Getting your chops out of the practice room and onto the stage

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I don't know how important a back story is really but I'll provide one.

Recently my new band backed a nationally successful artist and they had a renowned drummer as a hired gun. I had heard his name before but never seen him. A gun he was, especially his licks and stick tricks. I think he was pulling lots of Virgil's old moves, like he'd really studied older videos and successfully nailed them. I'm not sure if anyone remembers Virgil used to play some sort of double kick/tom roll and spin the sticks before every crash cymbal hit. This guy could do it perfectly among other things.

Anyway. I let him use my kit so when I went up to get my things after his performance he struck up a conversation with me. He said he was watching my set from the crowd and was impressed with my time and feel and stuff, and asked what I was working on. I said that I wanted to get my licks, chops and solos happening a bit more and he seemed to agree, I think he was agreeing that it was maybe my weakness, which is a criticism I humbly accept from a drummer such as him. I went on to explain that I could do much more in my practice room but getting on stage just seems to retard my chops a bit. He said that he had the same problem, which made me laugh, but he was being serious. He said that he was doing even more awesome stuff in the practice room.

He told me that I need to "just not give a f#$k" and to "go for it", in other words take risks.

I know this groove vs chops debate always sparks criticism from the groovers (and I have seen chops guys that couldn't keep time to save their life too) but it is my belief that drummers really win people over with the appropriately timed solo, big tom fill, fast hands, stick tricks and some double kick action. Needless to say they have all the grooving down. Sure there are some famous drummers who are all about the groove but there are 10 famous drummers with chops (+ groove) for every Steve Jordan type.

So I am committed to getting my chops happening more. I am a performing drummer and I am content that my time is pretty good and want to get a bit more showmanship happening. I am trying to cover a few different angles as to why it's so much harder to do things on stage, as well as get some tips on where I should be looking to learn some good chops.

All I really know is a few linear chops from the gary chaffee stuff I practice, some quads from my metal days and a few rudimental things I've invented over the years. I could trawl through videos and pick out things I want to learn but hopefully I can find some notated examples transcribed by others. Does anyone care to comment?
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
The chops or fills that you use while practicing, are they yours or someone elses, or a combination of both? Since they work for you I would use these while giggling and build from there. Unless you are playing a cover, others may not fit. Nice to have someone known take the one-on-one time after a show.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
To me there have always been 3 levels

1) Practice room.

2) Band rehearsal

3) Live performance

The lines have become blured with time because you become aware of the differences. These are not necessarily the same for everybody. It's a cross between confidence, aural things and environmental things as well as just how conscious you we of quality and presence while practicing alone.


My approach to music has always been about building a general vocabulary and improvise with concepts. I did that as a young sax player, as guitar player and now the same is true for how I approach drums. It's how I think my hero Vinnie probably apporoaches things, too. Your approach to playing music might be different.

Are you just learning licks and lines to put into situations rubatum?

What are good chops?

I'm thinking there might be a more Gruber style answer that's fitting.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
The reason I dont take all my chops into the stage is probably the same as a lot of drummers. During practice I am doing just that, practicing, trying and perfecting everything I know and working up new stuff. If I played the way I sometimes practice it would be totally over the top and not pertinent to the song.

Just because you can play a fill or a groove does not mean you have to. Play for the song. If its pertinent to the song and fits the mood then go for it, not just because you can and you want to shoehorn it in.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
My attitude is (regarding the rest of the band) "my job is to make you look and sound good." That's different from playing my flashiest, or grooves or fills or anything. It's hard to define. I make them sound good, and I keep getting lots of work.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
My experience is it takes a lot of time for the practice stuff to surface on the bandstand.

Good luck on your quest. I'd watch your motivations though. Trying to do something to win over the crowd...you're trying to impress people.

Everybody is different, but attempting to impress anyone...never worked for me. Believe it or not the opposite is true for me.

But everyone is different and the things that plague me, hopefully they won't plague you.
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
All depends what and how you practice.

When on my own I work on a concept (both physical delivery and abstract vision) and try to work this up both as a beat/a hybrid beat and fill/ and fill. To me there is continuum between beat and fill, although I accept this isn't how drums are taught or people practice. My preference being the grey area between the two. Then I have a fair bit of flexibility as to when I introduce the new ideas.

The worst thing you can do is try to force new ideas into a band context before you have them down, I use band rehearsals for testing combinations. I find I can only transfer brand new ideas if I can execute the idea really well on my own. Delivering at a gig is always harder becuase, the sound maybe a bit off, the lights are at just the wrong angle and the drum riser a bit wobbly !
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
So I am committed to getting my chops happening more. I am a performing drummer and I am content that my time is pretty good and want to get a bit more showmanship happening. I am trying to cover a few different angles as to why it's so much harder to do things on stage, as well as get some tips on where I should be looking to learn some good chops.

All I really know is a few linear chops from the gary chaffee stuff I practice, some quads from my metal days and a few rudimental things I've invented over the years. I could trawl through videos and pick out things I want to learn but hopefully I can find some notated examples transcribed by others. Does anyone care to comment?
No reason you can't be both a groove master and a chops master, right? When to use each skill is a matter of musical maturity, unless you're very well known for doing one and not the other.

As for where to grab licks -- anywhere, and don't feel like it's "cheating", because nobody owns licks. Besides, you'll probably figure out your own variations or voicings that you prefer.

The flashy stuff will get you noticed, and quite possibly hired. But grooving well is a must-have these days.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
No reason you can't be both a groove master and a chops master, right?
No, that's completely wrong.

You need to approach the two as completely antithetical to each other, and cite some example of a famous drummer showing one side of the coin and then argue that said drummer is purely a chops/groove drummer.

Don't come round here with your sensible measured responses! ;)
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
I tried to steer people from preaching the old "less is more" but it still happened lol, so to those people, I'll give you one reason (of several) why I want to be able to play some better licks on stage: because my band asked me to.

They said they wished I would play some more fills. And whenever I do occasionally pull something out of the bag I get a cheeky grin from at least one person in the band. And when I play a flashy solo at a gig the crowd get excited, moreso if I can play a good one. I would like to be able to play a good one whenever I want, that's the point of the thread I suppose.

A drummer should be able to entertain as well as keep time, I'm sure of that.
 

93civEJ1

Senior Member
I know the feeling man. I am all groove here....and I feel that I am boring and lacking as a drummer. Sure I get gigs, but to me, im boring. I am wanting to get my licks down , but like you, I dont know what it is that I am needing to begin on what I am missing.
 

Bonzo_CR

Silver Member
I like to play for the song as much as the next guy, but I also like to work on expanding my phrasing/vocabulary. All I need is some inspiration.
Sometimes I just watch some video for fun, and there's usually something that catches my attention so I decide to have a go at that. Also ideas sometimes come from books, or something on this forum, etc.
This year I've spent time on Jazz and Drum'n'Bass phrasing amongst other things - and I've learnt loads from both!
Whatever I'm working on, I keep at it until it feels like it's 'absorbed' into my natural range of phrasing. This can take a while.
Eventually it it comes out 'naturally' when practicing, and when playing with the band.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
A couple of points I'd like to raise...
This whole thread, and correct me if this is off, is about elevating one's playing....or a portion of one's playing... to a level that is higher than the one presently in. In this thread, elevating the playing is equated with more chops, better chops, better licks...

Which is fine.

However...

I think that this approach is kind of tunneled visioned. It's a fine goal, I'm not knocking it in any way. I just think that the proposition should be put forth...that there are ways of improving yourself, very noticeably, using your existing skillset.

Kind of like a puzzle. Like OK here's your skill set. Your skill set can only get to level "C". But you need to get to level "D". How will you accomplish this while still using your existing skill set? By thinking outside the box. By using your existing skill set in ways you never used before...a different approach perhaps.

My point is, there's creative ways to improve, that utilizes your existing skill set, and it's good to recognize this and explore these ways....in addition to learning new stuff.

I'm not really good on chops threads, I try and think in opposite terms actually. Not my style at all. Most of the times when I hear drummers throwing chops around, they are doing it for them, not the benefit of the song. I mean if you're going to kind of hog the spotlight for a few seconds, at least pick a good spot to do it....and do something that actually makes things sound better, instead of detracting, which is what usually ends up happening.

Drums can be the big loud inappropriate blowhard on stage in the wrong hands. I just get the feeling that if you can pull it off cleanly, that a drummer can drop chops in anywhere, which I don't subscribe to. I feel there needs to be an actual musical reason to put something like that in. Like "Because I felt like it" is not a good answer to the question "why you put that fill in that stepped all over the best part of the lyric?".
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
In this thread, elevating the playing is equated with more chops, better chops, better licks...
No one here is saying that more chops = better player. More noticeable and memorable player? Quite possibly. If you add some licks and phrases to your playing, then the rest of your playing is just as good (or as bad) as it was before you added the licks and phrases. If your groove needs work, shedding gospel chops linear licks won't help.

because my band asked me to.
That's a pretty good reason. If there's room in the music, or the expectation for flashy drumming is somehow already there, then making the crazy licks and phrases fit into the music is your job. If it's a solo (and it's not a traditional jazz or big band gig), then there's really no limit to the flashiness of what you can play.

The Chaffee linear stuff, and the Chaffee approach to stockings (The Technique Patterns book) are fundamental; most crazy licks will involve some amount of linear phrasing and/or rudiment combinations. Past this, many licks have nearly become standardized. For example:

1. "Bonham triplets"
2. Double bass "quadruplets" and "sextuplets"
3. Steve Gadd's ratamacue around the kit.
4. Steve Gadd's linear 32nd note groove/fill.
5. The heirta (newer rudiment used often by Billy Cobham, Neil Peart, and Carter Beauford).
6. Tony Williams' "blushda"
There are many, many others, of course.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
I think he was pulling lots of Virgil's old moves, like he'd really studied older videos and successfully nailed them. I'm not sure if anyone remembers Virgil used to play some sort of double kick/tom roll and spin the sticks before every crash cymbal hit. This guy could do it perfectly among other things.
This might be a style thing, but if I see a drummer doing that I would just giggle. Stuff like stick twirls has very little to do do with drumming and more to do with showmanship. I used to be able to pull off some cool foot tricks with a soccer ball... they didn't help me play the game any better, and I certainly didn't become the next Pele...

Don't get me wrong stage presence is important, it's what gets you noticed by the people you aren't playing music with. The people that you are playing music with, are more than likely focusing on your ability to play with them. Call it grooving or being in the pocket, but a band is going to be looking for someone that can play conversationally with them and on their level.

Rather than worrying about specific chops, or showmanship tricks. Focus on your listening skills, and being able to interact with the band more. It sounds like they are saying that you aren't interacting on the same level as them. As far as stage presence, try moving around a little more, it won't really do anything for your playing, but it will make you look like you're enjoying it a lot more.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
I suggest recording all your 'gigs'.

Then take the time to check what you played...and see if you truly want to be playing "more".

I would also suggest doing a post-op conversation with the $ holder...and see what they have to say.
 

mitkoni

Senior Member
Thomas Lang says "Practice more complicated stuff, so you can play easier things with confidence". I agree with this. You need push away harder in the practice room and be really confident at the gig. But of course, sometimes the magic happens when we go outside the comfort zone and you just need to play what feels right and even take risks. Especially if the gig allows it.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Well if I think about it, one major roadblock is if I don't have the ideal live setup, it's always different from my home setup in that I can't have my rack toms in the same spot because I am not using a rack and I don't have a tom mount fitted to any bass drums (I still need screws to fit my tama tom mount onto the kick). I have been mounting 2 rack toms from a stand but I can never seem to get them in a good spot.

And I guess to a degree my mind goes blank on stage when it comes to anything like a big fill. Creativity is definitely stifled. I think someone said I should keep an idea of something I intend to do in my mind and use it when the time is right. I agree with that. Thanks to those who answered the question I asked.
 

Galadrm

Senior Member
Thomas Lang says "Practice more complicated stuff, so you can play easier things with confidence". I agree with this. You need push away harder in the practice room and be really confident at the gig. But of course, sometimes the magic happens when we go outside the comfort zone and you just need to play what feels right and even take risks. Especially if the gig allows it.
Completely agree with this. For me at least, my practice ability will be far above my "live" ability. But the two are proportional in growth, so if I am constantly pushing myself with practice I will see my live performance improve. I dont play too many fills with my band myself, and I think it can be hard finding reason to if you dont feel the extra flashiness is needed. I guess applying the chops in band practice would be the best way to incorporate them live. Maybe even dedicate 10 minutes at band practice where you play a few songs and just go crazy with the fills? That would be fun...

Just out of interest who was the band you opened for if you dont mind me asking?
 

Groov-E

Silver Member
Thomas Lang says "Practice more complicated stuff, so you can play easier things with confidence". I agree with this. You need push away harder in the practice room and be really confident at the gig. But of course, sometimes the magic happens when we go outside the comfort zone and you just need to play what feels right and even take risks. Especially if the gig allows it.
That is great advice.

If you can play "easier" thing with confidence, that will get you through any gig. And if you step into the zone and let loose, you can either push the engine to 5000 RPM and see where it gets you since you practiced at 5500, and still have the possibility to pull back to 4000 RPM and still make it sound good (and look cool too).
 
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