Do you play the drum part exactly the same each night?

julius

Member
I have basically no experience playing a pre-determined part on drums. For you guys and gals who have a regular gig playing the same song every night, do you play exactly the same rhythms and fills each time you play the song, or does it change up? If you change it up, how much do you change it? Obviously it depends on genre (pit drumming vs jam bands vs jazz), but what's your experience?

This is kind of a nebulous question. I have a friend (guitarist, singer) who is in a pop/rock band and she said that there's really no room for improvisation because it's a pop song. But I thought to myself it probably depends on the situation and what the bandleader (or band) wants, right?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Basically speaking, I play the same things. That said, there's a lot of natural unplanned variation how I play those same things. For instance, since I listen to and play off the others, if they are feeling something a little different that night, it's natural that I try and seamlessly go with that. Or I might have a moment of inspiration where I think I might have a different spin on a part. So while I definitely am following a template, I am not married to it. It's more like a guideline lol. (obscure movie quote) An example, sometimes the band leader wants to do a verse reggae style out of the blue. What am I going to do, keep playing the original rhythm? No, I have to quick switch to a reggae feel. Sometimes we'll go off on a tangent then return to the template eventually. That's how songs evolve. Sometimes you hit on something that really works and it sticks. Some songs I have no wiggle room at all, I am needed to provide a steady unchanging rhythm, that's what works. So I usually don't mess with those songs. Basically, on songs where I have some latitude, everything is a "custom fit" type of approach predicated on how the others are playing it that night. Tempos vary, feels vary, but there is always a default template we are working around.

I know when I play a song with band A, and when I play that same song with band B, my part needs to be altered a bit because of the way different players phrase things. You want to be able to stay loose and be able to corner on a dime. The quicker you are at thinking on your feet, the better for all involved. This assumes that the others are good enough players to stray from the original template with something interesting. If the others play the exact same parts night in and night out, then yea, my parts wouldn't vary all that much.
 
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BillRayDrums

Gold Member
Typically not. I mean, I play it close to the previous evening's or gig's performance but it'll never be the exact same thing.

I prefer to kinda "riff" inside the parts while maintaining the "structural integrity" that is the tune.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I pay a lot more attention to having the same feel and hitting the "hook" parts. But little things are going to vary from gig to gig. Guitarists don't play all the same notes, even vocalists change up a word or pitch here and there; same goes for all musicians. Not worth stressing about.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Well, I always come in at the same places, typically play the same tempo range, and make sure to get any "signature" fills... After that, I just play what I think the song needs. In one sense, this does mean that the same song will come out more or less the same each time unless I'm being weird, or something I don't usually have radically different ideas about what a song needs from night to night.

But your friend is right, I think. Pop music tends to be simpler which ironically gives less room for messing about. Typically for the really poppy stuff, I'm paying more attention to my bass drum consistency than usual. It's more foundation-al here and less supportive of underlying rhythms.

And of course, if I'm ever questioned about it, it's not working. If I ever get a "hey man, can you keep that real tight?" or "can I get a more consistent bass drum on the 3?" you bet your ass they will get it without a second's hesitation.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
When I was in orginal bands, and we would rehearse 3 times a week on average, and gig often, yes, the drum parts would end up the same every time we played. Even if I opted to leave a part open, playing the same song that often, something would end up sticking as "the part".

When I was in an industrial hard rock band, oye, every last note was predetermined and analyzed. Quite frankly, it became over kill.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I'm going with no.

I compose my parts as I learn/play the song. Once I stumble into something that feels really good, I will generally always repeat it.

The majority of stuff I play is very simplistic so I'm free to mix it up quite a bit with no negative consequences.
 

ron s

Senior Member
Since I play in a cover band, I have to be aware of any signature drum parts in a song that a crowd "expects" to hear. The guys in my band appreciate when I use the same fills in the same places on the songs we do all the time.

There are parts of the song where I will add something of myself, especially as we are a three-piece. Sometimes I will add a tambourine, or combine hat and ride during a guitar solo to fill in a bit more. We had a second guitarist for a while, and I noticed that I naturally dialed back a bit.

Basically as long as you keep steady tempo, and hit all the breaks, stops, and changes in a consistent, repeatable manner, it makes it easier for the other members.

Maybe if you are doing a different style, jazz improve or something, you have more freedom to do what you feel on that particular night.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I never play the songs the same each night.

I always struggle with learning to play the songs the way the band leader wants them played. It has always been like this for me.

In one way this is bad, but in another way I have a heck of a lot of fun when I play.

If I have to play the song in an exact manner, then I write out charts for each song. I use my own drumming language for the charts.



.
 

Polska

Member
When I was playing cover songs I tried very hard to play my parts virtually the same each time. In my all-original, pop rock band I do not. I may play the basic feel the same, but the fills change each time. I also leave it to my discretion to throw in subtle changes to the beat as I see fit. The other guys are cool with that, as I am with what they do.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Depends on the band, the gig, and what you mean by exactly.

My goal is to play consistent parts. If they sounded right once, why not play them again? Should I avoid playing a good part, just because I might be accused of duplicating it from the night before? It's not like I'm playing a lead instrument, where a solo could take a different direction from one night to the next.

But are those parts exactly the same, as in note for note without any variation from one night to the next, and the next? Well, actually, yes, I play some songs that are absolutely identical from night to night. But I would say the reality for most songs is that I'm probably 99% consistent.

Now, you might think 99% might as well be exact, but it's not. That actually means that in a typical 8-bar phrase, at least one note will be different. If I did one little different thing in every verse, chorus, bridge, and solo, it would be far from exact, yet still within 99%.

Yes, I think about these things. A while back, I used to say that I play with 95% consistency, until I calculated how much of a variation that really is. So I changed it to 99%, with the knowledge that there's a detectable variation within that number.

Bermuda
 

julius

Member
Thanks, very interesting replies. I mostly play pre-war style music, so lots of two beat or swing rhythms but other than a few pre-arranged cues here and there there's no drum part per se since we typically don't have charts, just a lead sheet. I doubt I could play the same way twice mostly due to lack of skill :)
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
It's not absolutely necessary to be perfectly consistent. But in the professional world, other musicians typically appreciate consistency. Jazz would be a probably exception, where you'd be invited to explore to your heart's content. Otherwise, you won't be chastised for being consistent, as long as the parts are good and played well. if they're bad parts, and you play them over and over, you can expect the boot!

Bermuda
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I have basically no experience playing a pre-determined part on drums. For you guys and gals who have a regular gig playing the same song every night, do you play exactly the same rhythms and fills each time you play the song, or does it change up? If you change it up, how much do you change it? Obviously it depends on genre (pit drumming vs jam bands vs jazz), but what's your experience?

This is kind of a nebulous question. I have a friend (guitarist, singer) who is in a pop/rock band and she said that there's really no room for improvisation because it's a pop song. But I thought to myself it probably depends on the situation and what the bandleader (or band) wants, right?
I think as Bermuda said, it depends.

If it's jazz, yes, I'm exploring and having a conversation with my instrument and the other musicians. If it's a particularly good band made up of really good players, then I can take more of a jazz approach (the jazz term of improvisation in any genre setting, I mean). If the band is not very good, then I tend to stay consistent because they're expecting certain things to happen to get through the song. Of course, if I'm playing show choirs, or a broadway show, there are things that have to happen the same way, but even then there can be a trade-off - if I get all the hits, I tend to alter beats a bit so long as it's close to what it's supposed to be.

Certain bands tend to dictate playing the exact part too. When I play a song by the Cars, for example, deviating from what David Robinson played is basically a no-no. He did it so right and it was so solid for their music, I just do it his way. I don't think you should attempt to play Zep's "Rock and Roll" if you can't get close to Bonhams solo at the end. Other bands are a little more forgiving if you alter the beat a little, but it's nice to know that in a cover band, you won't be chastised for playing the exact same part. But the band has to be good enough for me to alter what I play a little, because I don't need them getting thrown off by what I do. So you must tread lightly at first.
 

Trip McNealy

Gold Member
Since I play in a cover band, I have to be aware of any signature drum parts in a song that a crowd "expects" to hear. The guys in my band appreciate when I use the same fills in the same places on the songs we do all the time.

There are parts of the song where I will add something of myself, especially as we are a three-piece. Sometimes I will add a tambourine, or combine hat and ride during a guitar solo to fill in a bit more. We had a second guitarist for a while, and I noticed that I naturally dialed back a bit.

Basically as long as you keep steady tempo, and hit all the breaks, stops, and changes in a consistent, repeatable manner, it makes it easier for the other members.
This is exactly how I play as well for my covers band. The only thing I have free reign to improvise on is a 3-4 minute drum solo in our Led Zeppelin medley (in Bonzo fashion of course!).
 

ncc

Silver Member
I think if I you are playing in an orchestra or with a symphony, and you are reading charts, it should always be the same. That's the gig. There is no room for improvisation.

If you are doing covers, the structure is the most important thing. I believe that exactly what you do for a roll or fill is not that important, as long as it is always at the same point in the song. I think creativity and feeling come into play (as others also said) here.

For originals, if you are on recorded tracks I think it is really up to you for the identity.

my 2 cents ;-)
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
When a song is still fresh, I tend to try different grooves and fills and play what I think feels right to me then and there.

However, once I've played a song over a longer period of time, or I've tracked it in the studio, the drum part tends to solidify. I might vary a few details here and there, and the part may continue to evolve slowly over time, but I do tend to play pretty much the same thing every time I perform the song.
 
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