MEMORIZING DRUM PARTS

alparrott

Platinum Member
I agree with the previous poster whose band concentrates on beginnings and endings. Those are critical and in my opinion are where the good bands separate from the great. Stops, breaks, and anything played by two or more instruments in unison should also be emphasized.

I'm currently subbing for a blues band which is between drummers with a full summer schedule. My first gig with them was three hours long; this weekend I'm doing a total of five hours between two gigs. The guitarist thoughtfully printed out a setlist with space in between songs for me to scratch notes as we learned the songs. Knowing the typical 12-bar, 16-bar, and etc. blues patterns certainly helped, as well as being familiar with about 15 or the songs. From there it was learning the idiosyncrasies of each song and making notes that I could decipher on the fly (including bass drum rhythms, etc). A typical song note might look like this:

12. Slipped Tripped, Fell In Love (John & drums)
Tempo ~105 - laid back funk. 8 bars drums & guitar set up groove (wrote out 1 bar of groove here), 8 bar v, 8 bar prechorus ends with (wrote out unison rhythm here), ch, 8 bar instr, solo 16 bars, pc, ch, solo to pc and end on unison part

The thing is, by the gig (after two practices and one woodshed by myself) it worked out where, as Larry says, I didn't even need the notes except as little reminders here and there.

I would also recommend only using the mp3 tracks to practice songs, not to learn them whenever you have the luxury of time. Learn the songs with the band.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I don't usually learn "drum parts". I learn the song, memorize the melodies and progressions. The drumming comes on it's own once I know an actual song well. Sometimes that's easy if it's an infectious, catchy simple tune. Sometimes we have to re-hearse a good number of times if it's complicated with lots of odd hits, starts, changes etc.

I know a few drummers who like to learn lyrics and use those to help keep track of where they are in a song, but I don't typically do that myself.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I don't usually learn "drum parts". I learn the song, memorize the melodies and progressions. The drumming comes on it's own once I know an actual song well. Sometimes that's easy if it's an infectious, catchy simple tune. Sometimes we have to re-hearse a good number of times if it's complicated with lots of odd hits, starts, changes etc.

I know a few drummers who like to learn lyrics and use those to help keep track of where they are in a song, but I don't typically do that myself.

This is the other thing I do that I totally forgot to mention. Learn the song. Good catch, Doc.
 

grannydrums

Senior Member
Glad I have not relied on lyrics, we are in the middle of getting a new singer and so are having to rehearse without vocals. Shows you know the structure of the song.

Most songs I am asked to cover I am completely unfamilliar with,so I am quite used to drumming to stuff I dont know. I just sight read the drum score when i play with the band until I know it. I would never attempt to learn the melodies, never crossed my mind. I suppose I must absorb a bit as i am drumming along to the tracks because sometimes someone can play something that i was not expecting and it can throw me. When I am playing with the band in rehearsal and live i play to a click through ear monitors which are also earplugs so that i cannot always hear them that well anyway. (ear protection- the most valuable drums you own are those in your ears)

Perhaps its because I am a mathematician, and I think more about patterns and stucture than melody. Perhaps that is why I am not a great drummer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul8IH4DFPys
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Perhaps its because I am a mathematician, and I think more about patterns and stucture than melody.

It's good that you recognize this, but try and kill it. You've got to be aware of what the other players are doing if you want to truly compliment them and not just wrench in things because they fit into the mathematical space provided by the tempo and quarter note.

Make it a huge goal to think in terms of melodies and progressions, then apply rhythms to them. Most of the time that's a better approach than trying to match patterns to pulses.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Probably not the right way to say it, but I'm simply talking about the progression of melodies, one to the next. I think of it as a bit more specific than the overall structure, but same concept.

I will very often hum the songs as I play them. Keeps me in the right place, ensures I'm paying attention to the song, and even provides some "backup" to my playing in the event that say a guitar player makes a mistake or flubs a rhythm.
 

grannydrums

Senior Member
I dont think I could do that, I have never hummed or sang along to a song in my life and I think I am a bit old to start now. I still dont realy understand what you mean about melodies progressing.

I am just a pub rock covers drummer, counting and learning the stucture as bars works for me. I must have some feeling for the music because I recognise when we go wrong and it always seems to be me that gets us back on track, but I think its at a subconcious level after playing the songs often.

Because it sometimes takes me some time to get the beats and fills up to speed I can have played the song for a week or so just to a metronome increasing the speed till i can do it before i even listen to the song again. I can only play along to the track once i get it to the right speed. Very often this means that the first time i play it with the band i have not had time to play along to the record, and its always a surprise (and relief) that it all fits.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul8IH4DFPys
 

Zickos

Gold Member
Definitely chart out the tunes. You don't have to write a complete chart but it's nice to have tempos, song structure, cues and important fills notated. You'll be surprised at how much you retain by a quick glance at your cheat chart.

I started playing rock 50 years ago and I don't remember how I did it then. Currently I play in a big band that uses charts so I don't have to worry about it. What little experience I had playing recently (Dansig's "Mother"), I decided to listen to the song and chart it (intro, verse, chorus, etc) and get the basic beat or groove or whatever you want to call it. It worked well for me. Once done you can refer to the chart mentally (actually recall the chart visually)

I currently have a student, about 16, who wants to learn songs for his band and I have urged him to chart them. I'm not sure he has actually done it yet but I have encouraged him not to get too flowery with it, just emphasize the 2 and 4. I've told him he can add that stuff in later.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I still dont realy understand what you mean about melodies progressing.

I think Watso is referring to the chord progression/song form. I think. Never heard of a melody progression. Not saying you should change your ways or anything, however you do it is obviously working for you. Just trying to clarify what I think Dr Watso meant, which is probably a bad idea knowing him lol.
 

Diet Kirk

Silver Member
I think another important thing to remember is that its entirely possible that some of the cues you rely on when practising to an mp3 may not be there, or may be slightly different when playing with a band.

This of course depends on the technique of your band mates and how accurately they intend to play the song.

If you rely on a particular vocal vibrato say to alert you that the chorus is coming, then if your singer holds that note instead that can really throw you.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I think Watso is referring to the chord progression/song form. I think. Never heard of a melody progression. Not saying you should change your ways or anything, however you do it is obviously working for you. Just trying to clarify what I think Dr Watso meant, which is probably a bad idea knowing him lol.

I use wrong terms all the time. I and my primary bandmates are all terrible at talking about music, so it's lucky we can play it.

I just mean that I like to pay attention to both form and melodics. Just trying to remember sequences of patterns would both bore and not work too well for me, so I remember how the song goes.
 

grannydrums

Senior Member
Of course its great when you get to the stage with a song that you know it so well you dont have to count or impagine the chart to be able to play it. At the stage its just part of you and you instinctivelhy know what is coming next and you can relaxt and really enjoy yourself. All this counting and learning is essential for me at the early stages, but by the time a song is gig ready then it fades into the distance and I just get on with it.
 

moxman

Silver Member
As mentioned - a fast way to lock in charts requires 2 things:

1. write out a quick chart; 8 bar sections usually, note the intro and ending parts and any key fills and cymbal crashes. Think 'Intro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, End' to identify the main parts. Also think of it as blocks.. you don't need to transcribe it - but sometimes it's useful to write in a sample of the main groove pattern or a key fill etc.

2. go online and print off the lyric sheet to get the vocal structure and key word cues you can use to lock it in.

But don't rely totally on lyrics or other band cues to carry you thru.. things happen on stage where a vocalist forgets a line or an instrumentalist forgets a key line or.. one time the singers remote mic cut out and we were left vamping on stage; luckily I knew it was 14 bars of missing 'voice over' and knew when to lead the band back out.

You don't need either of these on stage, but going thru the process will lock it into your brain's muscle memory.

Once you get good at making quick charts you'll find you often don't need to chart them out.. I usually just analyze a song in my head using the techinques above and conciously say to myself what the general structure is.. and it usually sticks.

Just playing along to MP3's is like riding a bike with training wheels., eventually you'll get it burned into memory.. but the tendency with that technique is to follow rather than lead.
 

Matt Hennen

Junior Member
Many great suggestions here. Charting and playing with only a click (no cues) are crucial.

One thing I would add is too isolate any parts and/or fills that you are having trouble with and play them over and over to the click until they're automatic.

I learn the whole song, start to stop, no music cues, to a click and record it.

If you do that, by the time you've got a 'take" that you are happy with...

you OWN that song for all time.
 

drummer-russ

Gold Member
"I think another important thing to remember is that its entirely possible that some of the cues you rely on when practising to an mp3 may not be there, or may be slightly different when playing with a band."

Good advice is to pay attention to what is cueing you in the MP3. Sometimes it can be the drums and then absent the drum you are lost. Pay close attention to what precedes changes in the drum part.


I chart every song.

Someone on here gave the tip to chart song structure like this:

I8 V8 C12 B4 V8 C12 G12

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Verse, Chorus Guitar Solo.

I use this all the time.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Rather than count the bars, I listen to the song form, specifically, the chord progression of the rhythm guitar or the keys. For instance in one song we do, I know that the guitar solo portion runs through the verse/chorus chord progression twice. At the end of the 2nd progression, if I detect that he's not ready to end his solo, (it's obvious) then I know he wants to go around one more time before going back into the last verse.

I would go bats counting stuff. The chord progression and/or the melody are the main signposts I use to know where I am in the song. I don't even have to think about it because it's being given to me, all I have to do is listen. Even if the singer messes up, since I know the melody, it doesn't throw me. If I got thrown by people who get lost in the form (my bass player does this quite often), I would not be a strong player. If my bass player gets lost, there is no altering the form for him. It's up to him to catch up to where we are. As it should be. My band is non forgiving like that. You can't cater to the weak link.

Relying on the chord progression frees me up from counting, and allows me to think musically, rather than mathematically. If the rhythm guitar messes up, (which just doesn't happen in my band) the progression is ingrained in my brain, and I am able to steer the band out of the gutter and back on the road, because I know where we are supposed to be in the chord progression. Thankfully, it's like a 6th sense that I don't even have to think about.
 

TomasHakkesBrain

Senior Member
I used to do a mp3 click track and just record a voice track with rough prompts when learning and sometimes live if on a time constraint. Dream Theater use random words to list complex parts e.g. instead of guitar solo, cheeseville pantera or something silly. Works well.
 

yesdog

Silver Member
For myself when i learn a new song, is to listen to it as a song. I used to just listen to the drums only. For rock and pop music its almost always 8 bar phrasing, there might be turnaround for 10 measures going to the bridge or coming out of a guitar solo. After i listen to the song I will make a cheat sheet, learn the groove or any signature fills that make the song. Exp, if there is a stop break on beat 3 on measure 8 coming out of the bridge I will note that so I know to count out my measures in the bridge. Rock and pop songs are very predictable, but you need to listen carefully for turnarounds, breaks, double choruses, and key accents with the band. Whats most important for me is to groove, hit the accents, set up transitions. I would go nuts counting every measure in a song. Vocal cues are great to listen for when there is a transition coming as well. I love the way everyone goes about learning and memorizing on this thread.
 

ChrisB

Junior Member
When learning covers I usually do what I call "picket fence charts". One bar is one I, so it all gets pretty visual. I recently did Dirt Road Anthem by Jason Aldean and it would look like this, with comments after each section if any.

INTROIIII
CHO IIII IIII
RAP IIII IIII
CHO IIII IIII
RAP IIII II
CHO IIII IIII
SOLO IIII
CHO BD IIII IIII (BASS LAY OUT 1-4)
SOLO IIII
 
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