Are power and volume the same thing?

EricT43

Senior Member
My mind was whirling around a bit today, and I started wondering if playing with power means the same thing as playing loudly. If you play loudly, is that playing with power? And can you play at a moderate volume with power?

I've come across lots of drummers that I would say are loud drummers, but I wouldn't call them all powerful drummers. The ones I think of as "loud" are obnoxious to listen to. You probably know several of those yourself. Their cymbals hurt your ears and you feel their rimshots in your teeth. The ones I think of as powerful are fun to listen to - guys like Billy Cobham, John Bonham, and Chad Smith. I saw Carmine Appice at clinic when I was just starting to play in the 80's, and he was loud as hell, but it sounded really damn good.

Your thoughts? Is there a difference?
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Indeed playing with authority, with musical intensity doesn't always have to mean at your highest dynamic level.
I was watching a concert on YouTube today of Sonny Payne playing with the Count Basie band.
From a whisper to blow you out of your chair the intensity was always there.

Steve Smith is another one who plays this way, every note has conviction no matter the volume he plays at.
 
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Bozozoid

Platinum Member
Indeed, playing with authority, with musical intensity doesn't always have to mean at your highest dynamic level.
I was watching a concert on YouTube today of Sonny Payne playing with the Count Basie band. From a whisper to blow you out of your chair the intensity was always there.

Steve Smith is another one who plays this way, every note has conviction no matter the volume he plays at.
In a DVD I have with Larrie Londin he described Sonny Payne the same way.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
Everyone uses volume in their own way. For sure some have poor dynamics because they aren't there yet. Meaning they play too hard on everything. Or not loud enough, a wimpy backbeat for example. Or an anemic bass drum with no real intention. Volume control and time...job 2 and 1.

For me it's all about velocity not brute strength for volume. To be as efficient with my "power expended vs decibels produced" ratio as I can. I can hit a drum I'd say about 90% as loud....with bare minimal arm movement and relying on hands and wrists alone...than a full above the head Moeller stroke. That 90% volume is about 40% more than what I actually use in my world. I don't need to work on having more volume. I am more concerned with exercising my dynamic range.

Plus I don't want my arms flailing around if they don't have to. A drum can only create so much volume. And before that there's diminishing returns. IMO there is definitely such a thing as hitting too hard. I think hitting hard is revered by many. Less experienced drummers mainly, JMO. I went through the phase too. But really it's the dynamics (and meter) that are revered...meaning appropriate volume control...and having a developed sense for when to push the volume, when to pull it back (powerful), when to not draw attention, when to kick the band in the pants, when to [fill in the blank]

Not only that but I'd venture to say that the other musicians would prefer really great dynamics over fills everyday from their drummer
 

rhumbagirl

Senior Member
Gergo Borlai is who I think of with the word power. Saw him at Martyr's at the 2019 Drum Fantasy Camp.

Vinnie Colaiuta also.

Power to me is a wide dynamic range. And of course knowing when to use it.
 

boomstick

Silver Member
For sure some have poor dynamics because they aren't there yet. Meaning they play too hard on everything. Or not loud enough, a wimpy backbeat for example. Or an anemic bass drum with no real intention. Volume control and time...job 2 and 1.

Not only that but I'd venture to say that the other musicians would prefer really great dynamics over fills everyday from their drummer
I'm adding this to my list of "stuff I wish I learned at the beginning that took me way too long to figure out."
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
Mention of the great Larrie Londin earlier, he's quoted as saying: “A lot of times, people think power means bashing on the drums. I think of my power as trying to be solid. Trying to be definite about what I’m playing. If I’m sure about what I’m playing — even if it’s a mistake — the band is gonna be going with me.”
 

sumdrumguy

Senior Member
Definitely a difference between loud and power. Any strategically shaved monkey can hit a drum and make a loud noise.

The two words that came to mind reading the OP have been mentioned. Playing with authority and purpose. Both can be done at any dymamic level (y)
 

Otto

Platinum Member
Its like water and fluidity.

Usually...but when considering all possible states of water, fluidity becomes one possible, though common, state...so too "high" sound velocity can connotate "power" but not define its totality.

Try the first Oxford Definition of Power:
1. the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality.

...in this view, power IS...

...as long as what it modifies is doing something or acting in a particular way.

I think we over associate Loud and Power because we are overloaded in life. Impose quiet and 'Subtle and Power' become as apparent partners.

Whats the saying...something like "When everyone is shouting and you want to be heard, whisper"

The very foundation of the concept of dynamics.
 
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Cmdr. Ross

Silver Member
Two drummers come right to mind on this:
Neil Peart & Pat Torpey (of Robert Plant & Mr. Big).

Neil was very accurate and made purposeful hits & fills. His drum tech talked often on this point. So I'd put him in the "Power" category.

Pat was in a different genre than Neil, but seeing him live showed me he knew the part & how to hit with conviction. Solid pocket & drove the band like no other I'd seen before.

When I think of loud, Kenny Aronoff comes right to mind. He's schooled more than most guys I know, but man...he hits hard. A live clinic with him will leave your ears ringing!

Great comments about some of the older guys as well. Very informative.
 

GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
Depends on heads you have to give a 2ply head a good whack to activate it but you still control your volume- to me controlling your volume to occasion or other instrument is a sign of a mature drummer. I’ve seen that with church drummers that sounded fine but had just one volume. Playing with authority means you know what you are going to play and play it exactly so-where if you are noodling along with something not that familiar it’s not with confidence generally since your not sure what your gonna play. . The velocity and distance the stick travels and the material the objects are made.
 
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