If you will ask me, the role of drums in a band is the biggest. I believe that when the drummer sucks, the whole band sucks because nothing will sound good if you have a bad drummer. I have played with a lot of drummers, while I understand the bad habits of a beginner, an experienced drummer can either make or break the band depending on his discipline in playing.
There are drummers who play for themselves and they think that inserting all their chops mean doing their very best but, it is the opposite. I can’t emphasize enough that doing your best means playing what will be the best for the music not showing all of your skills.
The Role of Drums in a Band
Every musician should have a “sense” of time on their own but the drummer should be the best when it comes in playing in time. When the drummer is rushing or dragging, every musician will be carried away. I have played with a drummer that is always rushing when the chorus comes. I know he is rushing but I can’t stop being carried away in his time.
It is hard not to get carried by the time of the drummer even if you know he is not playing in time. So it is a must for every drummer to always practice with a metronome even when doing exercises only.
2. The Backbone of the Band
Every song has their own rhythm, pulse or beat, groove or feel, dynamics and energy. The drummer is the one who sets those elements. He is setting a foundation that everyone can set their feet upon. The guitarist or keyboardist can only improve the elements mentioned that’s why if the foundation is bad, the guitar and piano will have a hard time to improve those elements.
No matter what embellishment the lead guitarist add, or cool riffs of rhythm guitarist do, if the rhythm and groove itself is bad, nothing will sound good. That’s why I said in the introductions that when the drummer sucks, the whole band sucks.
This is the reason why the drummer is the backbone of the band. You may not also be in the spotlight but setting a really solid rhythm and groove will increase the success of your band and you should focus on doing that. You can add your chops but do not lose sight of your main role.
3. Provide a Solid Rhythm
Many drummers lose sight of this and just want to show their chops to all of the people. Those kind of drummers are the ones whom you’ll always hear a chop in the middle of a beat and at the end of the measure. Instead of sticking to a pattern, they want to showcase their skills and the result is a poor rhythm.
Don’t be like that drummer. I know that you want to show your skills, but doing it all throughout the song will not make it memorable. If you want to be known, just have a little moment in which I call “climax” and there you execute your best chop. That will be the highlight of your performance and people will remember that because it is a “highlight”.
90% of the time, just focus on providing a solid rhythm by sticking to a pattern and controlling the dynamics and energy and spend the 10% in showcasing the skills of the whole band.
Some tips if you want to the be good drummer
1. Maintain the Groove
A good drummer will always prioritize in maintaining the groove rather than showing off his skills. This means that most of the time is you’ll stick to the pattern and won’t add anything. You might think that this is ridiculous and we are not properly utilizing the creativity of a drummer. You can still add something creatively but always stick to the pattern.
Most drummers who are just starting out are adding something very different to the pattern, thus, making a different groove and it clearly hurts their rhythm. You have to avoid doing that. If you will add something, make sure that it will come from the pattern.
However, there are some cases that you’ll go out of the line and it can result to something remarkable. But those cases should be coordinated by everyone before executing it so that everybody can also do something creative complementing what you’ll do.
2. More Power doesn’t mean Faster
This is funny because when our drummer is teaching somebody to play, we asked him to tell his student to increase the power he exerts in the drums. The student was able to do that however, he also played faster. It also happens backwards, when we tell him to lower the volume, he slows down.
Always remember that the tempo is constant and should not change even you changed the strength you exert in the drums. You might think that this is easy but try playing with a metronome and then increase your strength, you’ll notice that you are now playing faster than before.
3. Work out all your limbs
One thing I also notice to amateur drummers are their hands and feet have different power level. The right-handed drummers have strong right but weak left and it can affect the overall groove of the song. Some cases are the right hand can play faster than the left. When doing a fast 16 note beat, you can hear that the sound is not evenly spaced out.
This can be solved by practicing both hands and feet. Whatever the strong hand can do, you just need to make sure that the weak hand can do it also without too much effort.
4. Don’t Overplay
Overplaying in drums can pollute the whole song and fill everything with the chops. This will result to unpleasant sound because there is no steady pulse and there will be no pattern which is the definition of rhythm.
Amateur drummers are guilty of this most often. Instead of sticking to a pattern, they’ll add their chops in-between or every after measure. This will fill all the space with drums alone and taking the chance of the lead guitarist/instrumentalist to add flavors in the music.
I don’t hate the chops of the drummers. I love them actually, but it should be put on the proper place. I have played with drummers who are not selfish and know how to serve the music. They uses a lot of chops too but it is not overwhelming because they know when to add their chops.
5. Control the Dynamics
You have the control of the overall mood and energy of the song. Reducing your energy can drastically affect the energy of the song so make sure to utilize that properly. You have to treat the music like a story. There is a highest point or the “climax” and this is where you give your all.
Of course, you’ll have to start at the lowest point at some time particularly at the verse, so don’t go all out in the verse. Your bandmates will naturally flow with the level of your energy so you have to know when you should elevate the energy.
6. Practice with Metronome
You can get better in time if you practice with metronome. I know you do some exercises to improve your hand techniques but always do it with a metronome. There’s a lot of apps in the smartphone that can provide metronome for you. It can automatically adjust the time in every set of bars you insert. There is also this vibrating metronome which is new to most of us. You can check the full details here
If you can, play also with metronome. People nowadays uses click tracks and in-ear monitors. I will tell you that there’s a lot of difference in playing in time always rather than depending on your body clock. Maybe the only factor that separates you from the professionals is playing in time perfectly.
7. Incorporate Ghost notes and other techniques
Ghost notes are quiet notes that are not done to be heard but to be felt especially by the musicians. Instead of doing a straight pattern without anything, you can add a ghost note and it clearly enhances the groove to a whole new level. The term itself “ghost” means that it’s purpose is to be felt rather than heard. It is rhythmically important, but not melodically or harmonically.
Ghost notes and other techniques is what separate a beginner from professional. I emphasized above that you should stick to the pattern but these techniques will not hurt the pattern and it will even improve the feel that’s why you should seek out more techniques you can incorporate in your playing.
8. Don’t be a Template Drummer
When we say Template drummer it means you are always doing the same pattern in every song you are playing. Every song has their own pattern and feel so you should base your pattern on that. Doing the same pattern all the time is a sign of being lazy because you don’t want to try the best version and just settle for what you are comfortable with.
Listen carefully to the feel of the song. You can do a different style than the original without hurting the groove. You just need to be creative enough and limit it at the right level so that you can have a different style but the same feel.
9. Work with the Bass Player
Your bass player will always want to sync with the Kick Drum. Before doing anything different, tell him so that he’ll know and can adjust what he is doing creatively. Just want to remind you that you are not the one in-charge. Always talk about the rhythm because he might even have a better idea.
It is important to work with other members of the band also, but your partner will always be the bass player and you should be in-sync always. You should play as one.
Drummers are highly-sought player in the band because they play a huge part in the band. While they are in abundance, finding a good drummer can take some time. He must be humble enough to accept that he should serve the music rather than himself and just enjoy playing with the band.
Remember what I said, once the drummer sucks, the whole band sucks. Having a simple drummer who can properly lay a foundation is much better than those who knows a lot but refuses to play and complement with each other.
If you have questions about the role of drums, feel free to leave it on the comment box. I would also like to know what is the role of drums for you.