Comparing oneself to others (drummers)

Griffman

Member
Had an interesting experience at a local fair/harvest festival.

I am walking around the fair trying to tolerate the blended smell of animal feces and fried Oreos. I hear music coming from one of the stages. It's 80's power pop/rock with a female lead singer. They were ok and I listened closely to the drummer. He was good but made a few mistakes and struggled keeping the groove in difficult parts, not horribly so but enough that I got a bit of a swollen head and think " I can play that even better, maybe I should be looking for a band that plays big shows". Well I get around to the stage after a while and it's a high school all star band from a local business called School of Rock. Shame on me, getting all up on myself because I can play a little better than some nice kid who just started.

As this first band stops I hear another band on another stage. I take a walk and arrive at the stage. It's a three piece (guitar, slap bass, and drums). The drummer has a snare, kick, hats, and sticks and brushes. They are playing classic country and rockabilly. The drummer plays no fills. He is rock solid in the pocket. He isn't playing anything a first year player couldn't handle technically. He plays mostly one simple beat through the songs only changing his dynamics. I soon recognized he much better than me. His band can count on him to do exactly what they need him to do. He isn't going to get bored and fancy it up, or put in a "lick" just to spice things up. Just beautiful simple groove song after song.

Not sure what the lesson was for me - maybe to just learn from other drummers, but it left me thinking about how we compare ourselves and what may or may not be helpful about doing that. Someone is always more advanced or less advanced than me and so it is for every one, 'cepting maybe Buddy before and Vinny now :) insert your personal drum god for BR and VC.

Do other drummers find themselves making these kinds of comparisons? Is it helpful, hurtful, benign, or some combination of the three. Does it effect your playing?
 

psychosiz

Junior Member
Well for me its easy. I am starting, hear most everything and say I suck, I can't do that yet. But as I listen it pushes to one day say, hey I can finally play that sing or do what I heard.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
I think it's human nature to compare oneself to others. After all you need some sort of reference point as to whether you're getting where you want to go. I think the trick is to learn from all of them rather than try to make up a ranking. Hanging out at local blues jams you can hear everyone from beginners to folks that are touring with the legends. As long as they are trying to play the music and striving to improve it's good. I've seen Dennis and Vinnie wince as something they wanted didn't come out. It's the folks that actively destroy the music trying to constantly go beyond their abilities and thinking they are great all the while that bug me. Maybe that's comparing approaches more so than abilities.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
It's natural and it's necessary to compare yourself to other drummers but I don't think many drummers are as bad as I used to think (so long as they can keep time). I can listen to just about any drummer and find something that I like about them.

In the past I might have written a drummer off the moment I heard him falter, but I realize that was perhaps to protect my own ego. I'm not competitive anymore which means I'm truly objective... so I acknowledge that having rivals can be very productive, but my new mindset allows me to learn from people that I would have been too proud to learn from in the past.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
These days, when it comes to other players I find it better to steal than to judge. Almost everyone has some lick, beat, nuance, approach or arrangement device worth borrowing.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Dont compare yourself to others, the only person you truly compete against is yourself. Try to be a better drummer next month than you were last month. Simple, and something YOU have control over, you cant control what others do. Its the secret to a happy life.
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
Music should not be competitive and although there are a few common factors it's pretty hard to compare given musical choices and requirements. For example, I have played in situations where I just had to put all my effort at gigs into keeping everyone in time, no embellishments, no melodic drumming, no polyrhythms. Conversely I have played in bands where I had total freedom to do anything. Both situations gave very different drumming results and would no doubt have been viewed by many fellow drummers up for comparisons as

1) just an average meat and potatoes drummer

2) fantastic drummer with skill and imagination

Neither are really true......

So I myself don't compare myself to others, or even my own drumming (band to band) it's all about the situation and role; which can vary.
 
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paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
The Rockabilly drummer is a great lesson . I bet he could grind out some fills if he wanted but it's really about being true to the music.
 

bigd

Silver Member
The important thing to compare is how much your phone rings for work. both of those drummers were working/ playing that day while you were walking around.
 

STXBob

Gold Member
I do my best not to compare my playing to others, though I admit it's a natural human response. Music is not a competitive pursuit - or at least it shouldn't be, despite [PLACE] Has Talent-type TV programs. Neither is it a race. There are no ranking systems in place, no "top seed" numerical ratings. So why bother? It has a better chance of breeding resentment than inspiration.

Anyway, I'm like Anon and Bud - I'll watch/listen to anyone. If they have something to nick, I'm nicking it. :) I'll ask if I have to. I asked a local drummer about how to do that lazy Reggae hi-hat thing recently, because I simply could not wrap my head around it.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
The important thing to compare is how much your phone rings for work. both of those drummers were working/ playing that day while you were walking around.
....or you could look at it like I would and walk around thinking, "God I'm so glad I don't have to do that anymore...where were those bacon wrapped twinkies again?" ;)

It is human nature to compare yourself, and over time you just learn that everybody has something to offer and you're not as great as you thought you were (which will prompt you to either give it up, or get better, your choice). Now that I'm in my late 40s soon-to-be-50s, I'll admit it took me a long time to get comfortable in my own skin (although friends have said I've been that way for a long time - not sure who they're talking about), but I like watching other drummers now and seeing what they have going on, and if they're doing what the music asks, who's to say I could do that better? I can only do what I do and I'm the guy who has to look in the mirror every morning, so if I'm happy with that, there you go.

I've very much become the older gentleman you spoke of just layin' it down with the band. In my 20s,.... not so much ;)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
It's easy to think that one can do better than another in certain situations. The minute that happens, bam, mind starts to close a little. Hey I'm just as guilty as everyone else, and it's a vigil to try and not be like that. Humbleness and appreciation and acceptance. I love seeing great musicians play and sing.

Diety, grant me the wisdom to see others without judgement.

It's hard to do that with something so dear to my heart. Caring about something so deeply colors my vision. Calling something like you see them and leveling a judgement are two different things. Facts are facts, opinions and judgments are best kept to oneself. It's not good business to diss anyone to someone else. It's not very nice. It labels you as one of "those" guys. And if you keep your diss to yourself, that's not much better for your own mental health.

I'm influenced by everything I hear/see. Even if I don't like a persons playing at all, (judgement) this player is showing me what NOT to do, and I am influenced by this person as much as a player who really presses my buttons.

So it's literally all good.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Every time - every time - I've compared myself to another drummer, it's been a losing proposition, not in terms of me being less of a drummer than he or she, but being less of a mature person.

It took me a long time to sort out that there is no "scoring system" that makes one of us better than the other. There's experience, and there's versatility, and there's touch and feel and chops, and all these other things that make each drummer a unique bag of tricks. As others have said, every drummer teaches us something, even if it's something we realize we shouldn't do.

I used to try to learn songs by awesome drummers note for note. I'd set up like them, obsess about their gear, pick apart their style. But in the end, I realized that I was best at sounding like me, better than they were, and time would be better spent developing what that would sound like.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Every time - every time - I've compared myself to another drummer, it's been a losing proposition, not in terms of me being less of a drummer than he or she, but being less of a mature person.
Your whole post was great Al. I particularly got a lot from this line, it distills everything down to an easily consumable form. Excellent thought for the day.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Thanks Lar. Amazing what a sprinkle of cinnamon in your coffee will do, eh wot?

It occurs to me how in music and often in sports there's this competitive drive to be the best that we simply don't have in any of our other parts of life. Most everywhere else, we just try to be the best we can be at what we do, whether that's a teacher, accountant, soldier, librarian, or parent. I simply suggest that we give our drumming the same sort of chance at that mindset -- it's very cleansing to the soul to realize you don't have to be the next Buddy or Neil or Gavin, you can be the next you.
 

Bonefrost

Member
I'm going to reply w/o reading any others,so you get my honest opinion.

I am a guitar player of over 30yrs,new to the drums,but I always compared myself to others.Even when we opened for national touring acts,I compared myself.I play metal,but grew up on Willie,Waylon and the Boys,and just all types of stuff.

So when I got honest w/ myself was probably 25/26 and just said F it I'm going to play what I want,not try to "out do" some other musician.
My music became its own identity.
Now I'm not saying I still dont compare myself to other players,but I try not to think of it as a competition.Which I was guilty of many years.After all,its just art.No right or wrong.


I cant even think of comparing myself on drums I suck so bad.Maybe Meg White or something!lol!
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Sometimes what you think you might have done there if you were playing is just your musical imagination. Maybe you wouldn't have been actually able to do it either, or decided against it in the moment because it might have clashed with someone else.

We're all great in our minds. We hear Dennis and Vinnie in there. We play what we can play. The trick is getting our bodies to do what we hear upstairs.

As I keep practicing folks have mentioned that I've gotten much better faster than they expected. Since I played for years in bands as a guitarist who occasionally doubled on drums, what I wanted to hear from the drummer was always in my head. My hands are starting to catch up to the easier parts of it.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
Compare and compete are not synonomous. Nothing wrong with comparing, it can help you improve.
 
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jornthedrummer

Silver Member
As this first band stops I hear another band on another stage. I take a walk and arrive at the stage. It's a three piece (guitar, slap bass, and drums). The drummer has a snare, kick, hats, and sticks and brushes. They are playing classic country and rockabilly. The drummer plays no fills. He is rock solid in the pocket. He isn't playing anything a first year player couldn't handle technically. He plays mostly one simple beat through the songs only changing his dynamics. I soon recognized he much better than me. His band can count on him to do exactly what they need him to do. He isn't going to get bored and fancy it up, or put in a "lick" just to spice things up. Just beautiful simple groove song after song.

N
Thats the guy I want to be, I am backing a singer for the type of music I play.
I want to see the audience dancing, singing along, foot tapping, nodding their head and having a good time. Everything else does not matter to me.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Sometimes what you think you might have done there if you were playing is just your musical imagination. Maybe you wouldn't have been actually able to do it either, or decided against it in the moment because it might have clashed with someone else.

We're all great in our minds. We hear Dennis and Vinnie in there. We play what we can play. The trick is getting our bodies to do what we hear upstairs.
+1 love your work :)
 
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