When Less Isn't More

Erberderber

Senior Member
I'm currently in 2 bands, one of which I've been in for just a couple of months. All the songs are originals and the guys leave me to figure out the drum parts myself. So I began with a few ideas early on only to be told that the drumming was too bland and needed spicing up. We're not really talking about fills, more about busier beats with lots of kinks, stops and starts etc. The genre is indie/math/post rock, which I think requires a style of drumming where less is definitely not more. One thing I will say is that it's made me become more creative and it's a lot of fun to play.

To give you an idea, one of our influences is a band from UK called Crash of Rhinos, who unfortunately split a couple of years ago. Have you ever been told to be less simple?
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
Two instances that I can think of:

In 8th grade jazz band, I had been playing a little over a year and my band teacher told me I was playing too many fills on a christmas tune. By that, I was filling literally every 2 bars, and it was a shuffle groove. Toned it back to every 8 and never heard anything again.

In junior year jazz band, we had a new band director who was a bit more 'old school' in how to approach jazz and band music, and felt the drummer was supposed to be a slightly glorified metronome. My previous high school director was a drummer himself, who came from DCI (marched Vanguard in the late 80's) and who loved David Garabaldi, so this guy was well versed. Taught me practically everything I knew about how to read big band charts, how to do the hits, comping, etc. He never said I overplayed ever, probably thought I underplayed (music was difficult for me at the time). So come new band director, one day his student teacher raised a fuss at me, and took away all my drums, leaving me with a ride, crash, and hi-hat. What do I do? I just play triplet fills on my cymbals. I didn't play any differently, just adapted. They gave up after one song and gave the drums back to me.

That next year, I had gotten good enough to where I was more or the less the de facto student leader of the jazz band, and I still adopted the techniques I learned from my original director, so I was busy while still being musical. Ended up getting the Jazz student of the year award at the end.

In the 11 years since then, in all the bands I have ever been in, never had any complaints. I am a busier than average drummer, but always musical.

OH! There was one exception. About four years ago I joined this piano indie chick band, and her songs were super simple and she pretty much let me have free reign. Well, one of her songs was super boring and I just didn't know how to make a good drum part. I ended up doing some Bonham triplet fills in the middle for like a whole measure. She stopped and told me to not play heavy metal. I laughed, and didn't do it anymore. Luckily we didn't play that song for very long.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Have you ever been told to be less simple?
Oh yes - & in the distant past, my simple approach even lost me a seat to a "flashier" drummer.

Another originals jazz / rock band really fed on complexity in places, generally alternating between bass & drums (simple drums - complex bass / complex drums - simple bass). That worked really well.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I think the answer is "Play the way you play".

If the songs are originals I listen to the music, and the vocals, and play what they suggest. I find that the mood and groove of the first listening sets the tone.

If the composer has a a completely different idea of what the drumming should be, and wants you to do that then fair enough, unless its completely at odds with the rest of the song. If you think its wrong suggest recording both versions and ask him to listen to both, then chose.
 

Erberderber

Senior Member
suggest recording both versions and ask him to listen to both, then chose.
Yeah we've done that and the busier version always comes out on top. In this particular genre the drums are a very prominent part of the sound and are not there just to keep a beat. Lots of accents, starts, stops, kinks and odd time signiatures. Playing straight and simple for this style of music would make it less appealing but it works in other genres.
 
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mikel

Platinum Member
Yeah we've done that and the busier version always comes out on top. In this particular genre the drums are a very prominent part of the sound and are not there just to keep a beat. Lots of accents, starts, stops, kinks and odd time signiatures. Playing straight and simple for this style of music would make it less appealing but it works in other genres.
Is that your natural style of playing, though, or are you having to change what you would naturally play in this type of music?

What I mean is do the songs suggest to you a busier style of playing?
 

Superman

Gold Member
I've had it both ways. When I was younger I used to over play quite a bit. I was told by some bands to curb some of that.

I've also had bands that seemed to want to write their own crazy drum parts in songs and I've found that it isn't easy when you aren't on the same page in situations like this. It isn't necessarily that you can't play it, but when you hear something one way in your head and a guitarist/songwriter keeps stopping you and verbally telling you what he wants it to sound like, it is a recipe for disaster; especially when they have no clue about drumming. I've learned to pull away from these situations.
 

Erberderber

Senior Member
Is that your natural style of playing, though, or are you having to change what you would naturally play in this type of music?

What I mean is do the songs suggest to you a busier style of playing?
When you hear a riff without drums, there are many ways to interpret it. You can be as straight or as complex as you want. So when the guys played the riffs to the songs at the first rehearsal, I just played something that fit (straight) them Without giving it too much thought.

I do think the songs have improved now that the drum parts are busier and they contribute towards the sound the guys are looking for. When I see the singer/guitarist grinning from ear to ear then I know I'm doing something right. I just know now that I have to give it some extra thought, but this doesn't compromise my drumming style. If anything, it has enhanced it.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
When you hear a riff without drums, there are many ways to interpret it. You can be as straight or as complex as you want. So when the guys played the riffs to the songs at the first rehearsal, I just played something that fit (straight) them Without giving it too much thought.

I do think the songs have improved now that the drum parts are busier and they contribute towards the sound the guys are looking for. When I see the singer/guitarist grinning from ear to ear then I know I'm doing something right. I just know now that I have to give it some extra thought, but this doesn't compromise my drumming style. If anything, it has enhanced it.
I only ask cos some songs suggest to me, even on first hearing, play busy, the song needs it.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
I think you'll find that it doesn't take much extra to make an overly simple part strong enough to carry the music. A few accents or ride changes can make all the difference.

Bill Bruford is great at this. His drum parts were advanced enough to drive high level bands but he still left space for the bass to speak.
 

philrudd

Senior Member
Looks like a few responders misinterpreted your post...the question was, have you ever been asked to play LESS simple? I.e., have you been asked to play in a busier/more complicated fashion.

I can only think of a few specific passages from a few specific songs where the songwriter asked me to 'freak out' a little more (which I did gleefully). But overall, my experience has been that band members will almost never complain about a stripped-down beat. One rock gig, I showed up with just snare, kick, hi-hat and crash. Never mentioned it to my bandmates beforehand, and they were nervous about it (one thought I'd actually forgotten half my kit). But they wound up LOVING it.

Ultimately, of course, it all depends on the music. And FEEL. How does the music FEEL when you play it straight? Does it have tension and a hypnotic effect, or does it just feel bland? Conversely, when you make the playing more complex, are you accenting the dynamism of the song, or are you just complicating things and adding unnecessary noise?

We've all heard complicated drumming over simple songs, and straight beats over complex riffs. It's always been HOW the drummer did it that determined whether it worked or not.

Listening to the band you cite as an influence, I would think it difficult to play those kind of riffs with a simple beat. They do seem to call for a busier approach. (But at the same time, I'm sure there's a great drummer out there that could pull it off, and have all the rest of us slapping our foreheads and thinking, 'Of COURSE!')
 

Erberderber

Senior Member
Looks like a few responders misinterpreted your post...the question was, have you ever been asked to play LESS simple? I.e., have you been asked to play in a busier/more complicated fashion.

I can only think of a few specific passages from a few specific songs where the songwriter asked me to 'freak out' a little more (which I did gleefully). But overall, my experience has been that band members will almost never complain about a stripped-down beat. One rock gig, I showed up with just snare, kick, hi-hat and crash. Never mentioned it to my bandmates beforehand, and they were nervous about it (one thought I'd actually forgotten half my kit). But they wound up LOVING it.

Ultimately, of course, it all depends on the music. And FEEL. How does the music FEEL when you play it straight? Does it have tension and a hypnotic effect, or does it just feel bland? Conversely, when you make the playing more complex, are you accenting the dynamism of the song, or are you just complicating things and adding unnecessary noise?

We've all heard complicated drumming over simple songs, and straight beats over complex riffs. It's always been HOW the drummer did it that determined whether it worked or not.

Listening to the band you cite as an influence, I would think it difficult to play those kind of riffs with a simple beat. They do seem to call for a busier approach. (But at the same time, I'm sure there's a great drummer out there that could pull it off, and have all the rest of us slapping our foreheads and thinking, 'Of COURSE!')
Thanks for pointing that out (about the misinterpretation) , although I thought I had been pretty clear in the original post. Thanks also for taking the time to listen to that band. Yes, maybe a top groover could prove us all wrong but I think we can agree that without the complex beats, those songs would be pretty lightweight. It's almost like the song depends on the drums to be complex rather than just being something you click your fingers to.
 
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