How to play live without a drummer

Discussion in 'Live Performance & Stage Sound' started by UnattendedGolfcart, Jan 10, 2015.

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  1. UnattendedGolfcart

    UnattendedGolfcart SSO's Fat Mac

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    I've got a "band", and I feel weird calling it a band because it's just me, a vocalist, and a bassist, no drummer. We are trying to record our first E.P. this semester at school and the bassist and I are going to use EZDrummer if we don't find a drummer to play with us.

    If we were to play a show, is there any way we could go about making this work well? Basically playing to the drum program? We are in college and as such we are pretty poor, so I don't think in ear monitors would be the most viable solution.

    Is there an easy and not expensive process to performing live if we have to use a drum track?
     
  2. Zeno

    Zeno SZ Hunter

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    I actually just saw this done last saturday night! Check out V Is For Villains, they've been performing live without a live drummer or bassist for a while now, but it works.

    But essentially yes, you'd have a drum backing track going to FOH and your monitors. It worked quite well. The nice part is that you can give some variety to the drum sounds, you're not stuck with 1 snare, 1 set of toms, and whatever cymbals your drummer owns - you can use essentially anything, and seeing them pull it off made me seriously consider having a drummer-less band.
     
  3. Aion

    Aion SS.org Regular

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    I've did this at school, though I used Superior and not EZ. One of the things I wanted to do was make a continuous concert. So what that meant was I made these little interludes (think what Periphery does between songs, though mine were very different) that would run between songs. I had one stereo track, and two click tracks (I use a lot of weird time signatures and polyrhythms). I bounced all of those onto a four track that had an output for each channel. I sent the stereo mix to the FOH, and I sent the clicks directly to myself and the other players, we all wore headphones of some kind. I highly suggest if you do it this way to only use one ear on the headphones. It would obviously be better if we could have afforded nice in-ear monitors and just send everything to that... but we couldn't and we didn't. I used the four track because it was easier to get four different tracks going, and because I knew it had less of a chance of crashing or doing something dumb in a full hour+ set than my computer did. If I did this again I would probably do a similar thing, but ideally I would use a computer running something like QLab so I could have easy control over things stopping/starting.

    Worth mentioning, if you have a great drum mix, people will care less that there's no real drummer. While the visual is great and the human ability to react in ways computers don't brings something irreplaceable, I had people come up to me after the show who were specifically impressed with the way the drums sounded and asked how I recorded, produced, and mixed them.
     
  4. Zombie13

    Zombie13 Guitartist

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    With Morphesia (my Black Metal side project) we have not had luck getting an adequate drummer again, so I decided to use programmed drums to play live, this is how it sounds.



    iPod with backing tracks to FOH/PA.

    Drums are Superior Drummer 2.0

    Our bassist was not able to make that show, we are usually a 3 piece.

    Only downfall is the stigma surrounding backing drum tracks live, but I'd rather play a show like that than not at all.
     
    Mr. Big Noodles likes this.
  5. Ben.Last

    Ben.Last Formerly Lern2Swim

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    Godflesh have done it for the majority of their run. When I recently saw them they were just running the drums and any backing tracks off of a macbook.
     
  6. Senior

    Senior SS.org Regular

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    Just dont run the VST in realtime, render the drums to stereo tracks first and play them back with an Ipod or something.
     
  7. Kryss

    Kryss Your new god!

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    My band does this. We have a person run a laptop with the pre-recorded drum track and synths and then we have a live drummer as well. I play guitar and we have a bass player. My current band is an Industrial band in Illinois called Infekt. it works pretty well as long as the sound guy isn't f'ing up the mix in the monitors like at our last show. we didn't have our drummer available for that show. but ya good mix where you can hear the drums is key otherwise it works pretty well imo. we have been looking for a keyboard player but haven't found our guy yet.
     
  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I'm old school.

    I've tried playing with drum machines/drum programs/etc., and to me, it always feels like it sucks energy out of the moment - not to imply that anyone else who does this experiences the same.

    I question why you guys can't find a drummer at all. I could see this more because you hired a flaky drummer, or your drummer was screwing up your music.

    I guess, depending on the style of music, and the crowd's expectations, you could play to a preprogrammed/prerecorded drum track with good results…

    I don't know where in "upstate NY" you are, but I'm sure you could find someone who will drum for you if you look in the right place.
     
  9. UnattendedGolfcart

    UnattendedGolfcart SSO's Fat Mac

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    I'm in Otsego County in college. Everyone around here either plays only pop punk and pop rock, or if they're doing metal, they already have a band. I've talked to quite a few people at my college so far. One guy was really interested but he said he couldn't play the stuff and didn't seem into practicing. My friend plays drums and he's great but he already has 3 projects here and including school he's spread really thin.

    I know another guy who is supposedly good but he doesn't fit our style of music as much. He'd be focused on doing something different. I've talked to him but he has other things going on in his life currently.

    We're going to keep looking no doubt, but we'd like to know how to do a drummer-less show in case we don't find anybody for a while.
     
  10. Aion

    Aion SS.org Regular

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    I'll add that if you're going the programmed route and it doesn't look like there might be a real drummer anytime soon, it might be worth embracing that. Write some crazy part that no drummer on earth could play, affect the drums so that even though they do the job, it's clear that they're not real drums, they don't sound like real drums, and it's clear they're not meant to. Drive into the skid. Plus it opens up whole new avenues on how to get creative. Use it as an opportunity to try something stupid and fun. But mostly stupid :donnie:
     
  11. theprimer

    theprimer SS.org Regular

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    Since there is noone to play progressiveish metal with around here, we as a duo resorted to this aswell. It actually works pretty easily, we got the idea from WBTBWB, who toured as a duo, playing the second guitar, bass and drums off a backtrack. Just work out the levels and the sounds in a "live environment", such as a rehearsal room, mix it together and ready you are!
     
  12. NcLean

    NcLean SS.org Regular

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    Keep in mind that the lower end of In Ear Monitors aren't much better at isolating sound than some $10 in ear headphone buds. I think I probably get about 8-12 dB of noise reduction from one brand of buds that cost me $6; I note that neither Shure SE215 nor Sennheiser IE4 are willing to specify any dB rating of noise reduction.

    Without serious ear protection, I would be wanting to use a "Quiet On Stage" approach, which is great for the vocalists anyway, and REALLY easy to do when you don't have a drummer who's an adrenaline junkie.

    Anyway, you might need some cables and/or a mixer (I use my own mixer on stage), but personal monitoring needn't be a hideously expensive ordeal
     
  13. SevenString

    SevenString RJ-D0 : Heavy Metal Droid

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    I've been doing the backing tracks thing for years.

    Part of my problem is that I sometimes do jazz gigs from a catalog of hundreds of songs. And then sometimes I do rock or other cover gigs from a catalog of maybe a thousand songs. And then sometimes I do original jazz or progressive metal gigs drawing from a catalog of my own songs that I've been building for decades. The deal is, I know ALL of these songs (maybe 1500?) in their entirety. Lyrics, guitar parts, everything. Most musicians I have worked with in original bands have trouble keeping a single set of 10 songs together. Cover bands tend to have maybe 50 or 60 songs "on call" at any one time. But call out a tune from three months ago and at least one person will have forgotten the song. And this is 3-chord dandy type stuff. What if you want to cover more challenging material like Queen, Rush, Dream Theater, Racer-X or the like? Good luck getting your average musician to remember those kinds of songs without constant drilling.

    The jazz and progressive metal stuff in particular is challenging, and I haven't found anyone in my area who can and WILL play all the music I want to do, let alone learn enough songs that I can play whatever I feel is hitting the audience and/or my tastes at that moment.

    I have certainly had to resort to "hired guns" for more structured higher profile "concert" gigs, but that's not a productive way to work for me in the long run. To much micro-managing and rehearsing and x and y and z and ...

    But even managing to hold together a decent band, well lets face it: there is ALWAYS that one "problem child" that sets your teeth and nerves on edge. Is he going to show? When he does, is he going to be high? Is it worth firing him to find a replacement when you've invested so much time getting him up to speed? What about his stripper girlfriend that showed up to a gig, got drunk, and then attacked him in the middle of our set. Oh wait. The drummer got a DUI? He wasn't even the problem child!

    Some of you KNOW what I'm talking about.

    Sidebar: I said "he" in the above scenario because most women I've been in bands with tend to act like responsible adults with a clue. Except for the singer who seems to only be in the band because her husband/keyboardist owns the P.A.

    But I digress.

    You know what? Ever since I stopped being a leader or member of any band (since 2005), I have been (musically) the happiest I've ever been. I don't have to deal with ANY band nonsense. Ever. I play what I want, when I want, and never have to have fights over musical direction or refusal to play a certain song, or have rehearsal time blown because of issues completely unrelated to the music, or whatever.

    One positive thing I've found out is that if you create solid well produced tracks and you "bring it" with your live performance, nobody will ever say jack about backing tracks. At least no one who actually SEES you play. I've been performing live with backing tracks in the uber-jaded Los Angeles/Hollywood area for years and everyone from sneering hipsters to grammy-winning stars have warmed to my shows and told me they love what I'm doing.

    The only people who have EVER said anything negative are strangers on the internet who often seem to object to backing tracks more on abstract principle, not ever having seen or heard a single note of my live show.


    Oh, sorry. That was a bit of a rant, wasn't it? :eek:
     
  14. sage

    sage twerk twerk thall

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    ^ You know, I was gonna spout off with some sanctimonious bullshit about how you really need to have actual musicians to be performing, but SevenString up there just laid down a mouthful of really decent advice. Band members can be a royal pain in the ass and if you can't find a drummer who is good, interested in whatever microgenre of music you're playing, reliable, or available, why should you have to deprive yourselves of the pleasure of subjecting unsuspecting audiences to your music?

    Also, Aion's notion that programmed drums should not sound like acoustic drums could be spot on. Embrace your electro-soul or whatever. Post-progressive-rave-metal. Or something... Soothers and glow necklaces available at the merch booth.
     
  15. heartblanch

    heartblanch SS.org Regular

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    good point.

    do such drummers even exist?
     
  16. Science_Penguin

    Science_Penguin SS.org Regular

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    Worst case scenario, you might get some drunk guy shouting "WHURRS YUR DRUMMER?!"

    Other than that, as long as you can keep with the tempo and put on a show (which is something I wish more bands WITH a full lineup could figure out), you'll be fine.

    And, like Aion said, you've got an opportunity to get REALLY off-the-wall creative here; make the most of it!
     
  17. Zombie13

    Zombie13 Guitartist

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    This 100%

    This is the most recent, updated clip I have from a show. I had a few compliments on my music, no one blasted me for having backing tracks, but I did have a few "why are you alone?" questions. Also, I stopped focusing on looking "metal" and decided to use more imagery, can use the help of a fog machine though.
     
  18. eggy in a bready

    eggy in a bready SS.org Regular

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    Dang. Haven't y'all ever listened to Big Black before?

    Just get a drum machine and rock out. Get some hip straps too. Embrace your inner Albini
     
  19. Winry Ember

    Winry Ember SS.org Regular

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    Amen to bandmates being a pain in the ass. Especially if you're an original startup and won't be paying bandmates anytime soon. I absolutely recommend starting with backing tracks and adding members later if you want them. That way, if someone doesn't show up or you need to kick them out, you know the gig can run smoothly without them.

    I use MainStage 3 to run my backing tracks. It's probably the most user-friendly DAW out there and it's only $30.
     
  20. HelloImDavidHaha

    HelloImDavidHaha Has back problems

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    I've been in a similar situation. The first show I played a couple years ago we didn't have a drummer so we plugged an iPod into the PA system and had a 4-count click to start us off. We renamed the drum tracks to our songs as numbers so they'd play in the order we want.

    It looked pretty weird having only a vocalist, a bassist, and me (guitarist) so we brought along a cardboard cutout of Luke Skywalker and sat it behind the venue's drum kit.
     
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