#1
What level of accuracy should be expected from a drummer?

I've been playing in bands all my life and I'd swear I've never played with a drummer who didn't make the band sound like shit. I'm sure that as a performer, I'm probably more attuned to stuff like the tempo, groove, dynamics than the audience, but I'm sure that they're picking up on all that stuff even without actively listening out for it.

I still get people in the audience coming up to me going "Wow, your drummer is awesome!" and I'm like "seriously? That song had no constant tempo just now."

I'm pretty sure that it depends on the genre - my drummer now has a metal background. I think metal music is much more forgiving of things like tempo and dynamics. You can slow down for a breakdown and then speed up during the solo and just never ever play soft. Correct me if I'm wrong here, 'cause I've understood this as one of the reasons for my drummer's problem.

We make dancy post-rock kinda music, which is supposed to be groovy, tight and dynamic. Definitely not metal.

I love this guy but tempo issues like... What I wanna discuss is:
Is it always the drummer's job to keep the tempo or can the fkn bassist do it or something?
What's the margin of error for tempo deviation where the crowd won't pick up on it as a bad thing?
What can be reasonably expected from an average drummer in this regard?
Last edited by Declan87 at Oct 6, 2014,
#2
Quote by Declan87
Is it always the drummer's job to keep the tempo or can the fkn bassist do it or something?


It's the job of both the drummer and the "fkn bassist" to lock together to form the rhythmic foundation of the song. If they're off, then it doesn't sound right.

What's the margin of error for tempo deviation where the crowd won't pick up on it as a bad thing?


Pretty high, as your own anecdote proves. Unless you screw up so badly you have to stop the song, chances are the audience won't know the difference.

What can be reasonably expected from an average drummer in this regard?


Well for one thing, sounds to me like you pick drummers with the wrong musical backgrounds for your bands. A metal drummer playing dance music, and you think he's too loud? Really? Color me surprised.

But in my experience, the drummer needs to keep time. A drummer that can't keep time is a terrible drummer. Ours uses a metronome. YMMV.
#3
Everyone should know how to play in time regardless of genre.

Everyone should be as good as they can be.
#4
If the tempo changes feel natural, they're fine, if they don't, its a problem. And theres a big difference between small natural tempo changes and a wildly fluctuation, inconsistent tempo. If you would describe it as the latter, you should probably try to find a better drummer.

Also the loudness thing, any drummer who is good knows that there is a time to play loud, and a time to play quiet. Any drummer who does not play with dynamics is not a good drummer, regardless of genre.

That being said, live sound is usually so bad that you can get away with playing almost anything and people won't know the difference, as long as you don't stop, and the song has a general vibe that people like. I was at a gig last year where my guitar was super quiet in my monitor, so I played the wrong parts several times because I wasn't used to listening to the other guitarist. Nobody seemed to notice, despite the fact that my guitar was mixed plenty loud in the house. (Actually all of our instruments were WAAAAAAY too loud in the house, but it was a Battle of the Bands, so what do you expect.)
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#5
That's a bit like asking "how deep's a hole?"

It all depends on what you're trying to play. I've played in a band with a drummer who was by no means that technically great, but had the right feel and played to suit the music. Likewise I've seen bands with a technically amazing drummer who was just wrong for the style.

'Good' in this regard is a subjective thing really, and the issue may not even be with the drummer. Where is he taking his cues from? Is he listening to you or the bass player to form his parts? Which would he be better off listening to?

Tempo and rhythm are definitely not the exclusive domain of drummers or even drummers and bass players. I'd say it's the responsibility of all band members to know how they fit into the overall rhythmic feel and sound of the band. To say that your song was messy and it's all the drummers fault is a really destructive attitude to have and won't get you anywhere with any drummer no matter how good. Have a conversation and decide who's taking cues from who in what parts.
#6
Quote by Declan87
I think metal music is much more forgiving of things like tempo and dynamics.

No, it's really, really not.

You can slow down for a breakdown and then speed up during the solo and just never ever play soft.

Wow, you have no idea about metal, do you?

Also, breakdown? Metal isn't hardcore, you dork.

We make dancy post-rock kinda music, which is supposed to be groovy, tight and dynamic. Definitely not metal.

You just described Metal and rock and Jazz and half the genres ever.

Is it always the drummer's job to keep the tempo or can the fkn bassist do it or something?

BOTH!

What's the margin of error for tempo deviation where the crowd won't pick up on it as a bad thing?

5bpm + or -

What can be reasonably expected from an average drummer in this regard?

That he keeps the damn beat. It's his whole job. He has ONE JOB. To. Keep. The. Beat.
#7
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
No, it's really, really not.

Wow, you have no idea about metal, do you?

Also, breakdown? Metal isn't hardcore, you dork.
Isn't the breakdown the bit where everyone plays DUN! DUN! DUN DUN! DUN! ... DUDUDUDUDUDUDUN! really low and the drummer plays china cymbal in half time?

Obviously I've no idea about metal. But it sounds to me like the foundation of metal is the change between sections. That's why it sounds so good to play a riff over a really slow beat then suddenly the beat speeds up like x4, and then it changes to really slow and deep doomy part. Throughout each section, the band plays kinda static, then changes on a dime to the new, static feel of the next section. I think dynamics are achieved more in dramatic shifts, rather than during a period of stasis in this genre.

I have never played it in a band but I do listen to some metal. Probably more "passively" than actively, just like the anecdotal audience in the OP

You just described Metal and rock and Jazz and half the genres ever.
word
Quote by Weybl Himself
'Good' in this regard is a subjective thing really, and the issue may not even be with the drummer. Where is he taking his cues from? Is he listening to you or the bass player to form his parts? Which would he be better off listening to?
I would say the drummer should listen to the bassist, and the rest of the band should listen to the drummer.

Tempo and rhythm are definitely not the exclusive domain of drummers or even drummers and bass players. I'd say it's the responsibility of all band members to know how they fit into the overall rhythmic feel and sound of the band. To say that your song was messy and it's all the drummers fault is a really destructive attitude to have and won't get you anywhere with any drummer no matter how good. Have a conversation and decide who's taking cues from who in what parts.
Aye we've had that conversation. I'm sure it's not completely the drummer's fault, but I believe in setting my rhythm to the snare drum so at least we're internally consistent.

Looking forward to some more interesting replies!
#8
Quote by Declan87
Isn't the breakdown the bit where everyone plays DUN! DUN! DUN DUN! DUN! ... DUDUDUDUDUDUDUN! really low and the drummer plays china cymbal in half time?

lel

Obviously I've no idea about metal. But it sounds to me like the foundation of metal is the change between sections.

[snip]

Yes and no (to all of what you said about metal). A genre as complex and varied as Metal can't be broken down this way.


That said, back to your drummer. If he doesn't fit your band (clearly there's some issue or you wouldn't be here), then find a drummer who does.
#9
In my opinion the drummer needs to be 100% accurate, a crap drummer can take down an otherwise perfectly good band. You have no chance but to follow whatever tempo he sets so ideally you want a drummer who is capable of playing along to a metronome (unfortunately not many can do this). A good drummer needs to have great control of dynamics and some common sense as well, if he is beating the holy hell out of his kit the entire time chances are the vocals arent going to be heard well especially during the quiet parts and the audience is defenitely going to notice that.

My old drummer was a complete tool, had absolutely no tempo control at all. He had a range of -10 to +10 bpm compared to the original songs (often going from -10 to +10 throughout the song!!), no creativity, no fills, just hihat and cymbal on the first beat for EVERY song on the set.

If you dont feel comfortable playing with your drummer just kick him out and look for another one. This goes for every member really... if you cant trust someone to be able to play his part accurately then he is no good for you because you wont be relaxed while on stage and wont play as well. After 1-2 rehearsals I can tell whether someone is "good enough" or not, dont feel bad about kicking someone out, a bad drummer will ruin everything so no regrets!

Hope this helps
#10
Quote by Declan87
Isn't the breakdown the bit where everyone plays DUN! DUN! DUN DUN! DUN! ... DUDUDUDUDUDUDUN! really low and the drummer plays china cymbal in half time?

Obviously I've no idea about metal. But it sounds to me like the foundation of metal is the change between sections. That's why it sounds so good to play a riff over a really slow beat then suddenly the beat speeds up like x4, and then it changes to really slow and deep doomy part. Throughout each section, the band plays kinda static, then changes on a dime to the new, static feel of the next section. I think dynamics are achieved more in dramatic shifts, rather than during a period of stasis in this genre.

I have never played it in a band but I do listen to some metal. Probably more "passively" than actively, just like the anecdotal audience in the OP
word
I would say the drummer should listen to the bassist, and the rest of the band should listen to the drummer.

Aye we've had that conversation. I'm sure it's not completely the drummer's fault, but I believe in setting my rhythm to the snare drum so at least we're internally consistent.

Looking forward to some more interesting replies!


It sounds like at least you're having the right conversations. Best thing to do might be to practice with the drummer playing to a metronome, just to get used to sticking to a constant tempo, then once he's comfortable with that, putting a bit of natural ebb and flow will come pretty naturally but still be tight thanks to the metronome practice.

That's just one thing that I've used in a band I was in and it definitely helped everyone get really tight with their starts and stops, helps everyone to kinda 'feel' where they are in the song and use the drummer as a signpost rather than really leaning on them to BE the metronome so to speak. Dunno if that made much sense, it's 9:30am here and I'm at work and haven't finished my coffee yet hah.
#11
Quote by Weybl Himself
That's just one thing that I've used in a band I was in and it definitely helped everyone get really tight with their starts and stops, helps everyone to kinda 'feel' where they are in the song and use the drummer as a signpost rather than really leaning on them to BE the metronome so to speak. Dunno if that made much sense, it's 9:30am here and I'm at work and haven't finished my coffee yet hah.

This.

As a band you need to play together. This does not mean that you just have to play the same song at the same time. You have to connect with each other (musically) while playing. This only works if everyone able to play his part while also listening to the others and adapting to them. Obviously the whole band needs to be able to do that.
#12
The drummer provides the energy and vibe for the whole show. Period. Whether he's on point or not doesn't matter. You can try and scrutinize him, but the audience is never sitting there thinking, "Hm, wow, this drummer really needs to tighten is snare hit on the second verse, it's really off."

The people are there to have a good time. And you're there to give it to them.
#13
Every member in the band is responsible of keeping time. But if your drummer slows down, you really can't keep the original tempo. If anybody else slows down, it's not that bad, as long as the drums keep the tempo. Because everybody can always listen to the drummer and get back in the groove. Drums are the most rhythmic instrument in the band. Drummer needs to be accurate. When it comes to guitar, yes, it is important to play accurately, but it is way more "forgiving" than drums. Bass and drums need to work together. Because if they play out of tempo, you will not sound tight at all.

But have you talked about the issue? I mean, maybe the drummer doesn't know that he shouldn't change the tempo. If you never talked about tempo changes and the drummer has always changed tempo on certain parts, maybe he just doesn't know how the songs should be played. If he doesn't play the way you want, tell him what to play. Tell him that the beat he played wasn't really what you were after. Tell that the tempo changes can sound cool but just don't fit the music you are playing. You don't need to be rude. I think most problems in bands exist because people don't talk about them. As a guitarist it is completely fine to comment the drum parts. And as a vocalist it is completely fine to comment bass parts.

I play the bass in our band and I comment all parts if they don't satisfy me. If the drum beat doesn't sound right, I tell what I'm after and the drummer tries that. Then we may talk about it if my drum beat fits the song better. But usually the drummer doesn't have anything against my drum beats because he hasn't really thought about what to play in the songs. He just plays something and if it doesn't satisfy me or somebody else, we tell how we want it to sound like.

Just talk about it with your drummer. People don't automatically know how to play in your style, especially if they aren't that familiar with the genre. But it is definitely not impossible for a metal drummer to learn your style. You just need to tell him how to play your style and what bands/drummers to listen to.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Oct 22, 2014,
#14
Thanks for all the advice lads! I'd already made the drummer aware of the issues with tempo. In fact, one of the things I like most about him is his ability to take criticism without it bruising his ego. This is probably the greatest personality trait a musician in a band can have! We tend to value good communication over egoism anyway and although we have a definite "band leader," all members have an input on each others parts and on the structure of the composition.

So we've tried rehearsing our songs to a metronome. It has led to an improvement in certain songs. We've got a few gigs and recording dates coming up this month, so I told him that if his performance isn't up to scratch, we'd have to find another drummer. I told him he'd better simplify his drum parts and focus on nailing the tempo/dynamics instead. I can't believe we had this conversation the day before we went into the studio for the first time(I would not advise this), but the recording went great anyway.

He performs well with a metronome in his ear, maybe we should consider that for live gigs.
#15
Step #1; don't hit the cymbals too often, if you do it drowns out the sound of the entire band like many bands do. A song with too much treble from the cymbals ringing can have a timbre that's very unpleasing and conflicts with the entire band the entire song.

Step #2; rhythm
#16
Drummer is probably the most important musician in the band next to the bassist. The drummer has to know the tune as well as the bass player and also be able to make the music swing. Swinging is absolutely essential in a drummer. Heavy technique is not necessary if the music does not call for it, but ALL music must swing in it's own way. As a guitarist, I know how important a great ( swinging) drummer is to my enjoyment of the gig. All guitar players and vocalists will figure out sooner or later that when a solid, swinging drummer is on the hit, all of the other stuff just gels so much better. Guitar players in particular rely on a solid drummer. Try doing that killer, epic solo when the drummer is not supporting your rhythmic accents and jump offs to other regions of the guitar neck. It feels like you just picked up the guitar last year, even if you have been playing 30 years. Trust me! It's true.
#17
The drummer (as the bassist) are expected to have 100% accuracy rating usually. Mainly because that is their primary purpose. good drummers can be easy to find but hard to get. When auditioning a drummer be prepared to offer them money.
#18
A drummer needs to be, good enough, and can be as good as possible. If you're ****ing up my groove, you can't be my drummer. If the music has dynamic tempo, I don't care, if the chorus is always a bit faster, I don't care. As long as the groove is that way. If my drummer is playing, they go off and play some rhythm I'm not expecting and it affects my groove, then they can't drum for me. I wouldn't give them a chance or anything. I might like them a lot, but if you don't feel the rhythm, you don't feel the rhythm. No matter how much I like you, if you're a blind man, you can't be my interior decorator.

Lots of people don't feel groove and rhythm very well. They won't notice that. They see the drummer maybe doing intricate things, skilful things, playing fast or whatever, and they think he is good. They can't tell if he is off beat. But I can, and if you are my drummer, then you need to at the very least not messup my groove. Ideally, you will do the odd thing here or there that will put a smile on my face. The music I make and am involved in must be good to my standards. I need to love it. If I'm the only one, that's enough people. If everyone loves it except for me, then... ok, then I might do it for a bit and bank some cash lol,... but then after that, forget it, I'm out.

To me, it's art. You have to love it. I can love a simple beat and simple breaks. I can't love things that mess with my groove.