Dan Bailey on…

  • Being Professional.
  • Using a metronome.
  • Drumming techniques.
  • Tuning/preference.


If a drummer were to focus on one particular skill or talent, what do you think it should be?
Being professional. I know that’s completely outside of the “drum skillset,” but if you want to work, it’s a pretty important ability. Returning phone calls promptly, being on time, being prepared, keeping your gear in working condition, being receptive to comments from artist/producer/engineer; to me, its something that can’t be taught, they’re things you have to be willing to learn as you go.

Is being able to play to a metronome important?
I think its actually one step past that. In modern recording, you have to not only be able to play to a click, you have to be able to make it feel like you’re not playing to a click. When you think of a click as strict meter enforcement, even when you’re on it, you’re going to play choppy and uncomfortable. You shouldn’t be fighting against it, trying to adhere to it strictly. The more natural you can make it feel, the more work you’ll get. You can learn to play to a click with practice, but I think it takes real world experience to get truly comfortable with it.

What techniques do you have that make you an ideal session and tour drummer?
I think I’ve been able to craft a sound that sounds like me. I think finding your own voice on the instrument is crucial to forwarding your career. I feel like I’ve been able to do that, and I’m still fine tuning that with every live date and session that I do. I also definitely have a desire to do things the right way. Making a client as happy as I can with their session, whether that be drum parts, sounds or anything else I can do, is definitely the main goal.

What are your thoughts on drum tuning – is it important for recording? What is your drum tuning method?
I have to keep some things close to the vest, can’t give away too many trade secrets. I will say, my plan is just to get every drum sounding the best it can for the application. If a snare drum isn’t right I’ll swap out for another snare drum, rather than mess around with one trying to make it do something it doesn’t want to do. For larger sessions I’ll have as many as ten or fifteen snare drums and two or three drum kits available, in addition to tons of cymbals and such. I pride myself on being my own drum rental, I have everything from 20’s nickel over brass ludwigs to black beauties to supraphonics to old and new wood snare drums. It definitely saves your recording budget if the player is providing drums that you’d have to go to a rental house to find.

New heads for recording &/or shows: yea or nay and why?
Definitely depends. I just did this roots country album, where I used really old heads, because it was more authentic. On the road, I rehead toms every sixth gig and snare drum every third. Bass drum heads, I rehead whenever they start to sound bad. For your average session? New heads for sure. You can always deaden them, but you can’t put life back in heads that are too far gone. There is an ideal head life window, starting when they have about an hour of playing on them, that for me is when they sound the best. How long that lasts completely depends on the style and intensity of the music being played on them.

What is your desert island kit?
I love ludwig’s drums between 1959-1973. I’ve owned dozens of these drums kits in the last 10 years, and I think I’ve found two of them that are extra exceptional. I have modern drums and drums older than those, but nothing records like a maple/poplar/maple mid 60’s ludwig and a maple/mahogany/maple early 60’s ludwig. When I retire and I only have one drumkit, it’ll be one of these.