To Be a Drummer

Posted in Learn | Last Updated on October 4, 2018

Black and white picture of the drummer Bob Hall

So! You want to be a drummer. Why? Cause it’s cool to be a drummer? It is … but I hope that’s not why. Or maybe you want to pick up girls? You can… but if that’s why you want to be a drummer, don’t waste your time. Maybe it’s because when you hear a certain piece of music something happens deep down inside. As you listen you can relate to what the drummer in the music is playing almost as if it’s you playing it. If that’s the case, go for it.

I can relate to all the reasons not to become a drummer because I too struggled with them. There was a time in my journey as a drummer when it became apparent to me that all that mattered was the music. Not the fads or the girls or what someone else thought was hot. No, it was what I thought was hot and what mattered to me as a musician. If that’s not the case you end up being a prostitute, whom we all know does what she does for money. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be paid or want to make money as a musician. I’m saying money can’t be the most important aspect. If it is, you end up doing what you do not want to do and in so doing you tend to begin to dislike what you’re doing.

You must, at all costs, find out who you are as a musician (drummer). In order to make a living as a drummer, you must be well versed in the execution of your instrument. You have to be able to play many variations and styles of music if you’re going to be a studio drummer. Developing your “signature” style as a drummer is important in marketing yourself to the music world. Don’t become a clone of someone else… it doesn’t pay and in the end, leads only to frustration.

Being realistic about learning to play any instrument faces you with the fact that you have to spend many painstaking hours practicing. That’s right! You don’t just pick up the sticks and Walla… you’re a drummer. Even the most gifted individuals have to put in many hours of playing to become proficient musicians. Don’t let anyone tell you that because you’re gifted you don’t have to practice. It has been said that Buddy Rich never practiced and look how great he played. He did play great! First of all, I don’t really believe he didn’t ever practice. But for the sake of this subject… how much better could he have played if he practiced? We’ll never know! I don’t mean that as disrespect to Mr. Rich. I’m just trying to make a point, and that point is, you have to practice to become good.

Even though we love to play drums, it is extremely hard work, especially if you want to be good at it. Do you know how to read music? If you do, good for you! If not… why not? And when are you going to learn? Don’t kid yourself into thinking you really don’t need to know how to read music. Think with me, how important is it to know how to read words and how difficult would life be if you didn’t know how? I’m sure you know the answer to that rhetorical question.

You know how to read drum tablature you say. So what! It really won’t do you any good. Drum tab lacks the ability to interpret dynamics and is used by those who are just plain lazy. It’s amazing how much work we’ll put into using something that we think will be easier. In the long run, however, it creates many problems in our playing and in our understanding of music charts that will be difficult to undo. My advice is, “do it right the first time.”

Drummers today have so much information and help at their disposal. The Internet is loaded with good information about playing drums as well as every other instrument. Put much effort forth and you’ll get much enjoyment in return. Hard work always pays off in great dividends in that it yields more out that you put in.

Among the many drummers that have influenced me the drummers I remember is Don Brewer (Grand Funk Railroad), Phil Collins (Genesis), Terry Bozzio (independent), Simon Phillips (independent), Rod Morgenstein (independent), and more recently Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater). When I hear these drummers play, I hear many hours of hard work and practice. They are innovators in the art of drumming because they have worked hard and practiced hard. If you’ve tried to play their music I’m sure you found out quickly that you had to work hard to figure out what they were playing.

Nothing worthwhile in this life is easy. Don’t settle for less. Actually, the easy way is the hard way, if you know what I mean. Many have gone before us in this craft and have left for us many examples to learn from. Make every minute count and by all means, enjoy the blessing of being a drummer.

Well, I hope I’ve made you think a bit about the art of drumming and have encouraged you to work hard and want to work hard at becoming a drummer who is good at his/her craft. One who spends much time applying what you’ve learned to your personality as a player. Be an individual, even behind your drum kit. When you see the great drummers in the music industry it is their individuality that sets them apart. Have a great journey and “be who you are.”