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What's up with drummer turnover?


Tubefox

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I realize this is an old topic, but why is it always drummers who have a ridiculously high turnover rate in a band? I look at some bands on Wikipedia, and the guitarists, vocalist, and bassist are all original members, but they have about five ex-drummers. A lot of local bands have run through two or three drummers since they started gigging, let alone before that.

 

Is this just a weird coincidence, or is there actually an obvious reason for this? I mean, it's hard to find a good drummer, but it still seems ridiculous.

 

And no, I don't believe all of them blow up into green goo.

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I've had high drummer turnover in pretty much every band I've been in. Over three bands which saw no other member turnover over 18 years combined---I would have to say I've played with maybe 12 different drummers?

 

But I have to take a lot of the blame, to be honest. I'm pretty hard on drummers. If the groove isn't happening at a level I'm happy with, everything else happening on top of it is wasted.

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No more drummer turnover than other instruments, I'd bet.

 

Just far more involved in the finding/auditioning process (drum kit=way harder to move in and out than a bass rig or guitar combo).

 

Also, likely far more impact on a band to lose a drummer. You lose a second guitarist or keys player, you might still be able to limp through playing your booked gigs , etc. Lose a drummer, though, and you're instantly in 'unplugged' territory.

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Part of the problem with recording and touring bands is that the drummer almost always gets no song writing credits. The guys who wrote the songs will make money on publishing rights and so they can make a living. The drummer only gets mechanical royalties and often just isn't making enough money.

 

Max

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I've been in and out of more than a few bands throughout my career and I doubt there's any one reason drummers don't work out any more than other players.

But, drummers are usually the second hardest position to replace right behind the lead singer.

Think about it. The drummer is the foundation and everything else is built on that. Every drummer has a different feel and that affects the whole band.

We all "feel time" a little differently. There are also the nuances of each song that have to be learned and nailed. To the average listener, the mistakes they will notice most often are missed lyrics and drummer clams. A bad drum mistake can make a whole dance floor fall over!

Many bands take good drummers for granted and even demean them because they aren't "musicians". Their input to writing is often overlooked and they are generally pushed to the back of the group dynamic.

 

Now of course I understand there are just flaky drummers who don't show up, show up drunk or are generally unreliable. That trait crosses all categories of musician!

 

If you have a good drummer, take good care of them because someone else might just snag them out from under you!

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Many bands take good drummers for granted and even demean them because they aren't "musicians". Their input to writing is often overlooked and they are generally pushed to the back of the group dynamic.

 

This!

 

I really do think drummers are more likely to become disgruntled than other members because of this very thing - especially if the drummer is really good. Too often, it seems drummers are told in so many words to "just shut up and keep time," replaced by drum machines, and other such indignities. They aren't treated like the rest of the band. I've heard this from a lot of drummers, once they find out that I don't do any of these things. :p

 

I haven't had the problem of drummer turnover much, because I really appreciate the hell out of a good drummer, and I show it. Our drummer really is probably the best musician in the band, and although he's a very humble guy and a great team player, we really give him a lot of opportunity to shine. Not only is our music pretty drum centric, but he contributes the occasional song to the band and he has a ton of input on arrangements and so forth. He sings great harmonies, too. There are a lot of bands who'd be happy to have him and would probably pay him more than we can, but he really gets to use all of his talents and with us and is never taken for granted, and that's worth a lot to him.

 

So there you have it.

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My guess would be that part of it has to do with the fact that if you lose a lead singer, songwriter, or maybe an important soloist, the band will probably break up rather than looking for a replacement. Drummers are more easily replaced without completely changing the sound of the band.

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This!


I really do think drummers are more likely to become disgruntled than other members because of this very thing - especially if the drummer is really good. Too often, it seems drummers are told in so many words to "just shut up and keep time," replaced by drum machines, and other such indignities. They aren't treated like the rest of the band. I've heard this from a lot of drummers, once they find out that I don't do any of these things.
:p

I haven't had the problem of drummer turnover much, because I really appreciate the hell out of a good drummer, and I show it. Our drummer really is probably the best musician in the band, and although he's a very humble guy and a great team player, we really give him a lot of opportunity to shine. Not only is our music pretty drum centric, but he contributes the occasional song to the band and he has a ton of input on arrangements and so forth. He sings great harmonies, too. There are a lot of bands who'd be happy to have him and would probably pay him more than we can, but he really gets to use all of his talents and with us and is never taken for granted, and that's worth a lot to him.


So there you have it.

 

 

Good drummers are hard to find......not so good drummers are a dime a dozen. many times you turn over not so good drummers. Typically a good drummer will stick with a good band ,, unless he had some major peronality flaws. As the saying goes ,, "I dont care if you play drums like buddy rich ,, if they start making this music thing not fun ,,they are history."

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The other thing you all aren't considering, is that in heavy genres of music the drummer is quite literally doing all of the work.

 

You could find a thousand guitarists able to play Kerry King's and Jeff Hanneman's parts before you found one drummer able to play at Dave Lombardo's pace for an entire show.

 

I've seen a lot of metal drummers with bad technique get winded easily and start to sound like {censored}: this kind of thing won't show itself until you start doing shows and tours.

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My guess would be that part of it has to do with the fact that if you lose a lead singer, songwriter, or maybe an important soloist, the band will probably break up rather than looking for a replacement. Drummers are more easily replaced without completely changing the sound of the band.

 

Good point. OTOH, drummers are a close second to lead singers in substance abuse, girlfriend drama and general unprofessionalism. And they lead the league in day-job problems, so I think there's something to the stereotype.

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My guess would be that part of it has to do with the fact that if you lose a lead singer, songwriter, or maybe an important soloist, the band will probably break up rather than looking for a replacement. Drummers are more easily replaced without completely changing the sound of the band.

 

 

See, that's exactly the kind of thing I mean about drummers being taken for granted. I suppose that'd be true if you just want someone who'll "shut up and keep time," although even then, if you have 10 drummers play a straight 4/4 beat they're all going to sound different and feel different (unless they're all extremely mediocre).

 

The drummer does completely change the sound of a band - most people just don't realize it.

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The other thing you all aren't considering, is that in heavy genres of music the drummer is quite literally doing all of the work.


You could find a thousand guitarists able to play Kerry King's and Jeff Hanneman's parts before you found one drummer able to play at Dave Lombardo's pace for an entire show.


I've seen a lot of metal drummers with bad technique get winded easily and start to sound like {censored}: this kind of thing won't show itself until you start doing shows and tours.

 

 

Yup... for certain genres it's absolutely imperative that you have a great drummer, or the whole band is going to sound like crap.

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Yup... for certain genres it's absolutely imperative that you have a great drummer, or the whole band is going to sound like crap.

 

Absolutely agree. A good drummer is critical to the overall sound of the band. Unfortunately, there aren't enough good ones to go around, so the care and feeding of a quality drummer is essential.

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I think there's another factor that probably contributes to this trend (or perceived trend) and that's:

 

Often bands begin with a duo or trio of songwriting collaborators who don't necessarily get serious about finding a drummer (after all, you can demo song ideas on acoustic instruments, or using a drum machine) until they already have something of a sound and shared vision. A lot of times, as a drummer, you're coming in as an addition to an at least somewhat established vision, not a founder.

 

That's certainly not always the case, but it happens a lot. And in a situation like that, you tend to be less personally invested in the band. And so if your interests or life situation change there's less "glue" keeping you around that would be the case for an original founding member.

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Very true, Squid. Again, my band really doesn't work that way. Even if we write stuff and possibly make a demo before bringing it to the drummer, we keep the song in a very rough form and it's understood that everybody has a big hand in working up the final form of the song. That's been the case from the beginning.

 

So, again, there are ways to make your band more attractive to a good drummer, and treating him like an afterthought isn't one of them. :lol:

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Very true, Squid. Again, my band really doesn't work that way. Even if we write stuff and possibly make a demo before bringing it to the drummer, we keep the song in a very rough form and it's understood that everybody has a big hand in working up the final form of the song. That's been the case from the beginning.


So, again, there are ways to make your band more attractive to a good drummer, and treating him like an afterthought isn't one of them.
:lol:

 

Yeah, I think in a situation like yours, the drummer is part of the core of the band, and you would expect a longer tenure in situation like that.

 

I don't think that in the opposte situation, though, it's necessarily an affront to a player or "being treated like an afterthought." For instance some bands are formed, then they record an album- before even thinking about putting together a live lineup. If you sign on for something like that, its an implicit agreement that you understand that theres already an established sound and style.

 

I really don't think either is inherently better or worse. Usually when you're in the "core member" role you have a lot more responsibility that comes with that. As a drummer, I can definitely also appreciate the role of just showing up, saying "ok, how do you want this?", and playing. And in a situation like that youre less tied to the project and well, there's your turnover.

 

Some bands have a few core guys and a bunch of guys to back them who come and go pretty often. I don't think that necessarily means anyones being treated badly or that the group is dysfuntional.... that just how some bands are.

:idk:

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Yeah, I agree - it's not necessarily a bad thing to have a band like that. But you are more likely to have turnover.

 

 

Yep.

 

While I'm blabbing, though... sometimes turnover is a good thing. There's something valuable you get having everyone in a band be long-term collaborators, but there's also a certain energy that comes from working with fresh people, if the chemistry is right.

 

This has been on my mind because of my own project. I had a pretty stable lineup for about three years, until recently, when the drummer and bassist quit- no drama; they had just kind of run out of steam for this band and wanted to do some other stuff.

 

Anyhow, I'm taking a little break, but when the time comes for me to put together a live band again, I'm kind of toying with the idea of not really having a lineup. I know a pretty large number of players, so I'd just recruit people and have a practice or two on a show-by-show basis. That actually sounds kind of refreshing and appealing to me right now.

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Yeah, I agree - it's not necessarily a bad thing to have a band like that. But you are more likely to have turnover.

 

 

Yeah. I think one of the reasons I've had so much drummer turnover is that I end up in bands that have a particular sound we've achieved and then the drummer leaves and we find ourselves looking for a drummer to keep that particular sound intact. There's more room for variance in playing styles of other musicians without disturbing "the sound" than there is with drummers.

 

The guy I play with now is far from the best technically-skilled drummer I've ever worked with, but he's spot on for the type of sound I'm looking for. I think largely because he also plays guitar and sings so he approaches the material from that aspect. As I often say, he's back there making music not just playing drums.

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