I spent the first 10 years of my drumming life identifying the flashiest elements of songs I played, and charting my performance around those accents. What this meant is that I found myself following the guitarist a lot of the time, following the lead vocalist some of the time, and following the bassist very little. I'm sure we tended to be in synch some of the time by nature of the format of the song; but I feel I alienated myself from my bassists because I didn't pay much attention to them in those years.

In recent years I find myself paying the majority of my attention to the bassist. I do this now out of a sense that it is the "right" thing to do, and also because I find that recently my bassists have been able to adjust and ruff off what I am doing.

In talking to many other musicians, it seems the consensus is that it is the drummer's responsibility to stay tethered to the bassist. It does make sense somewhat, because the guitarist(s) will play over the top of what the accompaniment is doing.

But now I wonder if I am getting away from the drummer I was in my formative years. I listen back to my recorded material and hear the fearless musician I once was. I can also hear in these recordings where I am essentially leading for most of the song.

So I pose to you all: Does your drummer annoy you when he does not follow the bassist? Does he have to?

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    The players in the rhythm section should listen to each other. When I play guitar in a rock band setting. I listen to the drummer for the clock, the bass for the feel/groove, myself to make sure I'm not screwing up, and the vocalist for cues as to where in the song we are.
    – trw
    Oct 26, 2014 at 1:33
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    As long as the drummer is not following me (I play guitar), I'm happy. I'm relying on that dude for driving the song along and keeping the tempo... Oct 26, 2014 at 10:25
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    I think the structure of a song and the time keeping is a team effort I find myself in certain places following everyone at different times. its just what clicks to me that "Oh now I should be playing this riff" and so on.. Oct 28, 2014 at 16:34
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    A drummer would annoy me more if they did follow the bassist, unless everyone were on the same page that the bassist had the best timing and tempo sense of anyone in the band. Normally I prefer the drummer be that person, and that more or less everyone follows the drummer. The "less" being when there should be emotive tempo or timing variation driven by the singer or some other instrument - perhaps in an intro or bridge or solo. Jan 11, 2016 at 14:41
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    Thanks, Todd. I guess the original reason I asked the question was because early in my 'career', my drumming almost always ignored the bassist. I've since adjusted for this. It's all about sensing the direction of the whole band. Jan 11, 2016 at 15:05

5 Answers 5


It's not just a case of 'following the bassist'.That presumes the bassist is leading. A team needs to be formed within the rhythm section, which could also involve guitar and/or keys.Whilst the drummer should be relied on to keep a steady beat in the majority of songs, the bassist will often follow the bass drum pattern to put some notes to the drum beat. It's when they don't listen to each other that I get annoyed.So it could be argued that the bassist follows the drummer.

However, listening is probably the most important factor, for everyone.Being able to complement what is being played; putting a piece into the jigsaw that fits; making an offbeat work together the second time around, after one of the team has put one in first time, etc.

The more annoying factor is working with a drummer who can't keep time. Surely this is the most important job he's got.I'd rather be working with a solid drummer who just plods on, than one who puts flashy breaks in (often in he wrong place), and fluctuates in tempo. I know music can stretch and squash, but the best person to follow has to be the drummer.

When I'm on bass, I try to mesh in with the drums, and expect him to reciprocate.That keeps things tight. Then the keys or guitar can provide the syncopated bits, safe in the knowledge that the beat goes on.

For me, whether on guitar, bass or keys, one of the nice bits of a gig is when you put an off-beat or similar in, and the next time round, the drummer does the same. Proves he's listening, and willing to be part of a team.And it works both ways.

Of all the quoted options, following the guitarist is maybe the weakest, unless you're following particular rhythm patterns he's playing on chords. Wouldn't bother following lead, unless there are accentuated parts, in which case, the whole band may follow suit.


I think the standard is "everybody follows the drummer", and the drummer anticipates the groove. The drummer provides the heartbeat of the band. The heartbeat has to adapt to the needs of the music, but it's still regular. If the groove takes up pace, the heartbeat goes along.

The drummer has to keep in harmony with the band as such but without picking up any irregularities. That's not the same as leading, at least when the rest of the band does a good job being, well, a band.

Drum breaks/solos are somewhat different in that they tend to be schizophrenic: part of the drummer goes steady, part of the drummer has rhythmic freedom.


I play keyboards now but was raised playing bass for 50 years. I currently work with a few vastly different drummers from time to time. I heartily agree with Tim who complains of drummers who try to include flashy stuff which actually gets in the way of the natural timing of songs. One fellow is particularly annoying is that he will suddenly start rolling on his double bass drums in such a way that there is no longer an identifiable downbeat to each measure. He somehow thinks he is playing faster than the original song but what he doing actually forces me to slow down everything else about the tempo of the song in order he enforce any synchronicity at all. He is remarkably tone deaf to this fact and insists that he is "improving the drive" of the songs by doing that.

On the other hand I like playing syncopated accents on the bass or the left hand when I'm using the electric piano as the bass instrument, say in between lines of vocals and my better drummers will recognize this fact and play a flam or a short crescendo snare roll to reinforce that fact when they hear it coming by way of my deliberate hesitation in delivering certain line of vocals.


Following the guitar just gives the song more power, look at John Bonham one of the greatest drummers ever yet I never seem to hear him following John Paul Jones and the bass rather I seem to hear him following Jimmy page. Following the guitar just gives the song more power, there are a lot of guitarists on here who say that they don't like for the drums to follow them because then they don't know the tempo but I myself don't find it bothersome if you can't feel the music without a drummer going beat for beat then they shouldn't even be a musician


The drummer is the metronome . Period . If he can't keep time like a metronome you need a different one . The band members all have a resposibility of time keeping in their own head but basically the band needs to follow the metronome .

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