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Studio Drummer Dan Bailey: Part One

Studio Drummer Dan Bailey: Part One

Dan Bailey on…

  • Drummer to Studio Drummer.
  • Learning how to play.
  • Challenges/Rewards on being a Studio Drummer.
  • Specialization.
  • Picking projects.

How did you get into session drumming?
Late in High School, I started playing with friends around town, or whoever else would have me. I played everything I could get my hands on while I was in college, and that kind of accidentally turned into playing full time. I didn’t originally intend to play for a living, but eventually it definitely looked like what I’m supposed to do. So, in short, I kind of stumbled upon it.

Where did you learn to drum: self taught, school, private lessons?                                                                                   Early on, mainly self taught. My dad is a pretty accomplished trumpet player and bass player, so I grew up around bands or musicals or whatnot that he was playing in. Around 3 or 4 I’d be at their rehearsals, and when they’d take a break, I’d find my way over to the drums and bang around. At my house I had a little toys r’ us kit, but that got slaughtered pretty quickly. My folks bought me an old Pearl Maxwin, and that got me along until I was 12 or so. Most of my early education was watching drummers in my dad’s bands, or playing along with records. Playing at my church, I learned to read and follow a conductor and all that stuff. I played in high school bands, and then went to college to study orchestral percussion. I received all my basis for my technique as an orchestral guy, and I kind of avoided (though not intentionally) the marching and drumset instruction stuff. I’m actually starting to study with some different instructors now. It wasn’t something I thought I really needed as much as something I didn’t want to miss out on. I think a great instructor can give you an insight into your own playing that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Do you have a particular musical genre you specialize in, or can you play multiple styles of music? Do you think it’s important to learn a variety of styles or to hone your craft in one particular genre?
I feel like, as long as its not metal, legit straight ahead jazz or legit latin, I’m pretty confident in my ability. I can fake most anything (and I’ve had to over the years haha). Yes its important to be well versed in several different genres because every style has a catalog of appropriate parts. Fills, kick patterns, overall drum patterns and drum sounds; these things all change depending on style of music. For instance, Motown has a catalog. Motown fills and drum sounds aren’t what you’re looking for on a radio rock tune. I think its important to spend time in the kind of music you’re going to be working on, before your session.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a session and touring musician?
Burn out is definitely a concern. Remembering to approach things from a fresh place, and not mail things in is something you always have to be aware of. Keeping your body right, to avoid physical problems that can come from frequent playing. Remembering to take time to enjoy music, instead of just playing it for a paycheck, I think that definitely raises your effectiveness on any given project.

What are some of the biggest rewards you’ve experienced as a session and touring musician?
I’ve gotten to play music and travel with many of my really good friends. I’ve gotten to play in Europe and South America, and I’ve had a chance to play in some really great venues on some pretty great tours. Session wise, I get to help people achieve their artistic vision for their project and I’ve played drums on a lot of songs I’m really proud of.

How do you pick your projects – are you just for hire or do you have personal projects as well? Do you ever turn down projects? Why/Why not?
I’m willing to help most anyone with most any project. I have things I do for fun with friends, for sure. Its part of that keeping it fresh and fun thing. I have been known to turn down projects before, mainly because I felt like it was outside of my realm of expertise. It’s only happened 2 or 3 times in 10 years, but it does happen from time to time.

What’s the one thing you wish every engineer you’ve worked with knew?
I don’t presume to tell any engineer how to do their job. Haha. I’m good at placing a mic, and doing stuff on my side of the glass, but the control room is their domain. I’m not any kind of engineer, that’s their specialty. I don’t know of any engineers I’ve worked with that I don’t have a good rapport with. It’s our job to work together to get great drum sounds, I’m always willing to try things to accomplish that.