Evaluating The Playing Of Others

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Being a drummer, when I listen to bands play, I listen closely to the drummer. Without even thinking about it I analyze his or her playing. I try not to judge the drummer’s technique. I try to not evaluate the quality of the drummer’s sound and playing. But it is very difficult to listen without evaluating. And I have always fought this urge to evaluate other drummers. I guess I feel that it is not fair to rate musicians due to the fact that music is an art form. Everyone plays their instrument differently. It would be like comparing two paintings or two songs and deciding one is better than the other.

Lately, however, I have found that this is all very frustrating for me; evaluating a drummers’ playing, trying not to evaluate and then trying to ignore my evaluation. So, I finally decided screw it! I'm going to rate, evaluate, analyze, critique and judge as much as I want to. Form my opinion and accept it. I don’t mean to say that I would share my opinion with anyone. Nor would I ever share my opinion with the drummer.

Consequently, I have been feeling much better about this now that I have not restricted myself. If I think that the drummer is a great drummer, so be it. Or if I think the drummer sucks then I think about why they suck and I embrace my opinion.

I’m wondering if you evaluate other drummers. And how you feel about your evaluations.


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oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
When i go to a concert, the first 15-20 minutes i analyze no musician specifically, but i listen to the band as a whole and how everyone plays together..

And, more important, how the complete band feels..

After that, maybe i will focus more on one or another musician every now and then, but in general i feel and experience songs, albums and concerts as a whole..

To be honest, i am not caring too much if musicians are technically supreme players or not..

I care more about how their playing feels to me and what they (musically) have to say..
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Excellent response oldskoolsoul. I should be doing that myself. Listening more to the complete band will help me be less critical. Thanks.

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Lenkasammy

Well-known member
When i go to a concert, the first 15-20 minutes i analyze no musician specifically, but i listen to the band as a whole and how everyone plays together..

And, more important, how the complete band feels..

After that, maybe i will focus more on one or another musician every now and then, but in general i feel and experience songs, albums and concerts as a whole..

To be honest, i am not caring too much if musicians are technically supreme players or not..

I care more about how their playing feels to me and what they (musically) have to say..
+1
 

TK-421

Senior Member
At shows, I almost exclusively pay attention to the drummer. And you bet I'm evaluating them! Unapologetically, I might add. If the drummer sucks or is uninspiring, I quickly lose interest in the whole band. I've even left shows early because the drummer wasn't doing it for me.

Regardless of what instrument you're playing, if you don't have anything interesting to say, then why are you wasting my time?
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
At shows, I almost exclusively pay attention to the drummer. And you bet I'm evaluating them! Unapologetically, I might add. If the drummer sucks or is uninspiring, I quickly lose interest in the whole band. I've even left shows early because the drummer wasn't doing it for me.

Regardless of what instrument you're playing, if you don't have anything interesting to say, then why are you wasting my time?
This is exactly it. Most generally, great musicians attract great musicians, so one sub par usually equals most sub par. If the drummer is the weakest link and the band doesn’t lock, it doesn’t matter how good the other members are. The band won’t lock, so basically nothing to see here!

I just saw a band where every time the drummer did a fill, he ended up somewhere besides the 1, then had to catch up. VERY annoying. Kinda like me being called to speak in front of the audience, sort of knowing the subject, but BSing my way through it. I would expect the audience to be similarly annoyed!

Far from being judgmental!
 

TK-421

Senior Member
This is exactly it. Most generally, great musicians attract great musicians, so one sub par usually equals most sub par. If the drummer is the weakest link and the band doesn’t lock, it doesn’t matter how good the other members are. The band won’t lock, so basically nothing to see here!

I just saw a band where every time the drummer did a fill, he ended up somewhere besides the 1, then had to catch up. VERY annoying. Kinda like me being called to speak in front of the audience, sort of knowing the subject, but BSing my way through it. I would expect the audience to be similarly annoyed!

Far from being judgmental!
Yikes, that drummer sounds horrid. But he/she doesn't even need to be that blatantly bad for me to completely lose interest. A few years ago, I was at a free concert at the Santa Monica Pier. The main band was some indie rock band that I wasn't familiar with, but it was a KCRW-sponsored event, so it should have been at least pretty decent. But man, I've never seen a weaker-hitting, completely uninspiring drummer like the guy this band had. I mean he was barely hitting the drums at all, to where there wasn't really much tone coming out of them. And very basic grooves. Like REALLY basic. Plus he looked utterly bored the whole time. So after two songs, I took off. Which is too bad, because the rest of the band was pretty good. But a bad drummer just kills it for me.
 

oldskoolsoul

Silver Member
..The main band was some indie rock band that I wasn't familiar with, but it was a KCRW-sponsored event, so it should have been at least pretty decent. But man, I've never seen a weaker-hitting, completely uninspiring drummer like the guy this band had. I mean he was barely hitting the drums at all..

A drummer who is caring a lot about technical skills, would say such things for example also probably about Maureen Tucker..

But, in my opinion, thats a very limited way of thinking about what music should be about, allthough what music should be about is ofcourse a personal thing for each individual..

Technical skills are just technical skills..

For me, art is made in the first place by creative minds and not necessarily by people with technical skills..
 

TK-421

Senior Member
A drummer who is caring a lot about technical skills, would say such things for example also probably about Maureen Tucker..

But, in my opinion, thats a very limited way of thinking about what music should be about, allthough what music should be about is ofcourse a personal thing for each individual..

Technical skills are just technical skills..

For me, art is made in the first place by creative minds and not necessarily by people with technical skills..
This had nothing to do with technical skills, or lack there of. It was more to do with an extreme lack of passion for playing.

A year later at the same pier, I saw Warpaint, and their drummer (Stella Mozgawa), while not "technical" the way Weckl or Vinnie are technical, was very creative with her grooves and really impressed me. Same can be said for Death Cab for Cutie's drummer (Jason McGerr). Just saw them a couple weeks ago. While Jason isn't especially "technical", he's very thoughtful and creative with his grooves, and again, I was very impressed.

I've seen plenty of drummers who weren't technical, but who impressed me nonetheless with their playing, whether through dynamic control, sense of groove, creativeness, etc. Just bring something to the table I can latch onto, and I'll enjoy it.

I don't know who Maureen Tucker is, so I can't comment on her.
 
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OP said all musicians are artists so we can't judge them. Not true. Some are artists, and some are hacks. Was Bob Ross a painter? Was he a Rembrandt or Van Gogh? Can I see the difference and can I judge? Yup, and I have the right. Stroking egos is what your therapist does. I met the original drummer for the Goo Goo Dolls at a party once. Coincidentally he was a painter too.... A house painter. True story.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Hollywood Jim I think since "back in the day" we had to listen to recordings of drummers in popular music to figure out what to play in a song-we got in the habit of paying closer attention. When I went to a concert I was enjoying all the music but I was also watching and listening to the drummers to finally see what they were doing in the song. What surprised me was often what I thought they were doing isn't what they were doing. Now I don't have to do that. But I think we are prone to analyze a drummer-it may not be a critique so much as an observation. Now non-pro drummers in local bands-heck yeah I critique them and their drumming choices (some I'll like others not so much) but still it's just observational. Actually more I think about it I wish when I was gigging other drummers would come to me with their critiques. I met a pro trained bass player at church that was very constructive in helping my drumming-we use to gig together to-so it was a great learning experience.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
On the pro level, once I stopped going to concerts held in lousy acoustic environments (e.g., San Diego Sports Arena) I became much more interested in the music and my “study” of the drummers waned. While it’s fun and awe-inspiring to focus on amazing players (e.g., Simon Phillips, Antonio Sanchez) I find it much more satisfying to take in the whole band.

On the amateur level, I don’t pay much attention to the drummer unless he’s a friend of mine. Then I’ll listen for a few tunes and offer constructive info (e.g., your snare sounds dead, can’t hear your floor tom, nice ping from the ride), but I never talk about technique ‘cuz mine is elementary.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
Hollywood Jim, you're in the Phoenix area, so you must be getting tortured by some of the same bands as me. Is this why you posted this thread? LOL! For me at least, I used to see amateur bands just kill it years ago. There were drummers playing things my jaw would drop. Fast forward to today and I feel some of the sam guilt as you. I'm supposed to be enjoying the music, but getting tripped up with all the slop. Since I don't know a B from a G, I can't critique other musicians. I know when I heard a sour note, but don't know which one.

Timing, pocket, bpm, now that's something I can lock into. I fully get it. Mistakes are made, but should be rare. I even hear them at our church with the main sanctuary players. No pro players there, but a dedicated group who really works hard to keep things together, and recoveries are quick and painless. Since I travel too much and couldn't commit to being a regular, I got scheduled with the guys that don't practice, don't wake up in time and don't really care about quality. I was in a band I despise watching. I stuck it out for two years, because it was more service than performance, but I finally couldn't take it. It just wasn't worth putting in the time, waking up early, losing most of my Sunday for mediocrity at best. I tried try best to motivate a higher level of playing, but it wasn't happening.

I volunteered for the torture fest for two years. That was my choice. When it comes to going out and seeing a band that ends up being a torture fest, I'm glad I can leave after a few minutes of that nails on a chalkboard feeling. I feel the audience deserves better, but then I look around and while there isn't a ton of excitement, no one else is running for the door, so there is that!
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
If I'm listening to a record or the radio, I'm simply appreciative of the drummer because at that level, they're ALL better than me. I just enjoy the ride.

With local bands, it's different. I do pay attention to the drummer and after the initial "can I do that or not?" moment, I pay attention to the stuff that they do better than me and tell myself "I want that in my arsenal." Pretty much everyone does SOMETHING better than I do.

Oddly though, sharing a stage with another drummer makes me competitive, in a good way. I really like going on second or third. We often share a kit on those occasions so I listen to how it sounds from the audience and make mental notes. I evaluate the volume the drummer is playing at and adjust my own playing based on that. I always play better when I follow another drummer, regardless of our relative skill sets.

In short, it's always a learning experience for me no matter how good or bad we are relative to one another.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Hollywood Jim, you're in the Phoenix area, so you must be getting tortured by some of the same bands as me. Is this why you posted this thread? LOL! For me at least, I used to see amateur bands just kill it years ago. There were drummers playing things my jaw would drop. Fast forward to today and I feel some of the sam guilt as you. I'm supposed to be enjoying the music, but getting tripped up with all the slop. Since I don't know a B from a G, I can't critique other musicians. I know when I heard a sour note, but don't know which one.

Timing, pocket, bpm, now that's something I can lock into. I fully get it. Mistakes are made, but should be rare. I even hear them at our church with the main sanctuary players. No pro players there, but a dedicated group who really works hard to keep things together, and recoveries are quick and painless. Since I travel too much and couldn't commit to being a regular, I got scheduled with the guys that don't practice, don't wake up in time and don't really care about quality. I was in a band I despise watching. I stuck it out for two years, because it was more service than performance, but I finally couldn't take it. It just wasn't worth putting in the time, waking up early, losing most of my Sunday for mediocrity at best. I tried try best to motivate a higher level of playing, but it wasn't happening.

I volunteered for the torture fest for two years. That was my choice. When it comes to going out and seeing a band that ends up being a torture fest, I'm glad I can leave after a few minutes of that nails on a chalkboard feeling. I feel the audience deserves better, but then I look around and while there isn't a ton of excitement, no one else is running for the door, so there is that!
The reason I posted this thread is that I just started allowing myself to freely evaluate other drummers while not feeling guilty about it. And I was wondering how drummers evaluate other drummers. Yes, there are lots of good, bad and in-between drummers in Phoenix. It's not drummer mistakes that I listen for. It's the bad timing, off tempo fills, too many cymbal crashes, playing too loud and stuff like that that catches my attention.

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Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
If I'm listening to a record or the radio, I'm simply appreciative of the drummer because at that level, they're ALL better than me. I just enjoy the ride.

With local bands, it's different. I do pay attention to the drummer and after the initial "can I do that or not?" moment, I pay attention to the stuff that they do better than me and tell myself "I want that in my arsenal." Pretty much everyone does SOMETHING better than I do.

Oddly though, sharing a stage with another drummer makes me competitive, in a good way. I really like going on second or third. We often share a kit on those occasions so I listen to how it sounds from the audience and make mental notes. I evaluate the volume the drummer is playing at and adjust my own playing based on that. I always play better when I follow another drummer, regardless of our relative skill sets.

In short, it's always a learning experience for me no matter how good or bad we are relative to one another.
Oh yes, for sure there is always great stuff I hear other drummers do that I'd love to do myself. Even not-so-good drummers teach me things. When I was a young drummer in the 1950's I was learning stuff from other drummers on the radio and records.

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AzHeat

Platinum Member
Yes, there are lots of good, bad and in-between drummers in Phoenix. It's not drummer mistakes that I listen for. It's the bad timing, off tempo fills, too many cymbal crashes, playing too loud and stuff like that that catches my attention.
I’ve seen a couple of exceptional bands here, but they have definitely been tougher to find. The Ryan Sims band is one that’s exceptional, but they mostly play on the north side and I’m south. The off tempo fills, pushing and pulling time, too many cymbals, etc. just kill me. Funny part is, I hardly ever hear a too loud drummer around here. Most are unmic’s with 50 pounds of laundry and a case of duct tape on everything, so bumps and clicks is about all the audience hears. Maybe just as well.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I’ve seen a couple of exceptional bands here, but they have definitely been tougher to find. The Ryan Sims band is one that’s exceptional, but they mostly play on the north side and I’m south. The off tempo fills, pushing and pulling time, too many cymbals, etc. just kill me. Funny part is, I hardly ever hear a too loud drummer around here. Most are unmic’s with 50 pounds of laundry and a case of duct tape on everything, so bumps and clicks is about all the audience hears. Maybe just as well.
Ha, yeah I hear ya. I run a Tuesday night jam. So I get to hear a lot of drummers who are not in bands. And when you hear them play you understand why they are not in bands. They all play my back line drum set. Which is set up for loud rock music. So they can easily play too loud if they are not careful.

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MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I'm a bad audience member. I analyze everyone on stage. I just can't help it. Mostly the drummer, but I'm a stickler for watching guartists fingers during solos too.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Being a drummer, when I listen to bands play, I listen closely to the drummer. Without even thinking about it I analyze his or her playing. I try not to judge the drummer’s technique. I try to not evaluate the quality of the drummer’s sound and playing. But it is very difficult to listen without evaluating. And I have always fought this urge to evaluate other drummers. I guess I feel that it is not fair to rate musicians due to the fact that music is an art form. Everyone plays their instrument differently. It would be like comparing two paintings or two songs and deciding one is better than the other.

Lately, however, I have found that this is all very frustrating for me; evaluating a drummers’ playing, trying not to evaluate and then trying to ignore my evaluation. So, I finally decided screw it! I'm going to rate, evaluate, analyze, critique and judge as much as I want to. Form my opinion and accept it. I don’t mean to say that I would share my opinion with anyone. Nor would I ever share my opinion with the drummer.

Consequently, I have been feeling much better about this now that I have not restricted myself. If I think that the drummer is a great drummer, so be it. Or if I think the drummer sucks then I think about why they suck and I embrace my opinion.

I’m wondering if you evaluate other drummers. And how you feel about your evaluations.


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It's weird. As I get older, I've been caring less and less about how other people are playing. All I want to know is if I'm being then best I can be for the situation that I'm in. If I'm making the band leader happy, or if everyone is up and dancing, then I'm good. I tend to evaluate entire band performances by this criteria now. Is the audience digging it? Are they dancing? Or at least head bobbing? If everyone is having a great time, then my evaluation stops there.

I'll note the superior technique of other players, but we all know that's just a means to an end. Most really good bands, you'd have no idea how good the drummer really is technically, because his job isn't to display his technical ability and use it to pee all over the stage like a dog marking his territory. His main job is to make the song sound good, and if I don't like that, no amount of technique that I notice is going to save him. Likewise, if he really has no technique, but everything is clicking and in the pocket, then my "10" score card goes up and I'm done evaluating.
 
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