Think about the best drummers. They lead the band. Their confidence and skill makes everyone else in the band sound better. That’s the job. Ever see a band with a bad drummer? It kills everything. An otherwise great band is crushed into a pulp of horrible mediocrity.
But a band with a great drummer! Everything glides along with apparent ease. The feel is grooving! The transitions between different sections of the song are seamless, and every fill is in the perfect place and delivered with the right touch and feel. A good drummer makes everyone in the band comfortable and gives the other musicians in the band a nice cushion over which to do their thing. Sometimes, part of the drummer’s job is to count the band off at the right tempo. It is always the drummer’s job to set up the transitions of the song with appropriate fills. My favorite analogy for this part of a drummer’s job is that he or she is like a tour guide.
Say you went to a foreign country and didn’t know how to get around or where to go. You might hire a tour guide to help you. The drummer is the band’s tour guide, leading the way so the other musicians can maneuver through the songs more easily. This is particularly important when there is a new band member who doesn’t know the material that well.
Much of the drummer’s role as described above translates to a sort of musical leadership.
In addition to the musical leadership role a drummer plays, many of the greatest drummers are also leaders in a more literal way. Many of them,greats from past and present– started and led their own bands.
Here’s a list of some of the drummers who led (or lead) their own bands:
-Philly Joe Jones
Do you see the correlation between great drummers and leadership?
Drummers of this level have something to say, and a true need to express themselves. In fact, I would argue that the need for expression drives them. The need might even be described as so intense that it is actually a compulsion; something that can not be controlled.
Pair this compulsion for expression with the fact that the art form of music requires a group of musicians to interact with and you might find that you have an interesting problem: what if you are not being asked to play in the kind of musical situations that allow you to express yourself in a way that satisfies you?
Perhaps the band that would satisfy your musical desires doesn’t even exist.
The solution is to become a leader.
Nothing can stop you from getting your art out into the world if you take it upon yourself to create a vehicle to do so.
If you’re finding that you are not able to play the things you hear in your head because you don’t have an appropriate musical situation in which to do so, the answer is simple. Create that musical situation yourself.
You’re already a drummer. Now, why not step it up and become a true leader?
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Awesome article. Thank you.
Geoff Gill says
Inspiring post. #slamdunk
Thank you Geoff and Eric. It means a lot to get your feedback. Much appreciated. MF
Bret Vanderhyden says
You absolutely MUST add Art Blakey to the list 😁
Mark Feldman says
yes, you’re right! Art Blakey was one of the great drummer band leaders. thank you for reminding me!