Focus On Your Foot

Do Two Wrongs Make It Right?

Another way to make a band sound tighter is to mirror the bassist even when he’s playing the wrong groove. ere have been times that I’ve been on a gig and was playing the correct part only to notice the bass player hadn’t really learned the song and wasn’t paying attention to my groove. When you’re in the middle of a gig your decision becomes whether to stick to your guns and play the “correct” part or adapt to what the bass is playing and possibly make the band sound tighter. You have the opportunity to discuss such things if you rehearse with a band, but you have to figure it out in real time if you’re on a jobbing or subbing situation. What would you do?

I recall once playing the Beatles song “In My Life” while on a jobbing gig, which has an unusual and creative linear drum part that was atypical for its era. I’ve transcribed it and played it in lots of bands. However, as I was playing it, the leader kept giving me funny looks. I eventually guessed that his regular drummer must not have known how the groove actually went, and had been faking it with a generic ballad beat. By the time I came to this realization the song was half over, so I stayed with my groove rather than change to mirror the leader’s part, despite his occasional scowls. e rest of gig went very well and the other players seemed happy, but the leader never called me again. So in retrospect, while I may have made the right musical decision, it probably wasn’t the smartest business decision.

I once saw a friend play AC/DC’s “You Shook Me” with a straight quarter-note fouron- the-floor bass drum pattern rather than the original kick pattern that falls on 1 and the & of 3. The bass player followed him, but to my ears it pretty much ruined the song, changing the vibe from rock to disco.

To each their own, I suppose. There are no real rules in music, so let your ears guide your choices.

Contrasting Rhythm Parts

While mirroring your bass drum part to your bass player’s rhythms is usually a good choice, you may also find it useful to occasionally adapt your approach by contrasting your bass drum rhythms against the bass. ere are several ways you can do this.

You undoubtedly noticed that some bass players like to keep things simple while others aren’t afraid to fill measures with notes. If you work with different bass players, playing complementary yet contrasting bass drum patterns can be a useful way to adapt to these different styles.

Whenever I work with a player who embellishes a lot, I’ll play more sparsely, merely outlining their rhythms and leaving space in my groove. That gives the bassist room to express her musicality without competing busyness. Plus, the music can sound cluttered and the groove can suffer when several people play actively at once. You can even decide to skip some fills and leave room for others to fill the spaces.

When you’re playing with a simpler bassist, you might want to swing through a Starbucks Drive ru before the gig and embellish your kick part to make the bottom end of the groove feel more active and syncopated.

Here’s another way to play a contrasting part: Play a bass drum part that relates more to a guitar or keyboard figure than it does to the bassist’s rhythm. In this case, the drum part still relates to other rhythms in the song, but is independent of the bass line.

Yet another contrasting approach is to offer a drum groove that is completely independent of the other parts. AC/DC’s “Back In Black” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” are two of the countless songs that employ a simple quarternote drum groove while more rhythmically complex parts are played over it. Many great bands use this sort of rhythmic tension. In AC/ DC’s example, the drums play the hits with the band in the fourth measure, but otherwise hammer home a straight groove.

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