Dear Mr. P.C.:
If I can tell where a drummer is during his whole solo, does that mean he's good or bad?
Neither: it just means you're listening too closely. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with paying attention to the musicians around you, but it puts undue pressure on them to pay attention to you in return, something they'd probably rather not do.
In a sense, by listening closely to the drummer, you are challenging
himimplying that your own playing can withstand his scrutiny. As you should know, provoking a drummer never ends happily.
That's why I suggest you just join the rest of the band in ignoring the drum solo altogether. Dear Mr. P.C.:
When musicians do that thing near the end of the song where they go back and forth with the drummer, am I supposed to clap for each little drum solo? It seems unfair to the other musicians who only get applause once.
Do you know how hard it is to play drums?
First of all, you have to play much louder than anyone else, a strenuous role that requires intense physical conditioning. Then, when there are unwritten tempo changes in the music, you have to take charge and forcibly move the whole band. All while playing even louder. Heavy lifting, to say the least!
So, yes, drummers deserve applause for each one of those little solos. And they do their best to earn it. Think of all the times a drummer reached the end of one of those little solos and his bandmates looked suddenly confused. Why? He played something so rare and crafty that they didn't know where to come back in!
They'll take their best guess and then there's a brief moment when they deferentially recalibrate to him. It's an emotional time on the bandstand, and your chance to show support by applauding with all your heart. Dear Mr. P.C.:
What is better: a drummer who hangs behind the beat, a drummer who pushes the beat, or one who actually plays in time?
When Push Comes to Shove
This is a trick question, right? Because what is musically
best is a drummer who can do all three, even on the same tune. Unfortunately that level of flexibilityessentially getting in touch with multiple realities at onceusually requires high doses of hallucinogens, which can complicate interactions with patrons during breaks.
By contrast, consider the drummer who takes no drugs at all or, in other words, a drummer fresh out of rehab. He has no moments of brilliance, but at least he's dependable in his defects and poses no threat to the audience.
Those are your choices, I'm sorry to say: the unpredictable drummer who takes drugs or the uninspired drummer who used to take drugs. You might be better off just taking the drugs yourself.
Have a question for Mr. P.C.? Ask him