Writing Original Drum Parts

Knowbuddy

Member
Another quick question for some of you guys who have been writing drum parts for a long time:

How do approach writing a part for a song that has never had drums put to it before? I'm about to start playing with a really bluesy/folky singer-songwriter kinda guy, and I'm kind of at a loss at what to put to some of his songs. I've recorded an album with this guy before, and wrote all the drum parts, but I want to avoid doing "the same old thing" and I don't want the drum parts to be boring.

These are very basic songs, usually with a verse - chorus - verse kinda set up. Do you guys suggest writing a drum part out?

Also, how do you guys go about making sure you're being consistent, as in - when you play live, making sure you're doing the SAME things every time.

Always open to any suggestions!

~B
 

Mastershake16

Senior Member
Well you could try writing some parts out as you listen to the song then play them decide if they fit and change/edit from there?

just my idea ya know jam out to it
 

TheGroceryman

Silver Member
Well...

I try to first figure out where the accents are. If there really are no interesting accents, it usually won't be a very interesting drum part, with a ton exceptions, though (kashmir comes to mind).

But this is really open-ended. You just have to see what sounds good for the song, be creative, use splashes and chinas in the right spots, over-simplify a fill to give a dramatic impact, think up a complex one for a totally different effect, lower your dynamics in a bridge, or maybe raise them, use ghost notes. There are literally endless different things you can do on a drumset to "make" the song. That's why people like drums and drumming so much.

This is where listening to all types of music comes in handy. You get a feel for what these guys do to make the song better.

imo, say goodbye is probably one of the best drum parts around:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwAnCvoapfg

he just adds so many complex - and simple - embellishments to the song to really make it original. From the actual beat in the beginning (which is a really complex beat that's put to such a simple instrumental section!), to the 32nd note runs down the toms to lead into the verse, and 5:50 till the end really just makes the song for me.

you gotta be creative!
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'm about to start playing with a really bluesy/folky singer-songwriter kinda guy, and I'm kind of at a loss at what to put to some of his songs. I've recorded an album with this guy before, and wrote all the drum parts, but I want to avoid doing "the same old thing" and I don't want the drum parts to be boring.
I've never heard of the rule of not doing the same old thing, but I have heard of overly-creative drummers being asked to leave groups because they changed things up just for the sake of it.

The best part is the one that works. It may be the same as what you played last week or last year or last decade, and it may be a complete departure from that. You can't say that you have to do a different part, if his style continues to dictate specific feels, pushes, fills, sounds, etc. Don't make someone else your personal growth project, because it won't last long.

If he's changing directions, that's something else. You should be prepared to go with him... maybe. Regardless of what anyone does, new, old, different, whatever... the parts have to fit.

As far as parts being boring, let the producer or artist make that call. This is not your record, it's theirs. If the music and vibe are the same as the last record, you would do best to follow that lead.

Trust me, there's more money "inside the box" than outside.

Bermuda
 

zambizzi

Platinum Member
I worked with a really great guitarist who was also a singer/songwriter, for about a year and a half. This guy was leaps-and-bounds beyond my ability but he told me he liked playing with me because I was good at coming up w/ drum parts for his stuff.

It's because of my lack of experience that I *had* to keep it simple, and I think that's what he liked.

Draw from your listening experiences and background and apply ideas you're familiar with, along w/ a little of your own flavor.

We had a process where he'd think of a simple arrangement and then hum along to it. He would send me those recordings and I'd play along to them, and record myself - making note of the ideas that came to me. He'd come over for practice and I'd help w/ the final arrangements...and by then he would have something written for the lyrics.

We'd make a simple scratch track at that point and I'd play along to it obsessively, until I felt that it was internalized and I could nail it.

It was the best experience I've had so far playing with *anyone* - so don't sweat it and have fun!
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I try to think of "what would the audience like to hear?" and mix in a healthy dose of "what does the guy paying my check want to hear?"

When writing parts, I usually just play what sounds good initially. Most of it simple, and I try to catch all of the rhythmic and vocal accents. I put fills in sparingly, only if they are transitional or building/diminishing the dynamics. If it all starts to sound the same to you, then add some little variations that don't change the groove--give each song a little "flavor". Realize that most of the time people aren't focusing on the drums anyways, and your role is usually to be supportive of the singer/main instrumentalist. If all of your parts are pretty close to the same, no one is really going to notice, except maybe other drummers and MAYBE other musicians.

Now, with that said, anything you can do to be creative and make the drum beat unique and an integral part of the song is gravy.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
maybe you could talk it over with the lead singer/songwriter and discuss some of your ideas before you go buck wild with his songs. for example, you could ask him what kind of feel he's looking for. does he want a heavy sound, or a light touch? you could suggest different sounds, like a real open, raw sound, or a tight, focused sound. you could try different percussion instruments like shakers, congas, or found objects. but i would talk it over with the leader so you can mutually agree on things.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
maybe you could talk it over with the lead singer/songwriter and discuss some of your ideas before you go buck wild with his songs.
That's certainly the best starting place. I've never, ever been in a project where I was allowed complete and final freedom as to drum parts. There is always dialogue and direction as to what the artist wants, whether it's before or after I start playing.

You can bet money that Page talked to Bonham about parts, Paul talked to Ringo, Jimi talked to Mitch, Bono tells Larry Jr., Geddy tells Peart, Zappa told Chester/Vinnie/Terry/Chad, etc etc etc.

There is only one possible exception to that rule: Buddy Rich.

Bermuda
 

Knowbuddy

Member
Bermuda, you seem like a really cool cat. I appreciate you taking the time to come here and post advice, it's a very selfless thing to do, and it means a lot to myself and (I'm sure) a lot of the other amateur drummers here.

Wierd Al must be a damn riot, eh?

~B
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Great advise here. Start with dairyairmans for sure. Also, you stated he was a bluesy/folky singer songwriter type guy and the first thing that jumped to mind was on some stuff, instead of playing the backbeat on 2 and 4, try playing the backbeat on just the 4, and put some foot stuff in around where the 3 is, creating more "space" for him. I guess you would call that a "half time" feel. Go less on some stuff. Sometimes I'll just play kick and snare, leaving lotsa room for the guitars to embellish, and just play "colorizing ideas" with the free hand. You kind of need a bass player in the song to do that though, I'm assuming he is using one. Also different sound colors, like chimes and vibra slaps, go a long way in decorating "sparse" arrangements.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Bermuda, you seem like a really cool cat. I appreciate you taking the time to come here and post advice, it's a very selfless thing to do, and it means a lot to myself and (I'm sure) a lot of the other amateur drummers here.

Wierd Al must be a damn riot, eh?

~B
It's my pleasure, I love talking about drums as much as playing them.

The Al gig remains fun and challenging, he's been responsible for a lot of my musical growth over the last 28+ years.

Bermuda
 
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