Learning Songs as the New Drummer

Seafroggys

Silver Member
Unless they're handing me sheet music, I do not do note for note. I might do note for note for some important licks here and there, but that's about it. I will adopt the general 'feel' that the other drummer did, so its the same idea. But as I'm an improv player for the most part, even my stuff changes from runthrough to runthrough.

If the band wants me to play it note for note, I need them to write out the parts in notation. That I can learn without too much trouble. If they won't do that, and they still demand it, they can find another drummer.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Unless they're handing me sheet music, I do not do note for note. I might do note for note for some important licks here and there, but that's about it. I will adopt the general 'feel' that the other drummer did, so its the same idea. But as I'm an improv player for the most part, even my stuff changes from runthrough to runthrough.

If the band wants me to play it note for note, I need them to write out the parts in notation. That I can learn without too much trouble. If they won't do that, and they still demand it, they can find another drummer.
You never had a guy sing you a part to play and then you jot it down really quick to remember it? I admit yeah, if you want specifics, then chart it out. But at the same time, you should be able to take dictation. When I got to chat with studio great Ndugu Chancellor, I asked him how he did those Michael Jackson dates with Quincy Jones producing, and he said Quincy would sing what he wanted for fills or what not, and Ndugu would jot them down on a yellow pad. The red goes on, he plays it back, then they move on to the next one. No pressure 😉
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
You never had a guy sing you a part to play and then you jot it down really quick to remember it? I admit yeah, if you want specifics, then chart it out. But at the same time, you should be able to take dictation. When I got to chat with studio great Ndugu Chancellor, I asked him how he did those Michael Jackson dates with Quincy Jones producing, and he said Quincy would sing what he wanted for fills or what not, and Ndugu would jot them down on a yellow pad. The red goes on, he plays it back, then they move on to the next one. No pressure 😉
Okay I should probably qualify my statement at the 'level' that the band is at.

If its a pro gig and the band is of renown, and I"m gonna be making some money from it...yeah, I can transcribe and take dictation.

If its just a local band that needs a drummer to replace their existing very good drummer, then I'm gonna do more my thing. I'll be a clone of their past drummer, but they've got to get me charts for that.
 

iCe

Senior Member
It depends more or less on what the band would expect or want. Am I given a carte blanche to modify parts or do they want me to play the songs exactly like before? I do like to have some freedom regarding fills or grooves as long as it fits the song. Even with covers i play it almost note for note to stay true to the song, occasionally changing a bit to mimic something like a percussive section. But mostly trail and error to see if things work or not.

I replaced a drummer in a band few years ago and with a couple of songs they wanted me to stay close to what the previous drummer had played because they liked that. So i made it my own, maybe altering a few minor things because it worked better in that song. Or sometimes i suggested a different groove because i felt it would suit the song better. All done with consensus of the full band.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Since this was an open and hypothetical question
I want to answer too please

If the last drummer was spectacular, I just straight up wouldn't be able to recreate his parts and would have to make it my own.
I wanted to add this response because I think that it does actually happen that way sometimes, for whatever reason (good looks, nepotism, history, whatever,) and if one of us gets the call and listens to the old practice "tapes" and thinks, "I can't play that!" He might ought to go ahead and give it a try anyway, it might just work out.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Since this was an open and hypothetical question
I want to answer too please

If the last drummer was spectacular, I just straight up wouldn't be able to recreate his parts and would have to make it my own.
I wanted to add this response because I think that it does actually happen that way sometimes, for whatever reason (good looks, nepotism, history, whatever,) and if one of us gets the call and listens to the old practice "tapes" and thinks, "I can't play that!" He might ought to go ahead and give it a try anyway, it might just work out.
That's a very realistic scenario, Rock Salad. Technical capacity isn't the sole reason a band selects a drummer. The decision is informed by a lot of factors.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
First, find out what it pays. 😮

I know very few musicians who can turn down work on principle.
Yep, we all know lots of broke 'arteests'. When there's cold hard cash on the line you do as you're told and laugh all the way to the bank.

I've been at the opposite ends of the spectrum (none of them paid though), I joined a signed band that had just released their first album and were signed. The album had been recorded with programmed drums and that's what they wanted me to play. Note for note.

I got asked to join a 3 piece prog band as their drummer wouldn't and couldn't gig (hit setup was stupid big but he incorporated it into his playing). The drumming was a million miles away from me but the guys said play it your way.
 

moodman

Well-known member
You have just joined a new (to you) band. Their last drummer was spectacular. He went on vacation and never came back. The band only plays originals, and is a pretty big deal.

Do you:

A. Learn the songs note for note
B. Make it close enough

This is not a cover band. This band tours and has the potential for being big. So what's it gonna be and why?
Ask them. I got a gig with a great player and wood-shedded his tunes, wrote out a book of his arrangements.
When we gigged he said, "don't play like my other drummers, play like you but, COMMIT TO THE MUSIC"
 

BruceW

Senior Member
I would certainly try to get it as close as possible. If you can get to note-for-note, why not? Once you own it that way, your own style inevitability will shine through at some point.

I went through this at a much, much smaller scale. I joined a local band just after they finished recording a CD of original material. I had to learn all of that material, plus the covers that they did in order to play bar gigs. Not all standard bar fare, either. Long story short(er), I struggled learning the drum parts for the original material. The previous drummer didn't do anything "standard" and I to this day haven't got some of his parts duplicated on those songs. Fortunately, we weren't in the situation you're in, as far as exposure and potential. So it was ok for me to put my interpretation on it. Still bothered me that I couldn't make it "sound like the record" as well as I would have liked.
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
I would definitely ask what they want. I had a situation where I joined a band and the guitarist told me that as long as the same feel is there he didn't care what I was playing, I didn't change much other than some of the fills.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I didn't read the whole thread, but I would hope that the band was professional enough to give the auditioning drummers that information in the audition request.

I think a band at that level, or the people running the band, would be looking to give, and receive a certain level of details.

If I were the one running the audition, I would say there are certain elements of the song that need to be exact, and then I would identify them, and that certain parts, like groove, can be "up to your ears"...
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
I think one of the biggest problems is that not everyone plays drums, sings, and writes songs. I think all 3 of those are really important for all musicians. It makes you well-rounded.
 
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