We are two individuals, one is playing guitar and sings and the other plays bass. We would like to just cover some rock songs we like and love. However, we do not really want to add another person for percussion to the mix.

How would you approach this? Right now we are thinking about getting some equipment for our feet mainly for the bassist. Another possibility would be to program the drums, but we like that we currently are light on electronic equipment. What would you think is a nice setup for this scenario?

Edit: The guitar is acoustic. We now have a stomp box as equipment. Currently we have John Mayer, Daughters; FOB - Sugar we're going down; Mumford and Sons - Snake Eyes and FF - Everlong in our still very limited set list.


5 Answers 5


Bass players can be quite percussive in their playing, taking over some of a drummer's role.

However, keeping just as a duo, why not re-hash the numbers you want to play? You certainly won't make a complete job of cover versions that sound like the originals, so think what you could change, so you still have the basic songs, but play them with different arrangements. Maybe even change the feel of some of them. I sometimes play with a guy who does that, and all the stuff goes down well Change a few harmonies, chord progressions, arrangements, etc.

  • Sure! The bass can be very percussive. However my skills are not there yet, to get into that. Any tips on how to proceed into this direction as a bassist?
    – Labello
    Dec 12, 2020 at 15:06
  • 1
    Get into slapping and popping, and become aware of the many different ways strings can be played to produce different sounds. And I mean more than use a pick or use a finger.
    – Tim
    Dec 12, 2020 at 15:13
  • 2
    Slapping can very percussive. I recall reading the creator of slap bass, Larry Graham say he started doing it because of situations where there were no drums. It’s not appropriate for all styles of music though. Another option is “ghost” notes, notes you pluck but mute with the left hand. You can add these in the spaces between the regular notes for a little extra rhythm. Dec 12, 2020 at 17:47
  • @JohnBelzaguy - absolutely. Just watch out for inadvertent harmonics! Muting is king.
    – Tim
    Dec 12, 2020 at 18:27
  • Harmonics can be an issue but usually more with open strings. Unfortunately we lost one of our fingerstyle mute kings recently, RIP and long live Francis “Rocco” Prestia. Dec 12, 2020 at 18:34

The simplest and, in my opinion, most honest way to play rock songs with only two people is to go for an “unplugged” sound. Acoustic guitar is a much more responsive instrument to dynamic&percussive playing than electric.

E-bass with a clean amp normally fits in just fine in an acoustic sound, so there's no need to get an acoustic bass guitar or double bass and you don't need to use advanced slapping either.

...Though slapping can add a great deal of percussive drive, especially on double bass...

Of course, an “unplugged” group will never sound anything like an electric rock band, but starting from there you can add anything no trouble – be it foot percussion, a cajon, compensating with voices – all works and you're much more flexible than if you start with anything pre-programmed.

Strictly speaking it's not so much electric guitars per se that have limited dyn./perc. response, but the standard high-inductance magnetic pickups and particular the amps that are normally used. Special “broadband” electrics like the Parker Fly through a well thought-through effect setup can be very dynamic. Still, the good old hollow body of an acoustic guitar is actually amazingly versatile in percussion etc..

  • Thanks, yeah we in fact are mainly using an acoustic guitar and an amplified bass. So we are currently playing around with a stomp box and maybe we get an additional high head, or something other 'clingy'.
    – Labello
    Dec 13, 2020 at 8:01


If the bassist sits down then bass drum and hi hat are possible purely with the feet. The simplest rhythm is to alternate them, bom chick bom chick


If the guitar is acoustic or semi-acoustic then various techniques are possible by tapping on the soundboard or bridge.


Give the non-singer a mike and add beatbox sounds. Start simple.


My band (link in my bio) plays live with only 3 of us: bass, lead guitar, and vocals/rhythm guitar.

In order to get our sound, our vocalist pre-records all the percussion and synths so they can be played as our backing track directly from a laptop)

Yes, that means there is effort from him up front, but it makes gigging easy (we travel light) and we know exactly how long our songs are so can work to any set length with ease.

It's not heavy on electronic equipment at all - for festivals or support gigs, we travel with our instruments, mic, laptop, pedals and DI boxes - and that's it.

  • 3
    That's, for sure, an option. But I'll be frank and say that any self-respecting band should try to keep the amount of pre-recorded material to the absolute minimum. IMO the whole point of having a band is that there can be spontaneity, interaction, the timing is not fixed, etc... Dec 12, 2020 at 15:49
  • 2
    @leftaroundabout - sure, but I gigged with even less gear for a while in the mid 80s (it was a fun side project) - me, a Strat, a Rockman & a cassette player. Setlist was fixed, same as it would be with 4 of us. Sure, you can't extend that fun solo (once played a 25-minute version of a dub reggae track because everybody was having so much fun), but such is life.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 12, 2020 at 15:55
  • 1
    Certainly being done even by famous guitarists(Buckethead youtube link to one of his concerts)
    – mishan
    Dec 13, 2020 at 13:21
  • @leftaroundabout - fo some gigs we have had guests in to play those other parts, but even when we don't we are still spontaneous. I probably don't play the same thing twice, ever...
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Dec 13, 2020 at 18:38
  • @mishan I said “the whole point of having a band...” – When it's just a soloist playing over backing track it's a different story, then it doesn't even attempt to be a band. And yes, the soloist can still be plenty spontaneous over a fixed backing track. Whereas, as a bassist, I would feel extremely dumb playing live with a prerecorded drum track, since the whole grooving with the drummer aspect doesn't work anymore. Dec 13, 2020 at 21:08

Depending on how firm you are about not adding electronic equipment, the Beatbuddy is probably the simplest solution to your problem.

It's a performance-oriented drum machine with an expandable library of patterns, in guitar-pedal format. No programming needed, just plug it in, pick yer pattern, tap on the footswitch and start playing.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.