Problem at blues jam

Daisy

Senior Member
I've played in the house band a few times at a regular blues jam. They only ask me if they can't get anyone else as all the regular drummers are far more experienced than I am (don't chide me for "negativity" - it's just a fact)

Every time I've done it the same thing has happened. At some point during the evening, a little way into a number (it's only ever one number) the singer/guitarist who sort of leads the thing turns round to me with a puzzled/pained expression and makes small gestures with his hands - either hi hat/snare air drumming, or waving us arms up, or something. I have no idea what he wants me to do. Now I know the one thing a drummer is not supposed to do is stop - but I don't know what else to do! And then of course the rest of the band turn round and look at me to see what's going on. So each time this has happened I've stopped, then quickly brought the hats back in on 2 and 4, listen as carefully as I can and then just pretty much carried on as before - mainly because I can't for the life of me figure out what the problem was !!!

I know the obvious answer is I'm probably playing the wrong beat, but this has mostly been in fairly standard shuffle numbers. There are no monitors, the sound at the back is just mud (I usually only figure out what song we're playing by picking up a few bits of vocals, when it's half way through!), and there are often so many people on stage the singer is completely hidden from my view and the only cue I ever get is an arm in the air for a stop.

Be glad of any tips/clues.

(BTW - I did ask the bass player once - at my first jam - "what was that all about?" and he said he didn't have a clue, but felt like decking the guy).

Edit: Perhaps I should add that I always leave about 4 bars until I come in, usually after the bass player has started and I follow him.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
problem #1 - singer/guitarist ( um, lead guitar I bet too?) Hmmm, I hear prima donna.
problem#2 - communication - did you ever ask him afterwards what he wants or was telling you?
answer#1 - tolerate it, keep playing, and play through, never stop. him stopping to direct you looks worse to him
answer#2 - find another jam. it sounds like they are not respecting you anyway, if only letting you play as last resort other drummers are not around. that is not very fair, equable or in the 'jam spirit'. most people are pretty cool at jams.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Hey Daisy,

Sometimes front people get it in their crawl to direct the drummer. It would drive me nuts not knowing what he was signalling to you for. Did you ask him afterwards? I would. It seems to me that maybe the part of the song he was signalling gets a different beat there? Like some songs go from a shuffle section to a straight section, is that a possibility? It's hard to diagnose without more info. Do you know the name of the song? What is it? Is it always the same song? Is it always the same part in the same song? Is it always the same guy signalling? He obviously wants something different from you there. Either that or perhaps your time was dragging? Sometimes front people will try and direct you if the time lags or rushes. Maybe there is a stop there? Need more info. But always keep playing, as long as there is no stop there. Sometimes people direct me, and I don't understand what they want, in that case, I don't stop, I just keep going. One time I was on a Blues Festival and the singer turns around after I start playing and she yells "SHUFFLE!" I was playing a shuffle! So I went to a double shuffle, maybe she wanted a different variation of the shuffle. Whatever. She was a walk on special guest and we never rehearsed together, but I knew the song she was doing. Never stop the drums though, cardinal sin.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9PFzPhZgRU At 1:10 is when she directs me. I'm sorry but I don't think I was doing anything wrong. I think she just wanted to flex her muscles. You really can't hear much difference in the drum beat before and after her direction. Whatever.
 
Last edited:

8Mile

Platinum Member
One time I was on a Blues Festival and the singer turns around after I start playing and she yells "SHUFFLE!" I was playing a shuffle! So I went to a double shuffle, maybe she wanted a different variation of the shuffle. Whatever. She was a walk on special guest and we never rehearsed together, but I knew the song she was doing.
On a somewhat related note, I was recording a drum track for a friend and we were going over the drum parts to make sure I was playing what he wanted. At one point, he was trying to express the feel he was looking for and he said, "This part should be swinging."

Well, the tune was as straight 8th note as it gets, so I knew this wasn't what he meant. I said, "Okay, we need to pick that word apart because I don't think it's what you mean." I started playing spangalang and, of course, that was the last thing he wanted. What it turned out he wanted was a slightly more syncopated groove. Not swung, just a little busier.

In the case of my friend, there was no ego or posturing involved. He's not a drummer, and he just didn't know how to express what he wanted to hear. In that case, us drummers should help peel the onion and figure it out. That's how we can help the songwriter realize his vision for his song.

But this sounds like a different situation. The only answer is to approach the guitarist and ask, "What were you signaling for me to do there?" All you can do is ask and then try to do it. If the guitarist is just being an ass for whatever reason, then you can move on and play with someone else.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
This has happened to me a few times at open jams. Most of the time, I really can't hear what they are going on about, and the random movements of the guitar neck are not consistent from guitar player to guitar player.

One time it was because I was playing "too fast", which was really just about right for the song, but I think the singer was having trouble keeping up with the tempo. I couldn't figure out what he wanted during the song,(because I knew I was playing it right, and butts were a shakin) but afterwards, we talked and I told him what he should do in the future to indicate too slow or too fast for him.

The next time was with a different dude... Playing something bluesy that I hadn't heard before. He was frantically trying to tell me to go "double time", but he was all over the place. Instead of being consistent in his movement, he was doing all kinds of different things, and even trying to yell over the band and my playing. Finally, I stopped because he just wouldn't quit making a scene.... Of course he got mad about that... I basically just waved my hands around and said "how can I be expected to know that this means double-time?". I didn't even get into it with him about why he didn't mention the double before we started, let alone the fact that I probably would have figured it out if he had ever just switched to the other part instead of repeating the last part while waving his arms and yelling unintelligibly.

So really, there's not much way around this at open jams sometimes. Communicate as best you can, maybe even work out some body-signals if there's time before the count in.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
First thing I'd do is ask the bloke.....what the hell are you on about?

We can make suggestions as to what the problem "might" be until the cows come home......but it's nothing more than speculation. At the end of the day, only one person knows the answer. And that's who I'd be speaking to about it. Ask him.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Unless it's totally obvious, there's no point stopping when playing a new tune with new people. When flying blind it's less disruptive to keep playing through an intended stop than to stop when everyone else is grooving.

Some singers love to wind drummers up - the conductor power buzz. It will be some kind of flurry of arms. Easy to please - add a bit more intensity.

The pat down signal has messed with my head before ... am I playing too fast or too loud? Make an alteration - the signal continues ... singers should cut their losses early - continued signalling is more disruptive than letting drummers use their ears and not precisely play the arrangement.
 

Daisy

Senior Member
Yes, it is always the same guy. I don't know what the song was. He didn't stop the number, I'm pretty sure this happens during an instrumental probably when someone else is on guitar.

I don't think he was asking me to speed up. I thought of that. But I come in after the others and not speeding up or slowing down is my thing (so I have often been told - including that very night by some of the other players). And two other drummers got up that night, one of them slowed down almost to a standstill during one number and this guy didn't say anything to him, so I don't think it was that.

I didn't ask him afterwards because ... well, because my fragile drumming ego couldn't really cope with him telling me what was doing wrong. Childish I know. I think I should just (whatever the female equivalent is of ) "grow a pair".

But I have learned two things here:

Next time, I WILL ask him. I'll speak to him before we start.

Next time, I will not stop under any circumstances !!

Thanks all. You've all helped, as you always do.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Best tip I could give is do not engage the person until after the song unless they are clear in communication.

After the song is over ask them what they were trying to express...be polite but do not accept negativity...ignore them if they act irritated or angry....but if they are considerate, take note of their intention and try to remember for next time(or actually take notes).

Keep the mood light and respectful from your side and you will likely find others at the jam who evaluate the flailing conductor much the way you do...but do not engage in bashing.

Never reflect a "jam buddy's" negative feelings...let them be the a$$.


Basically, be the person you would want to work with if you were someone else.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Larry, I feel ya man. Had that happen to me recently at a blues jam where a west coast diva got up and was stamping her feet and jumping up and down. Then between songs she tells me to turn the stick around and really hit that thing. The house drummer for the night was a buddy of mine with lots of years of touring with various west coast blues headliners. He pointed out, and it looks like your diva has it in spades, that marginal singers want everything rushed so that it feels like high energy. When you switched it up to a pushed Texas shuffle it looks like she was more into it. At the rate she counted it off (speeding up during the count which is a tell for those folk who want to substitute energy) I would have done a basic swing, leaning on the 2. KIS and let her run around and do her thing.

Daisy, there's a whole vocabulary to blues drumming. And I not sure how much of it you're familiar with. So it could have been many things. But it could easily have been one of those show-offs that wants the drummer to pound the song into the ground so that they can take credit for raising the roof. If fast double shuffles aren't your thing, simplify. And swing the backbeat ahead (don't speed up, just push the 2). one-TWO, three-FOUR or as a trad blues guitarist friend put it: chew-ta-BAC-a, chew-ta-BAC-a...
 

Toolate

Platinum Member
Lots of reference to "double shuffle" here- I think of a shuffle as- a1 a2 a3 a4?

THis situation sucks- I hope it never happens to me. Music is supposed to be fun-

Also would seem that the world would have evolved to have a couple standard hand signals like thumbs up/dn for faster/slower or maybe hand out flat pushing down for quieter and palm up for louder, maybe singers would tap a shuffle on their thigh or chest or ass or something if they want it..

I am in experienced in jamming and this scares the crap out of me. Played through lots of rests/stops.....
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Double shuffle = where the snare, the ride (or hats), and the bass drum are all paying a unison shuffle pattern, with an accent on the backbeats. (or not, depending on the feel) Hi hat chicks play the quarter notes.... if you play them at all, not totally necessary but they fit as long as you play straight quarters, definitely don't try shuffling the hi hat chicks, that won't flow.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Double shuffle = where the snare, the ride (or hats), and the bass drum are all paying a unison shuffle pattern, with an accent on the backbeats. (or not, depending on the feel) Hi hat chicks play the quarter notes.... if you play them at all, not totally necessary but they fit as long as you play straight quarters, definitely don't try shuffling the hi hat chicks, that won't flow.
Larry,

Interesting. I always thought of La Grange as a Texas Shuffle, but it fits your description of a double shuffle. What would you call it?
 

con struct

Platinum Member
Edit: Perhaps I should add that I always leave about 4 bars until I come in, usually after the bass player has started and I follow him.
Why do you do that? Four bars?! You need to stop doing that. It stinks, that's why. Start when everyone else starts.

Do you know how to play blues on the drums? Seriously, do you have blues records, do you listen to them, do you even like blues music?

Ask this guitar player/singer what he wants. Talk it over with him. Then give him exactly what it is he wants. Like it not, that's how it is in this business. Might as well start being a professional drummer, even if you're not one yet.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Larry,

Interesting. I always thought of La Grange as a Texas Shuffle, but it fits your description of a double shuffle. What would you call it?
La Grange is a Texas shuffle, not a double shuffle. Texas shuffle as I know it: Bass drum and ride cymbal play straight quarters in unison, the snare plays the full shuffle pattern with accents on the 2 and 4.

Frank is only shuffling with the snare on La Grange.... You can easily hear the straight quarters on the cymbal.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
So, for righties, R hand plays same as R foot- a1, a2, a3, a4.
Right, plus the snare drum is playing in unison with the R hand and R foot. All three doing the same pattern, except there is an accent on the 2 and 4 with the snare. Usually, but not always. Sometimes there is no accent, but normally I put it in there.
 
Top