Less is more ... but sometimes less

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Sometimes I overplay. Sometimes I underplay. Sometimes I get it about right.

How about you?

A lot of developing drum parts is instinctive and part of it is knowing classic song forms, but do you have any principles that you fall back on - or maybe some tricks or formulas - when you aren't quite getting it first up?
 

MattA

Senior Member
Depends on who I'm playing with but I generally like to use the band as a bit of a gauge.
Multiple sets of musically trained ears, in theory, should be able to pick up over or under playing better than just one.
Note that I said 'depends on who I'm playing with' and 'in theory', I think some peoples ears can have agendas or bias.
However if you play in a creatively healthy band, I like using constructive honesty and the democratic process to tweak the under/over playing knob so that it sits just right for the music being played around it.
 

Muckster

Platinum Member
It really depends on the tune. Some tunes contain certain phrases in which the drum parts are obvious. It's then a matter of deciding to play with it or against it for a dramatic effect based on mood, musical ability of you and the other musicians and the style of music.

I'm in a studio project now where i'm presented with rhythm guitar tracks. For the most part, i tend to play painfully simple on the first go around (recording as we go). I'll then write out the tune, add what i think sounds good to me, take it back to the studio and go over the tune a few times with input from the guitar player.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
When I hear a new part, I go with my first instinct, which isn't always the most simple part that could go there. Sometimes it's not what the guitar player (or whoever) had in mind, but they usually let me run with it as they're not drummers and generally trust me not to settle on something that won't work. But whatever it is - simple or not - I try to find it and make it steady as soon as I can. If after trying for a bit and it doesn't seem to be working, or if the guitar or bass player is still having heartburn over it, then I get their take and we go from there.

I almost never try the simplest thing first (unless it's obvious that that's what goes there) since it's harder to morph a simple part to something more complex once the others have settled on their parts than it is going the other way. Besides, it's more fun that way.

But this approach obviously won't work with all bands, so it's important to find other musicians who like to work this way.

To your thread title, Polly, I agree: sometimes less is just less, which I try to avoid. I like that sweet spot between underplaying and overplaying. Sometimes you have to push into overplaying territory at first in order to find something interesting that can be pared down.
 

unfunkyfooted

Silver Member
the correct part will come to me.

one of my tunes, i thought was in an odd time for 4 years til it finally came to me that while it's in 4/4, there are polyrhythms on top that are...weird.

if it's a cover, i can't always hear what the correct part is - ie. what makes this track work, so i look for a live version or cover where the part is more apparent. of course cover versions and live versions aren't always played totally correctly, but it puts you on the right track. usually it's the bass drum (often unheard in 60's recordings) that is the key to everything.

recent disappointments: realising that not only is Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road" a drum machine. it's also key bass. sadness. but not too much. that song JUMPS !!!

what's my name ?
 

wsabol

Gold Member
I like to think of it as trying to use the space as much as you use notes. Yes, sometimes less is less. But "less is more" doesn't have to mean simple is better. Its about leaving space.. alot or alittle. The message is that you don't have to feel every best of every measure.

I saw brian blade finish a sick fill, and then just stamped quarters on his hi hats for a measure or two to build tension before coming back in with something extremely nuts. There was nothing simple about it. Completely improvised, completely insane. But he used that space to his advantage rather than filling it with notes.

Musicians are more respected for the notes they don't play than for the notes they do.
 

unfunkyfooted

Silver Member
hmmm. i look at it from a skeletal framework.

what notes HAVE to be hit in order for it to work. from there, it's filling in the blanks with a part that grooves on it's own and doesn't step on the other players' vital parts.
 
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uniongoon

Gold Member
I used to get all worked up over this, now in my older age, i don't think about it, I play from the soul and play what I feel, if people dig it, cool, if not, I still had fun. Reminds me of a guitarist I used to play with who was the opposite of well endowed, while on a date with a really hot girl, they make it to the bedroom where she shes his stuff and laughs, "who are you gonna please with that little thing?' He proudly points himself in the chest and says "ME!"
 

Pachikara-Tharakan

Silver Member
I like to think of it as trying to use the space as much as you use notes. Yes, sometimes less is less. But "less is more" doesn't have to mean simple is better. Its about leaving space.. alot or alittle. The message is that you don't have to feel every best of every measure.

I saw brian blade finish a sick fill, and then just stamped quarters on his hi hats for a measure or two to build tension before coming back in with something extremely nuts. There was nothing simple about it. Completely improvised, completely insane. But he used that space to his advantage rather than filling it with notes.

Musicians are more respected for the notes they don't play than for the notes they do.
i felt this so many times whenever i feel like overplaying, when i drum along.
 
What an astute question. Thanks for asking. My absolute favorite drummer of all time was the late Connie Kay of MJQ fame, who made a career out of the concept of less is more. If you like jazz, I cannot sing his praises high enough. The man swung like crazy and with extraordinary understatement and good taste. If you are more into rock, then Charlie Watts springs to my mind as perhaps the epitome of the idea of less is more. Rock solid, nothing fancy, never gets in the way, but no one can deny that what Charlie does is consistently just right for arguably the world's premiere rock and roll band.
 
B

BigSteve

Guest
I really try to play to support the tune on original material. Sometimes I hit the part on the first take as it's obvious to me what will fit and sounds good...other times it takes multiple playbacks and listening to what was layed down to see if it works. I can't say if I overplay or underplay, if anything probably going from underplay to finding out what works from lots of listening back to the recordings.

Sometimes what sounds good on the first take doesn't sound so good on the playback but will generate other ideas to work with.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I love making a really basic groove feel good, but sometimes drumming should provide a bit of tension for added excitement. I know a lot of drummers that eg.feel Vinnie overplays a lot when he plays with Sting, but as a whole it adds the right energy and doesn't get in the way.
 

Pachikara-Tharakan

Silver Member
Rock solid, nothing fancy, never gets in the way, but no one can deny that what Charlie does is consistently just right for arguably the world's premiere rock and roll band.
sound true to me cause i heard only Charlie's version in any studio recorded stones song. If I hear some one else drumming to that song when recorded (in studio), i could change my mind.

for eg: Jimmy miller played in "You cant always get what u want", if Charley played, it would have been simple!
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
I used to get all worked up over this, now in my older age, i don't think about it, I play from the soul and play what I feel, if people dig it, cool, if not, I still had fun. Reminds me of a guitarist I used to play with who was the opposite of well endowed, while on a date with a really hot girl, they make it to the bedroom where she shes his stuff and laughs, "who are you gonna please with that little thing?' He proudly points himself in the chest and says "ME!"
I am much better about playing appropriately than I used to be. This is a skill to learn, much like any other. I have found that recording hundreds of hours of band practice and gigs and listening to them carefully, alone and with others, really helps this out.
 

Brundlefly

Senior Member
Less is more is a guideline for appropriate amounts of white space, if I can use an art analogy here. But I often see it quoted (and applied) as more of a dogmatic rule. I think there is the right part, with the right amount of playing for each piece. Less than that hurts the piece just as much as more can, just not in such an obvious way. It's safer ground... but not necessarily better.

Yeah, I've heard parts where I thought the drummer (and other musicians as well) did too much and it hurt the song. But I've more often heard songs that were downright lifeless and sleepy because the drummer didn't do quite enough.
 

Pachikara-Tharakan

Silver Member
i still think the Overplay, underplay, getting it right deals are all depends on the individual band/ drummer or the producer choices.. exactly thats how the folks behind that song wants us to hear. there is still no right or wrong answers
 

wsabol

Gold Member
i still think the Overplay, underplay, getting it right deals are all depends on the individual band/ drummer or the producer choices.. exactly thats how the folks behind that song wants us to hear. there is still no right or wrong answers
True. Neil Peart and Vinnie Colaiuta are two of most respected drummers in the world and I don't think underplay is in their vocabulary, haha. It all depends on the band and what kind of musical statement the players want to make.
 
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