Better to be diverse or specialize?

jansara

Junior Member
There was a time when diversity meant work. I came up when gigs were a dime a dozen, six days a week/52 weeks, full-time weekends, part-time, whatever you wanted. I traveled throughout Canada and the US. Those days are long gone. I don't play anymore except for gigs that appeal to me.

Over a period of 25 years I played virtually all styles, except Metal; Pop, Rock, R&B, Soul, Blues, Latin, Big Band, Jazz, Jazz-Rock, Country and a few unclassified feels. The end of the steady gig scene didn't leave me feeling like I hadn't had enough. The guys who got the work were those who could cut different bags, and cut them credibly.

It's a different scene today.
 

single-ply

Senior Member
Not sure this answers you question exactly, but I often don't know who might call me for my next gig. In the past few years I've played in several local big bands, play in an 9 piece B&B group, a Benny Goodman small group tribute group, a Brazilian Bossa / Samba group, occasional orchestra gigs playing as an extra, and various church gigs.

In the big bands in particular, I'm often subbing for someone on a gig or rehearsal, so I must be an excellent reader, or they won't call me back. With the other groups, there are certainly other drummers in town that can do those specific types of music better than me, but I study voraciously so I can do various gigs and not get tripped up getting asked to do things I'm not prepared for. All part of being a professional (albeit a part time professional).

If I get a call that pays well and the contractor says, BTW, every tune that's played on this gig will be a 'Carpenters' cover, I will do my best to learn those Carpenters songs to the best of my ability. Professionals often get called to play music that may not be their first choice, but the mark of a true professional is to do whatever is asked to the absolute best that you can do it.

Who knows what's coming your way. Just be ready for it.
 

Vintage Old School

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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That wasnt very cool of Jim. Why possibly discourage the kid?
I think it comes down to Jim's intent as an instructor and a coach. I don't think it was to embarrass or discourage the young man. I would take any compliment from Jim Riley as a serious compliment any day. It was likely an educational moment for this young man--and others present--to consider broadening their scope in order to add longevity to their careers as working/session/touring drummers. It would be interesting to read this kid's interview 20 years from now in Modern Drummer Magazine and he mentions this as defining moment in his career.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I think scope of diversity is relevant here, as well as the feel that really lives inside you.

It's all well & good having the facility to play a very wide range of material well, & that's effectively the USP of session players who really bring in a lot of regular work, but most of us lesser mortals will deliver to a higher standard playing stuff that moves your soul.

As for scope of diversity, it's easier to conceive a more middle ground for many players, yet still cover a lot of ground. Although different, I regard most pop, rock, & funk as requiring not too dissimilar skill sets, but convincingly delivering jazz at one end of the spectrum, & some extreme metal forms at the other end, is a scope too big for the vast majority of us.
I agree thoroughly, Andy. Country, rock, funk, and so on, though they depart from one another in obvious ways, are backbeat-driven styles that have much in common from a percussive perspective. Jazz and metal, on the other hand, have unique dimensions -- the first because of its less restrained structure and distinctive riffs, the second because of its intense physical demands, many of which can be traced to double-bass patterns and what not. I'd be perfectly comfortable taking on just about any country, rock, or funk project, but I wouldn't even pursue jazz or metal opportunities. Those genres are beyond the scope of my expertise, and I like to do what I do best.
 

moodman

Well-known member
Maybe one starts diversely and the specialty finds them.
Maybe at some point, you just learn how to make music work.
I've practiced tons of fusion and funk, got hip to NOLA and second line, played with good bluegrass players, done classic and country cover bands, etc, it ALL makes me play good blues or create parts on originals.
 

BruceW

Senior Member
I think its always good to branch out into different genres and styles, it can only versatility to whatever you're playing. Of course, if you're looking to be at the highest levels professionally, you would undoubtedly need to specialize. I still think that learning other styles when possible would be helpful, even in that case...
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I think it comes down to Jim's intent as an instructor and a coach. I don't think it was to embarrass or discourage the young man. I would take any compliment from Jim Riley as a serious compliment any day. It was likely an educational moment for this young man--and others present--to consider broadening their scope in order to add longevity to their careers as working/session/touring drummers. It would be interesting to read this kid's interview 20 years from now in Modern Drummer Magazine and he mentions this as defining moment in his career.
You nailed it. Here he is in action. The singer reminds me of @MrInsanePolack or @C.M. Jones preparing for lawn duty.

 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
I think most drummers can play across stylistically-historically linked back beat music (e.g. Funk to Soul, Blues, Rock ) so my answer to the OP is limited-all or broad-niche, which amount to the same thing. Playing just one type of niche music is a very bad idea in the long run because your tastes change and your audience change (especially if you move city/country) and you wont be inspired to learn new techniques, also you don’t get the cross fertilisation which can yield something new.
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
I think a drummer should differently have a good working knowledge of many styles including jazz, Afro-Caribbean , Brazilian, funk, and other back beat styles. Even if you don't think you'll ever take a jazz or Latin gig, the knowledge you have from studying those styles will give you much more from which you can draw from.

I studied at UNT back in the 90's with some seriously great drummers who all seemed to have their areas of specializations but have been able to take a wide variety of gigs. A few that come to mind: Jim Riley was doing a lot of marching percussion at UNT, now he does country. Rich Redman was the drummer in the One O' Clock Lab Band, now he plays county, rap, and rock. Jason Sutter was doing a lot of symphonic percussion in school and went on to back up Marilyn Manson, Smash Mouth and Foreigner. I've him heard play some great jazz brushes too! Keith Carlock played in drum line, the lab bands and went on to do tours and recordinsg with Steely Dan, Toto, Sting and many more. I can tell you that these guys worked really hard and kept an open mind and that seemed to serve them well!
 
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iCe

Senior 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?
Good question... i wish i was more diverse and open to stuff like jazz and fusion, but in the end my musical juices flow much more when playing (progressive) rock and/or metal. So i focus more on what i like, but i wouldn't mind doing some jazzy or fusion stuff for the fun of it.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Good question... i wish i was more diverse and open to stuff like jazz and fusion, but in the end my musical juices flow much more when playing (progressive) rock and/or metal. So i focus more on what i like, but i wouldn't mind doing some jazzy or fusion stuff for the fun of it.
I'm with you here! How cool would it be to be one of those jazz cats who can play in odd time signatures like it's nothing? I admire those folks so much.
 

jimb

Member
I don't gig much if at all but at home I play along to what ever turns me on....try and hear the good in all styles is my thing, though I do struggle a bit with the Latin grooves.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
I think it's better for some to be diverse and others to be more specialized. We're all different.

Well, I'm not, but I mean you guys. You're all different.
 

One Up One Down

Senior Member
I haven't read this thread but this question applies to so many fields, and my strategy has always been to have a good general set of skills and one or two specialties where you kick ass.
 
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