Single drummer playing to multiple drummer songs

Concrete Pete

Senior Member
Hey Crew,

First of all, I have to say that I'm super comfortable with my new band The Long Road. Great guys, easygoing, and have all pro equipment, and very laid back. We record every single rehearsal, and it get emailed to all band mates so we can see and hear our weak and strong points- cool.

A question to the more seasoned drummers here-- in our play list, there's a lot of songs that were recorded with multiple drummers/percussionists in the bands--songs like "Evil Ways" by Santana, and "Whipping Post" by Allman Brothers.

Allman Bros tunes are relatively easy to change down to one drummer, but Santana songs are a LOT more difficult to "dumb down" to a single drummer. I have been switching off the snare wires to do a fake "timbale" thing with some of the songs (with pretty good results) but SHEESH, trying to all the proper fills and accents is damn near impossible. Anyone else here faced with the same challenges, and what do you do?

Thanks in advance,
C. P.


Senior Member
This is where you get to put your arranger hat on. Listen to what the original drummer(s) or drummer(s) and percussionist(s) played. You won't be able to play everything, so pick out the really significant stuff and make that part of the part.

One great example of this is when playing a song like some of the early Al Green stuff: a lot of people think it's an overdubbed tom or something that's giving that big beefy tone. Actually, do a little digging and you'll find the engineers note that there were congas doubling the drums that gave that real signature low end energy to the backbeats.
Similarly, listen to Al Jackson on those and he's just tapping the hats. What's more important: the big warm backbeat or the accuracy of getting all those taps on the hat? I vote for the backbeat that's as nice as a batch of cookies fresh out of the oven.

Similarly on other stuff - what's the focus of the groove and the song? Focus on that. Some interesting case studies can be had on bands that had multiple drummers that then reduced to single drummers - King Crimson on two occasions (listen to the '74 live shows vs the Larks Tongues album; and then again the late 90s/early 00s to see how Pat played all the Bill/Pat stuff).

This stuff is really fun to figure out... if there's a timbale fill that really adds excitement and forward motion to the drums, maybe you get to play that fill as opposed to keeping time like the drummer is likely doing.

Trust your ears, think of the song - and remember, a reduced take that's true to the original can connect just as much as seeing Santana with a drummer and two percussionists live - it just connects differently.