I auditioned for a band the other day, this band has music that they wrote, BUT they had never wrote the material with Drums in mind. The band never had a drummer before.

This wasn't that much of an issue until it came to rehearsing their material... the timing was so odd and choppy it was quite hard for me to stay in time with them and them with me. They also seemed to not have much experience with timing a song with drums...

How can I introduce the theory of drumming and timing to the band without:

A: insulting their music playing and/or their Music Experience

B: confusing them too much with how to keep time with a drummer (ie what timing signatures they play in comparison to the timing signatures I stick with)

Also how can I train their ear so that we can write in better harmony in the future?

I managed to figure out what timings they were playing but it ranged from 4/4 to 7/4 to 10/4 and back again... as a drummer I am used to 4/4 and 7/4 but 10/4? that is an unnecessary leap if not and a tad out of my experience range I would like to build up to that but am not sure how...

4 Answers 4


I joined a band, as a bass player, where we DID have a drummer but I was the only member with any sort of "formal" music training (rhythm exercises, reading music, etc.) and we had similar problems. Our timing was off, and we'd drag sometimes. We'd all stay together, but we couldn't play anything tight.

What worked for me, to get the issue of rhythm into the forefront of their minds, when they didn't think there was a problem:

  1. Get them excited about playing some technically demanding music. For us, it was some funky stuff from Stevie Wonder. I showed them the song, got them excited, and then we went to play it and it was a disaster, but they didn't know why. I did - we had bad rhythm. So we broke the song down, with a metronome, and worked through it.

  2. Try to record their songs with a clicktrack. We laid down a 5 song EP, but the realities of the recording studio caused them quite a bit of stress. When we play primarily just by feel it ends up being hard for people to adjust to a clicktrack when they've never done that sort of thing before.

Just what worked for me. Primarily, I think you need to find a way for them to hear that there's a problem, without you telling them there is. That's tough, but once they're on board you should be well on your way.


This question is probably more about etiquette than music. They way to avoid giving offence is to frame it as your problem, not theirs - "I'm having some trouble with the rhythm here, I wonder if you can help me..."

What you need to work out is whether the complex time signature changes are deliberate or accidental. Perhaps they're prog-heads who enjoy deviating from a regular 4/4 beat; or perhaps they're "instinctive" musicians who play what they feel rather than being confined by an unchanging beat.

Whichever it is, it sounds as if they can keep together without a drummer - to it makes sense to assume that once you've communicated properly, a drummer will be able to keep together with them too.

There are two scenarios here:

  1. Their intention is not to have weird timing. You get to say "OK, I'll stay in 4/4 no matter what. If we go out of sync, it was you. We'll keep trying until you get it right."
  2. Their intention is to have the occasional long or short bar; you're going to have to learn to play them. But to help you, they're going to have to be write down the arrangements (maybe you work on this together) so you have a clear notation of where the changes happen.

It's possible that there's a chasm in ability that means the band can't work.

  • If you're not ready for the complex time changes they want: they need to simplify their songs or, I'm sorry, get a more experienced drummer.
  • Or if they're not capable of sticking to a rhythm: you need to be very patient with them, and they need to practice with a drum machine (or a metronome that has a different click for the first beat of a bar).

I guess they've not recorded and listened to their renditions. If they did that, and tapped along or tried to dance to the tunes, it may bring some home truths. They have probably played together for so long and rehearsed so much that anomalies in timing have crept in. 'Practice makes perfect' - it also makes unknown mistakes indelible.

On the other hand, they may be so advanced in what they're doing that it's exactly as it should be. This being the case, you need to ask them to explain, in graphic detail, what that particular bar consists of "so I can understand and play it right". Then, a penny may drop, and they may have to try to understand what they are actually doing : it will be the same for anyone else playing with that band, obviously.

One way or the other, as slim intimates, you may find your paths diverging. Been there too many times...


At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with frequent time signature changes, as long as it's groovy, nor with tempo changes, as long as everyone does them together.

If you're going to have that kind of weird stuff, though, it will probably be as off-putting to a listener as it was to you.

Whether or not the way they currently have arranged it is the best, the road forward is pretty much the same.

The best thing for the band to do is to record themselves, and try to dance, or at the very least tap, along to the music. This will help them see how weird it is.

The best thing for **you* to do is to record the band, and then listen to it over and over and over again until you're familiar enough to play along and follow them. You might have to give up your comfort zone of playing a repetitive beat.

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