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The Drummer's Cheat Sheet For Jamming

posted on #1
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According to me, of course... This is my experience. I've done a lot of live jamming in my time. And if you don't know the song, these are my rules:

1) First and most-important: if you make a mistake, do it again and make it look like you meant to do it. My first drum teacher told me this. And he was right. When jamming, if you do a fill to a section and find there's another bar? Do the fill again but louder and busier! Blag it. You'll get away with it. I do it all the time.

2) Your job is to keep time. Your performance can be covered in mistakes you hate, but as long as they're not timing ones audiences will never notice and often the musicians you're playing with largely don't notice either. Don't sweat it.

3) Dynamics. Dynamics. Dynamics. These are your friend. Start a song at 100% power, where's it going to go? If you decide to start loud, drop the volume back for verses, build for choruses. As a rule when I'm jamming, I start powerful, drop back for the verse vocals, build up for the chorus, drop back for verses. Rinse and repeat. Play at 100% through the song then it will go nowhere. It will not breathe.

4) Following on from 3. Space and continuity. Do fills which accentuate rather than big 'round the kit' jobs. Even a couple of hi-hat hits or a single tom smack can do an incredibly effective job. To coin a phrase, "less is more". I find a particularly effective fill technique is to play fills round the kit but still hit the snare on the '2' and '4' during the fill. That way the beat carries on even though I'm doing something else. Think about the flow of the track.

5) Phrases. Listen to the track. What pushes or accents are there? Can you pick them out whilst keeping the beat going? Little accents like this can transform a drummer's contribution to a track. It can be so incredibly effective. Use the hi-hat or crashes to pick out phrases or even a single hit, otherwise don't play a bigger 'fill'. I know it's hard, especially if you're adding early to a stem, but have faith in your conviction. Annoyingly, sometimes completely ignoring phrases and playing straight through them can be just as effective. Can't win!

6) Simplicity. Is what you're playing hard to do and complex enough that you're on the edge of your ability? Drop back to where you're comfortable. In my experience, people want well-played drums, not fancy drums. There is no shame whatsoever in playing four-on-the-floor. If it's played well. It's what everyone else wants.

5) When it comes to templates, keep it simple and accessible. Drum templates are very popular - it's what every one wants; not to have to use their wretched click tracks or contrived programmed beats. The structure should be easy for players of all abilities to pick up. There's a reason blues and rock is so popular on here: it's accessible to many more players of many more skill levels. Let the learners join in. Launching into a 7-minute template in five different time signatures is all very clever but expect tumbleweed when it comes to adds because the majority of players won't possess the skill and/or confidence to take it on. That's not to say you shouldn't do complex pieces once in a while but with complexity comes less adds. It takes a lot of balls, whatever one's experience to upload here.

6) As mentioned above. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Musicians, as a rule, want clean and fluid time. Focus on good time.

7) Dynamics. I've mentioned them, haven't I? Try playing a standard '16ths around the toms' fill. Now do it again but play some notes louder than others. 95% of my fills are just sixteenths around the kit. I just hit some harder than others.

8) Ignore me and do what you feel. This is just a list of things that have helped me over the years... These are not instructions, just tips that have helped me.

** I am of course completely guilty of transgressing every one of those rules above ** These are my guides. I don't always obey them. I just try to!!
Edited by mpointon on 20-11-2016 05:57
posted on #2
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Posts: 246
Joined: 19.08.13
This post deserves a chapter in the coming book "Wikilooped musicians talking about their rules"!

Very informative for a guitarist!
Was born in an analog world.
posted on #3
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Posts: 40
Joined: 21.06.14
great article mpointon! great advice!
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