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Keeping time as a band: Why it isn’t only the drummer’s job…

Jules, in Music lessons
Jan 12, 2023 | 4 min read

Written by Chris Senner

Keeping time as a band is essential. Musicians have become too comfortable with relying on their drummer to keep a performance tight. I believe that more emphasis can be put on the whole band or group gelling as one as I believe this not only helps with recording but also performing live.

Soundbrenner | A musician on keys
Chris Senner on keys | Image Credit: Jake Maciosek

I’ve spent over 6 years touring the country and one thing that I noticed was that almost every established band had every member playing to a click track. I was surprised by how well so many bands play so tight together night in and night out.

Note: The Soundbrenner metronome is perfect for musicians looking to tour or play live shows. One of the coolest features that it gives you as a musician is the ability to play in-time off of a feel from a vibration, rather than a click track in your ear always.

Here are 5 reasons why keeping time isn’t only the drummer’s job and how over-relying on your drummer can ultimately lead to poor performances.

Recording issues

When it comes time to start laying down your parts in the studio, being able to play in time will greatly reduce your producers’ stress levels. This is true even if one of your band members is producing your album.

While you can quantize most parts, it’s not always the best practice for all styles of music.

Soundbrenner | A drummer doing a recording

If you’re relying on quantizing all of your parts in the studio, you may be becoming a little too reliant on technology. As soon as you have to perform live shows, you will have to perform your parts perfectly, only under a lot more pressure and anxiety.

My advice here is to do this the old-fashioned way. Before recording, be sure that you have spent time playing all of your parts to a metronome.

Your band’s performance is only as tight as your weakest performer

While this sounds a little harsh, it is completely true. If you have 3 members absolutely crushing it, but you have a fourth player who is struggling to play in time, it will completely take away from your performance.

The solution to this is to make sure you are practising together often. On top of this, it is also important what you are practising. If you are just getting together to write music and not practising running songs over and over, you won’t grow as much overall.

Soundbrenner | Band playing together

Your drummer won’t always be playing

Dynamics are often what makes a band so cool to see live. You will notice that drummers will occasionally drop out during songs, leaving the rest of their band to play on their own.

Rather than having the drummer revert to laying down the kick drum or hi-hat, having someone still playing to a metronome will ensure that your band stays tight.

I personally love it when drummers drop out and a piece of a song breaks down to just piano or guitar. This can lead to extremely effective songwriting and performances when the drums drop back in, especially if you’re all on time.

Your skill is often judged by how well in time you play

The most important thing in performance aside from playing the correct parts and chords is timing. If you can’t play in time the parts you’ve written in, then it doesn’t really matter how cool the part is.

The solution again is to practice your part of a metronome. While this is tedious, every great musician that you watch knows the importance of time.

When I began learning to play the piano, my instructor had me practice every song to a metronome as well as every scale or exercise.

I am forever thankful and I believe this really led to confidence when it was time to play with others.

Acoustic performances

If you are playing a song acoustically, you won’t always have your drummer. While you always want to practice with your bandmates to develop tightness, you also want to make sure you are practising by yourself as well.

Being prepared to play without your drummer will allow you to perform your song the exact way you will want to.

Wrapping up

While there will always be times when you can rely on your incredible drummers, making sure your drummer has confidence that they can rely on you is also just as important.

If you’re really wanting to improve your timing skills, you can do the following:

  • Practice scales to a metronome
  • Practice chord progression drills to a metronome
  • Practice the parts you write to a metronome
  • Practice other songs to a metronome

Chris Senner is the owner and operator of Keyboardkraze.com. He has spent the last 10 years writing music and touring the country with the band Vinyl Theatre and now blogs about his experience in efforts to help other musicians.

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