Drummers! Drummers!

Recently I was chatting with a friend and colleague about a famous drummer. If I was to mention his name now, most of you (drummers) would be familiar with him and his work.

I commented about how good I thought he was. My friend, a very accomplished musician in his own right, rebuked me.

I was acknowledging the exceptional talent of the drummer in question as he can play fast, fancy and complicated stuff I can only dream of being able to play.


My friend went on to say how, in his opinion, he thinks this drummer sounds like a ‘construction site’. He went on to say that he might be able to do tricky stuff well, but that’s not his job. He won’t just play time.

So what is a good drummer?  What makes a good drummer? I guess to answer these questions, we need to ask another question. What is the drummers job?

I consider myself a bit of a hack drummer since I have no formal training on drums, but there’s alot of us around. In saying that, I often receive comments on my drumming from other musicians I work with about how they enjoy performing with me. It’s think it’s because I don’t do much apart from play time and add the odd fill here and there. Mostly because that’s the limit of my ability. Apparently my timing is fairly good which makes for a good metronome (although I argue this sometimes).

So, is that it? Does being a good drummer mean just keeping time well and not playing much else?

When I’m playing, I tend to listen to what everyone else is doing. I often apply to lots of things, the less is more method, and when I drum it’s no different. If I’m playing time, and only time, when I eventually find the space to do a fill,  it would probably stand out more then if I was doing fiddly bits every 2nd bar. Being a player who pretty much keeps it simple in terms of what I play, I try and do well what I can do well and leave out the things I can’t do. This works well for me . I’m not able to play fast. I don’t know my ‘fiddle diddles’ as I call them (rudiments). I learnt from jamming along to Chisel and AC/DC. Simple seemed to work for them, especially Phil Rudd’s method that I call the ‘4 on the floor’ method.

So, getting back to the original question, I would say that a good drummer plays what is needed, when it is needed. Playing fast and fancy is indeed needed sometimes, and might impress people like me, but playing simple time is often all that is needed.

This really only touches the surface and there is obviously a lot more to discuss on the topic.

Anyhow, any thoughts? Do you agree? Do you disagree?

BTW, I still think Virgil Donati is awesome – oops! Did I type that out loud?