060 – Overplaying (and how to avoid it)

It was 2009 at I was in Los Angeles for the NAMM conference and decided to head out on the town one night for some quality music..it’s LA after all; great musicians are everywhere.  Well, the fist place I walked into was a bar called the piano bar and the band was awesome!  So much so that I made the decision that I was staying there the rest of the night and I had only heard about 30 seconds of the song.  When the song was finished I noticed the drummer getting up and another drummer sitting down. It turns out that they drummer who I saw initially was just sitting in and the band’s drummer was now going to play the rest of the night.  Ok, here we go…

As soon as the band started I noticed one very obvious difference – this drummer overplayed.  A lot!  Every measure was 16th note this and 32nd note that.  Once the song got around  to the solos section I thought to myself “ok, this guy isn’t going to overplay during everyone solos” but I was wrong.  he continued to overplay over everyone’s solo until the band leader said “give the drummer some”.  I thought to myself “he’s already had way too much” but that’s just my opinion.  After his solo there were claps, but they were few and far between.  What’s interesting is that it was probably one of the most musical and blazing solos I’ve ever seen in my life.  The drummer was a MONSTER, but the problem was that he overplayed.  Since he had no restraint in his playing his solo sounded like everything else that he had been playing all night; a lot of notes.  Had he played in the pocket all night and not overplayed his solo would have been monumental, but instead it was very underwhelming.  There was no anticipation and building of intensity and the crowd had heard his entire “bag of tricks” on every song.

I see this mistake more times than not and most drummers never know that they’re overplaying.  Check out these 5 tips for making sure you’re not overplaying and if you are, how you can avoid it in the future.

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin


Steve Gadd Solo (1)
Steve Gadd Solo (2)
Dennis Chambers Solo
Benny Greb (Just Groovin)
Joe Morello 

4 replies
  1. Rod Norman
    Rod Norman says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Overplaying is overplaying and that’s that. It’s not someone’s particular ‘style’, it’s just plain busy, and clogs up the whole sound of the band. I hate it. One drummer I saw not only overplayed and overfilled, he also couldn’t repeat any of his beats without chopping and changing. His timekeeping was spot on, but what a waste.

    • Nick
      Nick says:

      Rod, Thanks for the comment! Yup, totally agree. We’re here to serve the music, not our egos. Thanks for listening and thanks so much for the comment!!

  2. Rod Norman
    Rod Norman says:

    Hey no problem!
    I would like to point out this was a straight up Rock’N’Roll gig with semi acoustic guitar and a double bass. The band were tight, and had just the right ‘feel’.
    Me and my partner just sat and waited for the DJ to take over – he played an Elvis track, which of course had lovely straight drums by DJ Fontana which never broke rank until the exciting bits needed some extra sauce!

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