Being a specialist in one genre vs. Being able to play in all genres


Silver Member
I am very much a 'One-Trick-Pony' & have done very well from it.
The older I get though, I am realising that I need to branch out if I am to continue playing when I am too old for my 'One-Trick' :oops:


Silver Member
All the best drummers I know are fluent in multiple genres. And despite the differences, being good at jazz and funk is going to help you to be better at metal, and vice-versa. The exercises and music you'll play will train your body into doing things differently that you wouldn't otherwise have done.

Drummers who can only play one style are boring. Please note that this doesn't say drummers who "only play"


Diamond Member
I think the broader your horizons the better off you'll be. Knowing more can't be a handicap like knowing less. Sometimes being a specialist you can't see the forest for the trees. Seems if you limit yourself you'll limit your possibilities as well.


New Member
I feel it's best to specialize in the style(s) you enjoy the most in the long run, but it's still very beneficial to go outside your comfort zone and play as many styles as you can, either for just a certain time, or at least enough to be able to play these other styles convincingly enough on the fly if needed. At the moment I only play metal with my band, but for several years I played in different cover bands on the side, and also studied music where I had to learn a bunch of different rythms and styles. I guess I'm mainly into rock based music, at the most I will do blues. Don't have any experience with jazz, but other than that, I feel this mindset has helped me a lot in becoming who I am today. Compared to other drummers I know in my area that has only played metal since they started out, I feel they are very limited in their playing because of just that. Not to tout my own horn too much here, but this is at least one of the reasons I have told them as well, when I have been asked my "secret" to becoming a better than average drummer. Have an open mind, incorporate different styles when you can.
I agree with you

Jonathan Curtis

Silver Member
There are two answers here really, one based on career drummers, and the one for artist drummers.

When I was working predominantly as a freelancer, like many others have said, I had to be fluent in as many things as necessary to keep working. Regular pop functions, jazz work, the odd orchestra or theatre show; I had to do it all simply to make a living.

These days I have lost interest in that, and instead I have specialised in the snare drum as a solo instrument. I am slowly building a new career around that, with publishing, composing, teaching, and performing within this niche. I will likely not work as a freelance kit player in the same capacity as before, but I am happier artistically, at least for now. Who knows, in the future.

Personally, I prefer that master of one approach to a jack of all trades, master of none, but often professional considerations trump that.


Silver Member
Probably already said, but the idea of genre in music is overblown. Just be a good drummer, and apply that technique to whatever style you're playing. Sure, we may have our favorites, and we may actually be better at one over the other, but just being a good overall drummer, rather than mentally pigeon-holing yourself into a narrow genre definition, is just as easy and overall better.


Lika Zappa said: "I play music".

We can move up or down the abstraction ladder ad infinitum. So you want to specialize in jazz? Would that be afro-cuban jazz, fusion, smooth jazz, free jazz, electric jazz...? Focus on a particular decade. And after that, only play with brushes? And then only a particular kind of brushes on a particular kind of kit.

Or the opposite. Be able to play all genres. But be able to play different kind of kit setups. Then different kinds of percussion. Then different kinds of instruments. Then different kinds of instruments in various genres. And so on.

Play what you like, and practice things you do not yet know.


Diamond Member
my "home base" playing areas are" rock, metal, funk, jazz and marching percussion;

my secondary playing areas are: country, orchestral, tympani

I am working on, but not ready to play in public: Latin, mallet percussion

I look at it this way: the home base styles above are the ones that I have studied the longest, and by studying, I don't just mean learning to play the beats, but also knowing the evolution of the genres; knowing how the beats within the genres have changed over time; knowing how to adapt the beats to different situations pretty quickly etc; knowing the famous, and cornerstone drummers in the genres and why they are considered to be in that position

secondary level is just being able to play the beats, and apply the technique, but these are not styles/applications that I "live in" consistently; I do know a lot of the history of orchestral and tympani though

the 3rd level is stuff that I have just recently started working on, or that I am re-touching again (mallets)

I definitely consider myself a professional drummer, and am deeply immersed in the pedagogy of percussion, as well as it's history


For more than 40 years I've been in working bands over the years doing...
- Rock / Pop (originals and covers)
- Country (Top 40 and traditional country/western swing)
- Jazz - From small groups playing straight ahead & standards, Fusion, 17 piece Big Band
- Sessions playing various blended styles of original material
- Theater Pit
- German Octoberfest Music (not much, but have)

I know I weigh most favorably towards jazz, but to say I only do one thing would be grossly inaccurate.

Playing multiple styles & being able to read has afforded me MANY paying opportunities. Also, I would be VERY bored only doing one thing.


Diamond Member
At a “Big Beat” event years ago, the MC was Jim Riley. Among his duties was to give a clinic. He walked around the room watching and commenting on peoples’ playing and answered questions. At one point he stopped all the drumming and called out on a few guys to share their playing, all who were very good. One young fellow had killer speed metal beats and fills. Everyone was wowed by him. After his brief performance, Jim complimented him and asked if he knew any other styles such as a samba or bossa nova. The player did okay, but it was obvious Latin grooves were not in his wheelhouse.

Jim told the crowd that if you wanna play a lot, know a lot of styles ‘cuz it’ll open doors for you.


Silver Member
I have no interest in playing "all styles" or genres because I don't like playing or even listening to all styles and genres.
I'm not sure about the actor analogy because being typecast as an actor is almost always a bad thing. But this is unique to acting. The greatest musicians, poets, composers, painters, sculptors, dancers, in history are renowned for their specific form of expression and immediately recognizable style.

What's known as typecast in acting is called expertise in other art forms. That's why "that's a Picasso" means something entirely different than "that's a Seagal".

It's also one thing to play different styles and another thing to incorporate different styles into your own. You can certainly specialize in one genre and incorporate many styles of playing into your style.
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Platinum Member
That's why "that's a Picasso" is more commonly heard than "that's a Seagal".
Yet Seagal only knows how to play one character lol. Him, Caruso, and Reeves: one character, tons of rolls.


Platinum Member
Everyone "specializes" in what they've listened to or studied the most. It's impossible not to. That's the majority of your brain's memories and creative synapse-ways and there's nothing you can do about it.

What that makes me think, is that any time I can get away from my standard thought paths and try something new or do something a different way, it'll benefit my overall foundation. The more foreign, uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone a concept is the more good it'll have to said foundations.

Do it. If you're only a metal or rock drummer; learn and love some jazz. Find some country you can groove out on. Sort through some EDM until you get inspired. Get weird and do it often. Don't just mechanically study this stuff either... Get into it. Every genre is so much wider than people know.

Lefty Phillips

Well-known Member
I'm following the same "strategy" with drums that I followed with guitar decades ago.

Gonna find my own sound, without regard to genre or style, and go from there.


Senior Member
Young players often feel that the music that turned them on as a teenager, will continue to turn them on forever. This is true for some lucky souls
Clue me in right there, to my parents and most of my non-metal friends wonder... Thrash Metal still rules my world, and I'm soon to be 40. My bandmates are 50....

I have no interest in playing jazz though, it's just way too foreign for me (though I have tried out some fusion in my younger years) but most other styles I have at least dipped my toes in.
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Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I stopped paying for youtube and was told immediately that my super power was jazz.

It's good to learn the other stuff as it may inspire your main thing.

Being competent in a style doesn't mean being the greatest, it just means being able to do a good job and unless you are in a very unique situation and want to work it's generally best to have an open mind, and who knows, you may meet and get to know other people in those situations that you can do your main thing with.

For the pro drummer that just wants to work, I guess you can have some standards and Jojo's' 2 of 3 doctrine comes to mind.

1) Good music.
2) Good money.
3) Good people.

If you get all three, consider yourself lucky.

To make a living today you may have to use your entire skillset and even pick up some new ideas to utilize those in more current and relevant ways.

If it's just your hobby and you don't want to do anything else, who cares? Still probably healthy to get out and "see the world" once in a while, though.
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Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
I always wanted to be in a band. The drummers I idolized growing up such as Bonham, Peart and Copeland all were in bands. The idea of a "studio musician" was totally foreign to me.

Also, I don't think that there are any drummers who can play every style. Show me the guy who has great brush technique that can also lay down double bass at 230 BPM, march in a drum corps and solo over a left foor clave.

Specialists are where it's at for me. I want to hear El Negro playing latin jazz and Mike Mangini playing in 13/8.