On the Beat With Ralph Alexander of The Dose: The One Man Rhythm Section Experiment
Hello MD and greetings to all my fellow drummers! My name is Ralph Alexander and I play drums and bass in a rock duo called The Dose. My buddy Indio (guitar/vocals) and I wanted to form a two-piece band that could sonically fill a room without sacrificing any of the low end by omitting a bass player. We also didn’t want to use any backing tracks. So, I came up with the idea of playing both drums and bass—at the same time.
I do this by playing a Moog Taurus 3 with my left foot while simultaneously playing a semi-standard kit with my right foot and hands. The Taurus 3 is a bass synth controller that features a full octave of pedals that control any number of tone presets and can be transposed to any key. On the drumming side of things, the only major difference is the loss of a foot-controlled hi-hat. I now use an auxiliary hat with an adjustable clutch controlled by my hands since my left foot is constantly on bass. Add all of this together and you have a one-man rhythm section.
The biggest challenge with this setup is not so much the physical independence it requires, but rather the difficulty in controlling different levels of sustain, dynamics, and tones on the Taurus while keeping the drums consistent, interesting, and in time. There’s also the visual challenge of making sure my left foot is striking the correct pedal for the note I need. Luckily, with all new concepts a certain amount of muscle memory eventually takes over and you’re able to play rather than think. When improvisation can blend seamlessly with routine, you know your playing is in a comfortable place. Advertisement
My inspiration for this particular setup came from watching Geddy Lee of Rush perform “Tom Sawyer” live. While most of us were air drumming to Neil Peart’s drum solo, I was more in awe of the amount of melodic responsibilities Geddy had given himself (without the assistance of any backing tracks). In my mind, if he could do it, why couldn’t I? There’s no reason a drummer couldn’t use those same Taurus pedals, right?
Flash forward a year, many hours of practice, and plenty of trial and error and you have the setup I use today with The Dose. It is an incredible amount of fun and always creatively rewarding. The biggest lesson I’ve learned (and what I humbly recommend) is to listen and study what everyone is contributing to your favorite songs, not just the drummer. You just might find inspiration in the most unlikely places.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little bit of my story!
Check out Ralph playing both drums and bass here:
For more on the CD and band visit: itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-dose-ep/id1095740367