Posts Tagged ‘drums

15
May
12

Drummers and Tempo Issues

Drummers and tempo issues…welcome to my soapbox…

The FIRST thing that you have to get him to do is to “buy into” the fact that you’re doing this for HIS good as a drummer and a developing ENSEMBLE musician.  In a pop instrumental ensemble – be it church orchestra, pit orchestra (those two ensembles function VERY similarly…sometimes but not always under the baton of a conductor) or rock ‘n’ roll band – the drummer IS the timepiece who holds it all together.  Especially if there’s not always a directed time pattern in front of him.  Here’s why:

The drummer needs to understand that the ensemble follows him as he follows the conductor.  The rest of the musicians may be looking at the conductor, but they are following what they hear coming from the drummer, in much the same way as a choir with only a pianist accompanying them will follow the tempo and style of the pianist (especially one who struggles with tempo) – even if they are watching a conductor.  So that makes the drummer the “assistant” conductor, and as such, the drummer needs to know (in advance) all of the tempi, the locations in the music and the degree of any ritard, a tempo, new tempo, fermato or any other such markings.  The drummer needs to be the FIRST (not the last) to know and express these markings musically as they occur.

Technically, the two most important things that your drummer (any drummer in church for that matter) needs to address:

  • When accompanying a singer or choir, there is a natural tendency for instrumentalists (particularly pianists, and they are usually the lead sound of a church instrumental group) to rush the accompaniment when the singers are holding a long note, or even between phrases while the singers are resting and getting ready for the next phrase.  The next time you attend a college vocal soloist or choral ensemble recital, listen and see if that is not the case.  It is sort of built into accompanists from the very beginning.  In a an ensemble setting, be it choral-instrumental or only instrumental, the drummer MUST avoid those tendencies.
  • Interestingly in rock or pop music, beat 4 (in a 4/4 time setting, obviously) is the place where most of the above offenses occur.  For some reason, there is a natural tendency to anticipate (or just plain RUSH) the downbeat of the next measure.  Again, listen to yourself or someone else play along to a click and check this out.  It happens!  The most important beat of the measure is beat 4…not beat 1.  If you get your drummer to playing beat 4 of every measure on time and not rushing into the downbeat of the next measure, you’re on your way to developing a great drummer-leader in your ensemble.


MAKE your drummer practice and perform to a click…time patterns AS WELL AS FILLS (really good drummers can play anything to a click).  And it would be good if others (either you as conductor, or your MoM/Choir Director, or someone else) hear the click too (it will make the drummer accountable).  Be prepared for the need to CONTINUALLY encourage him…and especially praise him when he gets a song right!  He may not know for sure each time until you tell him.

Years ago, I taught drum students in private lessons.  Of all the students that I remember teaching, only two have gone on to professional/semi-professional drumming careers as adults.  Both of them took the principles that I taught them as ‘The Law” from the very beginning and applied them to everything they played.  Today each one of them is a FINE, solid, and dependable Tempo Machine.  Not because I was their teacher, but because each one actually DID what he was told to do, and eventually experienced the success that I promised him from the very beginning.

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14
Dec
11

Playing together…not just at the same time

I taught private drum lessons for many years.  Like any instrument, unless you plan to play by yourself and (in the case of keyboard and guitar) you intend to only play by yourself forever, it is important that you also learn to play in an ensemble setting.  Not only playing at the same time, but together.  In the beginning, so many garage bands start out sounding like an orchestrated train wreck…mostly because each of the players is concentrating more on playing all the hot licks he/she knows rather than listening and learning to be a part of a single (unified) ensemble sound.  With everyone playing all of the time, there is no clarity and the overall sound is always too loud and too busy.

As this relates to drummers, it means that your first 3 instruments are the kick drum, the snare drum, and the hi hat.  Tom-toms and cymbals are unimportant, because your first job as a drummer is to hold the band together.  Simple, basic time patterns on the drums are what hold a band together.  More toms and more cymbals don’t make you a better drummer.  Practice with a metronome (and stick with it!).  Metronomes don’t lie.  They keep a steady beat, never going faster or slower.  Practicing with a metronome will force you to learn and understand what it means to keep a steady tempo, and you’ll hear when you rush or drag because the metronome doesn’t lie!

The two most important fundamental factors that will make you a good drummer are: 1) the ability to keep a steady tempo,  and 2) the ability to draw consistently good, uniform tones from each of the instrument…that is, knowing how and where to strike each instrument in order to get the best response from that instrument every time you hit it.  Please understand that there’s a LOT more to playing drums than it looks like from a distance.  And having more drums/cymbals/other doo-dads doesn’t make you a better drummer.  That just proves you spend more money on toys.

If you want to test yourself, try removing all of the toms and all of the cymbals (or maybe all but just one 🙂 for your next practice session.  That will force you to listen to yourself and to work on getting consistent tone from the kick, snare, and hi hat (also the one optional crash cymbal).  Practice with a metronome.  Play for long periods of time ( 5-7  minutes ) at a time, to test your patience.  I promise it can only HELP your drumming.

Last thing: Remember that in the ensemble/band setting, you are the conductor and rhythmic foundation.  If you don’t have your act together, the band will always struggle rhythmically, and will probably not last long as a unit.  If you do your job, then the rest of the guys probably won’t be asking you to move on.  Also remember:  less is more – there is always room for more.




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