How does a drummer think?

bvoom

Junior Member
HEllo!

I have just started playing drums after many years on guitar. Recently purchased a Vdrum TD9k2 which I love. Acoustic drums are too loud to play where I live but I would love to get some in the future.

I have started with Tommy Igoe Groove Esstentials w/ play along and I also ordered his beginner dvd. I have already learned the first five grooves and am practicing four way coordination. From years on guitar, I learned how to practice and I'm not interested in pyrotechnics, just real skills that will let me sit with other musicians. Don't get me wrong, I love to shred, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse.

I'm trying to figure out how a drummer thinks and what is important. My plan so far is to devour the Igoe Grooves and start learning stadium rock songs note for note. I also have a snare book on rudiments and want to mix them in to my set playing. I figure that once I have about 10-20 covers and most of the grooves under my belt, I should be able to jam with others in my style (blues, rock, pop). But I have some questions:

When playing covers with a band, are you as a drummer expected to be able to pick up the original beat from a quick listen, or are drummers given time to woodshed and learn the song note for note before practice?

For original music how do you decide what kind of groove a song needs? When you hear the progression, do you try out different grooves and variations before settling on something? Is this guided by your "inner ear" (ie, you hear the beat in your head and then figure out how to play it?)

Does the bass player rely on you to play the groove the same way for each performance, or do you have some leeway to make changes over time?

For a given song, do you make a mental note of the groove that was used? Or do you do it by feel/intuitive memory? (It seems like a drummer needs to have some way to tag and memorize his different techniques, like a guitar player might memorize chords and progressions.)

Do drummers have a catalog of grooves and variations that they choose from when playing, or is it mostly done by feel?


Any help appreciated.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
Congratulation on your decision. I like playing guitar too, but I love playing the drums. Plus you get a little endorphin boost from playing if you can really get on it.

Groove essentials is a great place to start. There are a hundred threads that will confirm this as well as using the Stick Control book.

It's good to know how songs go, like where the breaks are, some essential percussive elements to a song, but mostly it's a beat that you can play in hundreds of songs that share that beat. A lot of the time, many, many drummers will never really play the same song exactly the same way every time. Like I said, quite a few song will have essential fills or breaks in them that just have to be on the money, but a lot of fills you'll hear live are not just like the records, they could be better. Who knows? What you want to know are music styles and beats that go with them.

Usually people will want you to know the beat to a song they want to play beforehand otherwise the song might get scrapped. So you have to woodshed on the songs before you get to the audition. If you're convincing, you can tell them that you'll have it down by the next rehearsal. Some people even just want you to show up at the gig without rehearsal, so you better know your stuff. But that's more advanced cover bands players that have been doing it for 30 or 40 years and they're so burned out on rehearsal that they consider the small bar gig a rehearsal.

For original music, I'd say ya you should try a few things before settling on a beat. Let everybody help decide, it's a team effort. I have the guitar player constantly telling me try this or try that. Or, when I'm doing this, you should be doing this too. They have some really good input with stuff I've never thought about doing. Then there are times when it's just annoying because you happen to like what you're doing in a certain part that they want to change up a little.

If you play with a certain bass player long enough, you will gel together and there will be leeway once you gain that familiarity in each others playing. For the most part, keep your bass drum in tune with him, and play your toms and fills with the guitars and singing.

I think we do keep a mental note of the groove that was used in a song and a mental note of the feel of the song because you have to put yourself in that state for the song to sound right with the band. You are the background and the setting for the song. You set the vibe.

Hope this helps. You did say ANY help is appreciated. I had some time. Good luck. I'm sure you'll get some better responses from a few other guys here too. (or not)
 
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Manningluck

Senior Member
WORK, Beer, nachos, chicken wings, football, and sleep.

That's how I've been thinking lately.

Oh you mean as a musician?

You're not expected to learn note for note on covers. The show offs usually do though. Getting the basic groove and being able to do tasty fills that compliment the tune and/or mimic the original version will suffice.

Don't forget to practice technique It's very hard to 'unlearn' something in your technique if you picked up a bad habit from the start. I used to be big into drum corps but think it's a bad idea for set drummers. Just my opinion. Drum set is more of a individual personality and drum corps is more uniformity and machine like. Not that you care, but my point is don't forget about technique. Might seem silly in an early stage but as time goes on your technique will start to enhance your playing ability and make things a little easier on you.

Just a couple thoughts for the table.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
First thought is that you play the way you wish the drummers in your bands played. You know what you want to hear - it's just a matter of practising until you satisfy yourself (if that's possible :)

If you can groove steadily in 4 and 6 and can swing a bit you'll cover most bases in rock and pop.
 

mikeyhanson

Silver Member
Great questions, and all could easily be looked at deeply. I can't help much on the covers aspect, but I'd think that if I was in a cover band and we were going to do a song, I would make sure I knew the whole song and could also adjust to things that the band may do to it.

Do drummers have a catalog of grooves and variations that they choose from when playing, or is it mostly done by feel?
I think every drummer's "catalog" would have much to do with how they would interpret what they're hearing and what they put into the music. So the feel comes from a combination of what you can play and what you're mind can hear, interpret and come up with.

For original music how do you decide what kind of groove a song needs? When you hear the progression, do you try out different grooves and variations before settling on something? Is this guided by your "inner ear" (ie, you hear the beat in your head and then figure out how to play it?)
Whenever I'm working on originals, I always listen to the possible patterns through the other instruments and work off those. I don't deliberately go the difficult path, and often start off open and loose, so that whatever we're working on can grow organically without too overcooking. As time goes by the drums will tighten up and find their place. I think my "inner ear" is playing something that I can play, so it's usually drumming right along to the music its hearing before I am even playing anything.

Does the bass player rely on you to play the groove the same way for each performance, or do you have some leeway to make changes over time?
Depends on the bass player and the situation, but I'd think for a large percentage of music situations, there will be structure there that will keep you and the bass player within a particular groove field in which to work. Besides, locking in with the bass player is what I wanna do anyway.
We're both doing the same thing...trying to figure out our own parts. In doing that, we need to be aware that our parts need to gel. So he's relying on me to play something he can relate to, understand, and work off of. So I need consistency to some extent.

For a given song, do you make a mental note of the groove that was used? Or do you do it by feel/intuitive memory? (It seems like a drummer needs to have some way to tag and memorize his different techniques, like a guitar player might memorize chords and progressions.)
I make a mental note of the groove, primarily so that I can play it again. I try not to use the same exact grooves for multiple songs, so I like to add things or play them in a way as to make them distinct.
I think there's a way to use what you know as a library of quick-grab information. A way to reference any tagged and memorized techniques. As time goes on and trial-and-error happens, I find out what works and what doesn't, and make mental notes of it. Then, while playing, it's almost like what I'm play will determine what possible things I can add to it. Hard to explain, sorry. I'd liken it to a drum machine-style software interface: if I'm playing with a jangly, folky acoustic guitar player, my "folky americana drum beats" are going to be selectable, as will the associated fills and accents, but my "portnoy blast beats" will not be selectable, nor will my Carlton Barrett drum fills. Hope that makes sense....
 

Arky

Platinum Member
"How does a drummer think?"

That question made me pick up drums (2 yrs ago)... to help me understand.
(Initially with the purpose of getting better at drum arrangements from a guitarist's perspective.)
Do I know the answer by now? I don't feel so, it's a long journey.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
What you are doing sounds good. Play to please yourself, but you will be the hardest to please.
On original songs it depends. If it was written and shown to you on guitar only, learn the lyrics and the song changes so you can feel the song, without having to count bars etc. Get inside the basic song.
Go with the first beat it suggests to you, you are the drummer. If the composer has a fixed idea for the whole song, ie intro, groove changes, middle eight, ending etc, be prepared for instructions. If it is just a rough outline of a song then you, or other members of the band could take it somewhere the composer had not thought of, and may be looking for input.

If the song is shown to the whole band during rehersals and the bass player comes up with a signature line, then follow the bass line. Its all about what will make the song better for the whole band.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
An overarching theme of response that comes to me when I read the OP is "Music is Language"

Consider it as such and those types of questions come to a natural answer.
 

bvoom

Junior Member
Congratulation on your decision. I like playing guitar too, but I love playing the drums. Plus you get a little endorphin boost from playing if you can really get on it.

Groove essentials is a great place to start. There are a hundred threads that will confirm this as well as using the Stick Control book.

It's good to know how songs go, like where the breaks are, some essential percussive elements to a song, but mostly it's a beat that you can play in hundreds of songs that share that beat. A lot of the time, many, many drummers will never really play the same song exactly the same way every time. Like I said, quite a few song will have essential fills or breaks in them that just have to be on the money, but a lot of fills you'll hear live are not just like the records, they could be better. Who knows? What you want to know are music styles and beats that go with them.

Usually people will want you to know the beat to a song they want to play beforehand otherwise the song might get scrapped. So you have to woodshed on the songs before you get to the audition. If you're convincing, you can tell them that you'll have it down by the next rehearsal. Some people even just want you to show up at the gig without rehearsal, so you better know your stuff. But that's more advanced cover bands players that have been doing it for 30 or 40 years and they're so burned out on rehearsal that they consider the small bar gig a rehearsal.

For original music, I'd say ya you should try a few things before settling on a beat. Let everybody help decide, it's a team effort. I have the guitar player constantly telling me try this or try that. Or, when I'm doing this, you should be doing this too. They have some really good input with stuff I've never thought about doing. Then there are times when it's just annoying because you happen to like what you're doing in a certain part that they want to change up a little.

If you play with a certain bass player long enough, you will gel together and there will be leeway once you gain that familiarity in each others playing. For the most part, keep your bass drum in tune with him, and play your toms and fills with the guitars and singing.

I think we do keep a mental note of the groove that was used in a song and a mental note of the feel of the song because you have to put yourself in that state for the song to sound right with the band. You are the background and the setting for the song. You set the vibe.

Hope this helps. You did say ANY help is appreciated. I had some time. Good luck. I'm sure you'll get some better responses from a few other guys here too. (or not)
Thanks! This is all good information, more than I could ask for. Right now the drums are for sure much more fun. I went down the wrong road with guitar and needed a new way to approach music.
 

bvoom

Junior Member
You're not expected to learn note for note on covers. The show offs usually do though. Getting the basic groove and being able to do tasty fills that compliment the tune and/or mimic the original version will suffice.

Don't forget to practice technique It's very hard to 'unlearn' something in your technique if you picked up a bad habit from the start. I used to be big into drum corps but think it's a bad idea for set drummers. Just my opinion. Drum set is more of a individual personality and drum corps is more uniformity and machine like. Not that you care, but my point is don't forget about technique. Might seem silly in an early stage but as time goes on your technique will start to enhance your playing ability and make things a little easier on you.

Just a couple thoughts for the table.
Thank you. Good to know I don't need note for note on covers.

One technique I'm working on now is 16ths on HH and I find it more natural to use my LH for snare on 2 and 4, but the video shows him using his RH for snare. Is there a rule to this or is it preference? This is the first "technique" question I have come up with.
 

bvoom

Junior Member
Great questions, and all could easily be looked at deeply. I can't help much on the covers aspect, but I'd think that if I was in a cover band and we were going to do a song, I would make sure I knew the whole song and could also adjust to things that the band may do to it.


I think every drummer's "catalog" would have much to do with how they would interpret what they're hearing and what they put into the music. So the feel comes from a combination of what you can play and what you're mind can hear, interpret and come up with.


Whenever I'm working on originals, I always listen to the possible patterns through the other instruments and work off those. I don't deliberately go the difficult path, and often start off open and loose, so that whatever we're working on can grow organically without too overcooking. As time goes by the drums will tighten up and find their place. I think my "inner ear" is playing something that I can play, so it's usually drumming right along to the music its hearing before I am even playing anything.


Depends on the bass player and the situation, but I'd think for a large percentage of music situations, there will be structure there that will keep you and the bass player within a particular groove field in which to work. Besides, locking in with the bass player is what I wanna do anyway.
We're both doing the same thing...trying to figure out our own parts. In doing that, we need to be aware that our parts need to gel. So he's relying on me to play something he can relate to, understand, and work off of. So I need consistency to some extent.


I make a mental note of the groove, primarily so that I can play it again. I try not to use the same exact grooves for multiple songs, so I like to add things or play them in a way as to make them distinct.
I think there's a way to use what you know as a library of quick-grab information. A way to reference any tagged and memorized techniques. As time goes on and trial-and-error happens, I find out what works and what doesn't, and make mental notes of it. Then, while playing, it's almost like what I'm play will determine what possible things I can add to it. Hard to explain, sorry. I'd liken it to a drum machine-style software interface: if I'm playing with a jangly, folky acoustic guitar player, my "folky americana drum beats" are going to be selectable, as will the associated fills and accents, but my "portnoy blast beats" will not be selectable, nor will my Carlton Barrett drum fills. Hope that makes sense....
Thank you! This most closely answered my question about how a drummer organizes everything.

Guitar chords have names and progressions can be notated with key and/or roman numerals. As I practice grooves, I am trying to give them a name so I can recall them and run through a list to practice.

The Groove Essentials does this to a degree, but I find I learn more about the grooves that makes them stand out in my memory. So far most variations are on the bass pattern and when to open/close the snare.

I am really happy with the TD9 module. I was able to load all the MP3s from the groove essentials onto a usb stick and I can play them along with 50 good built in songs. I also ripped the dvd to my phone so I can play the lessons through the module. I think these "songs" will serve as a good framework for grooves I learn. Also, I want to start playing covers and then I can think in terms of "style of (band)".
 

Manningluck

Senior Member
Thank you. Good to know I don't need note for note on covers.

One technique I'm working on now is 16ths on HH and I find it more natural to use my LH for snare on 2 and 4, but the video shows him using his RH for snare. Is there a rule to this or is it preference? This is the first "technique" question I have come up with.
I was talking more about your hand technique, how you play, hold the sticks etc.

When you play 16ths (if you're right handed) you play them as RLRL RLRL RLRL RLRL.
That's counted as 1e&a 2e&a 3e&a 4e&a. If you'll notice the 2 and 4 are RH strokes. Instead of hitting the hat on 2 and 4, hit the snare. If you're left handed, god help you. Lol. J/k.

If you're playing paradiddles on the hat, then hitting the snare with your left hand on 2&4 would make more since or maybe at a slow tempo- sixteenths on the right hand and 2&4 on the left.
 

PacifRick

Senior Member
I currently play in a cover band that covers a very wide spectrum and covers a lot of material. I had to develop my own way of learning new songs as we learn 6-8 new songs each week. I try to play the song as closely as I can to the original, but not immediately.

Initially, I focus on the structure of the song, the layout, major changes, beginning and endings, and maybe perfecting a fill or two if they are obvious. Then I concentrate on how my band might want to change a part or two, especially endings. At this point, I still don't worry about note for note playing. I can play though the song to the level my band mates are satisfied.

The next phase of how I learn a song is somewhat subconscious and nearly effortless. The next few days/weeks after practice, whether I decide to pull up the song for a listen or happen to catch it on the radio, I then start filling in the blanks to complete the song over a period of time. I take note of the subtleties within the song. Hearing the stick patterns on each fill, the dynamics, and the exact kick patterns, and then apply them at the next practice. Once I play them, its then locked into my memory. This allows me to get close to note for note, without really trying. Sometimes even a simple song is too complex to absorb everything within a few days time.

None of my band mates expects anyone to show up with the song intact, but we at least layout the baseline in which we all add to over time. I guess this is the way most drummer approach learning a song, but I simply don't get frustrated after listening to a song all week and I can't play every note. Nor do I ever get upset if I never figure out each part note for note. I have songs that we learned two years ago, I'll hear something new after hearing the song and apply it the next time I play it.
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
I have a question for you:

Has your change to drums made you think differently about drummers than when you were playing guitar?
 

bvoom

Junior Member
I have a question for you:

Has your change to drums made you think differently about drummers than when you were playing guitar?
Thats a really good question. When I picked up bass a few years ago the transition was really smooth and I was able to play Rush covers in a month or so of practice. All the time woodshedding on guitar improvisation and arpeggios pays huge dividends on bass. I just needed to learn the RH finger technique and how to groove on bass. I'm not a bassist, because I cannot innovate on that instrument, but I can learn most bass songs in the same time it would take to learn on guitar. I actually like playing bass a bit more because it is a bigger part of the song. When I pick up my electrics they feel like toys. They are basically noise makers.

I have always had respect for drummers as musicians, but I am starting to see just how much coordination and attitude it takes to be successful. Now that I am working on simple coordination patterns, I have 100x more respect for the coordination and innovation involved. I am also listening critically to every song's drums and I am seeing that the drummer makes a lot of subtle choices throughout that propel the song and make it work. I think that my perception has always been that it is easy, but I am starting to see there is much more to it.
 

?uesto

Silver Member
When playing covers with a band, are you as a drummer expected to be able to pick up the original beat from a quick listen, or are drummers given time to woodshed and learn the song note for note before practice?

Depends on the tune. Some songs' depend on a feel more than the actual groove. You don't have to play the exact groove, but try to get the basic feel down. See how correlation between the kick, snare, and hats, (or whatever's being played) affects the rhythm of the tune and how it carries the groove. If you play more or less in the groove than the original, as long as the song doesn't suffer, you're fine.

For original music how do you decide what kind of groove a song needs? When you hear the progression, do you try out different grooves and variations before settling on something? Is this guided by your "inner ear" (ie, you hear the beat in your head and then figure out how to play it?)

With my original band, I'm responsible for all the drum parts. My singer (who writes the stuff) trusts my ear and my playing to come up with something that works. Sometimes he'll have an idea in mind, (switch to 16th notes on the hi-hat in the chorus, play a groove on the toms, when the breaks are, etc.) so I'll try to play his idea with my feel and exact notes.

I've done a few sessions, however where it can totally vary. One session I did for a local jazz guitarist's demo, he and his dad who was producing it, had very specific grooves and fills in mind for pretty much the entire song. It was a little obnoxious and tedious, but it came out sounding pretty good. Another session I did, I brought a bass player I needed for a Blues guitarist/singer/songwriter and he had a few songs where he had some drum track demos that he wanted me to follow for the grooves, but it wasn't too specific. Other ones, he wanted more of an improv setting, so he told the bass player the key and changes, and just let us go. It was easy to feel the section changes. The guitarist would give visual cues as to when it would be coming down or when to pick it up or stop.


Does the bass player rely on you to play the groove the same way for each performance, or do you have some leeway to make changes over time?

I never realized the importance of a solid, consistent groove until I started playing bass. Plus, playing with the variety of bass players I have has taught me a lot. Some bass players can lay down a solid groove, but they won't really listen to the drummer. They want the drummer to follow them. This isn't always bad if the bass player is a stronger musician than the drummer. It might be easier for the drummer to fall into the bassist. This isn't really ideal since the drummer should be setting the pace and the feel in most situations, but in music that's a little more open, like improvisational, experimental, or otherwise instrumental music, it can work a lot better.

There are other bassists that need you to keep it solid, because their parts may be a little more complex and they rely on a consistent groove to play over.

My favorite bass players are the ones who are on the same page as me. We can feel where we are on the beat, see what we're going to do and play as the music progresses. He feels my fills, I can feel the space in his note choice, etc. When you lock in with a bass player, there is an aura between you two and that foundation is set for the band.


For a given song, do you make a mental note of the groove that was used? Or do you do it by feel/intuitive memory? (It seems like a drummer needs to have some way to tag and memorize his different techniques, like a guitar player might memorize chords and progressions.)

This also varies. In my band, I started making quick charts. They're basically little charts that indicate tempo, feel, and if it's not a real basic groove, I'd make a note of what I played for the groove. Each column of the chart indicates a section of the song, and it's written what it is, (Intro, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Solo, etc.), how many bars the section lasts, and what I'm playing on, (I may write something like Ride, 16th Note Hi-Hat, Open Hats, Crash, Toms, No Drums, etc.) For my band, I even color coded them for which snare I'd like to use on the song for when I played it live, just to make setlists easier to look at for that, (the same way a guitarist may indicate which guitar they like to play each tune on).

I use this technique for recording sessions too. I'll almost always make a chart like this, if there's something to the music. The only time I didn't do this was when I had two gigs with an out of town act. Never heard their stuff until two days before the first gig, and I listened and realized that everything was 4 or 8 bars. We had no rehearsals before the first gig, and it went pretty well. It required next to no prep-work.

Here's a screen shot of the chart thing:



Do drummers have a catalog of grooves and variations that they choose from when playing, or is it mostly done by feel?

I used to love copping grooves from James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, and the likes. It hugely opened my musical vocabulary. Sometimes I'd finally get the groove down and I'd just play it over and over and over. Then I'd mess with some of the ideas and see what I could do with it to make it work in other ways.

Very rarely do I take the groove from a song into a jam without knowing what the other guys are going to play, or what kind of drum groove they're comfortable with. I usually try to keep it simple and lay something down that's really easy to play over, and that I can build on to build tension or help push the song.


Any help appreciated.
Open to other questions. Hope I could help
 
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Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Oh come on.... Drummers don't have to think, they don't have to remember scales or chord progressions, they just hit stuff. No thinking required.
 
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