What Makes a Great Drummer?
Every time we watch a master like Bill Bruford or Neil Peart play we find ourselves wondering “How the hell did he get so freaking good?” That’s exactly the subject of this post. What makes a great drummer? Just like what makes a great anything, the answer is not black and white necessarily. However, nobody can argue that there must be elements which go into making one drummer head and shoulders above the rest. I think that it boils down to four potential areas and would like to know what you think.
- Great training
- Regular practice
- Incredible imagination
- Innate ability
There is no doubt that receiving top notch drum instruction from one or many dedicated teachers is a foundational element. A beginning student needs a teacher that loves what they do and can impart this enthusiasm on their young charges. Initially, it’s got to be fun or the youngster won’t enjoy what they are doing. How many promising musical careers have been quashed by an instructor who is rigid and insists on hard work above all else? True, to ultimately be successful a lot of hard work is necessary. However, if the beginning student sees lessons as a sentence instead of a reward they will avoid them at all costs.
Oddly enough, this is also true of adult students that are beginning to learn a musical instrument. They already have a long list of things they must do. They need more things they want to do. If musical lessons don’t become that, they will be abandoned.
As the student progresses, it becomes much more important that their instructors are of a high technical level. This is why veteran drummers looking to constantly improve their skills will seek out popular drummers for lessons. The combination of a new perspective and the rush of learning from a legend is hard to pass up even if the lessons are expensive.
Where do you feel great training fits into this equation?
This may seem to some to be a no-brainer and I agree to an extent. The reason I put this up here is because there are many drummers who can’t stand to practice other than whatever their bands are currently playing. In other words, there are really two kinds of practice. Drills to build the rudiments and simply devoting regular time to work on your band’s set list.
Which type of practice do you believe is more important in making a great drummer?
How many times have you been listening to music where the drummer was good but maybe not great. What really caught your ear was the unusual way they either felt or articulated a phrase. Maybe the choice of meter or the orchestration of their set elements into a phrase. It was just so cool but you couldn’t put your finger on it. You come away wondering how they came up with that. Neil Peart is a perfect example of this. He spends a lot of time deciding exactly how he wants to use his set and it really shows in his final product.
Do you think if you took two drummers with the exact same ability and gave one of them better creative ability that they would stand out easily next to their counterpart?
Finally, do you think there are genetic factors that just make one drummer better than another? All other things being equal. Just like an IQ that makes one potentially a better scientist. Do you think this same innate ability exists for musical ability? It’s the whole right brain, left brain thing I know but it bears examining. Is it possible that this one quality could be the reason some drummers seem to be great without the benefit of great training, regular practice or much imagination? Or could this innate ability be the thing that makes all the other elements produce a better drummer?
Where Do You Stand On This?
What makes a great drummer in your mind? Is it one thing? Many? What combination and degree of these elements?
Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it. Also, if you’ve enjoyed this post please share it using the buttons below.
To your drumming success,