Playing with two drummers

Zero Mercury Drummer

Senior Member
Have you ever done this? It's a lot of fun, but can be tricky. The hardest part is doing fills that don't conflict. And obviously you have to play in time or the snare starts "flamming" pretty quick.

It takes a special ear also. Obviously you have to listen closely. It can be a lot of fun.
I am getting ready to join an instrumental side project with two bassists and two drummers! The other guy will be the more rhythm section I hear, while I'll be laying down electronic percussion and other insanity.
 

boltzmann's brain

Senior Member
i've done it in two bands. the first was with another trained drummer, who also had big ears, and it was a BLAST. we worked out all kinds interesting counter rhythms and things. it was REALLY fun. it didn't hurt that he was my best buddy. i did it again just recently with a self taught drummer who didn't listen, and that was NOT fun. i ended up just following him, and doing damage control. with the right drummers, it can be very cool. find someone who has bombproof groove, and is open minded.
 

TTNW

Pioneer Member
I just did this last weekend. We did a bunch of Allman Brothers and Doobie Brothers songs that worked well with two drummers.

The easy approach is to have one drummer just laying down the beat and the other drummer keeps the beat too but handles fills and accents. Matching up the snares is key. Also, it sounds good to alternate hats and ride play. When he was on the hats, I would move to the ride and vice a versa.

As the night wore on we got better and better at keeping complimentary rhythms going and not flamming.

Big ears are paramount. When it's good it really sounds great but overplaying can turn it into a big mess quickly. It's also good to know when to sit out. Most songs just don't work with two drummers.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I tried it a few times with a drummer who has only been playing 5 years. The guitarist aked me to show up and jam with this guy on drums because he was eager to get the other drummer to do more stuff and quit playing the same beat and fills all the time. Well, we tried it, and I thought everything was cool. Last week he was acting a little bit odd. But last night we played a song pretty good together, then we got into the second song. I started the song with the regular beat and he started with a straight 4/4 beat, like he always plays. Two or three measures into the song, he just stopped playing and sat over there and began moping. The song ended and we sat down to listen to it, after a couple minutes, he gets up says something to his buddy, the sax player, then leaves in a little tizzy fit without saying a word to me. Unfortunately, I thought this was a great experience, and the sound was awesome on the recording, but he felt inadequate, as if he was not needed anymore just because I was there (a somewhat better drummer).

What a bummer. Guess I won't be playing drums at the studio on Tuesdays anymore. That's his night to play. The funny thing is....he has improved a lot, so I don't see what the problem is, I am pretty damn ugly, so I guess that could have something to do with it. jk
 

Skulmoski

Gold Member
Listening is the key when two drummers are playing. You need to leave empty space for each other. However, I prefer to play percussion when I play along with another drummer.

GJS
 

Zickos

Gold Member
I did this years ago (1968 I believe) and have never thought it was a good idea. It seems to me that it just gives opportunity to get in each others way. I can see it for teaching purposes ala Midnight 'Zephyr, but otherwise no. I know some famous bands use it but it looks more like an exercise in drum coordination.
 

SticksEasy

Senior Member
I think two drummers would make a lot of wasted space, and serve no real purpose. But depending on the music, a groover drummer, and someone playing percussion is very powerful,
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Not a huge fan of double drummers as a rule. I preferred Bruford and Mastelotto by themselves to together with Crimson, and I would have preferred it if the Allman Bros had just one drummer. It felt a bit too dense for me. It was good with Zappa in Roxy and Elsewhere, but I'm not sure it was any better than one drummer for total effect. JMO

To me, double drummers worked best in the glam pop groups like, Gary Glitter (before we found out his issues) and Adam Ant. It added a lot of oomph.

Bon, it's a shame about your temperamental friend. It helps band harmony for people to put aside their egos and just enjoy being part of it. Some people just gotta be a star - Mummy and Daddy didn't pay them enough attention. Just play FFS :)

As a listener I prefer drums / percussion to two drummers... the percussion adds colour while the drums provide structure and power, and the two combine to create flow. Love to play with a percussionist again but congas and timbales plus the toys takes up a fair bit of space.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
I have yet to hear a 2 drummer piece that I thought was better than what I could imagine as a one drummer piece.

Seems that alot of the music played by 2 drummer bands seems to be trying to mask the fact that there are 2 drummers...and fully utilizing 2 drummers would be a bit busy(to my taste).

Most 2 drummer situations seem to be driven by social circumstance instead of musical design.

...but I also question the need for aux drummers...thats why we have 4 limbs and sequencers! ; )
 

Piebe

Senior Member
James Brown liked to use two drummers, it makes the sound fatter and that is i think the only purpose. Some kind of live layering.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I'm with Grae, I've done it once, in more of a Crimson-esque fashion where the two of us actually split beats (i.e., he'd play bass drum and cymbals, and I'd do the snare and toms), and that was alot of fun. But I agree, it has to be the combination of the right people. Both have to have good time and both need to listen. Whenever I've done it and we were both playing the same thing, the "almighty powerful groove" never happened and was always the "almighty MUD" section.
 

CreeplyTuna

Silver Member
Kylesa uses 2 drummers and it sounds really cool. It's beefy.

Also, Swedish post metal band Cult of Luna has two drummers on stage when they tour to recreate the incredibly dense wall of sound they're known for. It's pretty crazy, they even have like 3 or 4 guitarists. It sounds like a hurricane!
 
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