Please suggest music for me to drum along to.
August 19, 2009 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Like many drummers, I enjoy playing along to music when I'm drumming. I'd appreciate your suggestions for interesting and challenging songs.

I've been playing for 15 years and have a good enough level of technical proficiency that most music is accessible (but I have a small kit and am not looking for drum solos to memorize). I think there are two, somewhat contradictory, traits of a song that make it appealing to me:

1. There are some good, challenging fills or beats that I like playing note for note
2. The song is a good song to play around with by mixing up the beat and improvising. These songs are usually uptempo, have an odd time, or both.

Bands whose music I generally enjoy playing along with include Rush, Iron Maiden, Zep, Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U, Ted Leo, and Elvin Jones-era Coltrane. I also like Jay-Z's Unplugged album, which had the Roots as his backing band. Although I love Squarepusher and Dillinger Escape Plan's drums, their songs are usually too fast/mechanical or require a double bass drum pedal.

I'm happy to provide specific songs from the above artists if that helps narrow it down, but didn't want this to get any longer. Thank you for any recommendations!
posted by jalexc to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This may be a bit *old* for you, but the most memorable drum tracks, both for the groove, and for the bits of flourish are from Steve Gadd. . .50 Was to Leave Your Love by Paul Simon, and Aja by Steely Dan.
posted by Danf at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2009

Anything by Candiria. Ken Schalk is an animal. None of the songs repeat themselves, either.
posted by Jon-o at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2009

Tool - Forty-Six & 2.
Or anything by Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews - if you can stand them).
Also anything by Bill Bruford - simply phenomenal.
posted by outclassed at 3:55 PM on August 19, 2009

One of my favorite albums to play along to has been "Mer De Noms" by A Perfect Circle. There are lots of interesting fills, and there's plenty of opportunity to change things up.

Primus offers some very interesting drum parts. Almost anything off of "Sailing the Seas of Cheese" should be fun.
posted by alligatorman at 4:45 PM on August 19, 2009

My son (16, drummer, does what you do) says Tool and Dream Theater, since you've already got Rush covered.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:21 PM on August 19, 2009

Anything by Hella.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:01 PM on August 19, 2009

Fela! This best of album is my favorite for this sort of thing, there are plenty of patterns going on (especially if you include the bass, horns, and vocals) so it's easy to pick something out, hit it, and build something around it. It's more applicable to your second point as there aren't any complicated fills to play back, but the tracks are in the 10min range so it's great for picking out a grove and seeing how many different directions you can take it. Plus, the breaks and changes are subtle and seem to come out of nowhere so you've got built in cues to break it down and go somewhere else.
posted by waxboy at 6:09 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe something like Battles' Tonto or Atlas?
posted by holloway at 6:32 PM on August 19, 2009

King Crimson's Red and Discipline (for your Bruford fix).

Spaceways, Inc.'s Version Soul.

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin.
posted by kenko at 7:23 PM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: I'm not a drummer, but you may want to check out Don Caballero. Normally when recommending Don Cab, I make the distinction between the original lineup and the 2nd go-round, but the one constant between the two is the drummer Damon Che. The newer version is more metal-tinged and less my style, but Che's drumming blows my mind pretty consistently.

Here are some videos from a show featuring the classic lineup from 1999 if you want to get a taste.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:23 PM on August 19, 2009

Flaming Lips "Clouds Taste Metallic" has some really melodic drumming. I guess the drummer being on smack helps.

The Wedding Present "Seamonsters" has great fills in some of the spaces. Great drummer! He holds back through most of the measure, and doesn't on part of it. It sounds better than I can describe it.

Fred Frith's "Gravity" has some really cool bent-jazz playing. One of my personal favorite albums of all time (actually, all three are in my top ten).
posted by KenManiac at 7:39 PM on August 19, 2009

both already mentioned, but the most fun for the money:

really, really anything by danny carey (tool). "rosetta stoned" is just incredible. you would require a double kick for some songs, but not all - a lot of the footwork is just quick double-taps mixed in with the hands so it sounds a lot more demanding than it is.

anything by carter beauford (dave matthews). ants marching is the best pick-me-up there is, esp. the live version from red rocks.

and I'll lose all credibility when I say this, but I like playing to the first third eye blind album. simple, solid fun.
posted by Chris4d at 8:40 PM on August 19, 2009

A song I think I'd find challenging and fun as a drummer (if I was one...I'm a hell of a knee slapper, though) is "Starless" by King Crimson. It's an interesting (long) song with three sections. The first is a straightforward 4/4 kick/HH/snare beat. The second breaks down into a slow 13/8(!) and builds to a kickass crescendo. The third is a sort of double time 13/8 which, I'd assume, would be really challenging. That, or "crank dat" by Mr. S. Boy.
posted by sredefer at 9:45 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know how much it meshes with what you like, but I was going to suggest 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover too. That is some finesse drumming there. Seriously, it's art. And I only thought of that because I just heard The Obvious Child from Paul Simon's 1990 album Rhythm of the Saints, which also has great drums and reminded me of 50 ways (can't find studio version on youtube). Very fun.

I've read in interviews that the drummer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Brian Chase, is a serious composer - on drums. Classically trained. I don't know what classically trained drums are supposed to sound like, but check out Maps as a good example of some of his stuff I really like. Try and NOT marry Karen O after that video while you're at it. You can't do it. He has another band called Seconds, which I haven't heard yet.
posted by Askr at 10:14 PM on August 19, 2009

I've always been impressed by all the tight fills worked into Buzzcocks songs Ever Fallen in Love is a good place to start, but there's ton's of great drumming all around with their songs.

If you're interested in a great drum sound, Shellac has some of the most unique and compelling drumming I've ever heard/seen. Shellac is a band that literally puts the drummer front and center. Todd Trainer plays stiff-wristed and has a big boomy sound. If you put on some of their vinyl and turn up the volume, you'll get the best cymbal sound ever recorded. I would think their songs would be fun to play along with, try 'My Black Ass' or Didn't We Deserve a Look at You the Way You Really Are if you want to work on being a human metronome.

One other band that doesn't get even a shed of the acclaim they deserve is The Warmers. Their songs have amazing funky drumming and fills from a tiny kit in a punk framework.
posted by Locobot at 12:00 AM on August 20, 2009

Best answer: Or anything with Manu Katche.

Seconding this.

And laugh if you want, but check out some of Phil Collins' work with Genesis from the 70's and early 80's before they all went super-pop. There was a while there when they were featuring very quirky time signatures ("Turn It On Again" jumps from being 13/8 to 8/8 to 5/8 in places). Speaking of which, here's a List of works with unusual time signatures on Wikipedia, if you want to check any of those out.

Then -- again, laugh if you want -- there's Stewart Copeland's work with The Police before they sold out too. Yeah, some of it just sounds like "let's just drum as fast as we can", but then there's stuff like "Walking On The Moon".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on August 20, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!
posted by jalexc at 7:37 AM on August 20, 2009

I think the entire Steely Dan album Aja would fit the bill. The song Aja is itself very challenging, but other tracks on the album have some pretty interesting fills that you might like to play note-for-note (e.g., Josie). I think it also has some odd time signatures. And you can't go wrong imitating the feels of Steve Gadd, Jim Keltner, Bernard Purdie, and Rick Marotta.

If you like this kind of music, I would also suggest Boz Scaggs' album Silk Degrees (with Jeff Porcaro on drums). In fact, anything with Jeff Porcaro on drums would be awesome: Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, and Gaucho (also check out Steely Dan's The Royal Scam, which features Bernard Purdie). Porcaro was also the drummer for Toto, so if you like him check out songs like Rosanna (one of the most famous drum beats ever), Hold the Line, 99, etc.

I would concur with those who suggest 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Another classic performance by Steve Gadd.
posted by crLLC at 7:41 AM on August 20, 2009

IANAD(rummer), but, I would second the suggestion of Stewart Copeland's stuff with the Police, in particular "Voices in my Head" always makes me wish I played the drums.

Also anything Ginger Baker did with Cream is likely to be both fun and challenging. "Outside Woman Blues" on "Disraeli Gears" has a lot going on on the drums.

I think Phil Collins deserves mention again too, for the good stuff from Genesis and also I always thought his solo version of "Behind The Lines" would be fun to play, if only I played drums.

I'm not sure what other drummers think of it but I think the entire album of Jimi Hendrix's "Band Of Gypsys" would be fun to play along to, for that deep-in-the-pocket gutbucket style drumming by Buddy Miles.

One last thing that always makes me wish I could play drums is "Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof Off The Sucker)" by Parliament.

/frustrated non-drummer
posted by wabbittwax at 10:30 AM on August 20, 2009

Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins) had some fantastic drum parts. Anything from the early Pumpkins catalog is solid, but especially check out "Geek USA."

Also, Bill Bruford-era Yes stuff is great.
posted by sinfony at 10:02 PM on September 1, 2009

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