In yesterday’s post we’ve discussed dynamics within songs and bands. Today we’ll take a closer look at the drumset and discuss less obvious dynamic relations.
Dynamics Within The Drumset
We know that our dynamics should go up & down during a song. But let’s take a closer look at what we actually play on the drumset. The drumset consists of many different instruments, so it is very important to balance the dynamics of those instruments as well as the whole band’s dynamic.
Dynamics In A Groove
In a basic groove we use HH, BD and Snare. Where these instruments sit dynamically make a big difference in the overall sound of your performance and also of the band’s sound and feel.
Sit behind the set and play a basic rock groove without any ghost notes and no fills. Make a slow decrescendo on the HH until you don’t play the HH anymore. Keep playing and start adding the HH back in. Do the same with the Snare and Bassdrum while maintaining the other two instruments at the same volume. How does it sound? Did it sound like you just played different grooves, even though you kept hitting the same instruments?
You can add ghost notes to make this exercise more complex. Add a few ghost notes to the groove you just played. And do the same exercise we just did, but only focus on the ghost notes. Start playing them as soft as you can and then gradually get louder. Go until you play the ghost notes as loud as you can but keep the backbeat at the same volume. What effect did the ghost notes have on the overall feeling of the groove? Adding these little dynamic nuances can help you make repeated parts within a song more interesting (Verse 1 vs. Verse 2).
So many of us drummers don’t pay enough attention to the dynamics of the fill-ins we play. Let’s discuss two important aspects; dynamics in relation to the groove/band and the dynamics within the actual fill-in itself.
Fill-In vs. Groove
Many beginners make the mistake of losing control over the dynamics when playing a fill. Suddenly the toms are way too loud and usually out of time.
Depending on what you want to achieve with a fill, the dynamic relation to the groove has to make musical sense. Let’s say you’re playing a regular rock-backbeat-groove in a verse and you want to throw in a fill every four bars. Since the only purpose of the fill is to add movement and variety to an otherwise boring part, the dynamic between groove and fill shouldn’t vary at all. If you play it too loud, the fill’s purpose changes and becomes a part of the song. There’s not really a right or wrong here, but it is important that you play the dynamics intentionally and not by accident.
Let’s say you want to introduce a new part that’s dynamically contrasting the part you’re currently in. I.e. you’re in a quiet bridge and the chorus is about to hit the audience. Playing a loud and epic fill that’s way louder than your groove and everything else, can be a very powerful moment.
Dynamics Within The Fill-In
With dynamics within the fill you can create an immense amount of tension buildup but also release. Let’s say we want to introduce a big chorus after the first verse. Let’s use simple 8th notes with a crescendo, super effective! Want to release the tension after the chorus into the soft interlude? Do the same thing but reversed. Super simple and super effective.
Also super effective can be the use of silence. Play a crescendo and when you’re at the loudest part; add in a silence. The contrast created by this unexpected silence makes the crescendo sound even louder and when you hit the downbeat of the chorus the tension released is immense.
Dynamics are important and even the smallest nuances make a difference. Adding a dynamic repertoire to your tool box will make your performance even more expressive. Don’t let dynamics be random, decide consciously how loud you want an instrument to be. With time, dynamics will become second nature to you and they’ll become a part of your drumming.