Be a Drummer

Seriously, just do it.

It’s just one of those simple facts of life that everyone plays guitar. If you need a great guitarist, chances are you’ll have more applicants for the position than you can handle. Like a colony of ants that is mostly workers, so most musicians gravitate to a small set of instruments. Guitar is probably the most abundant skill in the music world. Good guitar playing, on the other hand, maybe not so much. But what is much, much more difficult to find? You guessed it, a drummer. You really should be a drummer, if you have the inclination at all.

A good drummer is almost like a fantasy creature, a great mythological being. They are the hidden forest elves that secret away from the world of man. Or maybe more like Bigfoot, only once in a while does someone catch that rarified glimpse. Still, even with a fuzzy photo as evidence, no one truly believes it happened. Again, yes, I fall into hyperbole. My head is a realm of ridiculous metaphors and comparisons. But it is not the realm of the fabled drummer.

What makes a good drummer?

I think this will depend on what kind of musician you ask. There are certainly key elements that I’ve singled out from personal experience.

  • Virtuoso technique? Not so much. I can live without all the flash and, quite frankly, sometimes prefer a simpler beat.
  • A solid groove? Absolutely… I cannot stress this one enough. Good feel and a stable sense of time are the number one on my list. I don’t care if it’s 4-on-the-floor with a stock back beat, just give it to me in time and steady. For that I’ll forever love you.
  • Just show up. Seriously, if there’s a jam or audition or whatever, please, just show up.
  • Play it loud and proud. Always tailor to your venue, but if you have the space and won’t deafen everyone in the room, hit those drums. Hard. The energy it brings to the room is second to none.

Ok, so that’s what I look for. Mostly, we’re all just looking for someone who knows their way around a kit. So, be a drummer and a good one.

Or anything else. Do what you like, what you enjoy. If that happens to be drums, then all the better. Just remember, timing and feel go a lot further than flashy fills! If my job is made harder because you’re too busy moving the tempo around like it’s the ball in a game of ping pong… well, just don’t be that guy.

Why do I say this?

I’m glad you asked.

I’ve played with a number of different drummers over the last few years. Of them only one stood out as having great feel and timing. Sometimes it is so bad that I just have to stop and wait for the drums to signal that beat 1 exists again. I like the downbeat. I also like when it doesn’t blink out of existence randomly. These are things I like. It turns out that other musicians seem to enjoy them too.

Remember that audition I mentioned in my last article, “Slide Guitar, Oh Man”? Well, turns out I spent those hours practicing only to have the audition canceled because the drummer decided he wasn’t going to show up at the last minute. This happens often enough. Musicians can be a notoriously unreliable bunch. It’s probably all the drugs and booze and inability to get out of bed before 2pm. Wait, maybe that’s just me.

Still, it is inconsiderate to leave other musicians in a lurch with no warning. I’d suggest treating it like a job interview. If you’re not serious enough to even make the interview, maybe you shouldn’t be applying.

What else?

Here’s a fun video of Luc demonstrating his own drum skills: