Performing songs cold


paradiddle pete

Completely Cold meaning no learning of parts , Yes to that too! Keeps you on your toes.


Staff member
Even back in the day - very rare for me, as most of my work was originals.

These days, almost never, except when I sat in with Yolanda Charles' jam band at the London Drum show afterparty. I was some distance outside my comfort zone, and also completely out of my depth alongside such an array of stellar players & in front of some of the worlds best drummers. I only partly recognised one song / never played / few cues - not my finest hour, but I did have fun.

Here's a short clip of me (links directly to my crimes) - watch from the start if you want to hear the good stuff :)

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Silver Member
Every week I do it. Often songs I have not played or heard before.
I just make some simple charts and rehearse the songs on my own.

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
I did a whole tour in Europe three years ago having only met one member of the band previously.


Silver Member
Larryace - you sure do come up with topics no one has thought of before! In any case, it depends on the band, but yes it comes up from time to time... A request from the audience, or the lead guitar/ singer has a new tune and pulls it out - this is where improvising or being able to 'fake it' is gold... But ya .. as drummers we should be able to comp to anything.. Also depends on the complexity of the music to pull it off. I know a bunch of killer jazz musicians who throw a tribute night for some famous artist.. One guy writes out quick charts for the band, they have one practice and then play the show and just kill everything.. And they dont even look at the charts! The goal is to not think about it when you play.. Just one with the instrument 'in the zone'!
Our praise group has one practice before the service, but playing the service might as well be cold since the group leader changes the arraignments on most of the songs. I've started practicing just segments of the songs so I can mix and match the new arraignment.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I'll add that I just did this in November with my monthly cover band, which hasn't rehearsed in maybe 2 years? On the last gig, we threw in I Got A Line On You (Spirit) and Hard To Handle (Counting Crows? Black Crows? Sheryl Crow? I forget...) with only a discussion about the key and endings. Took just a few minutes before the first set. Since they're pretty close in tempo, I suggested a segue from I Got A Line into LaGrange, and fortunately they were in the same key. No prep, no quiet guitar strumming, nothing. And it worked perfectly, as it should when there's a certain level of musicianship and clear communication.

BTW, this is the Zero G Band I'm talking about, and DW member Bo Eder subs with them when I'm on the road. :)

It’s nice that ZG has gotten looser over the years on what they try without rehearsal. It’s become much more relaxed over the years. We threw in a Fleetwood Mac song - but none of us knew it so before we started we went outside to listen to it on a phone! I was surprised because in the early days there’s be a full rehearsal before they added anything new. Trust has grown over the years ?


Platinum Member
One of the things our lead singer likes to do is get in front of a crowd of people and says, "Let's play 'Stump the Band.'" Then he'll starting playing a song we've never heard. Within a few bars we've all jumped in and got it. I play with some pretty great people.


Platinum Member
I have done it but i don't like doing it.

I always feel that either the music is 'Fischer Price' and coming off about as well as it can(why do it in the first place?) or 'it could be better if we had worked on it'.

I see this desire to deeply work a song as, occasionally, being one of my weaknesses.


Diamond Member
I have done this both on drums and bass in different a similar "stump the band" kind of deal. It was always for fun, and I actually like doing it. And, I think I am actually better at it on bass then drums honestly
On songs where there's a clear arrangement (Honky Tonk Woman, I Saw Her Standing There, etc) yes, a quick discussion about the key and whether there's a longer solo or something is all that's needed. Usually that can be in the 10 seconds just before the song is counted-off. In the case of Honky Tonk Woman, I jump in and let them know that I'll start the song, a la the record. :)

If I'm sitting-in with a band that knows a song and I don't, I'll ask them if there's anything I need to know. Typically I say "cue me on stops and changes" and I pay close attention. There are a lot of songs I know, but have never played. Some are just in my DNA from having heard them over and over for 30 or 40 or 50 years. When I play those, the parts and fills come naturally, as if I'm hearing the song while I'm also playing it. Sometimes I surprise myself with the parts and fills that come out without even thinking about them.


I'm doing a fill-in gig this Saturday with no set list and songs being called off. I also ask for cues for when to start and stop and changes from the bass player.


Platinum Member
I'm doing a fill-in gig this Saturday with no set list and songs being called off. I also ask for cues for when to start and stop and changes from the bass player.
That's really all I care about too. With good signaling, as long as someone knows the song and there aren't too many iconic parts you might miss, it usually goes fine. Once you've been playing with someone for a real long time somehow you just start to learn their mannerisms and it becomes a little easier.


Silver Member
Trio blues gig this Sunday with new bass player and longtime bandmate guitar-vocalist. No set lists, no rehearsals, but easy to slide into the songs with the slightest of cues.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
...meaning no rehearsal. Everyone learns their parts of an agreed upon version and then you debut it onstage with no rehearsal.

Does anyone do this?
When I play with excellent musicians it’s this way (and I’m lucky to be there!)

it’s even more excellent when said musicians want to rehearse!
My last band I was in had a CD release party. We literally did every song we knew. The bar was packed and the owner was begging us to do one more. My guitar player said “ Born to be wild “ Everyone was familiar with the tune so we launched into it. Never rehearsed it ,played it nothing. It went off without a hitch. Oddly after the show more than one person commented on how good we played that song. My one friend even said “ Now that song you can tell you guys practiced a lot “ Go figure.


Silver Member
I prefer not, but yeah. Several different cover bands, was given a list and, in the case of multiple available versions, was told which version, everyone did their homework, and it went off without a (noticeable by the crowd) hitch. It helped that I knew most of the songs pretty well already, or at least, they were pretty familiar.


Platinum Member
Filled in for a band on the weekend. They emailed a setlist of 40 songs. I knew less than half of them, so I spent some time Youtubing the songs and writing brief notes. All went well, and they’ve asked me to do another show in two weeks.
It helped that they all knew the songs really well, and the guitar/singer gave me a nod whenever there was a stop or an ending. A challenge but fun too.