Better to be diverse or specialize?

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Which to you think is better, being a diverse drummer with the ability to play a wide variety of genres at a pretty-darn-good level or being super-duper at just one genre?
 

KJIB

Member
I am speaking here as a beginner; I found that styles of music I'd never normally listen to can be really good fun to learn to play (and it gives you something to broaden your repertoire). But perhaps more skilled and experienced musicians then need to specialise. It will be interesting to hear views on that.

Speaking from another angle; If I go to see a gig, I'd want the musicians to be pretty hot on the genre of music that I've gone to see.
 

adamosmianski

Senior Member
This is a great question that I don't think has a "right" answer. I think it all has to do with what kind of career you'd like to have and what kind of drummer you want to be.

Specializing is certainly admirable, especially if you specialize in a more obscure genre/style, so you are THE guy who gets the call for every Tibetan Nose Flute gig in your town. But it's also a sacrifice. You're missing the enjoyment, and potentially employment of a lot of other styles of music.

Being diverse is certainly safer, and more common, but you run the opposite risk. You could find yourself getting a call and think "yeah, I've listening to a few reggae records and played a few of those tunes, it should be fine", and then you get smoked.

So there you go, a nice long response to say, I don't know.
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
When I was first starting out - for years (talking like High School years) - I had a section of my practice blocked off where I would flip through radio stations and make myself play along to ANYTHING that I found....country, rap, indie rock, jazz...whatever: I would let fate decide haha.

I think that really forced me to be able to comfortable sit in with whatever music I needed to or was asked (paid) to.

I found my favorite genres that I think suited how I play and ran heavy with those...but if I really needed to sit in on something I don't normally play: I could and I think that's a strength for sure as I'm sure it would be to any player.

I do think though that once you get to the point of having a signature sound a feel that you start to find yourself in one genre more than others - I don't see someone like Ari Hoenig playing in a metal band, if that makes sense haha. (Vinnie C being the exception to all of this as usual though ;))
 
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adamosmianski

Senior Member
When I was first starting out - for years (talking like High School years) - I had a section of my practice blocked off where I was flip through radio stations and make myself play along to ANYTHING that I found....country, rap, indie rock, jazz...whatever: I would let fate decide haha.
This is a great idea.

I do think though that once you get to the point of having a signature sound a feel that you start to find yourself in one genre more than others
Very true
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Tough question. As a death metal drummer, I am pretty specialized. I get to play in a way that doesnt necessarily fit with other genres. I have learned technique that doesnt really fit anywhere else. And I have purposely taken this route from day 1.

The upside, there are maybe 5 metal drummers in my corner of the state. People know me, and if someone needs a metal drummer I'm on the list.

The downside, metal is not popular here. I have pigeonholed myself into a corner. No one wants to play country, jazz, blues, funk, whatever, with a death metal drummer.

Learn to play anything, then you can play everything with everyone.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Specializing in one thing or another may just result from who is available for you to play with-- what the good players in your city are doing, or what the players you know are doing. Follow the players.

And there aren't that many real genres, as far as drumming is concerned-- especially now-- a lot of things have gotten homogenized into the one pan studio funk bag. If you learn that one broad thing really well, and you can read, you can easily adapt to play with most people. The other main families of drumming-- Jazz, Brazilian, and Caribbean-- take a lot of time and commitment to do seriously, and-- if you're not planning on building your whole life around them, including moving to where people are playing that music, you may not have much outlet for it. If you're good at the other thing, it's not difficult to learn their major styles well enough to do some gigs-- you don't have to be a genius cha cha player to do some freelance gigs.

I guess you could say Metal is its own drumming family, but you're either doing that or you're not-- nobody freelances in Metal.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Depends on the genre, what you expect from it, and what you want to achieve as a drummer.

Let's look at jazz and reggae. You might excel at one and get critical acclaim, but not make much of a living. If recognition/achievement is the goal, that's fine. If making much of a living at it is the goal, that's going to be difficult.

Also look at where you live and what you're trying to play. In Nashville, are you going to take the studios by storm with your Country/Rock playing? probably not, the city is overflowing with working drummers and hopeful ones. Maybe you should play Jazz there instead so you stand apart from the crowd? Good luck with that!

Again, it depends what you want to do personally, and professionally. Sometimes they overlap, sometimes not.

Bermuda
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
Its a copout answer, but its really kinda both.

Being diverse, but maybe having ONE genre that you're super passionate about, is probably the best approach. That way, you have the skillset to sit in and get hired for all sorts of gigs, but then you have your passion band or project that's for you, where you really show off your skills and talent.

However, also like Todd said, most styles of music (aside from Jazz, heavier forms of Metal, Latin, African, etc.) uses the same general skill sets. You get good at rock, you can play funk, pop, country, RnB, hip-hop....the list goes on. Its almost easier to be diverse if you play in that pool by default, you have to go out of your way to just be able to "only play country" for example.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
It's better to know more styles than less.

That said, most people are suited for a general range of music. Most aren't suited for it all.

I focus on what trips my trap. There's too much good stuff for me to enjoy...that I can actually pull off, rather than forcing myself to do stuff I don't care for. Like metal. I wouldn't practice metal stuff because I don't want to play it or work that hard. Playing what's interesting to me is my approach.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
nobody freelances in Metal.
It's more of a rotation. You can find metal drummers all over each others material. Look at Tony Laureano, Derek Roddy, Gene Hoglan, John Longstreth. All have been in numerous bands, some overlapping, because they are specialized. There are no studio metal drummers, so you seek out drummers from other bands.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Learn how to play all the music you can play, especially if you’re planning on this to be the way you earn a living. Because I could read, throughout high school and into college I got calls to play for stage shows, something I didn’t really give a thought to when I was in my pre-teens. Playing in church is kinda like that too. I think the more stuff you expose yourself to and are aware of, can only be positive. Instead of being on one persons list of drummers to call, you’re on everybody’s list to call.

needless to say though, I’m in CA, so I’m not on anybody’s list anyway. But it is something to strive for.
 

MntnMan62

Junior Member
Both. I think it's important to be able to play lots of different styles of music and do them reasonably well. But you should have one or two things you do that very few people can do and that you can do exceptionally well that makes you unique. That way when you find other musicians who are a good match for your specialty(s), it will just click and that could lead to some really great and fun music making.
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
Diverse. I would never want to be just a one trick pony. Or Charlie Watts for life. Right now I'm learning about near death experience metal and it's potential use in the psychiatric world as a treatment for anxiety. The fascinating thing with metal music is that there are so many varieties. Most are fast but there are slow genres too like lullaby metal. I hear too that the Fred Astaire dance studios have come up with many of their own, like Fox Trot metal, Mashed Potato metal and for the rural crowd, 2 step metal. As soon as I'm done with death experience metal, I'm going to look into cruise ship metal, BBQ metal and eventually I'll get into the more comedic vein with 3 Stooges metal and maybe even some illusion based escape artist metal. It will certainly be an interesting journey rather than remaining on one path to boredom. (I forgot to mention stationary metal)
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I was at a Big Beat event (where dozens or hundreds of drummer bring their kit and everyone plays the money beat together to raise money for school music programs) and the drum clinic was hosted by Jim Riley (UNT grad, Rascal Flatts).

Before the clinic, In the crowd of kits & drummers, there was a teenager playing speed metal very well. Jim calls out this kid, compliments him and asks him to play something. He does. A fast tempo double bass flurry of metal licks. Then Jim asks him to play a samba, and gives him an example. The kid couldn’t do it. Jim asks him to play the 5/4 beat from Take Five. The kid couldn’t do it.

Jim thanked him and said that he was very talented in one niche, and that if he wanted to make a living at it he’d need to be able to play a much wider variety of material.

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MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Before the clinic, In the crowd of kits & drummers, there was a teenager playing speed metal very well. Jim calls out this kid, compliments him and asks him to play something. He does. A fast tempo double bass flurry of metal licks. Then Jim asks him to play a samba, and gives him an example. The kid couldn’t do it. Jim asks him to play the 5/4 beat from Take Five. The kid couldn’t do it.
That wasnt very cool of Jim. Why possibly discourage the kid? Can Jim play speed metal?

Dont people realize someone has to play metal drums? We dont just exist for johnwesley to ignorantly make assholish fun out of.
 
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