Setting another drummer straight

Duracell

Senior Member
I've got a question for the nice folks here at drummerworld. But before I can ask it I'd better given some background info.

There's a small student run jam session I frequent and help run. Most muso's who visit are stufents of beginner to intermediate skill level. Most songs that are being played are Rock/Pop things with the odd blues thrown in. There's one drummer though who visits every week and he always wants to play something totally different from what everyone else is playing. Like seriously different. The others would be playing something simple and the drummer would throw in some kind of totally spaced out fusion groove. None of the other musicians can actually play along with this dude. And to be honest, even though I like spaced out fusion stuff, 99% of the people that come by for a listen don't.
Now several people have tried to get him to play more straight ahead kind of grooves. Usually with no real result. It's like he doesn't even get the concept. Now I'd love to take a crack at him as well. But I have no idea how to tell him.

How would you tell him to play straight?
 

aydee

Platinum Member
...

Just tell him exactly what you said here.

"Great stuff, and I love it, dude, but this isnt the place, time, venue, audience for it. Keep it simple or let someone else play".

I dont believe he doesn't get it. You cant do spaced out fusion displacements without knowing what you are displacing. Otherwise, it would just be noise.

Good luck.

....
 
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JT1

Silver Member
I take it it's like putting Donati in AC/DC and telling him to play the most ludicrous beats over Highway to Hell.

Just mention the context to him and tell him it doesn't work just like what aydee said.
 

MLdrum

Senior Member
I once jammed with a bassplayer like that. It seemed like he tried to put every Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller shred-fest-licks into every
other bar of "music" he was playing. I remember the keyboardist warned me before we started to play: "Watch out for this guy. Keep
yourself tight, and don't listen to much on his playing."

Long story short; The bassplayer almost ruined both my and the keyboardist's evening :s
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
...he always wants to play something totally different from what everyone else is playing. Like seriously different. The others would be playing something simple and the drummer would throw in some kind of totally spaced out fusion groove. None of the other musicians can actually play along with this dude.
Sounds like the guy needs to be in a band, if anyone will have him. Why don't you tell him what you just told us? Maybe you can ask him to take pity on the kids who can't keep up with him, and play more supportively; or you could just tell him that you're not going to let him sit in any more if he isn't going to play appropriately for the music and musicians.
 

sixteenxnine

Senior Member
Maybe you can ask him to take pity on the kids who can't keep up with him, and play more supportively
+1
This for sure.



Although my first (and incorrect) reaction to this is "well, he must just be cooler than the other musicians", lol.


I run into this situation once in a while... I sit down after being asked to jam with some musicians at local open jams or similar events, and regardless of the style of music, I have a recurring theme to my playing; fairly hard and on-the spot hitting, crisp, slightly angular yet fairly simple fills with an occasional tribal/polyrhythm break, but a huge amount of effort to make sure I come back to the main theme of the musical piece (and I try to do so in a not-overdramatic but noticeable way)...

.. And I get some occasional sneers or odd looks, which is most often because the musicians don't want to be groovy, they prefer the drumming to be like a limp noodle in the background, like a subpar Grateful Dead cover band, they want any accentuation to be coming from them and not me... and I find it funny. Granted, I often dial myself back for these types, but that usually leads to me not feeling very inspired... if I'm asked to come up and sit on the kit, then what comes out is gonna be representative of my style, ya know? I don't blast tribal metal beats over 60's covers or anything that clashes too much, but for example if the musicans are playing something like an old Motown song, I get funky, like Stevie Wonder funky! Why not! :p

... for the most part I'm applauded, but the above describes those situations where I guess musicians would rather have a Muzak drummer than an actual drummer.


My $0.02.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I've got a question for the nice folks here at drummerworld. But before I can ask it I'd better given some background info.

There's a small student run jam session I frequent and help run. Most muso's who visit are stufents of beginner to intermediate skill level. Most songs that are being played are Rock/Pop things with the odd blues thrown in. There's one drummer though who visits every week and he always wants to play something totally different from what everyone else is playing. Like seriously different. The others would be playing something simple and the drummer would throw in some kind of totally spaced out fusion groove. None of the other musicians can actually play along with this dude. And to be honest, even though I like spaced out fusion stuff, 99% of the people that come by for a listen don't.
Now several people have tried to get him to play more straight ahead kind of grooves. Usually with no real result. It's like he doesn't even get the concept. Now I'd love to take a crack at him as well. But I have no idea how to tell him.

How would you tell him to play straight?
I had a very similar experience with a young drummer, who, sadly, left the group after a few weeks.

I think the real problem with the situation is that there seems to be (correct me if I'm wrong) no tangible goal for the jam session. If everyone is there to just "jam" or "learn songs", then if a song is played differently from the recording, who cares? If there is an impending gig or performance, however, the goal shifts from jamming to playing the songs as an audience wants to hear them, in which case paying attention to details like specific beats and fills is required.

I think that it's important for young players to get performance experience like this, where specific musical parts are expected of them, because if they are always left to improvising or playing their own creations, they can never be wrong. It follows that they don't get opportunities to learn from their mistakes. You might explain this to him, but if in his mind, he believes his improvisations are superior to anything else, he won't budge.

Jam sessions are cool for pros, so that they can network and enjoy each others' company. But for students, they are usually too unstructured for their own good. I hope your situation works out, but without the goal of a public performance in front of them, there is no way to argue your position that the drummer should play more "in the bag". You can appeal to his ego, saying that he needs to keep it simple for the sake of those who are not as accomplished as he is, but he may think himself over-qualified and leave.

You might try explaining that music is for AUDIENCES first, and musos second. When he plays something other than what's on the recording, or outside the style, he is bringing attention to himself, at the expense of the song, which is what the crowd came to hear. Of course we as musicians all think it's great when we hear a sweet guitar solo or drum fill, but this is not how an average music listener thinks. Mostly, they want to sing along and remember the song as they know it.

At this point, you might also try to challenge the young drummer by giving him a short, within the song, drum solo. Play a metronome through the PA, and have him play over a 12-bar blues, while the band "stabs" the chord progression on the 1, every two measures. When he repeats his licks, or falls out of time (as most will do), point it out in front of everyone. Then, pull him aside and explain that everyone has their own shortcomings, and just as the group is patient while he learns, so should he be to them.

It is difficult work teaching a group of students to play together! Kudos to you for caring!
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
Sounds like the guy needs to be in a band, if anyone will have him. Why don't you tell him what you just told us? Maybe you can ask him to take pity on the kids who can't keep up with him, and play more supportively; or you could just tell him that you're not going to let him sit in any more if he isn't going to play appropriately for the music and musicians.
A nicer wayto put it - and a totally honest way - would be "These people here are way below you skill level. To make it work with them, you either need to play in a more basic style. Maybe you need to find some musicians who are at a more advanced level, like you are."

Deep down, this person wants recognition for their chops. In the right time and place, he could do well. In this time and place, he's just annoying. Unfortunately, I think his ego needs will override his better judgment in the future, no matter who he's with.
 

inneedofgrace

Platinum Member
A nicer wayto put it - and a totally honest way - would be "These people here are way below you skill level. To make it work with them, you either need to play in a more basic style. Maybe you need to find some musicians who are at a more advanced level, like you are."

Deep down, this person wants recognition for their chops. In the right time and place, he could do well. In this time and place, he's just annoying. Unfortunately, I think his ego needs will override his better judgment in the future, no matter who he's with.
BINGO! This definitely sounds like an ego issue, so he won't back down until he is told to back down. I think the right approach is to tell him he is too advanced for most of the other drummers, so his ego doesn't take a huge hit. Otherwise this guy might blow up and make trouble for the others.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
.. And I get some occasional sneers or odd looks, which is most often because the musicians don't want to be groovy, they prefer the drumming to be like a limp noodle in the background, like a subpar Grateful Dead cover band, they want any accentuation to be coming from them and not me... and I find it funny.... but for example if the musicans are playing something like an old Motown song, I get funky, like Stevie Wonder funky! Why not! :p
Being funky means creating a pocket that makes other musicians and dancers feel comfortable, not playing a bunch of stuff we think is "funky". Dennis Chambers can swing you into bad health playing a suped-up Money Beat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DMKkLyHbSc&feature=related

Instead of finding their troubles with your playing "funny", you could ask "why don't other musicians feel comfortable playing with me?" and work to make it so they are.

Just my $0.02.
 

sixteenxnine

Senior Member
Because Motown grooves weren't always funky? Being funky means creating a pocket that makes other musicians and dancers feel comfortable, not playing a bunch of stuff we think is "funky". Dennis Chambers can swing you into bad health playing a Money Beat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DMKkLyHbSc&feature=related

Instead of finding their troubles with your playing "funny", you could ask "why don't other musicians feel comfortable playing with me?" and work to make it so they are.

Just my $0.02.

I'm not a musician to make others feel comfortable. I learned very early on, around age 9 or 10, that for some, doing so compromises what you're trying to say creatively speaking (notice I didn't generalize about ALL). Furthermore most of the best musicians out there are intensely artistic (valuing artistic expression over technical prowess or sociability); they aren't trying to please anyone; they're very selfish (and that's a good thing) as they are creating what they want to hear, what the voice inside them is telling them to make. In that pure scenario, I do believe it's best that someone in that mode mostly works that stuff out on their own.... as I do understand the need (as a person who's been playing with people for quite a while), if one is to play in a public venue such as an open jam, that a person needs to know how to be cooperative, how to allow space for the other musicians etc., and

The problem comes when you enter a group to play music, and what everyone else is playing basically sucks. You end up being there, sitting at your instrument thinking "man this is so bland, uninspired, lacking atmosphere, lacking any "JUICE" or something to that effect, and then when it's your turn to play, what do you do? I usually compromise, but not enough to where I lose my soul at that moment... and sometimes that still not enough, whether I'm playing drums, guitar or bass.
 

Duracell

Senior Member
Loving these responses. Thanks for your help guys. Just to give you all more details

- Most people that come by are university level students between the ages of 18 and 25 (University town, technical university, so no music majors for miles around)

- The space drummer is the exception. He's in his 30's and recently bandless. The first time he came by everyone loved him because he brought his drum kit with him and it's huge. The subsequent times people really got cranky over the fact that he just can't play songs. There's barely any structure in his playing. Oh he's always high like a kite as well (which btw is legal in my country).

- The jam session was orginaly set up because there was nothing similar in town. We had plenty of students from all over the world with music skills but with no place to express themselves. The jam session gave these students a place to go. We used to play a lot of actual songs. These days it's just free jamming. I'm all for that. I like doing that but the atmosphere used to be so much better when we had stuff people could sing along to. Now it's just a big mess (not just because of the new drummer).
 

Spectron

Silver Member
jam seesions are weird because of that fact that there is usually no ultimate goal.
Everyone is fighting for that musical space and trying to express themselves and usually ends up sounding very loose if not a total mess.

This guy may never get the point you are trying to make in this arena as it is a "jam session" and for some that means "free-for-all" let it all hang out....and when a drummer does this it makes it really hard for anyone but super elite funk-o-matics
to have a good time.

My suggestion is to go back to a more structured approach. Get everyone together and have a brain storm of actual songs you would like to play in the next coming weeks and give the lot of you a goal - like setup a gig somewhere you will actually play to an audience.

Now, there is a goal to sound tight and the situation itself pulls in the reigns on
the more extravagant players. (hopefully)

like others have said pull the guy aside and tell him straight. You could say something like: "your really good on the drums but as a group - we're finding it hard to jam because of your extravagant playing - can we try to come up with a solution together so the rest of us can "lock in" and also allow you maybe a drum solo or play a song that you can really groove to? we will sound much better as a group this way"

If he doesn't get it at that point then yeah he prolly has an ego and just wants to be worshipped for his playing.

Good luck bro.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I'm not a musician to make others feel comfortable. I learned very early on, around age 9 or 10, that for some, doing so compromises what you're trying to say creatively speaking (notice I didn't generalize about ALL). Furthermore most of the best musicians out there are intensely artistic (valuing artistic expression over technical prowess or sociability); they aren't trying to please anyone; they're very selfish (and that's a good thing) as they are creating what they want to hear, what the voice inside them is telling them to make.
You don't think that good musicians try to play things to help other musicians play well or play them for reasons other than personal satisfaction? I think we must know different "good musicians", then. Fair enough. Sneers and glowers are not usually a good sign where I work. And they're definitely not a license to veer off into artistic self-gratification, no matter how profound. On the contrary, the musicians I consider "good" spend a great amount of time working together to make sure that everyone is satisfied with the sound and hearing what they want/need to hear to make their jobs as easy as possible. Your working experience may differ. Most musical situations are not artistic free-for-alls. In fact, that payscale tends to have an inverse relationship with that around these parts. Creativity is certainly encouraged, but within limits, and according to context. For example, if you show up on a Broadway-type show and just blow whatever chops you feel like, enjoy yourself, because it's the last time you'll get to play that gig. Or, if you get called to play in a swing quartet at a society function, go ahead, play all your hippest stuff. Get it all out, man. Satisfy your artistic soul 'til it can't be satisfied no more. Just don't expect the leader to call again when he needs someone to play All of Me or Satin Doll. Again.

The problem comes when you enter a group to play music, and what everyone else is playing basically sucks. You end up being there, sitting at your instrument thinking "man this is so bland, uninspired, lacking atmosphere, lacking any "JUICE" or something to that effect, and then when it's your turn to play, what do you do?
I play something that makes what they're playing sound better and, hopefully, helps them elevate their game. It's not about me. Inexperienced or less adept musicians often respond well to having a rock to lean on. As Bernard Purdie says, "Invite them into your groove." You can sit in a situation like that and be negative, bored and uninspiring, or you can be a fount of positivity and musically inspire other people to come along for the ride. Your choice. But don't blame other people for the choice you make.

In my experience - yours may differ - drummers, more than just about any instrument, get hired for their sympathetic ensemble skills.
 
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FelipeJose

Member
Sounds like this is a case of a drummer whose chops & ego are a bit bigger than his ears. I think this is fairly common for younger/inexperienced drummers. I can't totally blame them for maybe being stoked on being able to play the groove they just learned from a book or video - they probably haven't learned to play in context yet.

When I was younger I was so concerned with developing my chops the best I could. My chops are probably better today than they've ever been in the 20+ years I've been playing, but the funny things is that I've found it less and less important to use them...
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Sneers and glowers are not usually a good sign where I work. And they're definitely not a license to veer off into artistic self-gratification, no matter how profound. On the contrary, the musicians I consider "good" spend a great amount of time working together to make sure that everyone is satisfied with the sound and hearing what they want/need to hear to make their jobs as easy as possible. Your working experience may differ.
You're on fire today.....this is the second time I've felt compelled to say '+ 1'.

Yes, sneers and glowers are to be avoided at all costs IMHO, they are a sure fire sign of letting you know your employment opportunities are limited.


Sounds like this is a case of a drummer whose chops & ego are a bit bigger than his ears.
"Whose chops and ego are bigger than his ears"......love it, man. Love it so much I'm gonna steal it!! :)
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
This jam situation is just doomed from the start.

1. Without a gig on the horizon, players will lose motivation quickly. Seriously, how hard can it be to book a weeknight at a local dive bar?

2. Marijuana cannot possibly help the situation.

3. A group of kids you can tell what to do "because you're the grown-up", and for the most part, they'll listen. Not so with adults.
 

Duracell

Senior Member
This jam situation is just doomed from the start.

1. Without a gig on the horizon, players will lose motivation quickly. Seriously, how hard can it be to book a weeknight at a local dive bar?

2. Marijuana cannot possibly help the situation.

3. A group of kids you can tell what to do "because you're the grown-up", and for the most part, they'll listen. Not so with adults.
Well this jam session had been running fine for well over two years. So it isn't that bad. We just have to return to our roots. Which is making songs. Thanks for the inspiration Brent. I'll try to do some cleaning around here.
 

Travis22

Senior Member
Who is the group/band leader? That person needs to be the one to talk to this guy. I wouldn't jump down his throat or anything, but find out where his goals are as well as ability and go from there. Get his feedback on how he feels about everything, and get a feel on what he's trying to do with the group. Is this just some place for him to spend his "high" or is he trying to actually progress into a better, maybe even professional, drummer? Give him some bands/cds to check out of what the group is kind of shooting for so that he can hear how the drummers of that particular style do things and see what happens. It may just be he doesn't fit, and in that case, you will have to cross that bridge. It sucks having to tell someone they aren't cutting it, but we are all at different abilities and the others in the group/band should not suffer because one of them isn't able to do what the rest can.
 
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