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Not only is drumming an amazing form of self-expression, drummers have a unique responsibility to hold the music together. Drummers lay down the beat that drives the music forwards, allowing listeners to truly feel and move to the music.
Whilst drummers share a fundamental role in almost every musical group, each drummer has a unique flair and spark of madness that means no two drummers are the same.
There are so many different factors that determine a drummer’s individual sound, and you might be wondering how to explore these to help shape your musical identity.▼ Article continues below ▼
Here are my top tips to helping you develop and forge your own distinctive sound behind the drum set.
There is a never-ending wealth of music available online in today’s modern world. The advent of digital has made it easier than ever for artists to write, record and distribute music. Just to put things into perspective: 40,000 songs are uploaded each day onto Spotify!
Most of my musical maturity has been developed simply from spending time playing along to different styles of music; and figuring out what works best behind the drums. Enjoying practicing and playing along to new music will begin to shape your own musical tastes and subsequently your playing style will be a reflection of that.
There are gems in every genre, so don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and to push yourself creatively. You might be surprised to learn that genres that seem worlds apart have more in common than you think. For example, you will find that elements of modern metal such as rhythmic syncopation are deeply rooted in jazz and swing.
There is no other instrument quite like the drums, especially with regards to the way in which they are played. Drumming is a physically demanding activity and there are a wide range of dynamic motions involving each limb being utilized both independently and in synchronization.
Do not underestimate that drumming is largely muscle memory! If you can familiarize yourself with challenging sticking patterns, rhythms and fills you will recall and process this information with little effort.
By pushing yourself to learn and practice new grooves and patterns you can continually expand your musical repertoire. Learning a musical instrument is a never-ending journey of growth, and for it to be fulfilling you will want to try new things that may feel uncomfortable at first. But through experimentation, practice and repetition you will become both highly skilled and versatile as a musician.
There is a principle dictating that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to master any particular discipline. If this applies to a particular area of drumming, I would most definitely attribute it to time keeping.
Whether as a drummer you are drawn to legendary groove masters such as Steve Gadd, or impressive chops players such as Eric Moore: it’s important to instill a strong sense of timekeeping to be able to support other musicians; this is the fundamental role of the drummer.
Because there is such a variation with how drummers play (due to the physically demanding nature of the activity), each drummer has an individual sense of timekeeping and rhythm. And the ability to play a consistent, steady beat is arguably the most simple but sought-after skill.
Whatever route you decide to take your playing, even the most creative drummers need to have an integral, unwavering understanding of rhythm that defines your internal metronome.
There are virtually endless possibilities for drum kits and choosing a unique setup. There are so many varieties of drums and cymbals, and also infinite ways to set up your drums in order to suit your playing style.
Cymbals have a huge impact in defining a drummer’s unique sound. Because they cannot be tuned or altered, no two cymbals sound the same. Even two cymbals of the exact same model will have different sound properties because of their extensive (and expensive) hand-manufacturing process.
Along with innovative new lines of drum sets and cymbals; electronic drums can provide drummers with the tools to push musical boundaries. Because of this, modern hybrid drum sets are becoming immensely popular within the drumming community.
Hybrid drum sets incorporate acoustic drums with electronic elements such as drum triggers and modules enabling a drummer to explore limitless sound opportunities. Drum triggers mean that any sound sample can be blended with acoustic drums to open up new creative realms for drummers of all styles.
When finding the perfect drumming equipment for your musical pursuits, it’s important to use your own ears to determine what sounds good to you. Listen to clips online, or better still, go into a music shop and try stuff out to see what you resonate with, and what will help forge your own identity behind the kit.
Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 14 years experience. Since completing a Music Degree at the University of Westminster, Gideon has been touring with metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his advice at Drum Helper, a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.