what other people think about that comment.

In my experience, guys who play covers usually aren't great playing original material, and guys who've spent their time in original bands aren't so great at playing covers (unless they can rewrite the songs in their own style). If you're good at playing covers, but find it easy to come up with drum parts for original songs, you might be more valuable as a drummer than you know.

There's definitely a trade off. People who've only been in original bands often don't develop or maintain the same chops because they've spent more time on songs than on playing. People who've only been in cover bands often have great chops but are completely adrift if someone asks them to write a part for an original song.
The patterns are all the same. Playing drums for original bands is basically playing covers unless the music is rather technical but 99% of original bands are banging out the same music that's been going on for the past 50 years and just putting a different vocal melody over it. There are only so many places you can place a bass and snare note. You'll play the same exact beats in the original band as you would in a cover band. In a cover band you'll play longer gigs, you'll get paid and you'll be forced to play styles that you wouldn't otherwise play. I think most experienced cover band drummers would do just fine in an original band situation I think it's just not really worth the time if what you're into is playing drums.
 

TMe

Senior Member
Playing drums for original bands is basically playing covers unless the music is rather technical...
That makes perfect sense, but I haven't seen that play out. Since I'm a drummer, though, I've only ever tried to play with guitarists and singers who were cover guys. Great players, but hopeless when presented with a half written song. Maybe it's different for drummers.

I think it's just not really worth the time if what you're into is playing drums.
That makes sense too. Would you rather spend a few evenings trying to hone a part for a song, or working on your chops? Every hour spent writing is an hour less spent on your instrument. And once you've spent 10 or 20 hours working out a killer part and the band decides to change the tempo and arrangement, you get to throw away your work and start over. But... there's something to be said for writing and learning a song as a Punk tune, then as a shuffle, then as a Ska tune and, hopefully, eventually find the groove that works.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I'm curious what other people think about that comment.
As a (co)writer, you can make the parts as interesting and fulfilling as you want them to be. You're limited only by your imagination and ability.

For the OP: Find the writing methodology that works for you and your band. I get that it's daunting at first, but it becomes easier and gratifying as you do it more often. As someone pointed out above, you can cycle through ostinati (what would this song feel like as a shuffle, latin, etc). You can also iterate through your influences ( What would Ringo, Bonham, Keltner, etc do with the song?). You create/pick the fills, the embellishments, etc. The hard truth is that you have no one to blame but yourself if the part is flat and boring, because you have the freedom to make it awesome if you choose.

Example of how a drummer turned an uninteresting part into an iconic drum part...
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
I have to disagree. I really only play originals, and when I do covers I rarely play the exact beat of the song, because i have so much fun coming up with stuff and trying new things. It's definitely harder to come up with drums on the fly than it is for guitar bass and vocals, but give it a shot man. Maybe some 50/50 gigs for a while and see how the crowd react.
Exactly. Listen to the vocal and accentuate the singer. Play how YOU think it should sound with various crashes, fills, etc. I get irritated at guys who try to play the exact beats as the original drummer. That's not musicianship, it's copycat. Get together with the band and play to the tune. If you think the songs boring, maybe you're the one to change that. Make the song as much yours as the singers, guitarists, bassists. It takes chemistry to do original tunes.
 

davor

Senior Member
Thanks for all comments on this post – most of them resonate with me to some extent. In a nutshell I’m doing this:

I'd try it for a few gigs and see what happens.
Given the stage I'm at with my learning and experience (4 years since picking up sticks whilst juggling family/work, no live gigs so far!) , there is still much to be gained by seeing what happens with this band!
 

TMe

Senior Member
Given the stage I'm at with my learning and experience (4 years since picking up sticks whilst juggling family/work, no live gigs so far!) , there is still much to be gained by seeing what happens with this band!
If you're playing for fun, then you have to ask "What's more fun?" Also, what do you have time for? Some people can pick up covers quickly and easily. If that's you and you're juggling other commitments, that might be a better choice.

Writing original parts can be a bottomless pit for time, sort of like playing video games, and thinking about them can be a constant distraction. Doing originals might make you a bit absent at times, which isn't great if you're juggling family and work.
 
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