What makes a good drummer?

zeichner

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You definitely have to be able to play together with your bandmates (same style, same timing). You also have to be able to play consistently. Chops are unimportant, except in the context of your band's style.
 

Pat A Flafla

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In the context of a band, I'll begin with competent band mates. Next, give the music what it needs, with a proper tempo and good time, and do you. If you can't play a particular fill or passage, then create your own way to cover those bits. If you get the rest right, even the most discerning players will respect you. Keep the feel going and everyone will say, great drummer! even if you can't do it all per se.
A good drummer holds the gig together even if one of more of the band members are less than good.
"What do you do?"
"I make singers seem like they know what they're doing."
 

cruddola

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Gotta be true to the music, true to EVERY band member and most important, be true to your audience. Bottom line, you're only as good as your last performance.
 

Trilock_Gurtu

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It's situational, imo. It depends on the needs of the music/band/band mates/etc. Most would agree that Matt chamberlain is a "good drummer", but I suspect that he wouldn't be a "good drummer" for a group like Black Flag. And Clem Burke probably wouldn't be the first pick for a Tori Amos session, and that doesn't mean he's not a "good drummer". So, imo, a good drummer is one who fits the needs of a particular artist/band/session/etc. I think an underrated trait of a good drummer is they are self aware, and know when to bow out, and recommend someone a better fit for the project.
 

Corbin L Douthitt

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It’s difficult to impress a room full of drummers. Usually chops is the only thing they respond to.
The general public is a different animal. The same people that head to the restroom during the drum solo in an arena show may compliment the local bar band drummer on his playing. They only know how a performance made them feel.
I tell my drum students as they are building their skills, at a certain point you may start getting more compliments the fewer fills you play.
Fills bring the thrills, but groove pays the bills.
I’ve never gotten a gig from a set of complex fills. But pocket has kept me in local demand for as long as I’ve played.
good point.. I look for the drummer to drive the band- not overplay.. but support the music and make it better. Most of the time he isn't noticed, unless he stops playing. Bass and drums- rhythm section. He/she listens.
 

michaelocalypse

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According to my other musician friends: Show up.

That's it. Just show up to whatever meeting you agree to and play.

The bar is pretty low, fellas.
 

Monday317

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Gary Chester said ‘to make it in the studio a person has to be able to play anything. Jazz, Rock, Latin, Show Tunes, Pop, R&B, Jingles, Film and some percussion for classical and world music as well. And do it all well.’ Is this a lost art today as there are so many more specialists in specific genres? Whatcha think?
Simple: the love of playing. With that (and a sufficient budget to acquire what you need to start) you will rise to your ability. You can start playing a plastic pail with a couple sticks of any kind.

For instance, after a long hiatus, I started with a pair of ProMark Oak 7As (chosen only because I liked their feel), a mouse pad, and a copy of Stick Control, to see if I still wanted to play again. I did; got a cheap metronome and a used student snare on Amazon. Had fun, kept going. Now I have a full DIY kit and set of Bosporus cymbals. I play well enough for Open Mike Nights or sit in with a low-rated band and am as good a drummer as I’m liable to be—and perfectly content.

When any drummer gets to this point—regardless of your actual ability or instrumentation—you’re a good drummer.
 

Ox Han

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In general, having the discipline to stay in the “pocket” and not play a fill on every 4th or 8th bar. Knowing when not to play.

To the OP - for the most part session drummers are of a bygone era. One, a lot of modern bands have capable drummers because drums are cheaper and more prevalent than 50 or 60 years ago and generation DIY (millennials) have taught themselves well thanks to the internet. Two, software and technology allows the engineer/producer to correct a drummers bad timing. Three, software and technology have allowed artists to not need drummers. Programmed drums and samplers, like the MPC, have made us obsolete for a lot of music.
 
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Rick

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I think an underrated trait of a good drummer is they are self aware, and know when to bow out, and recommend someone a better fit for the project.
Man, I just did this! I got asked to play in a jazz octet. Very high level players. Great group of guys. At first, I thought I could handle it. Duke Ellington stuff and some west coast jazz. But then the leader started bringing in all these Jaco Pastorius charts. At first, it was just The Chicken and Liberty City. I could do those justice for sure! But then he started getting into stuff that really required some advanced contemporary jazz chops. That's not me. I was faking my way through it (I guess I made it feel alright), but I knew in my heart of hearts that a drummer with the right chops AND feel would be a better fit. I have tremendous respect for this group and its potential, so I bowed out. The leader tried to talk me into staying. He was happy with what I was doing. But I know another drummer that I think can really give that music what it needs and pull it off at a level that is consistent with the other players in the group. Fortunately, he agreed to do it. It was hard to let it go cause I was having fun, but I feel like I did the right thing.
 

notINtheband

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Man, I just did this! I got asked to play in a jazz octet. Very high level players. Great group of guys. At first, I thought I could handle it. Duke Ellington stuff and some west coast jazz. But then the leader started bringing in all these Jaco Pastorius charts. At first, it was just The Chicken and Liberty City. I could do those justice for sure! But then he started getting into stuff that really required some advanced contemporary jazz chops. That's not me. I was faking my way through it (I guess I made it feel alright), but I knew in my heart of hearts that a drummer with the right chops AND feel would be a better fit. I have tremendous respect for this group and its potential, so I bowed out. The leader tried to talk me into staying. He was happy with what I was doing. But I know another drummer that I think can really give that music what it needs and pull it off at a level that is consistent with the other players in the group. Fortunately, he agreed to do it. It was hard to let it go cause I was having fun, but I feel like I did the right thing.
Bravo. That took heart.
 

Old Drummer

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What makes a good drummer probably varies by genre, or more broadly what role(s) you want the drummer to perform. The criteria for a session drummer are different from other drummers.

In my bailiwick, which I suppose is old rock and roll, country, blues, and maybe a bit of swing, the drummers who wow me have one trait in common: They are solid. In my observations, this is a rare trait. Not one in ten have it. Most are too timid. But that tenth drummer knocks my socks off. In real life they may be 98 pound weaklings or chubby nerds, but once the song starts, they're in command, playing with confidence and driving the band. I've never known one of these drummers to be much of a soloist, to be a busy player, or to be a "pretty" player with fussy riffs. They're mostly downbeat and upbeat drummers. But when they start playing, my jaw drops. They own the songs (and are boss of the band).

Although to some extent this kind of solid drumming is welcome in other genres, it's not the criterion I'd prioritize for say a jazz drummer. With them, I look for taste and subtlety. Jazz drummers, I think, move deftly in and out of songs. "Solid" is not the first adjective that comes to mind for them. But with the kinds of music I'm most accustomed to playing, "solid" is definitely the appropriate adjective.
 

ChicagoDave

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I would say I'm mediocre, most of the time.

I've had a couple of instances when I felt that I did very well, and one time I really felt that my contribution was excellent. That's when I rewrote the drums for a song at church. I changed it from clumsy and cluttered to clean and powerful. All I did was simplify it and tailored it to what I knew the other musicians would respond to.

I think I could have been an overall good drummer, but not studio material. I don't think I have the natural ability to be great. It's still fun, though.
 

MrDrums2112

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A good drummer is....someone who listens to the other musicians; has the ability to play the right groove for the song (and the right fills to set up the next section or solo); someone who plays with dynamics - lifting the song or bringing it down in the right places; someone who helps everyone else in the band look/play/sound great. Some make it look easier than others.
 

Matched Gripper

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Keeps impeccable time, able to listen and communicate with bandmates and express relevant melodic ideas, understands appropriate use of dynamics, able to enhance the music within the song form.
 
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