What makes a good drummer?



In my opinion, any answer to this question is subjective. That being said, I think good timing makes a good drummer. Thoughts?

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
In my opinion, any answer to this question is subjective. That being said, I think good timing makes a good drummer. Thoughts?
My thought is you're exactly right: it's all very subjective. If you're looking for flash, then a flashy drummer will be good. If you're looking for solid time, then a solid groover will be good.

If you put it in a money context, you could ask, what makes a good working drummer? Then that narrows it down to the solid groovers more then the flashy technique drummers. But then again, it just depends on who's paying and what it's for. I'm sure Terry Bozzio can groove, he just doesn't get called for that. I've heard Steve Jordan take some pretty interesting "outside" solos with guitarist Steve Khan, but he generally doesn't get called for that. You could say Meg White doesn't know how to play (and she'd probably agree with you), but she was perfect for the White Stripes.

But in my mind, drums are an accompanying instrument. You're there to play time for the rest of the musicians. To be the glue that holds it all together. So I lean towards solid groovers being good drummers - because they know how to play for the music and with the band. I guess you could say any drummer that fulfills the needs of the music is a good drummer. Whether or not you like that particular music is another story, though. This discussion could continue on in circles ;)


Silver Member
Looking at it from a professional player's perspective, a good drummer to me (and the benchmark I set for myself as a minimum) is one that can do the job, whatever that may be.

If I'm called to do a jazz gig, can I do a good job? Likewise a country session, masterclass on linear playing, or a top 40 covers band. If the drummer in question can do a good job for whatever that job is, I'd be tempted to say they are a good drummer.

For me personally, I love drummers that are a little unique, have their own identity and sound, and push the boundaries. For this reason, I love players like Jack DeJohnette, Vinnie, and Tony Williams. Unique, revolutionary, identifiable.


Senior Member
1. Being able to understand what you need to play to serve the music

2. Being able to play that well.

I'm pretty good at number one, still working on number 2 :)


"Uncle Larry"
I'll try and contribute:

Someone who can play musical time with confidence. (Great meter)

Someone who has a honed tempo sense.

Someone who understands the song form and doesn't get lost.

Someone who understands dynamics and knows how to use them effectively across many genres.

Someone who understands that drums are not a lead instrument 99% of the time.

Someone who listens to the lyrics and understands what the song is about, and matches the drum part to the mood.

Someone who doesn't introduce their own problems to the music or to the other musicians.

Someone who doesn't overplay while accompanying, and who also can really nail an ending. (guys that do the opposite irk me)

Someone who "helps" the soloist get where they want to go.

Someone who has exceptional listening skills, that can let others do their thing and just support. Someone who can leave space, and is comfortable with space. (while the time marches on)

Someone who understands why they subtracted their ego from their playing (hint: ego is a giant obstacle). They consciousnessly leave out their ego just as much as possible and play for the song/musicians.

And the 5 MOST important things...the gear, the threads, the performance, the groove and the vocal :)


Gold Member
All good answers, particularly larry's.

I will just add, being at the gig in good time is another aspect of being a good drummer. A humorous quote with perhaps some element of truth from the legendary Chuck Silverman goes like this,

"If you're 10 minutes early, you're on time.
If you're 5 minutes early, you're late.
If you're on time, you're fired."

Good time, playing for the song, the ability to create and release musical tension through dynamics and chops. One who does their homework and shows up prepared.


Platinum Member
There is no way he doesn't drive a 70s van with teardrop porthole windows, and a painting of him riding a unicorn and wielding sticks like battle axes. I only assume that the unicorn has a stack of cymbals on its unihorn.