The Evolution of the Virtuoso Drummer within Popular Music

_Leviathan_

Senior Member
Heavy metal music has definitely become more popular in the 2000's and 2010's, at least in terms of bands with commercial sensibilities. I'd say that in that context, virtuoso drummers can really go all out, though of course, many metal bands will remain underground unless they have elements that appeal to the masses, like melodic choruses and the right image, etc. Brann Dailor and Danny Carey are names that even non-drummers are familiar with because their playing is such a central element of their bands.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Heavy metal music has definitely become more popular in the 2000's and 2010's, at least in terms of bands with commercial sensibilities.
True, but in the overall scheme of what genres are popular - at any given time - where would that fall? You may as well ask what food is popular? It depends on the demographics of the responders: age, gender, locale, even era.

Popularity isn't perhaps too hard to define, any kind of music from any era is popular with someone, somewhere. But what genres and era are most popular in terms of a correlation with the drummers playing them?

There'd have to be a specific definition about what popular means, or, select a genre. Actually, Metal is ideal, because drumming-wise, it evolved from rock into some specific styles, particularly involving double kick footwork.

That should be the new subject of the dissertation: "The Evolution of the Virtuoso Drummer Within the Metal Genres"

That would be pretty easy and interesting to trace, although one would also have to define the first bands and songs that were considered Metal.

Hmm, how about "Getting Musicians to Agree on the Definition and Origin of Musical Genres" It can be all about taking a survey, and the resulting varied and often conflicting responses!

Bermuda
 

aydee

Platinum Member
I'd offer a comprehensive reply, only there's (thankfully) an Abe in the room.
Greetings, olde mate! Dropping in after ages, hope all goes good with you and DW.

Find Bermudas question interesting - defining pop music. I've always considered pop music a product with a artificial birthing, as opposed to ' real music' which is organic .. ( except the 70s maybe, or maybe thats what I know.. )

Hmmm maybe I'll start a thread..
 

Pylot

Senior Member
First of all great topic to study! And there has definitely been an evolution but it may be more threaded than one might imagine at first glance.

The cool part is that drumming using a set has not been around for hundreds of years and as you study the topic you may be able to identify a progression by studying the topic in each decade starting sometime around around ~1870's when "double drumming" and some of the first use of what we now recognize as a set began. Alternatively you may classify by "era" i.e. ragtime, 20's, big band etc.

The role of the drummer has largely evolved around the bands that played music that was popular at the time more or less starting with ragtime music.

Virtuoso drummers can be identified in every decade and with the eventual progression to professionally recorded music and the resulting explosion in distribution a lot of other virtuoso types became known.

If you took that historical perspective you would be able to identify massive advantages that current modern drummers have over their early predecessors. You can also identify Virtuoso drummers by the music genre that they are recognized in and beat the definition of "popular music" into the many threads it has had and continues to have.

I am not positive that you will find people today who are superior in any way to some of the earliest recorded drummers. Post what you eventually write up back here! It will be interesting to see where your study leads you.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
There will always be someone who loves what you say and how you say it... if you mean it.
Love this Abe. Good to see you old friend.

I'm not really interested in the topic so nothing to add, but I do wish you the best with your project Jamie.
 

aydee

Platinum Member
Love this Abe. Good to see you old friend.

I'm not really interested in the topic so nothing to add, but I do wish you the best with your project Jamie.
Always good to connect with you Jason! All good here, and how are you? Hope youre playing more & your daughter is doing well too. Been playing a fair bit more lately myself, so thats been good.... Fewer air miles help with that bit.

Apologies to the thread starter for this little detour : )


....
 

Jamie

Junior Member
Alternatively you may classify by "era" i.e. ragtime, 20's, big band etc.
This is a fantastic idea, it will give me plenty to talk about when presenting to my tutors. I could explore earlier genres like you said and then compare and contrast with genres of today. I was also thinking about exploring how and IF the science towards approaching a drum solo has changed in the sense that, What is stylistically appropriate? What chops do I have that I could use? Will it suit the genre that I'm playing? Will it compliment the other bands members? Or has our approach towards soloing has changed at all over the years.

I also acknowledge that when it comes to being a virtuoso it's not entirely down to soloing, I just wanted to explore than avenue as It's something that interests me personally at the end of the day. Me personally when I decide to take a solo, I'll always usually play around with a few motifs and then expand on them through dynamics, displacement and varying speeds and rhythm values. That's just me and that's always been my approach to soloing, and I'd love to hear how you guys would approach a solo and what goes through your head when taking said solo!



Thanks again for the great replies everybody!
 

makinao

Silver Member
What degree is this dissertation for? Bachelors? Masters? PhD?

Have you done a review of related literature (RRL) yet? It seems like you haven't, given that you don't have theoretical/conceptual definitions for a lot of terms you are using.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
But really, what the heck do drum solos have to do with "popular' music?
Krupa may have been the first, and in context with the discussion Swing, Swing, Swing (Benny Goodman) was very popular at that point in time.

I would like to add that the term "popular music" stems from charting record sales and the on a mass marketing scale, really took off when radio programming started.

Before radio programming started programming our listening, perhaps sheet music, vaudeville, concerts, at el, were in reality where the public viewed or saw music. Sheet music sales were huge and that too would constitute popularity.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Virtuosity in drumming is being actively imported from other cultures, Latin, Indian, Chinese, African, etc. I personally listen to the three latin stations, lots of virtuoso drums. Just this morning they were playing some samba based music with marimbas absolutely fabulous, occasionally they play especially groovy English music, but not very often. Sorry rockers and jazzers, no one cares what kind of clamp you use to hold your toms or how well you back a singer.
 

BruceW

Senior Member
Rush is extremely popular, tho they wouldn't be classified as popular music, if one were defining their style. Despite that, they have had a few "pop" hits....

Neil Peart is as amazing on the acoustic drums as he is on the electronic. I believe he would sound as amazing on a vintage 60's kit, too. Same with most any "virtuoso" you can think of. Just look at that video short that they did for the introduction of Ringo into the Hall Of Fame, with a whole bunch of big-time drummers (in a popular sense, not necessarily "virtuoso" sense) playing on the classic Ringo kit. They all sounded great (and all had big grins on their faces too). Great drummers sound great, regardless of the equipment. Yes, better equipment sounds better, but its the drummer, not the gear.

I think that as time has passed, drumming (and every type of music) has simply evolved, and has allowed for more and more folks to achieve a mugh higher level of ability. Perhaps the electronics you refer to would be better defined in beginning drummers having more access to music to listen to, end educational material via the internet. Thus having more folks developing higher and faster at earlier ages. Perhaps....

Interesting discussion.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Virtuosity in drumming is being actively imported from other cultures, Latin, Indian, Chinese, African, etc. I personally listen to the three latin stations, lots of virtuoso drums.
You're in a distinct minority. And there's no need to import anything, as virtuoso drumming already exists throughout the Western world and is - by-in-large - ignored in popular music. Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Dave Weckl, Vinnie Colauita, etc.; the list of virtuoso drummers is as long as my arm (or a Drummerworld page) and yet outside of Buddy (and even there only to a limited degree and largely due to his appearance on the Muppet Show) none of those players are household names and hardly anyone knows of the depth and breadth of their abilities. More people have heard Vinnie on Sting and Tracey Chapman albums than have an inkling who, say, Herbie Hancock is, despite his crossing over into the mainstream at various points in his career. In short, people know Vinnie's grooves (while probably having no idea who he is) but vanishingly few know how well he can blow. At the same time, Western popular music with its emphasis on simple, repeated drum rhythms, mostly in 4/4, has been exported/imported to all of those cultures you name. A good amount of popular music in India is not driven by complex tabla playing, but simple, repetitive drum machine-based pop/dance rhythms, for example. Same thing all over the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Sorry rockers and jazzers, no one cares...how well you back a singer.
Except most of the people paying our bills - be they the listening public or the artists they pay to see.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
You don't have to be a virtuoso to totally knock out an audience. Virtuosity is an ego based thing IMO. Ultimately, music is the entire univere and ego is just one little straw hut by comparison. The greatest musicians have learned to drop the ego as it's a obstacle to the great joys that lie beyond it. The musicians who really knock me out are channelers to this other place, not the ones who can do impossible physical feats and tricks on their instruments. While it is really cool, it's ultimately a detour on the road to musical spirituality. Music has such power, but you have to annihilate the ego to access it.
 

JohnW

Silver Member
This is an interesting (if loaded) topic and kudos to you as you throw yourself to the wolves...

Regarding your comment "the Virtuoso drummer has a lot more available in terms of technology to be implemented into the drum set in terms of new cymbals being introduced and electrical instruments." This is true but it can lead you to the wrong conclusions. There's so much more information available immediately to these players as well and yet this availability can lead to distraction. Having more choices doesn't necessarily mean playing with more depth, just busier playing. The two aren't mutually exclusive, but depth defines virtuosity to me; not cymbal choices, busyness or encyclopedic knowledge. Anyway, here's Chick Webb tearing it up with one of the most popular bands of the day:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1JJDau0GqA

Are players more spellbinding now? And do they get radio play?

I think of the crude computer "Bombe" that Alan Turing developed to decode the Enigma machine and help turn the tide against the Axis powers in WWII. Or the 3,500 people involved to implement 6 megabyte IBM program written for the Apollo program to put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. Today we use programs that sift through millions- even billions of times that data with ease. And what do we do with it?:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xB7YGXXNj8

Now that's not completely fair; there are people who run with today's technology with truly astonishing results. But don't overlook the sublime and overt virtuosos of the past who helped pave their way.
 
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DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Krupa may have been the first, and in context with the discussion Swing, Swing, Swing (Benny Goodman) was very popular at that point in time.
.
Well, yes, obviously, back at the time, drum solos and popular music were not so separated.

But in the last 20-30 years? Most pop is drum machines these days.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
Virtuosity is an ego based thing IMO.
You're right, and that's not just your opinion, that's implied with the word.

I think my definition got lost in the earlier replies, but Virtuoso is used to describe someone who embodies manliness (Vir) and displays expert level proficiency at something. Virtuoso is describing someone's machismo or ego as much as anything.

To be a virtuoso means that you need to stand out in a "manly" fashion; this means an over-the-top display of technique and skill... or showing off.

This is where people seem to be getting confused. A drummer who plays the groove in the background may be a very good drummer, but they aren't a virtuoso. Someone like Buddy Rich is a virtuoso; the music is almost there just to support a virtuoso showing off.

Look at virtuoso violin players from the 17th and 18th century (and today). They stand up while others are seated, and dramatically move from side to side when playing or soloing, often using long elaborate moves that are purely for show.

Ed Thigpen (my favorite drummer) is a wonderful sideman, and an excellent drummer, but it's not accurate to describe him as virtuosic. Buddy Rich was a virtuoso, he made all the songs about him and took epic solos that captivated audiences.
 
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