Are there rules for ‘sitting in’ with another band?

By Tim Kane

When known “drum brothers” with similar skill sets have specifically asked me to sit in at my own gigs, I have never not allowed them to play a tune or two if I know they can handle the music. I feel drummers are a rare breed and should stick together.

That said, I hardly ever ask known drummers in the crowd if they want to sit in as it could create unwanted pressure for someone who may just want to enjoy listening to music or is out of practice. But that is my own policy and it is not everyone’s. This discussion really should occur at the band level if all the musicians want to even allow sit-ins, as it can open the door to unwanted guests and potentially mess with the groove and group dynamic already established on stage.

The topic of perceived unwritten rules of sitting in with another band are vast so I have created a few bullet points below from my own experiences that hopefully may help you down the road:

* If you don’t ask to sit-in, don’t expect to be asked. Bands are being paid to play and work hard learning the music in many practices so they may be a bit squeamish toward other musicians wanting to jam. They may also have had bad experiences in the past that you are unaware of. The thought also may never occur to them that you want to sit-in. So just chill and enjoy the music.

* If you are a more skilled drummer than the one on stage, be flattered and humbled by the fact that you were not asked to perform.

* Don’t feel snubbed or bummed out even if a drummer you know well doesn’t invite you on stage. Your audience support at their gig is valued and there may be a chance to sit-in – or even fill-in – down the road. Stay cool.

* If you are asked to sit-in, don’t hog the set or show off. Agree to only play only a tune or two, keep a basic groove, support the other musicians, smile, and express sincere gratitude.

* If you know of an upcoming gig with a known drummer, give him or her a call in advance to see if it would be possible to sit-in. That way, songs could be assigned in advance so you are prepared, or perhaps you could attend one of their rehearsals to get up to speed on material.

In the end, listening to another drummer and band play live can be an awesome lesson in not only humility and patience, but also adding to your own reservoir of chops.

– Tim Kane teaches drums in the Sturbridge, Mass. area. Visit him at

One thought on “Are there rules for ‘sitting in’ with another band?”

  1. Funny I just found a sit in drummer for my band, I don’t have the interest in playing on the road as I have a new family and a day job. The rest of the band takes it very seriously though, that said it’s not like I don’t care.. It’s just a priority thing. At first the guitar player thought it was a silly suggestion but he knows he wants to take the band further. I’m not naive and I understand the road drummer might actually replace me , I’m okay with this too as I have new passions

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