Playing drums dynamically

Ameer27

Member
Hi everyone.

I wanted to ask what dynamic drumming exactly means. Does it also include playing softer? I've been told that during a solo (guitar solo for example), you need to play the drums softer. Is this true?

My band keep telling me that I play loud, and tell me to play softer during rehearsals, which impacts my playing negatively to a degree. The fact though is that I don't hit the drums very hard, the drums just happen to be a loud instrument.

So anyway, if dynamic drumming includes playing softer, doesn't it limit the drummer? I find that it affects my technique. I noticed that with lighter playing the sticks don't rebound as much, for example.

So does playing softer affect your drumming negatively? And does playing softer actually fit in the definition of playing dynamically?

During a song, should you be playing louder and softer at parts, or do you just use dynamic techniques like cross-sticking, rim shots or opening and closing hats? Is it true that you have to play softer during solos of other instruments?

I don't know if I was clear enough in my post, hehe, but I hope I was. :)
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Some good points there. As for playing softer during a guitar solo? Would depend on the song, or indeed the solo. If its a structured solo, starting quiet and minimal then building to a climax, then I would do the same on the drums.

Often during a solo you need to play louder to fill in for the lack of guitar chords the guitarist is no longer playing.
 

Duracell

Senior Member
When a drummer has good dynamics, he or she has good volume control. So no, it doesn't just mean playing softer, it can also mean playing louder. You should be able to play at the " correct " volume for any given musical situation. If the guitar solo is totally rocking, you should be rocking, if the solo is soft and more subtle, you should be soft and subtle.

There are other aspects to dynamics like " colors " and " note density ". With colors I mean the different kinds of sounds you can get out of the kit. Open or closed hi-hat, rimshots, cross-stick, moving from one ride surface to the other. That kind of thing. With note density I refer how busy the groove is your playing. Lotta notes, few notes. Sometimes a really sparse beat is much better than a much more complicated one.

As far as I'm concerned, dynamics is at the core of drumming. No dynamics, no drumming. Just a soulless drum machine. Cluelessly bashing away at the kit.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Dynamics separate the musicians from the drummers.

Dynamics means volume manipulation. Which implies that a drummer must understand when to back off volume-wise, when to play normally, and when to kick it in the ass.

As a general rule of thumb, for lyric based music, the drums should not be the loudest instrument on stage. When someone is on mic, I defer to them, meaning I drop down the volume somewhat. When a soloist takes a solo, initially, I treat it like a verse, dropping the volume, unless I am already playing low. The difference between drumming behind a vocalist and drumming behind a soloist is.... as the solo builds, so does the drumming intensity. If a vocalist is building the intensity, generally speaking, my volume stays more or less static so as not to overpower them volume-wise. You don't distract from the singer, period. Very general rule of thumb here that has many exceptions. But dynamics can be defined as volume manipulation to your desired effect.

If your mates say you are playing too loud, then you are. They wish you'd have more control over that aspect of your playing. It's the drummers responsibility to develop technique that allows the drummer to play at a volume where you can have an unmiced conversation above the music, all the way to hitting with everything you have, all with intensity.

Re: hitting softer/limiting the drummer...that's a wall that must be breached if you are to develop the technique that allows you to play quietly.... without loss of intensity.

Volume is a security blanket that one must give up for the ability to play soft and still be able to cook. Being comfortable with musical time....makes this a lot easier. If you are a master of your own volume...you have no idea how much the other musicians desire that. Most drummers can't play quietly with intensity until they specifically work to acquire that particular skill. It starts with playing what you normally do, only quieter. The more you do it, the less uncomfortable it feels, and the better you get at it.

Record yourself and listen back to see how the others are hearing you. Only then can you really hear what needs to be done. You don't have the luxury of a volume knob, so you must compensate with pure skill and control. It will serve you well if you do.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
It's hard to say whether you're at fault without seeing it first hand. I had a band mate who thought drums were unnecessary and unmusical and it did really stifle my creativity. Then I learned to play quieter before realizing that he was just being pushy and cramping my style.

You may have to explain that you can play softer but drums are a loud instrument and not only is it a challenge to play softly, you want to practice with the same intensity as you would perform.

There are some things you can do other than hitting softer:

Use a wood snare, with a dry head and/or muffled and tune it low. Detuned drums don't project as much. As with smaller drums.
Don't rim shot.
Use thinner drum sticks.
Use cross sticking and just tap on cymbals for quiet sections.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
music is a conversation.... a give and take

just like we can say the same thing many times in a conversation and have it take on subtle differences ... like

I went to the store
I WENT to the store
I went TO the store
I went to THE store
I went to the STORE

we can do the same thing with our musical phrasings with dynamics

your dynamics are basically your personality stamp on your music.... somewhat like a certain accent someone from a specific part of the country or world may have when they speak ...... even if they speak the same language as you, they may place inflections on a different syllable of a certain word they you would

try this .... play a basic paradiddle-diddle ... but play them like this

Rlrrll rLrrll ...... see how much it's personality changed ?

dynamics are also often noted in a piece of music .... such as ....
ppp
pp
p
mp
mf
f
ff
fff
<
>

etc....

these mean to come forward, move back , build up , or come down ,..... usually in response to something else reacting in contrast , but sometimes everything in unison .

I remember in the very first class I took with Joe Porcaro he said .... take out a pencil and a piece of paper and take down what I am about to say. This is a list of the three absolute most important aspects of making music .
... he proceeded to list them as follows

1)DYnamics
2)dyNAMics
3)and dynamICS

also as players we should all have a separate internal volume fader for each limb and be able to adjust them at any given time

.... another amazing teacher I once had would have me play a basic groove and call out numbers 1 to 10 as on a volume knob ...and a limb

like ....

left hand 8
right hand 5
right foot 10

left hand 2
right hand 10
right foot 5

etc

you would be amazed at how differently the exact same groove sounds when adjusting your separate limb faders giving a different dynamic profile to the music

a great thing to practice and more difficult than it sounds
 
Last edited:

tamadrm

Platinum Member
Hi everyone.

I wanted to ask what dynamic drumming exactly means. Does it also include playing softer? I've been told that during a solo (guitar solo for example), you need to play the drums softer. Is this true?

My band keep telling me that I play loud, and tell me to play softer during rehearsals, which impacts my playing negatively to a degree. The fact though is that I don't hit the drums very hard, the drums just happen to be a loud instrument.

So anyway, if dynamic drumming includes playing softer, doesn't it limit the drummer? I find that it affects my technique. I noticed that with lighter playing the sticks don't rebound as much, for example.

So does playing softer affect your drumming negatively? And does playing softer actually fit in the definition of playing dynamically?

During a song, should you be playing louder and softer at parts, or do you just use dynamic techniques like cross-sticking, rim shots or opening and closing hats? Is it true that you have to play softer during solos of other instruments?

I don't know if I was clear enough in my post, hehe, but I hope I was. :)
Sounds like your technique is hitting hard.You should be able to play everything idealy,at ALL volume levels.Tony is 100% correct in his post about dynamics.There's more to it,than on or off,the volume knob has numbers 1-10 on it.That makes it easier for a guitar player,but more difficult for a drummer.

Using dynamics,dosen't affect your playing in a negative way..it enhances it,in a positive way.It's another tool in the tool box.It dosen't limit your playing,it extends it to another level.

Without dynamics,a guy "playing" drums,is just a basher,not a musician.

Steve B
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Some great advice here.
And Larry and Tony are correct.

Try this. During a rehearsal have your band set up in a small circle. So that everyone is facing each other. It will help you all learn how to play so that the volume is balanced and it will teach you all to listen to each other and adjust your volume accordingly.

(It is good that you are concerned about your playing.)


.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Interesting thread. Personally I have been working on adding crescendo's and diminuendos to my playing. Recently I covered my bass drum beater with felt, so now I can gently swell from a feather to a roar. I also made some timpani mallets and marimba mallets, so now I can do builds on my cymbals or toms and snare.

Very hard dynamics involve diminuendo and crescendo at the same time, say on a cymbal and bass. Or swelling on the cymbal to grab mute and simultaneous accent on the bass or splash.

That is what I think about in dynamics in addition to accents flams and what not. Also, just taking the basic ride patterns and crescendoing one or two measures then dimnuendoing the next couple of measures. Stopping on a dime and adding full bar of rest with a triangle or splash ringing is fun too.

This is all great live stuff, that you won't hear much in the pop idiom since, the tracks tend to be very compressed into hot tracks, with all the bass drum beats and snare hits exactly the same volume.
 

brady

Platinum Member
music is a conversation.... a give and take

just like we can say the same thing many times in a conversation and have it take on subtle differences ... like

I went to the store
I WENT to the store
I went TO the store
I went to THE store
I went to the STORE

we can do the same thing with our musical phrasings with dynamics

your dynamics are basically your personality stamp on your music.... somewhat like a certain accent someone from a specific part of the country or world may have when they speak ...... even if they speak the same language as you, they may place inflections on a different syllable of a certain word they you would

try this .... play a basic paradiddle-diddle ... but play them like this

Rlrrll rLrrll ...... see how much it's personality changed ?

dynamics are also often noted in a piece of music .... such as ....
ppp
pp
p
mp
mf
f
ff
fff
<
>

etc....

these mean to come forward, move back , build up , or come down ,..... usually in response to something else reacting in contrast , but sometimes everything in unison .

I remember in the very first class I took with Joe Porcaro he said .... take out a pencil and a piece of paper and take down what I am about to say. This is a list of the three absolute most important aspects of making music .
... he proceeded to list them as follows

1)DYnamics
2)dyNAMics
3)and dynamICS

also as players we should all have a separate internal volume fader for each limb and be able to adjust them at any given time

.... another amazing teacher I once had would have me play a basic groove and call out numbers 1 to 10 as on a volume knob ...and a limb

like ....

left hand 8
right hand 5
right foot 10

left hand 2
right hand 10
right foot 5

etc

you would be amazed at how differently the exact same groove sounds when adjusting your separate limb faders giving a different dynamic profile to the music

a great thing to practice and more difficult than it sounds
I'm quoting this simply because it all deserves to be repeated.

I have an old exercise credited to Max Roach that is very similar to "volume knob" exercise. It is deceptively difficult to accomplish smoothly.
 

MPortnoy

Senior Member
Everyone here has pretty much explained what dynamics mean......If trying to play softer affects your playing it means you don't have stick control. Practice will take you there and lessons will take you there even sooner.
 

groove1

Silver Member
What the softest to loudest is depends on the situation too including the size of the room,
the acoustics etc. My softest to loudest is different when I play with an acoustic piano (unmiked) and an acoustic bass versus an all amplified group. How many people you are playing for matters. Is the music supposed to be quiet enough that people in the audience
can talk without shouting/yelling (like most wine bars) or is it a loud party where the music
dominates everything. Some of us have different size drums to accomodate different musically dynamic situations. Different size sticks etc.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I played a gig last night. And I was thinking about this subject because of this thread.

There is no easy way to learn how loud or soft to play when your playing in a band. It is just something you learn by experience. Record your band and see how the volume of your drumming fits into the balance.

In a band with other amplified instruments, the drummer has much more control of his instrument volume than the other members of the band. And he can instantly adjust the volume.


.
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
My dynamics are what got a me a pretty good gig and what keep me in that gig.

I have a fun little trick I like to pull out when I'm trying to impress a singer: dip your volume ever so slightly when the vocals come in. most of the time they won't even notice but it creates a wonderful little platform for the singer to stand on and then notch it back up when the vocals stop. Listening for those little spaces has really improved my musicianship and my understanding of song structure.

Usually I play a just little bit louder during a guitar solo to make up for absence of vocals during a longer passage. Try that out at your own risk, some guitar players can be touchy.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
When we play drums we participate in a conversation. No one wants to converse with a loud raving lunatic for very long unless they're entertaining, attractive or buying everyone drinks or a combination of all that! :D

SO as for playing dynamically, think about the song you're doing. Like the soul bands say "break it down"... that means get "up underneath" the vocalist when they are singing. Step back a little in your volume. That doesn't mean to slow down, please don't do that! And when it's time to crank don't speed up either.

A great way to play quieter is to alter the height at which your sticks rise. Lower sticking height usually equates to a decrease in volume. You should practice playing quiet with a metronome as well as rising in volume to learn the feeling of increasing volume ≠ ± tempo fluctuation.

Or you could learn to play quiet like I did. Take a gig to where the chef, a very large Italian gent would come out and threaten the band with physical violence should we get too loud. Being that they were paying so good and the food was incredible was reason enough to keep the gig, and making that chef stare at me every night and taking his bread both culinary and monetary was a challenge that I greatly accepted. LOL
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
When we play drums we participate in a conversation. No one wants to converse with a loud raving lunatic for very long unless they're entertaining, attractive or buying everyone drinks or a combination of all that! :D
That is the story of my life right there! Hah! Great story Bill, I too can be persuaded to do a lot for some good food.
 

kyledrums

Junior Member
Some great points already. For me dynamics are what makes drumming musical. Having good internal dynamics allows melodies to pop out of the rhythms we play. I also think it's better to be asked to turn up rather than turn down. The same goes with keeping it simple till your asked to play more. There nothing worse than rocking out using loads of chops and licks just for the singer to turn round and ask you to do less
 

BobC

Member
Dynamics separate the musicians from the drummers.

Dynamics means volume manipulation. Which implies that a drummer must understand when to back off volume-wise, when to play normally, and when to kick it in the ass.

As a general rule of thumb, for lyric based music, the drums should not be the loudest instrument on stage. When someone is on mic, I defer to them, meaning I drop down the volume somewhat. When a soloist takes a solo, initially, I treat it like a verse, dropping the volume, unless I am already playing low. The difference between drumming behind a vocalist and drumming behind a soloist is.... as the solo builds, so does the drumming intensity. If a vocalist is building the intensity, generally speaking, my volume stays more or less static so as not to overpower them volume-wise. You don't distract from the singer, period. Very general rule of thumb here that has many exceptions. But dynamics can be defined as volume manipulation to your desired effect.

If your mates say you are playing too loud, then you are. They wish you'd have more control over that aspect of your playing. It's the drummers responsibility to develop technique that allows the drummer to play at a volume where you can have an unmiced conversation above the music, all the way to hitting with everything you have, all with intensity.

Re: hitting softer/limiting the drummer...that's a wall that must be breached if you are to develop the technique that allows you to play quietly.... without loss of intensity.

Volume is a security blanket that one must give up for the ability to play soft and still be able to cook. Being comfortable with musical time....makes this a lot easier. If you are a master of your own volume...you have no idea how much the other musicians desire that. Most drummers can't play quietly with intensity until they specifically work to acquire that particular skill. It starts with playing what you normally do, only quieter. The more you do it, the less uncomfortable it feels, and the better you get at it.

Record yourself and listen back to see how the others are hearing you. Only then can you really hear what needs to be done. You don't have the luxury of a volume knob, so you must compensate with pure skill and control. It will serve you well if you do.
All points are true here. Very good advice. Larryace, we should hang out some day. I agree that drummers who have no dynamics aren't musicians, IMO. It's something you have to develop over time.

My general rule of thumb is to bring it down during verses, and stay out of the way of the singer at all costs. Don't clutter up what he or she is doing with unnecessary fills or weird sh**.

I like to kick it up during choruses and guitar solos, or in the case of a band I play with, during a keyboard or occasional sax solo.
 
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