So I am currently in somewhat of a ¨band¨ with my long time friend. He has recently learned how to drum, although he is almost prodigious for the amount of time he has put into it. My question is, how should we go about creating music, I have my own riffs and songs and he has beats, im just trying to fiure out how to work out future practices. Should I lead by looping the intro once and then having him come in or should he count in and lead. Im an experianced musician as far as personal guitar skill but with things like this being new to me, im a little more curious about the best possible way to go about it. thank you

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    I think you're going to get a bit fed up with just two players. A bassist and maybe vocals will give a lot more scope, and you'll be able to play a lot more stuff. It's traditionally the drummer who counts in, although with some bands, it's one of the others who does this. No-one is leading - it's a team.
    – Tim
    Oct 19, 2017 at 15:09
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    @Tim Boo for discouraging creativity. I've seen plenty of entertaining acts that are just two people and I've had a lot of fun myself just jamming with one other person. Also, The White Stripes. Oct 20, 2017 at 1:15
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    @ToddWilcox - I've worked in many duos, and often found that it's quite restricting, material wise. Had a lot of fun on the way, but generally have more fun, and a wider choice of what works, in larger combos. A lot of stuff by duos has overdubs on the tracks, which is easy to do these days with loopers, so why even bother with two players? Devil's advocate!
    – Tim
    Oct 20, 2017 at 8:48

5 Answers 5


There is no "best possible way" -

  • Sometimes you might want your drummer to lay down the intro beat (this is pretty common)
  • You might have some bars of intro on the guitar, usually the drummer will give you the tempo first, unless you have good time awareness yourself.
  • Or any other combination

Just practice together and see what works. It may be obvious with the songs you know.


It can't hurt to lay down a "sketch" of a rhythm track you are thinking about and then let him play around with ideas on his own. This way, when you get together to "actually work on" the material, you do not spend as much time teaching and more time playing with the bits and pieces.

He can do the same with you.

As far as counting in (etc.): the starts, stops, and changes are a scaffold you need to nail perfectly in a performance. Every mistake in between sounds like improvisation. That said, when working together on figuring out a direction, those are really just bookends without any books.


The drummer or percussionist job is to provide a rhythmic accompaniment for the song.

This instrumentalist should listen to the song and add a rhythmic feel that compliments the atmosphere of the arrangement.

As the leader it seems it may be up to you to direct this individual to what you require or expect from them - or maybe what you envision thier contribution to be.

But in my opinion it shouldn't be too elaborate in a two man setup - just something to keep the tempo and get the audience's foot tapping - unless of course you want the percussion to be a prominent part of the arrangement.


As others have stated, the drummer is usually the one that marks the time by counting in. However, this becomes somewhat difficult if the drummer does not know the riffs you have on the guitar.

I find myself that the best course of action for starting to write as a unit is to write it digitally, on an application such as TuxGuitar or Guitarpro. With these you can send the files to each other and work out a riff to play. then work them into each other in practice space.

Start off every song with a count in (generally 4 high hat taps unless you are writing different time signatures) then write your riff. A drummer will be able to listen to the riff, albeit being slightly 8 bit tone and not realistic but he will get the timing from it. That will then form the basis of your intro.


The typical ways I work with drummers:

  • On the guitar I play a repeating riff of the pattern I want them to complement or play.
  • Or I tell them what I want them to play: "Do the drum pattern on James Brown's 'Cold Sweat'". If they don't know it we pull it up on YouTube and listen and play along with it.
  • Or I "sing" the pattern I want them to play.
  • However, we do the initial communication then we play my riff and their pattern until we lock and it sounds good and easy.
  • If anything clashes we stop and discuss.
  • Sometimes drummers play a pattern they like and then I work up a riff to fit that. In my band our drummer and me do that all the time when we're performing.
  • Once we're locking then we start to arrange the tune around the riff and drumm pattern.

One thing that is going to be really key for locking is that you both agree on the tempo. If the two of you are speeding up or slowing down or kind of uneven, if things feel clumsy and hard then you're not locking. Get a big amp, hook up a drum machine to it and pound out a simple kick (bass drum) and snare drum pattern that just hits the main beats: in 4/4 time put a kick beat on the 1 and snare on 3 and a cymbal on all 4 beats. Both of you play with that until you lock. If you don't lock turn up the volume on the amp until you do.

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