Drummers for tv shows

Metamega

Senior Member
As I get more and more into drumming, I have this deeper appreciation for all styles music and drummers. One thing that has been on my mind is these drummers I see on tv. My wife watches American idol, xfactor, and dancing with the stars quite regularly. I was wondering if some pro drummers here could tell me if their using one drummer for a whole show. It just seems crazy in my mind to have to learn 8 to 16 songs a week. Most of them use live bands and some put jazz/ big band spin offs on the songs. The singers usually goose their song. Just really amazes me at musicianship that some of these big bands can learn all that in a week and not screw up once.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
First and foremost, they're seasoned pros. You probably won't see many guys under 30 or even 40. Second, they read charts, so there's not any memorization required. And of course they rehearse a few times, just so there are no surprises on show night.

When players know what they're doing, can do it well, and are allowed to use charts, it's not a tall task to play new material on a weekly basis.

Bermuda
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Generally speaking, yes, they do have one drummer assigned for the show, and if they ever do change him or her out, it's between seasons. But to take one of your examples, the DWTS drummer has been there for at least as long as I've been watching (since season 6). I imagine that the band gets together at least a few times during the week to rehearse the numbers. And as Jon said, they are insanely talented pros, going by sheet music, and led by a conductor or bandleader in most cases.

But I do agree with you, for the sheer versatility and faultlessness, it's very impressive. I have seen the pro dancers on DWTS make mistakes every season, but I've NEVER heard that band screw up a cue or a song.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
That's Ralph Humphrey, BTW. :)
Yeah, I was pretty sure that was who it was, but I can never read those credits as they go wheeling by at the speed of light. Bears out what I was saying about "insanely talented", doesn't it?
 
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Doctor Dirt

Guest
When mistakes are made they're covered so fast you won't be able to tell unless your watching the band as opposed to listening. The vast majority of misques will be with arraingment parts not so much dropping anything. There pretty much all pop tunes so playing in 4 isn't exactly challenging for a professional musician. I doubt the next budding 20 year old girl singer from Dallas is going to stretch out with a medley of 18th century West India music!!!
The best drummer and best sounding band on TV was the Doc Severson Tonight Show band with Ed Shaunessey sp) on drums. An excellant drummer and the audio on that show had the best reinforcment sound I ever heard on TV. The Sat. Night Live was good but the Tonight Show had it beat especially when you consider the size of the band and amount of brass used. The Tonight Show Band with Ed there and Buddy Rich visiting was alot of fun to watch. Fantastic audio on that show no ones reproduced that since then. Doc
 

aaajn

Silver Member
First and foremost, they're seasoned pros. You probably won't see many guys under 30 or even 40. Second, they read charts, so there's not any memorization required. And of course they rehearse a few times, just so there are no surprises on show night.

When players know what they're doing, can do it well, and are allowed to use charts, it's not a tall task to play new material on a weekly basis.

Bermuda
I remember when I went to see my first drum teacher in Seattle perform in this little club. It was a trombone lead jazz ensemble, really great sound. The played standards all night. A Train, Mercy Mercy Mercy, all the the great numbers.

He came over to the table my wife and I were sitting at and sat down to say thanks for coming out. (He was thanking me?)

He told me this was the first time he had met these guys, (not the first time they played in public but) the actual first time they had ever been introduced. Each had a book of charts.

He said it was like being a professional basketball player, you know all the plays and just call them out; "Not that hard really"

I was flabbergasted. They sounded amazing.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Ralph himself has been doing a lot of TV sound track work behind the camera going back 30+ years. So other than it's now in front of the camera, it's probably not much different for him. At least with this show, I imagine they get the songs ahead of time (be it a few days, or a few hours).

Ralph is a monster drummer. I have many fond memories of hanging out with him back in my PIT days.
 

drumdevil9

Platinum Member
I don't watch those reality shows but I love the talk show guys. Those guys are playing a bunch of new songs every day. I was a huge fan of Max Weinberg on Conan. Easily one of the best talk show bands ever after Doc Severinsen on Johnny Carson.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
A few horn players that I've had the chance to work with at Disney are actually some of the elite few that get the first call for alot of the movie and TV work in L.A. One of them is one of the sax players on DWTS. One thing that has been beaten into me is that there really isn't much rehearsal (if any), especially for movie dates.

Consider these numbers: say you needed a small orchestra to record 60 minutes of music for a TV show, say, 25 musicians. You have a studio booked for three hours which costs maybe $500 an hour. For the three hour session, each musician is getting paid $255. This is before you've written your music and had it printed up for the reading session. So far you've spent $8,000.00 just to get the musicians in the door and the studio time. You really think at that rate you can afford to rehearse the band? For that kind of money, would I expect to have to rehearse the band? No way.

(Those numbers are a little arbitrary, but the Musicians Union does have a rate card for its member's depending on what job you're doing - especially if they're playing more than one instrument).

A teacher of mine used to sub his percussion skills for this level of player and he told me he was doing a xylophone date for Warner Bros. cartoon music (scary black pages, btw), and it was literally "music by the pound". Meaning, they'd roll in all this music just stacked up on a cart, hand the parts out, and after a couple of minutes, the red light would go on, they'd play it, red light goes off, and the next one gets handed out. Repeat those steps again and again. All the while watching a conductor and listening to a click in the headphones. He said he was pretty stressed for the three hours he was in there, but amazingly enough, when you hear the tracks back, you don't hear any wrong notes by anybody.

I aspire to that kind of technical prowess, and I don't think I'm anywhere close. I'm sure if I was, I'd be working alot more than I am now. Don't kid yourselves, these people exist.
 

Pete Stoltman

Silver Member
A professional musician is no different than a professional anything else. Let's say you're a journeyman carpenter and get hired to work with a crew that you haven't worked with before. You look at the plans figure out who's doing what and start hammering nails right? When I was first learning drums it was alway emphasized by my teachers that I had to learn to "do it all" because you never knew where the next call was coming from. I was fortunate to study with guys who not only played regular gigs but also played live TV and believe it or not live radio gigs their whole career along with session work. Seems to me there has been a trend over the last number of years for guys to be boxed into a particular musical style and not moving outside that formula.
The guys you see on TV shows like Idol, Dancing, Letterman, Leno, etc. know how to change gears when required. Sightreading is an INVALUABLE skill to have under your belt. Also extremely important to familiarize yourself with a wide range of musical styles. If necessary even force yourself to listen to styles you're not particularly fond of. The stuff you may think is lame may put a job in your lap some day. Be ready.
 
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