Gigging With Two Drummers

I've been asked to join a band who's repertoire is mostly Grateful Dead covers, although they're not officially tribute band. They have been playing mostly with two drummers and I'll be replacing someone who is leaving. I just downloaded all the songs in their set list. I've never been a big Dead fan, but I can see the appeal, and there are some well written songs in the group. We are only going to have one rehearsal before the first gig, so I'm planning on letting the other guy lead the way and keeping my ears wide open. I always enjoy jamming when it's a situation where the players are competent, and most importantly, listening to each other. Theyre a pretty "jammy"band (as were The Dead) anyway, so I'm excited at the new experience.

Does anyone have experience playing in this format, and have any tips about making two drummers work? I'm also wondering about things like cymbal choice and tuning of the kit. Would it make sense to tune my drums quite differently than the other guys kit, or try and have a more cohesive sound. I know the other guy is very good, and strong on technique and rudiments, so I'm looking forward to learning from him. Kind of like how it's always good to play tennis against a better player.....

Any thoughts to share? Thanks!
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I have some limited experience playing in a band with a second drummer; two drum sets. It was difficult for me. Sometimes the back beat sounded like a flam because we both felt the groove in a slightly different place. I’m used to driving the band. Basically I did not enjoy the experience.

Don’t be discouraged if at first it sounds sloppy. It takes some practice to get two drummers to meld together. I think you need to plan how you both will play a song. Maybe one primarily laying down the backbeat and the other doing most of the fills.

All I’m saying is, in my opinion, it can be tricky getting it to sound good. It's just like having two singers. Each one needs to know what part they are going to sing.


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No Way Jose

Silver Member
I thought one guy was playing a drum kit and the other conga drums or some other percussion. They weren't both playing a drum kit at the same time.
 

Reggae_Mangle

Silver Member
Driving that train, high on cocaine...

Seriously, both you and the other drummer should snort coke before you drum together. Then the music will overtake both of you.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I've been asked to join a band who's repertoire is mostly Grateful Dead covers, although they're not officially tribute band. They have been playing mostly with two drummers and I'll be replacing someone who is leaving. I just downloaded all the songs in their set list. I've never been a big Dead fan, but I can see the appeal, and there are some well written songs in the group. We are only going to have one rehearsal before the first gig, so I'm planning on letting the other guy lead the way and keeping my ears wide open. I always enjoy jamming when it's a situation where the players are competent, and most importantly, listening to each other. Theyre a pretty "jammy"band (as were The Dead) anyway, so I'm excited at the new experience.

Does anyone have experience playing in this format, and have any tips about making two drummers work? I'm also wondering about things like cymbal choice and tuning of the kit. Would it make sense to tune my drums quite differently than the other guys kit, or try and have a more cohesive sound. I know the other guy is very good, and strong on technique and rudiments, so I'm looking forward to learning from him. Kind of like how it's always good to play tennis against a better player.....

Any thoughts to share? Thanks!

You should discuss this with the other drummer. My assessment of the situation is that stage space is the premium, so that is something to keep in mind. That being said the Dead were well known for drawing from various cultures with advanced drum arrangements, eg taiko, marimba, djembe, etc so you might not get very good answers from a forum more dedicated to the lone drummer myth.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
My experience with it... Allman Brothers cover band...subbing for the 2nd drummer...1 rehearsal, it was like 2 drummers playing the same song in their own way. It wasn't bad, but it could have been much tighter. Specifically, the individual kick drums were playing not necessarily complimentary patterns. Flams are a part of the 2 drummer sound, as long as they aren't too far apart, it's OK. Nothing is perfect. I stayed out of the other guys way during things I wasn't all the way familiar with. But he was a little draggy, so I tried to keep the forward motion up, but I was watching him a lot, trying to blend. It really shines a spotlight on your different approaches, 2 drummers.

Just watch your butt off and wing it to the best of your ability. It helps to know the music well. I would think it would take 2 drummers a long time to get tight. It's not something that you expect to click from one rehearsal, but hey it could happen. Best of luck and keep your spidey senses on high alert.
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
I think you should check out the more recent work by King Crimson with two or more drummers. These guys have clearly worked some of this out beforehand but some is left open and free.

I think you really have to work with the other drummer and probably play 40% less than you would otherwise do on you own. I think you could have lots of fun trading one playing verse the other chorus, bridge and supporting solos in various ways. I would have thought fills going in opposites would be fun, and double drumming off beat dislocations.

But it's really all about you both having the same vision and working toward a unified drum.
 

Dhango

Member
I recently watched a video of the Allman Brothers Band playing the Fillmore. As a drumming aficionado I was interested in how the two drummers worked together. Well, I think Trucks did the main drumming while Johanson did all the fills, sometimes he apparently played a totally different thing than his partner. But it worked beautifully. Maybe you should try the Johanson approach, fill in the blanks and play for the song.
 

davezedlee

Senior Member
Just recently viewed some live footage of Bon Iver, and was surprised how well the two drummers and percussionist divided things up

They can get a little sleepy at times, but there are some pretty impressive sonics from what amounts to 9 multi-instrumentalists and a drummer
 
Thanks for the input guys, I'm out of the country until the day before the rehearsal, but I've emailed the other drummer- haven't had a response yet. I expect my role will be less about color and more about foundation.

Larry, your point about kick patterns is something I was thinking about. Things could get pretty messy down there if we're not locked in. I think I'll tread lightly and stick to the 1&3 if there's any doubt.

I've watched some dead videos, but I'll definitely check out the Allman's and KC stuff.
 

Polska

Member
I think you should check out the more recent work by King Crimson with two or more drummers. These guys have clearly worked some of this out beforehand but some is left open and free.

I think you really have to work with the other drummer and probably play 40% less than you would otherwise do on you own. I think you could have lots of fun trading one playing verse the other chorus, bridge and supporting solos in various ways. I would have thought fills going in opposites would be fun, and double drumming off beat dislocations.

But it's really all about you both having the same vision and working toward a unified drum.

Agreed, the Crimson stuff is eye opening as far as 2 drummers (though they have 3 running at the moment). Try listening to Thrak or B'Boom (official live bootleg). Much of it may be more "out there" than what you'll be doing, but there are a lot of cool tricks Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotto did. Playing an 8th note off from the other drummer, trading fills.

The other thing they did that I thought was real cool was sound selection. Pat and Bill tuned their drums differently (Bill higher, Pat deep), different head selection, snares (one wood, one brass), and dark vs bright cymbals. Any sound contrast that you can come up with would be cool. Also, if you play any hand percussion at all, even shakers and such, I'd bring those.

Enjoy!!
 

Croc

Senior Member
Polska and Captain Bash offering King Crimson as a model is great advice. Pat and Bill worked it out such that Pat anchored the beat and connected with the audience while Bill added color and contrast. If you and the other drummer are willing to accept these roles, you should be able to make this go without too much trouble.

The current Crim drumming frontline are staggeringly great and fun to see. They have rehearsed extensively and Gavin created arrangements enabling all 3 to avoid playing over each other. This approach would take a lot more work for you two.
 
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