Learning Someone Else's Originals

fixxxer

Senior Member
O.K., long story short......I am in a band that has just reunited after about a 2 year "misunderstanding". I am not the original drummer for the band (he will not be returning), but have been working on other projects with the bassist for the past 2 years. This band plays all originals, most of which are actually pretty good. I have recordings of most of the better songs and have those down pretty well.
So, last night we got together for our first practice. Everything went well in the beginning while we were playing the above mentioned previously recorded songs- very tight. However, once we got into the songs that I was unfamiliar with, it was a different story. I listened to them play their parts and then added what I felt fit well for, at least, a start to build off of. Their response was things like, "No, it goes like this...or goes like that (insert verbal drumming suggestions)."
Don't get me wrong. Overall, the practice went great and everyone walked away excited to be reunited again. I just left wondering what my role in this situation is.
My question is this, if it's original songs that haven't been recorded and aren't known by a "fan base", don't you think I would have some freedom to do my own thing in these songs? I know the guys are probably just comfortable with the way they have played them before with the first drummer, but with nothing to really go by, what do you do?
 

ahector

Senior Member
It completely depends. It could go anywhere from:

- They tell you exactly what to play and how to play it

to

- You have complete freedom over everything you play

There are no rules for how a band works. It seems that you want to have more freedom to play what you want to play. It seems that maybe they either don't want you to have that freedom or, that they weren't digging what you were coming up with on the spot for those songs.

Anyways, all you can do is bring the subject up and figure out how everyone feels. Sometimes you have to compromise with people. There are some compromises that you or other members of your band will not be willing to make. This is part of finding out whether it's possible for you all to work together and to be satisfied with the results. You might find out that it doesn't work, or you might that it works great once you get further into it.

Just don't make the mistake of being unsatisfied with something and not addressing it. Open, honest communication is the way to go. And remember to never make musical or creative differences personal!

Good luck
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
At the risk of incurring the wrath of JPW, you could start by playing the money beat to the songs, (if they're in 4/4) and build from there.
People like what they're used to. Your bandmates were "imprinted" with the former drummers part.
You either have to come up with a clearly superior part (to their ears), or replicate what was done already. Do you have recordings to listen to?
 

sqadan

Senior Member
Generally - I always learn existing material pretty much exactly the way it was played before. I usually wait to put my stamp on things until I begin writing new material with the band.

I look at existing - pre-written material pretty much the same way I look at covers. Play what the original drummer played unless told otherwise.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
when i'm in that situation i usually go along with what other people want unless i really think their part can be improved on, in which case i play for them what i think it could sound sound like. but most of the time i play what they want because i figure it's their song and if they have strong feelings about what the drum part should be like, then so be it.

having said that, i don't often find myself in that situation. most people want to hear what i can do with a song and give me complete freedom.
 

fixxxer

Senior Member
At the risk of incurring the wrath of JPW, you could start by playing the money beat to the songs, (if they're in 4/4) and build from there.
People like what they're used to. Your bandmates were "imprinted" with the former drummers part.
You either have to come up with a clearly superior part (to their ears), or replicate what was done already. Do you have recordings to listen to?
Yes. There are recordings of some of the songs and I have had for some time and have practiced to. Those actually went well last night. It was the songs that I didn't have recordings for (and never heard before) that were a little rough. Those, I did just that (4/4) with nothing fancy- just to keep time and allow everyone to flow.
Another thing that I failed to mention in my original post is, the bassist and guitarist had mentioned to me previously that they were never happy with the first drummer (the reason he is not returning). They had a lot of complaints at gigs about him and were really never happy with his overall playing ability. In the recordings, his playing is extremely simple. Although I feel that I could "add to" to make things better, I didn't go there last night. Just kept it simple.
 

fixxxer

Senior Member
Generally - I always learn existing material pretty much exactly the way it was played before. I usually wait to put my stamp on things until I begin writing new material with the band.

I look at existing - pre-written material pretty much the same way I look at covers. Play what the original drummer played unless told otherwise.
Yeah, I think that this is some really good advice in which I will go with. I guess that I am just concerned that if I continue to play like the previous drummer (which, again, had several complaints against him) for the band, then I will be perceived as not being any better.
Hopefully once everyone gets comfortable, they will be open to changes in some of the stuff that is already written. And, as sqadan posted, maybe I'll be able to "spread my wings" once we get into writing new material.
Thanks everyone for your replies!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
You should try and get them to list reasons why they didn't like the last drummer.

On the songs you haven't heard before, I would try and craft a part for the song. Listen to the lyrics. Are they happy, sad, mean, wishy washy? Lyrics give me ideas how to treat songs.

Also if you could try and classify those songs...Are they rock, dance, r&b, country, alternative? Just so you can get a basic direction to jump from...

What kind of band is it? Is it a definite style of music or are there many different styles within the setlist?

You can also ask what the writer had in mind for a drum part (if anything) Get all the info you can and then try and make a basic template.

I just usually tailor my drum part to the bass line first, then whatever the rhythm guitar is doing (if there is one)
 

chipritter

Junior Member
I simply hate this task and have to do it often,,
my advice is to be strong in your opinion in a positive way,
remember to be truye to yourself FIRST and also remember they
were doing the best they could at the time the recorded it, so wether you like it or not,
ask yourself what can you bring to offer at the table, your efforts will go much farther this way than finding whats different about your opinions.
Tell the booss or who hired you that "YES I can cover anything"
get the music, and cope the vibe the best you can, dont sweat the comments whatsoever,, just smile and keep playing your best etc.
thats my experience with it, most often the people trhat would call me to play in the first place never really say anything, they know Ill play thier song the best I can and thats that.
AFter the smoke clears if a guy has a problem with how you interpert his music, then you shouldnt be working with him anyway and would be better off playing with people who dig you for who YOU are.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Somewhat depends on the situation.

If you're getting paid to be the drummer, then you as you're told.
But I assume this isn't the case (and it rarely is). Or if you're replacing someone after an album is done (which you mentioned isn't the case) then stick the album parts.

But given what you have laid out, you should be sensitive the song writer, and take suggestions and try to stick the idea that best fit the vision of the song.

But, at the same time, if you're spending your time and gas money to drive to rehearsal, bringing your drums that you bought, contributing the band, then I feel you should have say in adding yourself to the songs. They asked YOU to be in the band, not the other drummer. It's your life, your career and you should be able to have some say in your own parts.

I believe in playing for the song, and playing parts that fit the song writers vision, but at the same time, if I'm not getting paid to be a session musicians, then I don't wish to be treated as if I'm just a session musician.

If it is to be a BAND, and you are part of the BAND, then you should some input as a BAND member. We are people, not machines.

Some compromise should be in order.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I guess that I am just concerned that if I continue to play like the previous drummer (which, again, had several complaints against him) for the band, then I will be perceived as not being any better.
I ran into that wall once.

I auditioned for a band, whom I thought had potential.

All through the process, they whined and complained about how much they didn't like their previous drummer's parts. So I did my best to out my own spin on it based on their comments. And then they said I should go home and spent more time learning what the previous drummer did.

Which seems like a lose-lose situation to me.

Driving home, I realized that (based on longer conversations) they were in fact, unhappy with their own songs, and no amount of learning the exact drum parts or changing the drum parts was going to overcome their own issues. So I never scheduled a 2nd audition.

As far as I know, they never found a new drummer that made them happy.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
But given what you have laid out, you should be sensitive the song writer, and take suggestions and try to stick the idea that best fit the vision of the song.
Initially, this is really the best approach. I was second man on the throne in one of my original bands years ago. The songwriter pretty much requested that I play the existing songs note for note, beat for beat, fill for fill etc. I hated the original drummers take on things (boring 16th single fills around all toms, no use of dynamics etc, straight 4/4 ALL of the time) and genuinely thought I could bring so much more to the music, but I sucked it up and did as I was asked.............initially!

With time together, new songs being introduced, live gigs et al, eventually they started to see that I had a different approach and the freedom to bring my own take on it to the table, followed on from there. Give 'em time to figure you and your style out mate. I'd suggest that with a little time they'll forget that the way the original drummer played things is 'the way it has to be done' and you'll be able to bring your own style into the equation.
 

fixxxer

Senior Member
I'm definately not getting paid (I wish!). If I was, I would be much more inclined to "just do what I was told". I think the most difficult part, in which larryace suggested, is that they have been "imprinted" with the first drummer's parts.
I'm fine with that because I know that that is what they know. But, when it could be better? My style is not to over do it. It's not as if I want to go all Neil Peart on 'em or anything. I just want to be able to hold my head up high when playing these songs knowing that I've played them to the best of my ability and know-how, not what they are used to, which is lesser than.
O.k.- Let me throw another thought out to all of you. This issue hasn't come up yet, but maybe with such the insightful minds here on this forum I can be prepared.
All original band- should covers be added in the mix when doing gigs?
I, personally, believe they should. This band is used to doing gigs without any covers.
Thoughts?
 

fixxxer

Senior Member
Initially, this is really the best approach. I was second man on the throne in one of my original bands years ago. The songwriter pretty much requested that I play the existing songs note for note, beat for beat, fill for fill etc. I hated the original drummers take on things (boring 16th single fills around all toms, no use of dynamics etc, straight 4/4 ALL of the time) and genuinely thought I could bring so much more to the music, but I sucked it up and did as I was asked.............initially!

With time together, new songs being introduced, live gigs et al, eventually they started to see that I had a different approach and the freedom to bring my own take on it to the table, followed on from there. Give 'em time to figure you and your style out mate. I'd suggest that with a little time they'll forget that the way the original drummer played things is 'the way it has to be done' and you'll be able to bring your own style into the equation.

Sounds very familiar! Hopefully it work out for me the same way when we get into new material.
Thanks!
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
All original band- should covers be added in the mix when doing gigs?
Again, I can only speak from my experience, so not saying they should or shouldn't. All I can say is that with a couple of original bands I played in, we included covers....BUT, never did we include top 40, or current or really well known covers . We'd do obscure or at least lesser known stuff, that fans may have been familiar with, but not so popular in general (example: we'd play The Beatles, She said She said...but not Come Together). Basically, we shied away from 'hit' songs or anything that most of the dedicated covers bands were likely to include in a set list.

This way you can play with them a little and put your own spin on them so that they don't sound completely out of place in your set list. That was our take on it at the time anyway, whether is was right or wrong is not for me to say. It seemed to work well though.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
All original band- should covers be added in the mix when doing gigs?
I, personally, believe they should. This band is used to doing gigs without any covers.
Thoughts?
Depends on the bands objectives.

If you're playing recent radio hits, you risk getting labeled a cover band that plays some originals, regardless of what mix of originals to covers you play (although some bands might be OK with that).

Also sort of depends on what kind band and audience you're going for. A prog band doing a cover of a Dream Theater song is a bit pointless.
A rowdy rock band doing an AC/DC cover would probably go over well.

There was a time when I thought playing covers in an original band showed a lack of ability to write good songs. But in the late 90's, many bands broke through on a cover

Marlyn Mason: Sweet Dreams
Limp Bizkit: Faith
Orgy: Blue Monday

And suddenly every original band was picking a single cover tune to feature (including the band I was in at the time).

But to make it work, everyone has to be on board.

I've heard of other bands having an original set they do under one name, and then having covers they perform under a different name. They use the money from the cover band gigs to help pay for the expenses of the original band.
 

Witterings

Silver Member
It's a hard one to answer, I've been between bands recently and went for an audition but they hadn't told me what their set list was. They played Mercy by Duffy and because I didn't know the original well and therefore hadn't concentrated on the drum part I did my own thing (which was probably totally over the top for a studio situation) and absolutely blew them away !!!
Playing with another band I was so conscious of what their last drummer did that I tried to replicate (on songs they'd put on a CD) exactly what he'd done and because it wasn't my territory I was "dependant" on them to lead and I could see they thought it was just "OK" and yet other songs that I hadn't heard what the other drummer played they thought I was great.
I think it comes down to the mind more than anything else, if you're totally relaxed then you play what you want with - - - - - and this is the important part - - - more confidence !!
If you're trying to copy somebody else's it's never as easy because you question if you're getting it exactly the same as the other drummer did and probably doing things you wouldn't.
As others have mentioned the big thing is talking / communicating with them, explain the dilema you're in and maybe pick just one track, learn the previous drummers part as best you can but also do your own interpretation and ask them to try both and see which is better.
If you have to go wth 1/2 dozen songs trying to do what the other guy did and it's a band you want to be in long term, go with the flow and any new material you get to do exactly what you want as no one's done it before.
One huge consolation, I'll bet with the drummer they've had in between, they probably kepy saying to him with the tracks you'd done before, can you please play them like he did - - - - meaning you :)
Just genarally humans don't like change so if you do want to bring them round to your way of playing the tracks because that's what's natural to you, change it VEEEeeery slowly and they probably won't notice but also take a step back and ask yourself if what he was playing was actually better in which case go learn it and you'll take yourself to a higher level !!!!
Good luck with that one !!!!
 

con struct

Platinum Member
I just usually tailor my drum part to the bass line first, then whatever the rhythm guitar is doing (if there is one)
YES! Lock in with the bass player, and lock in tight. Make him happy and right away there's a groove happening. Once that's been achieved you can turn your attention to the other details.

Once I realized that I was home free, and I had a ready-made ally in whatever band I was called to play with.

The bass player is key, lean on him and give him something to lean on.
 

fixxxer

Senior Member
Just genarally humans don't like change so if you do want to bring them round to your way of playing the tracks because that's what's natural to you, change it VEEEeeery slowly and they probably won't notice but also take a step back and ask yourself if what he was playing was actually better in which case go learn it and you'll take yourself to a higher level !!!!
I've definately thought of that. Maybe just go through a slow change. And I agree, not everything that the previous drummer did was bad. As matter of fact, there is no need to make any major changes. Some of which is good and I have learned from. I just want to add a little more dynamic and finesse around the drums.
 
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