Has "playing for the song" changed?

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
I saw a fabulous cover band the other day. It was an 80's cover band, and one of the top ones in the area, with plenty of great gigs at clubs/festivals/corporates/etc. Top sound, showmanship, setlist, and the musicians were incredible. The drummer was constantly throwing in all kinds of syncopated fills, double bass licks, and so forth. The technique itself was incredible. It was interesting to me that I heard 16th note double bass, or even 32nd note double bass being played during certain sections of certain songs, like you would in a death metal band...even in simple pop songs.

I'm not criticizing this - they sounded great, the audience loved them, and frankly, I'm wondering if doing this on the drums "spiced up" songs that are now up to 40+ years old. I've avoided doing this - not that I had anywhere near the chops this guy did - but I could certainly play more busy, add a bunch of "spice", and incorporate more double bass into my playing. I've tried to go with "play for the song", while still throwing in, tastefully I hope, some licks here and there. But has the paradigm of "play for the song" changed to constantly play fusion-like chops, and blistering double bass in sections of simple pop songs?
 

bearblastbeats

Senior Member
Variety is the spice of life my dood. I've done it and it depends on the song. Take Burning Love but play it like Foo Fighters wrote it. (Kind of like how Foo did Band on the run).

I've played The Seeker, but now how The Who played it. I pay it like Rush played it, but with even doing double bass parts and more flare where appropriate.

There are no rules.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
But has the paradigm of "play for the song" changed to constantly play fusion-like chops, and blistering double bass in sections of simple pop songs?

No. It sounds like they're orienting their thing around pumping up a live audience. It still sounds ridiculous if you put it on a record.

It's sort of a drum corps-ified way of playing-- you take a normal piece of music and put dense percussion all the way through. It can be done well, and it's its own aesthetic, but it's not normal music.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Variety is the spice of life my dood. I've done it and it depends on the song. Take Burning Love but play it like Foo Fighters wrote it. (Kind of like how Foo did Band on the run).

I've played The Seeker, but now how The Who played it. I pay it like Rush played it, but with even doing double bass parts and more flare where appropriate.

There are no rules.

All good points..and flare...yes!
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
No. It sounds like they're orienting their thing around pumping up a live audience. It still sounds ridiculous if you put it on a record.

It's sort of a drum corps-ified way of playing-- you take a normal piece of music and put dense percussion all the way through. It can be done well, and it's its own aesthetic, but it's not normal music.
Great point. Well, the audience (including me!) was pumped for sure.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
To be fair, there's many a band that doesn't play their own song the way they did on the record. I know I embellish on my own drum parts, in part because I'm not trying to nail every note to the grid, and also in part because I may have been playing the song for months and months since the recording and it's continued to grow and evolve.

I'll almost never play a cover exactly as heard on the recording. I'll either play something in the style of the original, but with my own take on it; or I'll play something I think works well for the song. Definitely you have to nail the well-known licks, though.
 

TomR

Junior Member
I don't think it's changed. As I mature musically, I find that if I simplify my playing the songs sound better. That's for most songs. Some songs might call for a syncopated funky groove or other chops.

I think a strategically-placed funky beat or a seldom bass drum triplet, for example, can have a greater impact. It teases us to want more. Too many chops loses that effect. I recently saw a very good local cover band and the drummer played lots of busy beats that totally disrupted the flow of the music. I presumed the drummer was most concerned about what he wanted to play rather than how he could serve the music.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
Two reasons I would not "spice up" a cover song are 1. if it's a technical song (Rush, Dream Theater, etc), and playing it "right" is the point, and 2. the original band has a very unique sound (Van Halen, AC/DC) and playing the songs as recorded goes a long way to getting that sound.
 
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SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I think there has been a shift in modern pop arrangements. IMO many of the things that drums used to do are now done by synths. EG fills and form marking. Drums/percussion are more emphasized in the main sections of music, which are often referred to as drops instead of choruses. You can hear lots of quarter note, eighth note, sixteenth note build ups. This isn't something that drummers do; this is what DJs do. There are even loop buttons on many turntables. Make a measure loop, then hit it again, cut it in half, hit again cut it in half, hit it again cut it in half... cross fade. Producers often times put these things in the middle of drops also.

So, people are likely more accustomed to hearing this, not every song is like that, but it has become more common. There are also long sections where drums don't do much at all. Again time is kept here by synths and LFOs.

Also, microtimings are extremely important, like that main drop has to sound GOOD.
 

A J

Well-known Member
I play in a 2-drummer band. The other drummer we all call "the LEAD drummer", and for good reason. He has chops beyond my abilities. He typically "spices up" songs with fills that are not present in the original recordings. By definition, the drum sound of this 2-drummer band is "busy", but it sounds good.

It's my job to stay in the pocket, assist with grooves only a 4-handed drummer could do and add percussion.

Serving the song can be simple or complex. Either way can work.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Seems like personal taste would dictate.

If it didn't annoy you then it was tasteful enough. If it did, then he was overplaying lol. When I play covers I try to recreate the original parts as much as I can, unless they're really daggy drum parts. I can understand that if another drummer is playing the same 30 songs constantly then he/she might get restless.
 
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Bozozoid

Platinum Member
I've listened to guys do Zep tunes played from another GPS and watched crowds eat it up. I can tell that doing the tunes from the anything goes drummsters is actually easier for them than the complexity of restraint and focus. I don't want to be the that's not on the grid sherrif but when Jimmy Page shakes his head with the thumbs down gesture I realise that Picasso didn't really care for the artist flinging paint all over the wall while the onlookers all ooed and awwed over the incredible magnificent wonderment they all got to be a part of. Hey..if the crowd digs it don't rain on their parade.
 
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JimmyM

Platinum Member
I’m all for different ways of serving the songs. I don’t think it’s changed. I think certain aspects of music have, but there have always been those who think it means playing simply and those who think it’s throwing down some throwdown. And all points in between.
 
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Ron_M

Senior Member
Very rarely do I hear a cover I like (it's really difficult to to do justice to the original), and I definitely don't want to hear a chopped-up version. Has playing for the song changed? Not from my point of view. I want to hear a unique approach that suits the music, including effective use of space, dynamics, etc.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
When I think of serving the song I think proper dynamic intensity, not simplicity necessarily. Totally depends on what is the intent of the performance. Jim Keltner has massive chops
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
To me serving a cover song means don't change the drum part to the point where it strays from the original feel.

Serving the song in general to me means:
1. Don't step on the singer
2. Don't compete with the lead player, support the lead player
3. Don't make the song about the drums, use the drums to give the other musicians what they need from the drummer
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
I think laypersons/audiences like the double bass even if just accents , and like gospel-chop fills. I think you can play to an audience and play to song because pros do it all the time. Just I can’t do it LOL.
 

Chris Whitten

Silver Member
I heard 16th note double bass, or even 32nd note double bass being played during certain sections of certain songs, like you would in a death metal band...even in simple pop songs.
No, no one wants that. It smacks of drummer boredom, or "look at me".
The top freelance professional drummers working in the song based genres today - Aronoff, Steve Jordan, Joey Waronker, Abe Laboriel, Questlove, Ash Soan etc play fantastic grooves with simple fills for the most part. Everything supports the music and not much if anything sticks out audibly in their playing.
 
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