Listen to the song, pinpointing the tempo, time signature and style. An acoustic song may be a soft, slow ballad, a driving, rollicking country number or something else.
Part of the fun of playing drums is creating your own beats. It’s also part of the challenge. For a rock drummer, you may be used to playing heavy beats, blazing-fast fills and thunderous cymbal crashes. But that probably won’t work for an acoustic song. However, with acoustic songs you still do the same basic things you do with any type of song: listen to the song, adjust your playing to the style and aim to help the song. Once you’ve learned the basics of playing a drumbeat, you can start making a beat for an acoustic song.
Ask the songwriter and other musicians for suggestions. Listen to their ideas and apply them to your playing. They may have particular ideas that could help you craft a great part.
Play with control. Acoustic songs are often more subdued than songs with rocking electric guitar. For drummers, that means playing their parts with more control, such as tight hi-hat, simple fills and hitting the drums and cymbals more gently. However, this can vary based on the style of the song.
Use rim clicks. Flip the drumstick upside down and place the top end of the stick on the drumhead near one side of the drum. Hit the other end, the butt of the stick, on the rim. Play this on counts like you would on a normal snare drum part, but this creates a softer, more controlled sound.
Minimize crash cymbal hits for lighter acoustic songs. You may be used to heavy crash cymbal hits when playing louder songs, but for quieter acoustic songs, stick to the ride cymbal and hi-hat. Only hit the crash cymbal sparingly, and with less volume than in heavier songs.
Use brushes or lighter drumsticks if they’re appropriate for the style of the song, such as a soft acoustic ballad. Normal drumsticks may be too heavy. Brushes may be a perfect fit, but might also be too light. Some drumstick manufacturers sell sticks that are in between normal drumsticks and brushes, such as Pro-Mark’s Hot Rod sticks.
Focus on keeping good time. While playing flashy fills and creative beats is part of the fun of drumming, a drummer’s main duties in a band is keeping solid time, so focus on locking in the tempo.
Listen to acoustic songs that sound similar to the song you're working on. Listen to what the drummers do, as this can help you get ideas.
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