How important is versatility for you?

Steech

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I came to the bitter conclusion a long time ago that I was going to stop trying to masquerade as a pro drummer and get a non-music day job. So now that I have lost all of my chops and can finally afford to buy cool gear, I’m wondering about what might have happened if I had stuck with it a little longer.

And that led me to think about the importance of being a well-rounded player, because I only ever played rock, pop, and prog, and could never in a million years pull off a jazz gig.

Do those of you who gig regularly feel comfortable taking jobs in more than one type of music? Are you ok with doing a rock gig one night and then a jazz show the next? Or is there enough work for you to just stick to what you are best at?
 

MrDrums2112

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In the summers, I do a lot of local community theater gigs. On Sundays, I play with a worship band. I also have a band that does classic rock and folk gigs, and I have a jazz group (hard bop and standards). Not gigging much at the moment because, basically, there aren't many gigs at the moment. That said, yes - to me, versatility is important. At the moment, I enjoy the jazz gig most of all, and I am constantly learning.
 

pwc1141

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Over the years I have played in dance bands, rock trios, dixieland bands, country bands, latin quartets, guitar or piano duos, Bluegrass trios, jazz trios and feel comfortable doing any gig to the extant that I can fake it well. The only genre I have never done well is current pop as I never listen to that. But in all those genres, I found being a solid rhythm player and keeping it simple to support the front man or men was the key to getting repeat gigs. That was in the day of plentiful gigs however ....
 

halldorl

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I´ll never be a "real" jazz drummer nor do I aim to be. My roots lie in rock music and my style/sound reflects that somewhat. I do all kinds of gigs and I like challenges but instead of trying to be something I am not, I strive to be better at what I am already good at.
 

CC Cirillo

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There are some insanely versatile players on this forum. I think it’s important if one is drumming for a living.

That’s not me.

I realized long ago I have my limitations, so I’ve tended to play towards my strengths, which are pop, rock, soul, funk, country, and singer-songwriter.

Within those genres, I try to be as versatile as possible, and as sensitive as possible to what the song needs.

Accepting the limitations of my technical skills, and capitalizing on them, has allowed me to become more conversant with other players within the song.

A lot of band mates seem to prefer that to blazing displays of speed and mechanical prowess, or maybe it’s just my crew accepts me for what I am because I accept them in kind.

Styles I avoid are prog, metal, punk, and—sigh—jazz. I lament not being able to play jazz because I love it so. But that hasn’t stopped me at all from bringing some triplet bounce into my playing as well as a jazz sensibility across genres: improvisational skills, playing to the singer, comping under someone’s solo while actively responding to what they are playing, etc.
 

cribbon

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Like most of us, I suspect, I have favorite styles of music and others that I'm not so fond of, but I do like to play in different styles and environments because in almost every genre of music I can think of, there is some kind of percussion, even though it might not be drum set. Besides the standard rock and roll, I've played music theater, marching band, orchestras, polka bands, big bands, original music of various stripes, and jazz and I'd love to be able to play tabla. If I were a teenager now, I'd also jump into drum corps.

However, in reality, my actually gigging is limited to a great extent to what opportunities are available in my neck of the woods. I'm lucky that in addition to the ubiquitous classic rock, I do have the odd occasion to play jazz gigs (which pay off more in enjoyment than filthy lucre) and I'm always on the lookout for people playing original music.

At this stage of my life (with the exit door getting closer and closer), I prefer playing jazz to the extent I can because it allows for more nuance, subtlety and musicality. At my core, I like creating sounds and consider myself more of a percussionist than strictly a drum set player; maybe that's why I admire Bill Bruford and Trilok Gurtu so much.

I admit I'm not a fan of country or bluegrass or metal, but outside of that, I'm game for pretty much anything. To paraphrase Buddy Rich, a drummer should be able to play anything. That's a goal I'll never reach, but it's a good one to aim for.
 

thejohnlec

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I try to be as versatile as possible. More importantly, I try to be as true to the style I’m playing as possible. A musical mentor explained it to me very simply: the more styles you know, the more gigs you’ll get. Since I had a developing interest in other styles of music, it was a natural progression for me. Learning other instruments followed, and all that knowledge has served me well up to the present day.

To your other point: I’ve been full time, part time, and volunteer. It’s my conviction that one’s employment scenario doesn’t make them a musician - the ability to play an instrument does. You do you and have fun.
 

AtlantaDrumGuy

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Disclaimer, I don’t make a living playing music…but I’ve been doing paid gigs for a long time (off and on).

I think it depends on if you’re trying to make a living or not. Even then, lots of guys (probably most) end up specializing and being good at one style. I find this more common than not.

At the local level however, I think it pays to be versatile. I’ve done church gigs and jazz gigs and blues/rock cover gigs. All pretty different. Granted, it’s not like I have a gig with Sting or some superstar. I think if someone was trying to make it big, it could be best to be excellent at one thing.
 

bolweevil

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Versatility matters to me--I used to care mostly about blast beats and double-kick stuff, but in the past 18 years or so I have played mostly rock, blues and funk. I don't think I'm especially great at any of it but my time is solid and people say I'm 'easy to play with'.

As far as jazz: I was in a cover band that did an instrumental version of 'Moon Dance' and I liked to joke that was about as jazzy as I can go.
 

shuffle

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I played to my strengths,,blues,soul,r&b,,country,acoustic,worship music.
My gear was generic in that I used Ambassadors, 16" crash cymbals,gear that is made for those types of music.
I'm not a jazzer unless Moondance is considered jazz! Lol
Can't stand to play it now..
It worked for me and kept me playing for decades.
 

notINtheband

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Not all that versatile at all.
Would be nice to be.
But it doesn’t affect my ability to get paying gigs. I stick to rock and now country, and in my area (Kentucky) that is really all one needs to stay busy.
I so respect and admire more well rounded drummers. But I’m with a full time job and family and gigging on the side, I just never allocated the time to expand.
I’m ok with that.
 

komodobob

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I once read that versatility is key to being employable, or rather keeping yourself in demand. Most of us grew up playing classic rock, or country, which there are certainly more opportunities. However,, I feel it is just as important to be well versed in jazz and Latin, if you want to make yourself the most marketable.

Bottom line, you never know what a band is going to expect from you, so be prepared.
 

RIDDIM

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It's important to me because I get called from folks in various genres.

It's possible to be able to speak multiple languages, if we do the work.

Being able to function well in various idioms will enable you to accept more calls and execute them well. The thing is do the homework and be able to sound like that's all you do, to the folks who hire you.

And while it's nice to have options, whatever you're asked to play, respect it for what it is and play your heart out. Give the music what it needs, no more and no less. If you can't do this, don't take the gig.
 

JDA

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the common denominator in all styles- is not the clothes, not the hair style not the age (+/-) of participant, nor not the style size or color of the drumset, .......none of that.

The common denominator are the Notes. Those black ovals on a white background with stems, lines, flags, and dots...

Master (or be aware) of all Notes and combination and theoretically you can switch between genre (+-

 

paul

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I've been blessed over the last 25 years or so to play a pretty wide variety of gigs with a wide variety of bands. I'm fortunate to live in an area that offers a lot of musical experiences, and a plethora of great musicians to work with.

Being versatile has certainly opened more doors for me, but I find that bandleaders don't really care how versatile I am, as long as I can play within their desired style. But it sure makes playing more interesting, and challenging, for me.
 

Matched Gripper

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I came to the bitter conclusion a long time ago that I was going to stop trying to masquerade as a pro drummer and get a non-music day job. So now that I have lost all of my chops and can finally afford to buy cool gear, I’m wondering about what might have happened if I had stuck with it a little longer.

And that led me to think about the importance of being a well-rounded player, because I only ever played rock, pop, and prog, and could never in a million years pull off a jazz gig.

Do those of you who gig regularly feel comfortable taking jobs in more than one type of music? Are you ok with doing a rock gig one night and then a jazz show the next? Or is there enough work for you to just stick to what you are best at?
Versatility is important to me because I like to listen to and play different genres of music. If music is your livelyhood, it can’t hurt your ability to find work if you can play multiple genres. In addition, even if you only have interest in performing in one genre, the ability to play others can expand your musical vocabulary in your preferred genre.
 

Tornado

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the common denominator in all styles- is not the clothes, not the hair style not the age (+/-) of participant, nor not the style size or color of the drumset, .......none of that.

The common denominator are the Notes. Those black ovals on a white background with stems, lines, flags, and dots...

Master (or be aware) of all Notes and combination and theoretically you can switch between genre (+-


Thank you JDA for giving us the secret!
 

Tornado

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I think the older you gst, the harder it is to become more versatile. Mostly because you just don't have the daily or weekly time to dedicate to it, and secondly, you're literally running out of time. It's good to be that kid who dedicated his teen (and before) years to learning multiple styles and just graduated from music school. Most of us will never catch up to that guy's versatility.
 

JDA

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It happened in the early 70's @Tornado when Santana was using what? jazz musicians there was a Confluence of style when one minute you're spinning an Atomic Rooster or Bloodrock Lp and the next you're hearing from England or something there's a band called Trapeze ; You throw John McLaughlin into the mix then you find your self going down an Art Blakey road...
schooling helped helps put on paper decipherable s; but it was 'sensed' ...thru the ear due to the confluence of the times'
that was where you get a Steve Gadd (and others down to locals) who could cross into any (near any) genre

Mostly because you just don't have the daily or weekly time to dedicate to it,
it's not a dedicate (+/-) as much as it is a diet.
an intake. Can still be done if you go back a little bit and proceed forward +/-

I dunno but it's a fun topic : )
there's some important point in time recordings that can't be -shouldn't be missed.
(that may/ can help +/-
 
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I came to the bitter conclusion a long time ago that I was going to stop trying to masquerade as a pro drummer and get a non-music day job. So now that I have lost all of my chops and can finally afford to buy cool gear, I’m wondering about what might have happened if I had stuck with it a little longer.

And that led me to think about the importance of being a well-rounded player, because I only ever played rock, pop, and prog, and could never in a million years pull off a jazz gig.

Do those of you who gig regularly feel comfortable taking jobs in more than one type of music? Are you ok with doing a rock gig one night and then a jazz show the next? Or is there enough work for you to just stick to what you are best at?
Now important is versatility???
As a professional musician, it's VERY (maybe THE most important) trait.... If you want to eat and have a home (place to live.)

Another important skill to have is the ability to be a "quick study" when approaching styles-genre's in which you don't have much (or any) experience. Some might also call this "musicality." In my career I have been approached several times to play-tour-record in a style in which I didn't have much (or any) experience in (PLAYING-wise!)

Note this doesn't mean that I hadn't already done "some" listening to that genre and developed a "taste" in what I like (musically.) These styles that I was called to play AUTHENTICALLY were: old-school hip hop, metal, rockabilly, blues, Americana, and country.

While some might say that all American music is some kind of derivative or combination of rock and roll, rock, r&b, and jazz; And I have been studying (playing, working in, listening to, etc...) those approaches my whole life!!!!!!! I always refer to this as "ongoing study," and THAT is also essential for almost any career in which you would like to excel.

But in every case I had at least a week to "become" an AUTHENTIC "fill in the style," drummer! That meant listening, studying the appropriate sounds that were used, transcribing, playing, researching, practicing... IN EVERY case the gig turned out very well (resulting in a recording session, tour, several gigs, or a long running musical relationship.

In one case (for a tour that I really wanted,) I even hired some authentic local musicians steeped in that genre to do a self-paid "gig" (in my rehearsal studio) no crowd, just me and them, and me requesting as much "feedback" as they would offer. And the investment worked (a few months of touring with an "Americana" artist.)

There have been a few cases where I didn't have any "lead time" to do my homework, and that's where BIG ears, ongoing study, and musicality comes in! But the ability to learn, and adapt to a musical style-approach, and ongoing study, is an essential trait to become "employable" in the professional music world.

Good question, essential subject!!!!!
Hope that helps,
MSG
 


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