There are a lot of drummer stereotypes out there – but that doesn’t mean you have to live up to them! Here are a few tips from Austin drum teacher Matt D. to set yourself apart…
There are many stereotypes held by other musicians regarding drummers. Many of these beliefs are usually expressed in the form of a joke:
Q: “How do you know a drummer is knocking on your door?”
A: “The knocking gradually gets faster!”
While mostly made in good humor, certain stereotypes about drummers do seem to be ingrained in the minds of musicians and non-musicians alike. The purpose of this article is to address how to overcome a few of these drummer stereotypes.
Q: “What did the drummer say to the band leader?”
A: “Do you want me to play too fast or too slow?”
I believe that time-keeping is the responsibility of all musicians. But in a live situation, the lion’s share of that responsibility is put on the drummer. The main way to improve your time-keeping ability is to practice with a metronome. Practicing with a metronome not only improves your groove, it helps develop your “internal clock,” which helps you keep solid time when the metronome isn’t around.
Tip: Be sure to practice with a metronome that is set to a quarter-note pulse. A typical mistake made by newcomers is to set it to higher subdivisions, such as eighth notes or sixteenth notes. This might make it seem easier to practice with at first, but setting the subdivisions lower helps train your internal clock.
Q: “What is the difference between the sound of a drummer and shoes in the washing machine?
Overplaying generally refers to playing too much, but I like to widen the definition to mean playing anything that doesn’t fit the song correctly. This could be playing a groove or fill that is too busy, playing too loud compared to the rest of the band, or simply playing when you should be silent. As drummers, we tend to be susceptible to the temptation to overplay. After all, the guitar player gets to solo on almost every song; can’t we have some of the spotlight, too? We spend so much time practicing these great licks and fancy patterns, why not show them off, right?
Being a team player is ultimately what makes a great drummer so great. The ability to discern between when to play aggressively and when not to generally comes with experience. Always try to use your best judgement. A fast, hard rock song might sound great with flashy fills and double bass drumming, but does a slow love song need the same treatment?
Tip: Try to be the best team player you can be. Support the other musicians in the group instead of trying to hog the limelight.
3) MUSIC THEORY AND HARMONY
Q: “What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?”
A: “A drummer!”
Musicians who play melodic instruments must be familiar with music theory, harmony and rhythm to play their instrument. Many drummers tend to focus only on the rhythmic aspects of music, which leads to the stereotype that drummers are not fully accomplished musicians. Studying any melodic instrument will help you overcome this. I moved forward in leaps and bounds with my understanding of how music works after only a few weeks of piano lessons with a good instructor.
Tip: Don’t be intimidated! The basic concepts of music theory and harmony are very easy to understand, and will help you grow as a musician.
Look out for part 2 of this article next week!
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Matt D. teaches drum lessons to students of all ages in Austin, TX. His specialties include rock, pop, jazz, funk, soul, blues, hip hop, Americana, country, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, reggae, Caribbean and African styles. Matt joined the TakeLessons team in January 2013. Learn more about Matt, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by U.S. Pacific Air Forces