What makes a better drummer? A musician who learns drums or a drummer that learns music.

Discussion in 'Drums & Percussion' started by jonajon91, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. jonajon91

    jonajon91 New Picture

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    As far as I know, any drummer that I have ever met started out just hitting drums and recreating what they've heard and then slowly improved as they dabble in theory and lessons, years later they'll have a comprehensive knowledge of rhythm, structure and music, but not harmony or tonality. For me though, a classically trained cellist, studdied at university for composition and I've been playing bass in bands through my whole life. I'm just wondering if someone who took more of an academic approach and already knows these things would make a better drummer in the long run as all you'd need to learn would be the mechanical skill and muscle memory.

    Thoughts?


    ---edit---

    I can see how this could be seen as a dig at drummers, but I mean it in the nicest way.
     
  2. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins Contributor

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    Bonus... no Hep C.

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  3. Humbuck

    Humbuck SS.org Regular

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    The better drummer is better.
     
  4. Dayn

    Dayn silly person

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    Knowledge is easy to obtain. Physical ability is not. I can program amazing drums and rhythms. I could also play something simple decently on a real kit. But I'd be absolutely smoked by someone who actually plays.
     
  5. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    The person who knows what to play for the style they play will be the better drummer. How many incredible musicians aren't formally trained? How many incredible musicians *are* formally trained?

    Harmony and tonality would help a drummer offer suggestions on writing parts but not every band has all members contributing to the writing process. Most people want their drummers to play the drums on time and tastefully.

    Each situation is different to the point where the question is moot IMO.
     
  6. jonajon91

    jonajon91 New Picture

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    Answers that arent answers are moot IMO. I get the idea between getting knowledge is easier than physical ability, but I'd imagine it being the other way around. I've known so many musicians that hit a wall as soon as it comes to simple theory, either struggling to learn or refusing too (in the case of some stubborn drummers and guitarists). Where as any physical technique is muscle memory and any extended practice can teach that. Look at the youtube channels that specify learning a skill in one day where they set aside the whole day, just to learn the physical exercise.
     
  7. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Where I grew up, South Florida, one of the largest colleges had a very well regarded music program and many of those in that program were drummers/percussionists. I sat in on some classes with friends in the program. It was at UM.

    From my purely anecdotal experience, the drummers were just as versed in music theory with a vast understanding of harmony and tonality. They were typically really good at the basics of other instruments even though 99% of the time they were always on a drum of some sort.

    I guess what I'm saying is that anyone who takes music seriously will pick up on aspects such as theory. Those who don't are just as handicapped as someone who physically can't play.

    Not to mention the individual plays such as big part in this thought experiment.
     
  8. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I'm gonna take the opposite road and, despite being a guitarist/bassist first, say that I don't think the same kinds of theory are really applicable or useful to a drummer. I can understand the tendency to play up the value of theory for playing any instrument in general, but drums are a very physical and intuitive instrument. I'd rather play with the drummer who knows nothing about harmony but has put in hours of "just hitting things till they sound cool" than someone who can rattle off all the technical reasons a certain time signature is ideal, or who can contribute vocal harmony ideas, but can't keep the band in time.

    My :2c: is that the mechanical skill, muscle memory, and time keeping are 99% of what a drummer needs (outside of the social aspects of being in a band). The rest is gravy.
     
  9. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Drums require tuning to sound thier best in a given context. Knowledge of the relationship of pitches, theory, helps with that significantly.
     
  10. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I'm sure it does. I just mean that if I have to pick between someone who can tune their drums vs. someone who can play their drums, I'll take the guy who can play but needs help tuning his kit.

    Depending on what you're playing, you can arguably get away with an un-tuned kit in ways you can't get away with an untuned guitar.

    And I'd argue "tuning your drums" isn't music theory. It's just practical knowledge/maintenance of the instrument. In the same way that knowing how to use a guitar tuner doesn't mean you know any "music theory".
     
  11. Darkscience

    Darkscience SS.org Regular

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    My thoughts are that no way you would theoretically be a better drummer than someone who just learned on drums and no other instruments. I also think its a bit ridiculous to think this would be possible, and I also find it hard to believe that you have never met, (and/or heard of, know of, seen etc), a drummer who is 'academically' trained, just as you are.

    It could be I am misinterpreting what you are trying to say. In my mind we all start out just plucking, hitting, bowing etc, trying to recreate what we have heard before while we slowly progress and learn theory and mechanics? If I am wrong about that please let me know.
     
  12. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Why not? What does knowing the scales on a guitar contribute to drumming? Most of the musicians I know only play their one instrument. Even something that seems like it wouldn't be a stretch seems to be a challenge despite being pretty good at what they do (see any good guitarist who gets lost on a bass). I also know a handful of musicians who can play a bit of everything, but none of them particularly well. All of these things are not directly connected to eachother. Knowing music theory doesn't make you a better drummer :2c:. Maybe it makes you a better overall musician relative to what you could contribute without that theory, but that doesn't necessarily mean being a better drummer.

    And I say this as someone who plays some of everything. I'm not going to blow any minds with any individual instrument, but I can hold my own with just about anything that makes noise. There are plenty of drummers who are better than me who don't play other instruments and don't know any music theory.
     
  13. Darkscience

    Darkscience SS.org Regular

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    I have really bad grammar skills, but I feel like me and you are on the same page. My opinion is in line with yours.
     
  14. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Ah, my bad, I may have ready what you said backwards.
     
  15. jonajon91

    jonajon91 New Picture

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    I do know one person who started out playing trumpet at a high level and then took up the drums and he is the best drummer that I've ever met, it's part of the reason I started this thread.

    ---edit---

    This guy is also a percussionist all round, playing marimba ETC
     
  16. auxioluck

    auxioluck Metal Teddy Bear

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    Having played both and have been fortunate to work with some very talented musicians and drummers, this is really a much bigger question than it seems. I'm trying to think of a way to paraphrase, and about the best I can say is:

    Having the ability to hear and understand pitch and harmonics plays a very important part to how your set is laid out and sounds. Ear training from classical education, mixed with a little natural talent can do wonders for how a kit sounds, but doesn't necessarily mean a better drummer. On the flipside, you can be a very talented drummer with no natural pitch or musicality; you may not even be able to carry a tune or have the concept of harmony. It may make the intervals between toms be off, or they might be too dissonant, which could be difficult to listen to for some people. But that doesn't necessarily mean you're a worse drummer.

    I think this is partially why I think relationships in music are really important. At anytime in life, you will be in situations where you have to rely on other people at some point because they have a skill you don't. A good drummer with no pitch can eventually get someone to help them tune their drums to pitch, which could be a bandmate, friend, or a tech. And a musician who may struggle with rhythm might only be able to play in time if there's a drummer.

    That being said, having concepts of melody, composition, and structure will definitely help drummers with transitions, dynamics, and how best to compliment the music. So in that position, a drummer may have better success (but they also may not). The flipside is that having the natural ability/concept of time keeping and subdivison will help a musician stay in the pocket. And we all know that rhythm sections are essential, so a musician with that natural ability may have better success as well (but they also may not).

    Natural ability definitely comes into play as well, but a lot of times, it's the hard work that wins out over talent. And if I'm really generalizing, I would say a musician-turned-drummer will have more skills and concepts that can be transferred than the opposite. But again, it doesn't make them any more talented.

    P.S. This was an awesome question. I never really gave this much thought before.
     
  17. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    The better *drummer* is the one who just focuses on playing drums. The better *musician* is the one who is more well-rounded. Take your pick, based upon your needs.

    I think you are getting a lot of non-answers, because there is no universal answer. In general, "which is better: A or B?"-questions don't have direct answers. I could ask "Which is better, a hammer or a screwdriver?" over at the carpentry forum and it'd be the same level of nonsense in the answers.

    So, which would I prefer? Well, myself already having learned the instruments, but having started with piano and harmonica, then trombone and flute, then guitar, bass, and drums, then whatever other musical instruments fell in front of me that I can only say I "learned" since I suck slightly less at them than before I started - I think the overarching point of making music is to be a better musician, so it's not a bad idea, from that perspective, to learn drums after already having learned another instrument. If I was going to hire a mercenary-type guy (or gal) for a one-off gig on stage or in the studio, I would really only care about his (or her) skills on the specific instrument with which I need help. In forming a collaborative band-type project, I think I'd prefer the more-musician-oriented talent, as it would more likely bolster the overall success of the project, but again, it's generalizing a bunch of nuanced situations into a multiple choice question, which is not how real life works.

    So, if I can totally uproot and reword your question to: "Do you recommend learning drums first, then learning theory, or learning another instrument, then learning drums?" I would respond that I recommend learning another instrument first, since drums are more physically demanding, so it's easier to focus on the mechanics of it without having to worry about the basic music stuff. Piano, on the other hand, is a great instrument to start, because if you have a finger, you can probably make a musical tone on a piano right away. You can learn rhythm, melodies, chords, scales, etc, all on piano with relative ease (i.e. no weird hidden challenges).
     

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