#3 - “What Does A Drummer REALLY Do?”Sep 30, 2022
When I say the word “DRUMMER” to you, what do you picture?
Ask most people what they expect when they see a drummer and they will usually say that the drummer is usually in the back “going crazy” behind the drums.
A lot of people really aren’t sure what the drummer does except to keep the beat.
What Makes A Good Drummer?
Most people don’t realize the difference a good drummer can make in the song, overall performance and even the confidence of the band members.
They do so much more than just “keep the beat.”
No one appreciates a good drummer until they have played with a bad one!
So what makes a good drummer?
I’m still figuring it out, but I’m a lot closer than I used to be.
Change in Direction - It’s A Process
I have been playing the drums for over 35 years and I am embarrassed to say that at least half of that time, my goal was to “show off” how fast I could play or how awesome my fills were.
Sure I kept a beat for the band, but I was only focusing on myself (or maybe the girls in the audience).
As I got older and played with more seasoned musicians, I began to hear them talk about other drummers who "had a good feel," or were “solid" and "really locked in with the band."
This began a change in my attitude towards my role as a drummer.
The adjustment has helped me land a lot more drumming opportunities with quality musicians.
A Good Drummer Brings Confidence To The Band
I don’t want to step on any toes here, but it has been my experience that a lot of times, musicians don’t show up prepared.
Not saying that’s the case with everyone, but it does happen.
In a situation where you are playing with less experienced musicians or musicians who chose to not learn the songs ahead of time, if you show up prepared and ready to play, you become the “rock” that everyone else is leaning on.
That’s a pretty cool place to be and it’s a wonderful reputation to have!
When you’ve taken the time to learn the song “backwards and forwards,” you can guide the band with fills and transitions into the different parts of the song seamlessly, which will make the band sound better and MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD!
For example, let’s say you’re playing with some people and band member is unsure whether the verse of the song is 8 measures or 16 measures.
As you approach the end of the verse, a measure or two away, you begin opening up the hi-hat a bit, raising the volume and creating some tension… SIGNALING to the rest of the band that something different is about to happen.
I call this “SIGN-POSTING,” and it makes a huge difference! It is very helpful in getting everyone on the same page quickly.
Again, once the people you are playing with realize that you are prepared and confident, it raises their confidence level, as well, resulting in a better performance situation overall.
A Good Drummer Creates a Foundation for the Music
Another hallmark of a “good drummer” is to provide a solid, bed for the music to lay over.
When you realize that your #1 priority should be making the song sound good, rather than showing off all your latest tricks, you will create better music.
In many, many cases, the best thing that you can do is just provide a steady groove, nothing fancy, so that the other instruments can stand out.
Maybe it’s a guitar-heavy song with a lot of riffs that are very “busy” and frequent.
Use discipline and refrain from playing the most complex beat you can think of and rather, just play something solid and heavy.
One drummer that I admire and strive to emulate is Phil Rudd, the drummer for AC/DC on the “Back In Black” album.
The groove and feel on those songs are incredible, yet the drums aren’t loaded with flashy fills or acrobatics… just SOLID, confident drumming.
He’s holding down his part of the rhythm section so the vocals and guitar can sound amazing and get all the attention.
I used to listen to professional drummers, noticing the “boring” stuff that they were playing (or NOT PLAYING) and I’d say, “That’s nothing, I could play that! What’s so special about that?”
Discipline, maturity and groove, that’s what!
Now I understand and I strive to be a drummer with those attributes.
Immature Vs. Experienced Drummers
Let’s take a closer look and compare the two mindsets of drumming.
If you fall into some of both categories, don’t feel bad… we are all working at getting better together!
I know that I spent plenty of time on the first group!
Immature Drummers Want To:
• Show off
• "Go crazy" behind the drums
• Show how fast they can play
• Use a lot of big and complicated fills
• Turn a simple, effective beat into a complex one just so people will see how “good” they are
Experienced Drummers Want To:
• Put the song first and play what is needed for the song, even if it might be boring.
• Provide a solid beat, so that the other band members will sound good and be heard clearly.
• Pay attention to the other instruments, especially the bass, to provide a strong rhythm section.
• Pay attention to the leader (if there is one) and guide the band into other sections of the song.
• Use fills to guide the song along, not to create distractions.
• Have a “less is more” approach to playing fills and how often fills are played.
And Finally….Yes, Drummer’s Keep The Beat
Once it’s all said and done, yes, your primary job as the drummer is to represent where the beat is for the band and the audience.
Sometimes you may just be a glorified “human metronome” and that is OK.
This is where taking the effort and patience to develop steady and consistent “time” pays off.
No one wants to play with a drummer that is unsteady, slowing down and speeding up the beat.
In your early progress, it is crucial that you practice and develop your skills with a metronome.
It takes practice, but keep at it and it will be worth it!
To summarize, improving on the drums is not only about chops and coordination, but it has A LOT to do with your mindset as you play!
Take the time to consider the type of drummer you want to become.
Hopefully this has given you a few things to think about as you enjoy music!
The next time you are at a show, see if you can identify the differences that the drummer is making in the song!
Talk to you soon!
If you’re ready to get serious about learning the drums, download my FREE 14-page “Quick Start Booster Pack” PDF!
It is a small, hand-picked selection of material to get you started learning the drums!
Enjoy it and talk to you soon!
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