I present something to you that perhaps you've encountered thousands of times and never really noticed it. It happens to 98% of local bands and other sub-par bands alike, and sadly, I don't think anyone has ever tried to address it head on. A good rock band can be ruined, destroyed, and become a proverbial train-wreck because of one simple and very crucial element in rock music.
The song writing can be inspiring, the guitars huge and loud, and the vocals captivating. But suddenly, like war planes bombarding enemy territory, the drummer pulls out an aerial assault of a drum fill, taking any kind of musicality the other musicians have worked hard to create and blowing it to smithereens, leaving the poor refugee listener's ear drums battered and bruised. We can pin the blame on many things, such as the drummers pride, his off-kilter musical sense, or even plain old fashioned ignorance. Perhaps, as a song writer, as a guitarist, or even as a drummer, you have recently asked yourself Something just doesn't seem right with the way this sounds
Perhaps the answer might be found in the article below. Please note that this is an article built upon opinions that I find true and solid. But, please, feel free to leave me comments about how the solo guitar is the foundation of a rock band and Ibanez guitars thru line 6 amps are the only way to go. Your opinions are just as valuable as mine. I mean that
Here are 3 problems that I see with most drummers and how you can try to fix them.
Lets start with what I think is how the drums should play with others. The drums, first and foremost, are the foundation of any rock band. The drums give us rhythm, the drums provide a back bone, and the drums give the song a driving force and can set the song apart. Let's use the pyramid analogy once more. We have all seem pyramids in our history books. They start large at the bottom and end up small at the top. Common sense tells us that if it were built upside down, it would topple over and fall. Without that larger and sturdy foundation at the bottom, the whole thing comes toppling over. (Just an aside, this analogy can be used in everything from education to theology.) The drums need to be the larger, sturdier base of any rock band. Never too loud, never too flashy, and always there to support what the other instruments are there to do.
Solution: Keep it simple. Bring the rhythm to the down beat, and compliment the song. Think of it this way. You see a beautiful woman walking down the street, and you think to yourself Wow, I would like to get her number, take her out, and maybe get a little lip action Then as she walks closer, you notice that her face is horribly flashy. She has bright red lipstick on, overdone blush, eye shadow that goes all over her face, and a terrible color of eyeliner. Your first thought, if you are anything like me is wow, what a whore. Just as makeup compliments a woman, the drums should compliment a song. The same could be said for lead patterns and solo guitars, but that's neither here nor there.
Drummers that excel in this: JJ Johnson (John Mayer) Jon Bucklew (Copeland). If you are anything like me, you do the following at all rock shows. I walk up to the front of the stage, and depending on whether the band is setting up or already has their gear on stage, I check out the gear. I see what kind of guitars they play, what amps the use to drive them, and what kind of pedals or effects the may use. It is here that I make all sorts of inappropriate, hypocritical and very mean statements in my head, or a close friend, if they are standing next to me. These statements may include Why would you waste so much money on that solid-state piece of crap? or For that money, you could have x guitar and still have enough money to buy some decent effects.
Then, being a drummer with nearly 15 years of experience under my belt, I notice the drum kit. As I said earlier, 98% of the time, local bands and sub-par bands have this kit. A 7 piece pearl export series with z custom cymbals and a double kick pedal. All on a large, shiny drum rack. I almost want to turn away from the show at that point. Why? Because while there may be 20,000 kits out there assembled that way, there are only 5,000 drummers who, in my opinion, who can give that kit justice. It is my burning and driving opinion that if you reduce the kit, you will make the drummer more solid.
Solution: If all drummers could have a tattoo, I would want it to be KISSnot because of the ground breaking rock band, but because it stands for keep it simple, stupid. Lets be honest, you aren't going to really use toms 3-8, and if you did, it probably wouldn't fit in the song at all. You really only need a crash, a ride, and some hats. A splash is acceptable, but anything more than that is fluff. A pet peeve of mine is the china crash. It's excellent for a quick cut through in metal, but most drummers I know use it as a ride. I want to rip my ears out at this point.
Drummers who excel in this: Matthew Puttman (lovedrug, Living sacrifice) Weston (eisley) Most jazz drummers. Let's face it, half of the rock drummers out there only dream that they could play jazz. Jazz music=smaller kit. Rock music=huge kit. Surely you can make the connection there
I have met many drummers in this great land of ours, and if there was one thing in common that they all have (yes, myself included) is that we are all puffed up with pride. Something about getting behind some wood, metal, and plastic and beating it all to death makes us feel so big, so masculine, and so God-like. I've been there too, but what we have to realize is that we are not there to have the spotlights on us. If you have this mindset, please do your guitarist a favor and find another band to play in. I'm sure that most drummers who read this are actually pretty good. There are a lot of great players out there. However, the problem comes when the drummer thinks I should show off some of my skills in this part of the song. That's different! I worked at an office for a brief period of time, and one day I noticed that every day I went in to work, the office was always very clean. The trash had been taken out, the windows had been cleaned, and somehow, there was always the lingering scent of lemon. Every evening, when the employees had left, the janitor came in, when no one was there to see, and would clean up behind the mess we had just made.
Drummers, consider yourselves the janitors of the rock world, going behind the over inflated solo guitarists, the artsy and quiet rhythm guitarists, the eccentric bassists and bleeding heart vocalists and cleaning up whatever mess they bring to the stage. It is your job to clean it, polish it, and make it presentable. Its not a glorious job, so be prepared before you get into it.
Solution: Change your mindset. You aren't the focus of the band. Who in their right mind (besides other drummers who, arguably, aren't in their right mind) would want to sit and listen to nothing but drums drums drums? Take the time to realize that you are the solid foundation to any rock band, and though without you, everything falls apart, you still need to have the humility about you to make sure that you do indeed make some good music together.
Drummers that excel in this: Pat Wilson (weezer) Fergal Lawler (The cranberries) and Local Drummers Eric Meeks and Josh Ayres. Some of the best drummers a guitarist could ask to play with.
I do appreciate your time in reading this article. I hope that you and your band can use it. I have one goal in this whole article writing businessto make music better. I think I have some pretty good ideas that though aren't original to me, they could be said by me. Remember that drums can make or break the band. Don't be scared to tell your drummer to take a chill pill, and drummers, don't get upset if someone tells you to be quiet. Remember what I told you about people in their right mind not wanting to listen to drums all day long? It's a burden we bare; it's just that others bear it better than some. Drummers, you are the foundation, you are the solid rock, and you are the janitors. It's not a flashy job, but without you and your excellence, rock music would not be where it is today. Keep up the good work.