Why do drummers have, or at least taught to have, a subservient attitude?

back2drumming

Junior Member
"Listen to criticism from others in the band."

(Can you imagine if we criticized guitarists and vocalists instead? They'd lose their minds.)

"Don't 'overplay'."

(But it's fine if guitarists and vocalists embellish a bit).

"Be humble. Be on time. Be dependable."

(Yeah good traits to have but they're more of a given that anyone in any field should have. The constant emphasis on them in the drumming world adds to that subservient atmosphere).

Is it because the outlook for drumming is so bleak because of technology - we're increasingly becoming the factory workers of yesterday - that drummers are just happy to be playing with anyone at all?

Something seems off with how we drummers give advice to each other. We need to hold our heads up higher. I've had it rammed down my throat for years that we need to listen to feedback from other people in the band. That's fine but it's often a one-way street, with guitarists and the like treating us like we are their employees whose opinions are unwanted.
 

steadypocket

Gold Member
Where I live, drummers are a dime a dozen. It's so hard to find a good band. When you do, I think you're prone to be willing to put up with more grief, knowing that if you leave, there are tons of guys lined up just waiting to take your seat. I go out of my way to fit in these days.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Drummers have in the past, not been considered "real" musicians and that impression is partly our fault. Think Animal on the Muppet show or any long haired wild acting individual with a pair of sticks in their hand. It's the impression that's given and that stigma has cursed the drumming world much the same as the "drum battles" that date back to the early 20th century. Hell... it's still perpetuated to this day with contests like the WFD.

We wanna be taken as serious musicians who happen to play drums? Stop performing like a circus act.
Start contributing musically to the point where it just wouldn't work without your drumming.

As far as the sage advice of being on time, dependable etc... I think it's great to have that work ethic.
It shows we want to elevate this craft to a position where it gains respect from our peers.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I've never sensed anything subservient about my role as a musician that plays drums. I have a profound understanding of my primary job in the context of making music, which entails approaching the band dynamic as a team-player, and at the minimum, as an equal. That's been the case in every situation in my 40+ years of playing with others.

Bermuda
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Somebody has to be the mature one. First of all, you can't compare drummers to almost any other instrument, drums are fairly unique, and as a result, are misunderstood. People think it's easy to play drums well, like what's the holdup? You just hit things. How do you try and reverse that? I don't even try. Their stock just went down in my eyes. But whatever, musicians are full of ego and pride. It's something everyone deals with.

For me, I'm not going to crow all the time that drummers are expected to do a bunch of stuff that no one else is required to do, that goes with the territory, because a drummers job description is ALL about support. That's what the instrument does most of the time. Like I said, someone has to be the mature one. Some of the best advice I ever got from WhoIs?: Shut up and play. Bitch here about your stuff, before you unleash it on your band is my suggestion.

As far as the subservient thing, I freely and happily admit that yes I do play that role in the band I'm in right now. Why? Believe me when I tell you that things just work better that way. I'm not saying this as a blanket statement, I'm only referring to my situation. But I think many share the same type of situation.

I understand that drummers can and do feel less than when they have to play that role. IMO, that's nothing but ego and pride, my 2 biggest foes. If I'm being honest, 95% of the people I encounter are still very much answering to these two counter-productive masters. Like I said, someone has to be the mature one. Besides, in my situation, it's not my band. I am a sideman.

I look at it like I'm a parent sometimes. Parents sacrifice. They don't let their precious prideful ego stop them from giving to their children (hopefully). When you're a parent, you're more concerned with your kids having a good time than you are, generally speaking. I comfort myself with that knowledge.

I don't care if anyone recognizes what I contribute, and what I don't like to absorb, but do. I know where I sacrifice, and that's good enough for me. I feel I'm taking the high road, which has always served me well in the past.

It's true that not many musicians prefer uppity drummers. It ties in with your reputation, which is directly proportional to the amount you're hired or sought out. See to a big percentage of musicians, drummers are a necessary evil. These are the types of people who talk down to drummers. When a musician is nothing short of great, I give them a lot of latitude, even in how they deal with me. But they have to be great or I probably wouldn't want to play for them if I got talked down to. I don't get talked down to in my band, it's just the instrument I play is not really that well understood by the masses. Whatever, their problem, not mine.

It's a very real situation that I try not to complicate with my pride and ego. I just let it roll right off my back. I'm a better person for it IMO. Without drums, no one dances, not nearly as many drinks are sold. That's what I keep inside as my fuel.
 
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Roostar

Member
I have been very fortunate to play in bands which have all been part of a group of mates we are all connected by friendship first and our friendships were based on music. So we have a mutal understanding to begin with. I also contribute to writing of songs outside of just the drum part, lyrics ideas of how parts should go, and i am very open to listening to ideas the others have for if drum parts need changed a bit or adapted or a part isnt working. I do understand your point. I think it depends on the individuals.
Also its easier to write a new drum part for a song if you change drummers, if you change vocalist and they wrote all the lyrics they are less likely to let you keep them, same for guitar parts. Also the new member is likely.to want to put their words/ riffs in. The drums on the other hand can be changed without necessarily changing the song as much.
As i say ive been fortunate with who i play with and hopefully that continues, we all want to improve everything about our songs and if one of us has an idea we want to try it to make things as good as they can be regardless of if its the singer, guitarist, bassist or even a mate that came in just for a jam with us.
Until we have a producer we all act as a producer because we have the same end goal- our music to be the best it can be.
Like i say thats my situation, i can imagine going into a band with one or two dominant creative forces that would expect those who do not create the main melody/ riff that carries the song to support what they want as in their eyes it is 'their' song and they know how they want it to sound .
Hope that makes sense?
 

Thunder 42

Silver Member
I guess this is the case with some bands, cooperate and graduate. I've not experienced it, and have been fortunate to play with talented bands since coming back to drumming. For me, personal preparation and hanging with a good group of fellow-musicians has resulted in being treated as a musician. It's been said here already, but being excellent (or striving for it - prep, dependability, timeliness, hearing and listening, etc...) has made for a great experience these last 5+ years.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I agree, subservient to a point, yes, but highly appreciated when the role is carried out professionally and dutifully.
 
G

Ghostnote

Guest
I quit my last band partially because of this. The other guys would dictate all the songs we would play. The singer's wife actually had more say over what songs we covered than I did and we would never play any of the songs I wanted to. No one ever came out and said it to my face, but there was this "just shut up and play what we say we're going to play" sort of vibe, so I walked out in a "why don't you guys just get a drum machine" sort of way.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I quit my last band partially because of this. The other guys would dictate all the songs we would play. The singer's wife actually had more say over what songs we covered than I did and we would never play any of the songs I wanted to. No one ever came out and said it to my face, but there was this "just shut up and play what we say we're going to play" sort of vibe, so I walked out in a "why don't you guys just get a drum machine" sort of way.
In my band, we do a thing called Round Robin where each band mate gets to choose a song to play. A lot of time though, we are rehearsing for a show, so we play the set list.
 

drumngun

Member
Perhaps your cape is not big enough? Seriously though I have not experienced that at all. I think good players know a good player when they hear one, and most know that a group without a good drummer will not get far. There plenty of examples in modern music history, start with the Beatles, green day would not have made it with their original drummers when they got trey everything changed, same with blink 182 and Travis, etc., but what do I know I'm just a...
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Something seems off with how we drummers give advice to each other. We need to hold our heads up higher. I've had it rammed down my throat for years that we need to listen to feedback from other people in the band. That's fine but it's often a one-way street, with guitarists and the like treating us like we are their employees whose opinions are unwanted.

I think the humility may be necessary. We play an instrument that sounds amazing when played right, but can sound revolting when played short of perfect. It's really difficult to hide our shortcomings.

In perspective, half of my skill as a guitarist is my ability to hide my flaws and deficiencies.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I think the humility may be necessary. We play an instrument that sounds amazing when played right, but can sound revolting when played short of perfect. It's really difficult to hide our shortcomings.

In perspective, half of my skill as a guitarist is my ability to hide my flaws and deficiencies.
This is an interesting observation. There is a lot of truth to this.


.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
The drummers role is to support the music and drive the band.
Not to play the melodies, not sing the lyrics, not to plays the harmonies. Thus the drum parts become subservient to the song writing.

There are 101 songs that sound very different but have the same drum part.

The riise of the studio drummer in the 60's cemented it. There were many singer/bands/songwriters that had good ideas or at least talent to make memorable songs, but they didn't have a good drummer, or perhaps any drummer. So the concept of the studio drummer was born, who came in and did was they told, and made money doing it.

And that set up the model for largely came afterward.

And look at the drummers who became successful song writers:
Phil Collins thought nothing if having a drum machine play through much of his break through hit even though he had the chops to do anything he wanted.

Don Henley had a drum machine on his mega hit song.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I guess I've never done what I was told or taught, then.

Drums were actually my fourth or fifth instrument, and so I come to my bands with actual grounding in music theory. I'm a student of many musical art forms. I've been in probably close to thirty different bands in many different locales, in many different genres, and in half a dozen professional theater productions as well. I have leadership experience in the public and private sectors, so I can take charge of bits of the band business or the whole thing if you prefer. I know how to record, run DAWs, mike up instruments, write sheet music, write lyrics, and do graphic art and design for the album, posters, websites, social media, etc.

If you are "just a drummer", then it's you who are teaching yourself to be subservient, in my experience.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Not subservient at all. Every instrument has a roll to play in making music and what we do is usually the foundation of the whole sound. What we do is the most important part of the overall sound or feel of the piece cos If we dont set the right tempo, or groove, the song is knackered from the start.

The soloist or vocalist can get it wrong but the song will still hang together, If we get it wrong the thing just falls apart. My experience has always been that we all have a job to do and if any one of the instruments is obviously out of kilter with the song then the one responsible needs to come up with a new part that will fit.

If you are not aware that what you play for a song is out of step with the mood or feel then you need to find another instrument, especially if you still cant see it if its pointed out.

My stance, If I know what I am playing is right but someone who knows nowt about drumming asks me to change it is "You are the guitarist, you play the guitar, I am the drummer I play the drums"

So...not at all, you drive the song, the rest of the band is subservient to you. Unless, of course, its a singer songwriter who writes a folk ballad but demands death metal drumming played over it, then its out of your hands.
 
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whiteknightx

Silver Member
I've always thought of the drummer in the band being like a goaltender in other sports. If he's doing a good job, most of the time people don't even notice what you are doing, and that's pretty much a good thing. If you screw it up, everyone knows right away. lol.

Drums and bass aren't really lead instruments so if you want to be a focal point, these probably aren't the instruments to choose. Everyone has a role to fill in a band.

I have a friend who plays bass, who I think wants to be a lead player. If guitars go into a solo, he does too. Everyone around here hates playing with him, and he just doesn't get it. There's no groove, and songs get washy in the middle.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
The 'tude is annoying though. The problem is cultural in many respects, some cultures percussion was a something from the field of battle that needs to take commands and obey, other cultures the percussionists were the main part of the show the conductor the arranger, the batucada leader, the vocalist etc. many cultures the percussionists have extended free time solos to start the pieces, and throughout.
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Any member of a band has to be subservient to the music they play.
Every instrument has its job in an arrangement. This job may feel
a little more or less subservient, but I don't think one should take
this "personally". It's not that we as drummers have to be that way.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
I've never sensed anything subservient about my role as a musician that plays drums. I have a profound understanding of my primary job in the context of making music, which entails approaching the band dynamic as a team-player, and at the minimum, as an equal. That's been the case in every situation in my 40+ years of playing with others.

Bermuda
Yet again, that thing Bermuda said x2 (with a few less miles on the clock).
 
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