So you want to be the next Travis Barker, huh? It’s a great aspiration, and you can certainly learn a lot from a great drummer like Travis. But limiting yourself to one style is not the way to go. Read on to learn how Chicago teacher Joel S. suggests you approach it…
“Can you teach me how to play the drums like Travis Barker?”
Beginning students say things like this to me all the time. It’s understandable. We all have our favorite drummers and bands, and we try to imitate their grooves and fills. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just one more way we learn. And sure, I can teach you to play some Blink-182 songs, or whatever it is you like.
Simply put, however, the answer to the above question is no. No, I cannot teach you how to play the drums like Travis Barker. Even Travis Barker can’t do that. No one else will ever play quite like him, but then, no one else will ever play quite like you either. If all you want is to sound like Neil Peart or Dave Weckl or Mike Portnoy, then I would suggest that you are limiting yourself. You are misunderstanding the nature of music and the purpose of private drum lessons. My job isn’t to make you sound like someone else, but to help you develop your own sound and your own feel. Even if I could teach you to sound just like Travis, I wouldn’t.
Let’s take another well known drummer, Joey Jordison. He has very fast feet, and what he does on the drums is indeed impressive. It’s also very specifically geared toward a certain type of music. If that’s the kind of music you want to play, then you’ll need to develop some of the same skills and abilities. So there’s nothing wrong with listening to Joey and other drummers in that genre to gain a better understanding of how to play that music. If that is all you listen to, however, then all you will ever be is a cheap imitation of Joey Jordison. And who’s going to pay attention to that when they can get the real thing?
The key here is that you have to listen to a greater variety of music. Check out some understated drumming by guys like Peter Erskine and Steve Ferrone. Listen to their time and their feel. Learn about classical music and how to play percussion in that setting. Funk, pop, country, techno… Listen to everything. Think of everything you listen to as a mini-lesson, even if it’s not on drums. Learn about melody and harmony, phrasing and dynamics. I promise you that when you do go back to playing metal, you will find that you can incorporate all the other things you’ve learned into your own playing. Suddenly you won’t sound like Joey Jordison anymore, you’ll sound like yourself.
I can and will teach you to play some Blink-182, Rush or Dream Theater songs. You can learn a lot that way. But you aren’t a great drummer just because you can play Tom Sawyer. Once you master some basic skills, it’s not that hard to reproduce someone else’s ideas. You become a great drummer when you can use what you learned playing as a launching pad for your own creativity. One day, someone might say to you, “You don’t sound like anyone else!”
To an artist, there is no higher compliment.
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Joel S. teaches drum, music performance, music theory and percussion lessons to students of all ages in Chicago, IL. Joel joined the TakeLessons team in August 2012, with his Bachelor’s degree in Percussion from the New England Conservatory, and a Master’s degree from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Learn more about Joel, or visit TakeLessons to search for a drum teacher near you!
Photo by gregthemayor.