Imagine you´re playing a song with your band receiving only negative feedback from your bandmates.
You may ask yourself: Why is my drumming drawing the song down despite me playing the accurate notes in the proper rhythmic distance?
One could be cruel and answer: Playing accurate is´nt enough. It is the premise but not sufficient for a really good drummer´s groove.
So what is the main ingredient in the magnetic playing of the greats? (BTW, one should ask oneself this question as early as possible while learning new grooves by oneself and not in the midst of a band rehearsal or even after a concert!)
So what is it then??
The great drummers answer with their playing: It´s the feel, the foundation of the song established by the drummer´s own and often unique feeling for the groove which is supporting the song perfectly.
The best drummers perfected their skills through playing along to songs until they captured the feel of the song and could reproduce it every time they wanted.
Important for my following method is that at first you´re not using play along tracks without drums. You need original tracks containing the original drummer´s playing to obtain your goal. After mastering the feel of a song you can use a drumless track to record your playing with the song. The comparison with the original track can be hard but will help you enhance your feel.
In this article I describe in 7 simple steps how you can learn to play a song with the right feel and how you can develop the appropriate attitude.
Important: Choose a song which accommodates your current playing level because you have to be able to play with the song right from the start.
It does´t matter whether you´re playing We Will Rock You by Queen with your bass drum and snare or hitting your snare throughout Satisfaction from The Rolling Stones. The important thing is that you´re playing!
At the end of this article I´m adding a list of songs suitable for my method. Songs at the end of the list are more difficult to play.
Important: You don´t have to play every single note of the original groove. Above all you shall capture the feel of the song. So put aside your transcriptions and drum tabs and try my concept now. It can be a companion whenever other concepts won´t work.
Here we go!
1 – Listening
Listen and listen! Listen to the song at home, while jogging, while sitting in a bus, subway or car via headphones and via speakers. Notice how the song sounds differently depending on the various surroundings.
What attracts your attention? The colour of the singers voice, it´s melody, the sounds of the instruments in the background, the melodies of the instruments, the rhythm of the drums, the groove and feel, the lyrics, the atmosphere? Listen and don´t think too much – but a little bit is ok :-)
2 – Feeling
Start now to get increasingly into the spirit of the song. What does the song mean for you personally? By what is the song emotionally getting to you? Is it reflective, happy, lamenting or aggressive? What exactly do you like about the song? Move to the music, even (secretly) dance to it. That way you´re getting a better physical (!) feeling for the song. You want to affect people with your music. Start with being affected by it first. Music has to be felt, so don´t be afraid to move to it a little bit.
Devote yourself to the lyrics and analyze it´s meanings in order to get an even better feeling for the mood of the song.
3 – Playing
Sit down somewhere and start playing with your hands on your knees and moving your feet. It does not have to be perfect. Let your playing become more and more similar to what you hear. Don´t think to much. Let your movements flow and become more and more comfortable.
4 – Imitation
Now play your drums! Do exactly what you did before on your knees. Concentrate on the snare. Try to play it exactly where the drummer in the song plays it. Once you accomplished that the song serves as a door opener for hundreds of other songs with that feel and your audience will start to move and dance. So this is very important for your drum playing.
Good songs to start with are Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen and Maneater by Nelly Furtado.
5 – Lerning
Well, you got the basic feel of the song´s snare. Now start to play more and more precisely what you feel in the music. Become one with the music. Copy the feel of the song exactly!
If now you want to know more about specific notes in your rhythm (additional bass drum notes or fill ins) check drum tabs and the drum sheet music of the song.
6 – Internalizing
Become more and more the engine. Don´t be the passive wagon anymore which has to be torn. Become the active engine of the music, even if you are “only” playing with a recorded piece of music: Imagine fellow musicians playing with you: The bass player near your hihat, the guitar player on the other side. Imagine how you´re establishing contact with them an creating music with them.
Only after your energy has reached the level of the music and the song and your playing are fitting perfectly together you have internalized the song´s feel perfectly. If now you´re playing the song, it sounds as if you would have invented it´s drum part.
A short parenthesis:
Now you aren´t the music listener from step one of this article who just listens to the music being inspired by it. You are the music maker now who creates the music with much feeling and energy. That is the deciding difference!
Playing music with the attitude of a listener is like being the engine who wants to be the car or waggon. You are denying your role as a leader in a band and your crucial contribution to the band´s entire energy level is absolutely missing.
As a drummer you are the engine case in point. As long as you´re standing next to the drum throne everything is fine. As soon as you´re sitting down – everything changes! A band immediately demands your leadership and guesses you have a sense of responsibility. Otherwise you never would have chosen this instrument. The band members think: “Ok, he´s sitting down … he´ll know what he can play and that he can do it.
So, be the right man for the job an know everything there is to know about the upcoming challenges in advance – musically and organizational.
Only if you have clarified as many aspects prior to the upcoming task as possible and only if you feel confident then you can take the reins and live up to your leadership claim which is due to you.
This is the reason why we´re working together to develop your vital abilities as a drummer: Self-confidence and being able to accept responsibility and leadership in a band.End of parenthesis
The Assignment Of Drumming
We were talking about internalizing. What is it with The Assignment Of Drumming? How does that fit into the 6th learning step of this article?
All I can answer is: You will have mastered the assignment of drumming when you’re able to evoke you’re attitude for a groove all by yourself without the song and being able to play this groove for the actual length of the tune without changing the tempo or loosing the feel of the groove.
So your tasks are:
1. Play the time! Timing is crucial! Be the leader!
2. Pull the feel through the song! Play the same trot throughout the song! Play with heart!
By the way: That´s the recipe for a good groove.
Imagine every repetition of your groove as if it were the first run. Don’t just play it as a mere repetition but as if you would insist every time! That way the groove stays fresh and full of energy the whole time.
Playing like this without inspiring music lets you spend lots of energy. You have to accomplish everything by yourself: Tempo, attitude, feel, groove, holding up the energy level, and being concentrated. That´y a lot, but: How could you inspire you’re band mates or even the audience if you´re playing without attitude, inspiration and energy?!?
You will master everything by time. You will get better at this when you play music all the time! Don´t practice! You can´t practice a parachute jump. You have to do this one right the first time. In music apart from that you can and will learn from your mistakes. But you learn nothing if you don´t risk playing music with your heart involved right by the first time! Practicing is “trying” to play music. Playing music is playing music. And even if you like the word practicing and cannot let it go: Practice musically every time!
Ok, back to our learning steps!
Steps 1 to 5 can extend some weeks. No problem! You only have to no which step you´re in right now and what it´s goal means for you in the here and now. Ask yourself honestly every time if you are ready for the next step and you´ll find the right answer.
Did you master step 1 to 5 then this 6th step is the logical consequence and even The Assignment Of Drumming won´t be a problem for you.
Stay with it! Allow yourself plenty of time! Persevere! Know: Simple is difficult!
7 – Creativity
Think about changing things. How could you put your personal stamp on the song´s groove? How could you merge two similar grooves (by adding your feel) to a new groove. Which note(s) could be added or deleted without tampering the feel.
Suggestion: Read about every song you´re playing. Learn who wrote and sang it and what it´s influences were. Many styles have been around a couple of times and many songs build on stylistic predecessors or are hybrids of different songs and/or songs. Knowing these influences gives you a more and more complete picture of the modern (pop) music history. You are then a small part of it being able to become a larger one.
So get to work, be bold and make music!
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Greetings from Germany :-)
P.S.: Below you find the songlist:
We Will Rock You and more or less cognate songs
Queen – We Will Rock You
Katy Perry – E.T.
Green Day – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Green Day – 21 Guns
One Republic – All The Right Moves
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ´n` Roll
Neil Young – Heart Of Gold
John Lennon – Imagine
Guns ´n Roses | Bob Dylan – Knocking On Heavens Door
Jessi J ft. B.o.B. – Price Tag
Beat the Snare!
The Rolling Stones – Satisfaction
Roy Orbison – Pretty Woman
Hang On Sloopy – The McCoys
Adele – Hello
Bryan Adams – Heaven
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Capital Cities – Safe And Sound
Rihanna – Only Girl
Avril Lavigne – Complicated
Coldplay – Yellow
Snowpatrol – Chasing Cars
Passenger – Let Her Go
Katy Perry – Roar
Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
Nelly Furtado – I´m like A Bird
Rihanna – Diamonds
Shaggy – It Wasn´t Me
Fun – We Are Young
Jay Z & Alicia Keys – Empire State Of Mind
Adele – Rolling In The Deep
AC/DC – Highway To Hell
Rihanna & Eminem – Monster
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
Yes – Owner Of a Lonely Heart
Pink Floyd – Another Brick in The Wall
The Black Eyed Peas – Let´s Get It Started
Queen – Another One Bites The Dust
Michael Jackson – Thriller
U2 – One
The Police – Every Breath You Take
Mariah Carey ft. Boyz II Men – One Sweet Day
Bryan Adams – (Everything I Do) I Do It For You
Sara Bareilles – Love Song
Kesha – Tik Tok
Katy Perry – California Gurls
Katy Perry – I Kissed A Girl
Aretha Franklin – Respect
Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger
Bon Jovi – You Give Love A Bad Name
Kinks – Sunny Afternoon
The Beatles – She Loves You
The Beatles – Michelle
Gharis Barkley – Crazy
Carly Rae Jepson – Call Me Maybe
Katy Perry – Hot N Cold
Madonna – Like A Virgin
Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag
Boston – More Than A Feeling
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Nelly Furtado – Maneater
Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA
Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Alicia Keys – Fallin´
Alicia Keys – If I Aint Got You
Metallica – Nothing Else Matters
Queen – We Are The Champions