Presence of mind when playing

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
You might not be though. Anything is possible :ROFLMAO: maybe I have a music listening problem.
Well, maybe with your extensive musical background, playing the drums to a song is just too boring for you. Every time I play with a live band I wish I played a different instrument so that I could better entertain the audience. Drums are mostly a support instrument. Very important to the song, but easily replaced by a machine.

.
 

Sebenza

Member
No offense taken. For the most part, I am a very musical person. Been playing and learning music/instruments since I was 4 years old. I am a 'songwriter' and "pRoDuCe" my own "mUsIc"(hate saying that). I am very critical/analytical when listening to music. I can identify different instruments, keys, chord changes, time signatures, modulations and whatever else as well as the next guy/gal. But I have been told by other musicians and producers that I am a little different in the way I approach music/writing, which they framed as a good thing, but it could be a bad thing. Might be a backhanded compliment
Biggest thing in my experience to internalize songs, is feeling the different "building blocks" and how they relate to the structure of a song...

Do you instinctively know when 4, 8 or 16 bars have passed? With instinctively I mean I don't really count that stuff, I just somehow "feel" it. And most songs have a basic structure that can be divided into those "blocks". Hearing and recognizing the chord progressions is a big thing in that, specifically verse and chorus changes, as well as possible dynamic changes.

At first it can be a bit of a balancing act between the "macro view" and "micro view" of what needs to be played, but once the "macro view" is internalized (with those "blocks" of chord progressions, verse vs chorus, etc...), focusing on the "micro view" aka specific beats and/or fills, becomes easier.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Here's another vote for actually writing out the arrangement. On paper. Something about taking a pen to paper really ingrains it in my head.

My arrangements look like something like this: Intro/V/V/Ch/Lead/Br/Ch/Ending. I'll notate what beat to play, what time sig, tempo etc.

I don't bother writing the number of bars in each part, because I have a good memory for that stuff once the song is rolling. Unless there are really tricky parts, then I do notate that.

But it's vital that I have a clear map of arrangement the song. Once I actually write the arrangement down on paper, it's for the most part memorized.

Personal story...I did a fill in for an original band a few years back, no rehearsal, probably 20 songs. Did I mention that I had no rehearsal and all original music I had never heard before? I did have access their music online so I was able to map out all the arrangements. I just came to the gig with my stack of my arrangements written out on big index cards in black sharpie.

The agreement was to play their songs in a certain order, and I stacked my index cards accordingly. Nailed the gig. Nailed it! Couldn't have done it without my arrangements. One really useful trick I learned when mapping out an arrangement of a new song that I had never heard before...is to write on my little card that this song has the same groove as (insert similar song here) That little reminder helped me greatly to remember the song before starting it.

TL;DR: Map out the arrangement
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Here's another vote for actually writing out the arrangement. On paper. Something about taking a pen to paper really ingrains it in my head.

My arrangements look like something like this: Intro/V/V/Ch/Lead/Br/Ch/Ending. I'll notate what beat to play, what time sig, tempo etc.

I don't bother writing the number of bars in each part, because I have a good memory for that stuff once the song is rolling. Unless there are really tricky parts, then I do notate that.

But it's vital that I have a clear map of arrangement the song. Once I actually write the arrangement down on paper, it's for the most part memorized.

Personal story...I did a fill in for an original band a few years back, no rehearsal, probably 20 songs. Did I mention that I had no rehearsal and all original music I had never heard before? I did have access their music online so I was able to map out all the arrangements. I just came to the gig with my stack of my arrangements written out on big index cards in black sharpie.

The agreement was to play their songs in a certain order, and I stacked my index cards accordingly. Nailed the gig. Nailed it! Couldn't have done it without my arrangements. One really useful trick I learned when mapping out an arrangement of a new song that I had never heard before...is to write on my little card that this song has the same groove as (insert similar song here) That little reminder helped me greatly to remember the song before starting it.

TL;DR: Map out the arrangement

I do the same thing, and go a bit further by writing down the first line of every verse after the letters. So my cheat sheet for Sweet Home Alabama" looks like this:

Intro - no drums; guitar riff 2x thru
V1 - Big Wheels...
V2- Well I heard
C
V3- In Birmingham
C
V4 - Now Muscle Shoals
C
Solo-Bill (guit)
Solo-Bill(sax)
C - 2x and out

in my original bands, and my cover bands, I totally organize where I am in the song by knowing the lyrics. I also can sing the first chunk of most of the solos as well, which helps me know when they are coming up. That way the song is "going through my head" as I am playing it


on the other side of things...the more technical side...it sounds like you need to NOT do full run-throughs of the songs in the wood shed at first. If execution of certain parts is the issue, single out and rep those parts first...then try the whole song. This process will also help you develop some "recovery riffs" to use when you do get off track

I remember when trying to learn many of The Police songs back in the day, I had to single out fills and learn them first, before trying to get through the whole song...but i could pretty much play a Motley Crue song all the way through for the most part, and if I missed one of Tommy Lee's fills note for note, I had one 'in my toolbox" that I could pull out quickly in a run through

I play in 2 band situations right now where there is very little practice, and a lot of "audibles" called on stage, so using the list system above, and the woodshedding process mentioned helps me survive those gigs. In fact, the show Saturday I had never even met the guys I played with, and when I asked about a set list, the answer given was: "if you have listened to the classic rock station in town, you will do fine..." man, my OCD alarm was going off all week !!! But in the end, it was fine...in fact, it was pretty freaking good!! I just had to learn to trust my self!!!
 

pocket player

Junior Member
Well, maybe with your extensive musical background, playing the drums to a song is just too boring for you. Every time I play with a live band I wish I played a different instrument so that I could better entertain the audience. Drums are mostly a support instrument. Very important to the song, but easily replaced by a machine.

.
When i hear a song with a drum machine i dont feel the rhythum in an organic , natural way JMO.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
You might not be though. Anything is possible :ROFLMAO: maybe I have a music listening problem.

Man, the only problem you have, is that you don’t have a group to jam with. You know how you know when you’ve got a song down? When you play that song in rehearsal, three times in a row, no mistakes. If your band can do that, you’ll have a bare minimum of troubles on the gig.

Part of the issue here, I think, is that it’s a strange time, where some of us (fortunately) have lots of time for practice, but a scarcity of time for group playing. It presents some new issues.

It’s important that you don’t equate playing a song from front to back with playing a song live with a band. It’s not necessary to go through the motions of playing a simple groove for 5 minutes straight by yourself. On the gig, you’ll be listening to your band make mistakes (oops I mean playing wonderfully), people watching, and gauging the sound of your instrument in the room with the band. There will be lots to think about.

So don’t waste your practice time doing things you can already do. Develop some solo chops, transcribe a drummer you like, learn some different music, whatever. But don’t beat a dead horse. There really isn’t time for that.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Here's an anecdote for you. The singer/guitarist in our origials band can only practice/play the songs all the way through. If we stop, it's back to the beginning. I have never practiced the songs front to back alone. Guess who makes all the boo boos (not me.) Guess who had better be listening for "non standard" forms to our songs lol.
Maybe it’s just not your thing, to solo practice songs front to back. I suppose it is important for players who do note for note playing, but not everyone does that either.
 

organworthyplayer337

Well-known member
Here's an anecdote for you. The singer/guitarist in our origials band can only practice/play the songs all the way through. If we stop, it's back to the beginning. I have never practiced the songs front to back alone. Guess who makes all the boo boos (not me.) Guess who had better be listening for "non standard" forms to our songs lol.
Maybe it’s just not your thing, to solo practice songs front to back. I suppose it is important for players who do note for note playing, but not everyone does that either.
That's actually reassuring, thank you for sharing. I'm starting to think it may be a matter of perfectionism on my end
 

iCe

Senior Member
These days I rely mostly on feel; it's a second nature for me to feel when a transition or break comes.
But working up to that i relied mostly on 'cheat sheets'. I can read drum notation, but never put effort in learning to sightread and play. I wrote down the structure of the song and certain fills or grooves had a name referencing a beat/groove/song i knew. Or something like "intro 4x on hh" or "ending jungle groove & china accent".
Doesn't make sense to anyone else than me those notations, but it helped me through the song.

Eventually i didn't need my notations anymore. To me songs always have a basic structure; intro, verse, bridge, chorus, solo etc. and that have specific grooves.
Then it's only instinctively feeling when the next part of the song comes up and transition into the next groove/feel etc.

Thinking about it... it's also because the guitar player i play with regularly changes the composition of a song. A new part is added and then the current composition doesn't "gel" anymore. So i stopped making cheat sheets since a few weeks later the structure of the song can drastically change and my notes would be a mess haha.
But that did help me cling to the song and separate parts; i only focus on the structure and know 'a now we play this part, so i should play this'. But then again... sometimes i change what i play too since it doesn't work with the feel of the song in general.

After typing this i read back the other comments and funny to read others have similar approaches to this :)
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
That's actually reassuring, thank you for sharing. I'm starting to think it may be a matter of perfectionism on my end

there is nothing wrong with perfectionism...as long as it does not become an obsession.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
I do both at times. I've actually found that I can get through it further/cleaner with just a click. I often ask myself how many times should you have to play a song to 'get it down'?

I know everyone is different, but there's a point where you start to question your own competency :ROFLMAO:

very good insight, thank you
I find that I learn songs more quickly by sitting down with a pen and paper and writing out a chart than I do by listening/playing along to it.
 
Top