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Tradin’ with the Drummer


Tradin’ with the Drummer

If there’s one ‘theme’ that my articles always seem to touch on, it’s got to be the symbiotic relationship between the bass and drums. This natural connection is something I’m very passionate about (if you haven’t already guessed), and the connection can only be strengthened by trading musical ideas with your drummer.

I once traded with my drummer: 3 packs of used strings and a broken wah wah pedal for a pack of smokes.

No, I’m kidding. Some people call it trading eights or trading fours… whatever it might be, it starts by simply setting up a groove with a drummer/percussionist. Then, drop out every 4 bars, and improvise when it’s your turn. The ultimate goal here is to play off of each other and improve your foresight and rhythm, building a better bond with the music.

When onstage and going ’round robin,’ remember that when it comes to your turn, the goal is not to cram every lick you know into that space. The goal is (as always) to be musical. This reminds me of having seen Ed Shaugnessy and Buddy Rich years ago on The Tonight Show, tradin’ solos. They were killin’ it, going back and forth.

But to me, the one most important thing that Buddy (with his bad self) did was to continually raise the bar musically… every single time it was his turn to ‘blow.’

Drummer Chris Ceja and myself have been trading musical ideas back and forth for as long as I can remember. At any tempo and in any time signature, it’s how we communicate. The great thing about this exercise is it gives us the chance to see AND FEEL how the music comes from our souls, into the hands, then into the air.

So set up some grooves and trade solos with your drummer, guitar player, organ player, whoever the other musician is, and use the practice to help yourself learn to look ahead (foresight) and to keep your ideas fresh. I guarantee that it will pay off at the gig and improve your musicality. Which, in turn, will get you more gigs.

See the connection here?

Finally, I’d like to thank and congratulate Jake and the fine staff at on the occasion of their 1-year anniversary. Bass Musician Magazine is a high-quality publication that I am proud to be a part of!

Doug Johns

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