Great clinician drummer, no-so-good band drummer?


Platinum Member
In part because he's more established than Lang, and also because his name carries a lot of cache on projects. But it's also because he's happy to play 2&4 when asked. Anyone who thinks Vinnie is out there doing Burning For Buddy every day should examine his credits more closely. :)

Same with Steve Gadd. He's one of the masters, but has a significant amount of work in the mainstream playing fairly straight ahead stuff.

I don't know if Lang, Donati, Mayer et al simply don't want to play straighter stuff, or if their reputation prevents them from getting such calls, but they're not known for playing in bands or with artists. There's nothing wrong with focusing on clinics or in Bozzio's case, doing solo performances. It's just that they're rarely if ever seen in a band situation. I think that most of us believe that a drummer best expresses himself in a melodic, musical context. Solos are fun, but they don't have the staying power of music.

First, I don't think this is a troll question at all. It's a very valid observation.

I wonder if our Bermuda has hit on a huge aspect of the issue. Maybe a lot of these clinic, "drummy" drummers really would love to play on a straight-ahead recording but they have a reputation as being "that overly busy drummer with the huge kit" that most producers would never even consider calling them for a gig.

On the other hand, Vinnie has already established he is more than happy to play the 2 & 4 on a gig...or the 9/8, or the 15/16...


Platinum Member
And Buddy Rich never once practiced"""

I remember hearing this years ago , maybe a decade ago, and then hearing him solo on record..
Buddy may have been fudging about practice,cause the last time I looked rehearsing is practice, and I'm sure like the rest of us in bands, he rehearsed a great deal to get things tight.

Jamming is practice too,so...

Call it what you will ,but Buddy did practice.
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Matt Bo Eder

Im not making any value judgement here, Matt. Just implying that drummers with music legacies that come to mind seem to be different kind of players, even if they are technically badass..

I don't understand what you said. Elaborate?


Platinum Member
I would opine, as others have, that part of it is due to their "busy", "drummer's drummer reputations, but also because the acts they do tend to play with are not and may never be huge mainstream acts in the US. Most of these guys do have a solid playing and/or recording portfolio in their own circles, but their playing is not on MTV or top 40 radio here in the States.

Two of the players you mentioned (Donati and Lang) actually auditioned for Dream Theater when Portnoy left, by the way.

But how many drummers in any genre of music, with solid recording careers in their local markets, do we never hear about for any number of reasons? Music, like any other profession, is an iceberg - only the very top 1% appear above the surface.

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Yeah, I also like Bermuda's reply.

There is another aspect to this that might be missing. And that is when other musicians (and famous artists) hear a drummer play, the drumming might touch their musical soul more so than other drummers they have heard. And so they desire to play with that particular drummer. No other reasons needed; like why that exact drumming style would work. Or, when these musicians play with a particular drummer, they connect better with the drumming of that one particular drummer. That perfect chemistry is there.

In other words we may be trying to figure out exactly where the end of a rainbow is located. Music is art and there is an unexplained emotional element to it.



Senior Member
I can't rip off book-perfect rudiments flawlessly, time and again. But I get called all the time to play or sub with bands.

I've never really cared about chops much, really just prefer to play songs with friends and make the music. I suspect I make the music feel good.

There are guys like Kenny Aronoff I saw do a clinic who have amazing chops (but not Virgil chops) yet still kill it on every gig. Just watch an awards show. There's Kenny killin.


Silver Member
I know a clinically trained drummer who has every chop going down to a tee. Give him a band to play with & he is rubbish. No imagination whatsoever & can't play by ear to save his life.
I much prefer my bastardisation approach :)


Gold Member
I see where you are coming from...

I hadn't heard of Thomas Lang, JoJo Meyer, or any of the others you mentioned until I joined the DrummerWorld forum.

I've seen videos of them teaching/displaying technique, but I had never heard of them before, and I can't think of a single album that I've heard any of them on.

I don't know that it means that they aren't good gigging musicians as well, but I think they've chosen a different path. I put them into a similar category with Buddy Rich... they are master technicians, who are famous for being master technicians. Most of, if not all, their recordings are really drum-centric, and they are the star of the show.

This music is really entertaining/interesting to drummers, but I don't think it has any appeal to non-drummers.

Even now that I know their names, and have seen some of their videos, I can't think of a single recording or song that they were on. That's not to say that they aren't excellent accompanists/band members, but I don't think that's what they are going for.


Platinum Member
I think what separates them is that they are drum-centric and put drums & techniques first, as opposed to putting songs first.

I like several of the drummers your mentioned - JoJo and Benny especially - but honestly, none of their music ever makes it to my playlist. I watch the vids, go "Yepyep, that's good!" and then never watch or listen again. If something makes my playlist, it's because the SONG appeals to me - the melody, the lyric, the mood, the hook. I never listen just for the drumming.


Platinum Member
I see where you are coming from...

I hadn't heard of Thomas Lang, JoJo Meyer, or any of the others you mentioned until I joined the DrummerWorld forum.

Same for me. I could not name one artist any of them play with. But surely there are other people who do clinics who also play with many bands (Ferrone, Jordan, ....)
But I would never doubt if any clinicians are good band drummers. It may simply be that they never get the call, or do, but do not take such work.
Let's be honest, none of us on here have their calendars and would never know.


Staff member
Could the answer simply be that the vast majority of bands / artists don't require such a high technical skill set, & in some cases, would perceive a technical disparity between themselves and a great clinician player? Additionally, I think many bands, & some artists, have evolved / risen to fame with their drummer already installed.


Senior Member

Confusious say " Great clinician drummer, no-so-good band drummer"

JoJo Mayer, Bebby Greb, Virgil Donati, Thomas Lang, Gergo Borlai, Tony Royster Jr. Akira Jimbo etc to name a few....

monster players,
masters of their instruments,
not much of a music legacy..

Is to much of anything no good?

Tis a puzzlement?

Let the mandarins of Drummerworld intelligensia opine without fear, for now we live in the age of political in-correctness , but within Bernhard's Law.

A valid point and something I've wondered about.

I've seen Mayer, Donati, Lang and Greb perform in the flesh and they are all players with seemingly superhuman drumming ability.

But I've also bought albums featuring them, which are unlistenable after one spin (as opposed to the likes of Led Zep II, Moving Pictures, and Aja which I've played hundreds of times, yet still feature great drumming - but also great music).

I suppose one clinician with "superhuman" chops who has found a home as a band member is Marco Minnemann who has done some really nice restrained - and unrestrained - work with Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree fame).

But the drummer's drummer market is pretty small and aimed at a small demographic of people - like me!

I've taken non-players to clinics - where virtuoso drumming has been on display - and they've been bored to tears.

As you say, a "puzzlement".


Platinum Member
Seems to me that the 'clinician drummer' (as defined by Abe for the purposes of this thread) is more concerned with virtuosity at drumming where the music is some distant runner up on the priority list. It's like the virtuosity isn't a means to an end; it IS the end.

It's really hard to be a 'band drummer' when his/her bandmates get the distinct impression that they're only there to serve as the vehicle for some drummy look-at-me-fest.

Being in a band is like a team sport where everyone's talents are leveraged (writers, players, pin-ups (ha!)) so that the whole is bigger than any one person.

No ball hogs.

I'm a sucker for a rippin' drummer like most of us here, but for my money, the drummer needs to be a fan of the music first and foremost before any great drumming can happen.


Platinum Member
Donati certainly can do it.

Southern Sons were a draw card in Oz in the early 90's. He also toured with pop artist Tina Arena around the same time. So it's not like Virgil is completely devoid of pop/rock sensibilities.

The bigger question as far as he's concerned is, did this drivel ruin it for him forever? :)

That aside, I see the wider intent behind the thread. I've spent the last couple of years trying hard to find something....anything, that Thomas Lang has played on that I might like. Monster player, but any musical contributions have so far left me cold. I'm sure there must be something out there, but as of this post, I'm still searching for it.

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Being a big name outside of a band like Steve, Jeff, Vinnie, Manu, Omar was always a rare thing. A lot of that went away with the record industry. These guys are simply survivors of that age.

It's a different world.

The guys that survive are the ones that get involved in the whole business.

Gergo has a lot of recording credits back in Hungary before he got known to the world. He now lives in Spain and does it all. Teaching, writing, arranging and gigging. He hangs with the fusion crowd these days. Latest recording I guess is Jeff Richman's latest.

Jojo belongs to a certain jazz scene. He also does more than playing drums and probably puts as much energy as he can into running Nerve. Has his own band and he's the leader.

Thomas was a busy recording and touring drummer with several well known pop acts. I think he does a lot of sessions at home these days. Now, he belongs a bit in that Paul Gilbert world, which though not my thing, represents a steady audience.

Virgil also has a history. He didn't want to compromise, though. Apart from his own thing he's been playing a lot with Allan Holdsworth lately. Has his own band and he's the leader.

I think we're setting this up to forcing players into a box they don't belong or want to be in. Regardless, they are making a living, getting endorsements...

Again. It's just a different world now.

There are any musical worlds. Just because we're not in the know doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Here in Norway, the biggest seling acts are probably black metal bands. I know many of them do really really well internationally, it just isn't my kind of thing. Is that kind of drumming valid in my world. No. Neither is that kind og guitar playing or singing. lol

There is an interesting point here though, and that goes to perception.

I'll go to Vinnie again as he is where he is today. After Frank it seems he suffered from the same reputation. It's like if you've done some hip stuff people think that's all you do. (I've even suffered from that I my own little way, and sadly I know it's more about envy, competition and badmouthing to fit in or get ahead more than anything else.) Anyway, Jeff helped Vinnie out into the session world and because of Sting even more doors were opened. Before Sting most music friends I hung out with gave Vinnie that bad rap about being technically good, but not musical shite. They even had to stick on to it for 10 more years, at least, because of pride. What is he really known for now? His time and groove regardless of what he plays.

Most drummers I know that gig the most don't do so because of their drumming. Those that hired them will say so, but the compliments don't really fit with reality at all. They play well, but really it's through recommendations or some weird imaginary status thing. Some of them do the aggressive networking thing constantly, but some don't. You almost have to be in already to get away with it, so...

There isn't one game. There's many with different rules everywhere. If you're high enough up on the ladder in one of them you can usually slip in a few more places, though.

These concepts exist anywhere. Even in my jobs I've explained somewhere else before as a modern drum and guitar teacher surrounded by old school classical trained collegues. I could do anything and in no way would I surpass some local small town rock hero. It's the same social concept.

Point is really that if you research the history of some player you don't know much about you'll more than likely, especially if they are known in the community, that they've been around. Many players that are internationally known simply got to a point where they were comfortable enough eonomically to do only what they like. Isn't that what so many jazz greats did? Worked for someone until they were able to put their own band together.

Did all of them get rich? Not at all, but they made a living out of their own art.
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Gold Member
What Virgil wouldn't want to hear from the producer on a recording session with Adele.

" Hey Virgil, thanks for coming. Here's the chart. A nice 2 and 4 snare, 1 and 3 kick for this record. No crashes and some 1/8th note fills now and again"

What Virgil would want to hear from the producer on a recording session with Adele.

"Hey Virgil, thanks for coming. Adele has specifically requested you to play this chart she wrote for her latest record. She's written it in 19/32 meter with some superimposed metric modulation over a polyrhythmic ostinato. She'd very much like you to take three solos for 23 bars each, rotating between odd meters of 5/16, 3/8, 9/4 and 11/32 just before each chorus comes in. She's confident it will be a massive hit, perhaps more so than rolling in the deep."


Platinum Member
Yes, no, maybe.

I agree with aydee to the point some drummers are just better known for their clinics and videos than anything else.

I've often said, if not for the internet, particularly youtube, many of these guys wouldn't be well known all at.

But there is a difference between "better known for" "what they actually do."

For a long time I put off Thomas Lang as just a clinician whiz. One day I listened to an interview with him and I surprised how many pop artists he has toured with. Is he known for it? No. But it does't mean it doesn't happen.

I thought Tony Royster Jr being on this list was odd though, as he does a lot of touring with well known pop/rap acts. Does he record with them? No, because most all those albums are computers/drum machines.

Which also comes back to opportunity. We all know there are less sessions and less drummers making a living at session work than 30-40 years ago. How many guys aren't getting the big name calls because their aren't many big name calling anyone?
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Platinum Member
I think changes in the music business have more to do with why some of those drummers focus on the clinic scene. Session work has dried up and there aren't really any bands in the top 40 anymore, or even in Nashville. It's artists with features and almost all the pop drum tracks are machines.

So there aren't a bunch of Steely Dans out there presenting all these opportunities for elite drummers to flex their musical muscles. I can't imagine a song featuring really creative or technical drumming reaching enough people to make a name for a drummer today. Where would people hear it? Of course that music can be found, but you have to look for it. It's not on the pop radar anymore, be it terrestrial radio, SiriusXM or streaming services.

I think most of those who get labeled clinicians could actually kill it in a simple, pop situation. I suspect most of them either are not interested or maybe even find the clinic scene more lucrative.