Unpopular Drumming Opinions (Part 3)

Posted on October 16, 2022

 Unpopular Drumming Opinions Part 3

What better way to get back into writing than combing through another one of these silly threads from r/drums?

I starting to think that writing articles like this one isn’t all that productive, especially considering how this feels like an especially bleak time for interesting internet drumming discourse. Seriously, 90% of the “hot takes” I see on the web can be summed up thusly: 

That being said, I don’t have anything else ready for this week, so I guess I’ll pick a few topics to opine on. I’ll do my best to keep from sounding repetitive regarding my earlier “Unpopular Opinions” posts. Even with 550+ comments, there’s nothing especially subversive in this thread. 

I got one: I’m not impressed with heavy hitters. “Hulk smash” drumming is… kinda stupid. Sorry.

Don’t apologize, because you’re right. And I don’t mean powerful drumming; I’m talking about the guys that beat their drums senseless, flailing their arms about like a madman. The whole thing reeks of what Todd Bishop calls “bam bam” drumming — using some hokey sense of energy that’s completely lacking in taste, feel, precision, finesse, or anything that suggests you know how to play your instrument. It’s akin to stick tricks in a way; a gimmick to help to stand out.

Anything tasteful played with double–kick can be played with a single pedal.

I guess it’s safe to say that this commenter wouldn’t consider blast beats to be tasteful. But there are some tasty double–kick licks out there for sure. You just need to find them.

Expensive kits are only marginally better than cheap kits.

This is tough for me to consider. I’ve only spent some serious time with three drum kits: a cheap Hohner kit I used growing up, a pretty nice Pearl kit that I use for recording, and a mid–level Ludwig kit for gigs. 

My kit Pearl set is noticeably easier to tune than the Ludwig (meaning getting a good attack with a pure resonance — no beating). It could be because the Pearl kit has nicer shells made with better materials and higher tolerances. But the Pearl drums are also much thicker, with die–cast loops. Is that enough? I will say that the lugs on the Pearl do feel much nicer; the Ludwig lugs are kinda janky.

I think, all in all, most drummers can get by with a “semi–pro” line that can be had for about 1000 bucks. That will last you upwards of 10 years in a professional setting. Of course, with enough patience, you can get good sounds out of cheap drums.

Some expensive kits are pricey for a reason. Pearl’s ultra high–end “Reference” line uses blended shells, the composition of which changes depending on the size of the drum. 

Buddy Rich was overrated as fuck.

Yup. The only reason I bring this up again is because of this bizarre reply:

Oh don’t tell me you are a Krupa guy. I mean seriously? Not even close. And don’t get me started on the modern crowd. Sure Dennis Chambers is fast but nobody has a left hand like Rich.

…dude, what the hell are you on about?

I almost thought this was a copypasta taken from some 1960s gangster flick. “Nobody has a left hand like Rich”? Bro, who cares... I don’t, because Rich didn’t do anything interesting with that left hand. 

I’m not even sure how unpopular this actually is, but my go–to is typically that there’s way too many classic rock/older musicians who get way too much credit for simply existing first. I know this isn’t a problem inherent to drummers or artists in general, but still.

Very true. It seems like a lot of people cook up reasons to retroactively explain the success of unremarkable drummers out there who are riding the coattails of their more capable bandmates. 

Being able to play quadrutuplet flamalamadingdongs in 18.5/7 time is cool, but if you can’t keep a simple beat and know when to rock out, you don’t impress me.

How many people can only manage the former and not the latter? Doing the bare minimum on the instrument doesn’t automatically afford you praise if you’re otherwise unwilling or unable to take risks and push the envelope.

If a drummer doesn’t have at least a passing knowledge of rudiments, they shouldn’t be trusted.

Oh not this again… how many people really believe that Steve Gadd became the drummer he is because he mastered the Drag Paradiddle No. 2? I bring up Steve because he is often cited as an example of a rudimental master, but even his most famous extrapolations (like the “Gaddamacue”) are a far cry away from what you see on the list of 40.

Here’s a reply from another user:

There’s a recent Rob Brown video that starts off with something like ”There are two types of drummers in this world. Those who practice their rudiments… and suckers”

I think Rob is a pretty levelheaded guy, but he’s got it backward here. I’ll say it again: the different rudiment lists out there are just the opinion of maybe two dozen drummers tops, many of whom I doubt Rob could even name. And yet, I’d somehow be a sucker if don’t let these guys from yesteryear dictate a huge part of my practice? If you chug through the list of 40 expecting to become the next Steve Gadd… you’ve been duped.

If you actually care about these stupid things, then get a book like Matt Savage’s Rudimental Workshop. After you go through it cover to cover you can spend the rest of your career not feeling guilty for never touching 75% of the rudiments ever again.

Tommy Igoe is a full boomer tier egotistical wanker. I don’t care how good he is at drums, that doesn’t make him anything else. Plus Groove Essentials is pretty much irrelevant now.

I’ve fallen down the “I hate Tommy Igoe” rabbit hole once already, I’m not going to do it again. I’m more curious about the claim that Groove Essentials is irrelevant now. 

I’ll probably review Groove Essentials one of these days, so maybe I’ll have to dive into this later on. The commentor says they prefer Survival Guide for the Modern Drummer. 

I don’t own that book, but after perusing a sample PDF, I don’t think it has much in common with Groove Essentials. The whole purpose of Groove Essentials is to help you play grooves and fills in time, using simple backing tracks to make the experience less boring. It also works on your ability to catch figures (big rhythms that most of the band plays), as well as backgrounds, which aren’t a big deal in pop music but are fun nonetheless. 

The objective of Survival Guide on the other hand seems to be getting drummers up to speed on a ton of different styles using written–out grooves and exercises. I think there are playalong tracks, but I don’t know what they sound like.

Maybe I’ll pick up Survival Guide to know for sure, but I think Survival Guide wants you to use your eyes while Groove Essentials wants you to use your ears. 

Drum solos are annoying.

What kind of solo are we talking about? “Moby Dick” or “Aja”?

Punchy bass drum sounds are overrated and redundant.

I wonder what’s meant here by “redundant”. “Redundant” as in unnecessary if your toms are already really punchy? Maybe.

Sometimes I wonder if bass drum tuning is less about the sound the drummer wants and more about how they play. I recently made the (painful) transition from heel down to heal up, mainly to master the slide pedal technique. Slide pedal is really the only way to get lightning–fast doubles on a single kick, but it will not work if your kick drum has any resonance. You have to bury the crap out of that beater, which means you need to muffle the crap out of that kick.

I’ve never heard a double kick drum part that is cool enough that it’s worth giving up control of the hi–hat. The hi–hat is such an important and subtle part of the kit, if you can’t play a part on a single kick then that means you need to split it between your hands and feet, not give up one of your most important dynamic tools on the entire kit.

It can be a tough sacrifice for sure, but often times it’s worth making.

Also, some drummers find ways around this. There’s an uncommon gimmick where drummers stick their foot in between the auxiliary pedal and the hi–hat pedal to play both at once (albeit very crudely). 

Drum fills are unnecessary but nowadays expected and only serve to keep the drummer awake.

Now, this is a spicy one. 

It’s tough to evaluate what’s “unnecessary”. Is anything other than a kick drum really necessary? Most songs on the charts have drum fills, even songs with canned drums; maybe it’s because it’s just the way music works and nobody challenges it, but I think most producers understand songs would be missing something without fills. 

How about something that’s really unpopular — I hate the click being present in music. Everyone always insists on playing and recording to the click, to be in perfect time and so on… I want music to fluctuate! I love how some of the older bands start a tune in one tempo and rev it up like 20 BPM for the chorus, that’s just cool as hell and DAWs ruined that for modern music

It’s interesting how so many people like it when a song “naturally” speeds up. Consider another example: what about instruments going out of tune during the course of a song? Is it good just because it’s “natural”? 

I don’t have a problem with tempo changes as long as they are deliberate. A drummer blasting off after filling into the hook of a song is not deliberate, and it doesn’t sound good.

But click tracks aren’t necessarily there to fix that; modern music still changes tempo. Clicks really caught on because they make recording easier. Instead of spending all day trying to get the perfect take of a song from start to finish, you can get five pretty good takes and edit them all together for the perfect track. That won’t work without a click. You can also copy the drums from one section of a tune and add them to a section that didn’t have drums previously. Lastly, it helps you experiment — trying out a few different things for one section and picking the take that has the ideas you like the most.

Maybe the downside of this is that music doesn’t “groove” anymore… but honestly, the general music audience isn’t gonna notice. Most drummers don’t even know what groove means. 

Rockband was and still is the best way to become a great, versatile drummer. You’re playing [note–for–note] sheet music on expert difficulty and you’re playing a multitude of styles and artists that you normally wouldn’t play on your own. Get good enough at the game and you can walk up to a drum kit for the first time and after 30 minutes acclimating to the difference you’re a proper drummer that is as god or better than most drummers. Give it a few days and you very well could be gig ready

Awesome — now we get to talk about a completely batshit insane take. 

Someone could write a college thesis on this topic, so I’ll just address a few claims here. First, describing Rockband’s UI as “sheet music” is very generous. Tracking colored squares as they descend down a television screen is a far cry from how modern musical notation works. A “multitude of styles” is also laying it on thick — while there are many artists in Rockband, it’s called Rockband for a reason

I will concede that Rockband will probably improve your timing, but in a narrow way; that is, getting good at syncing up movements to onscreen direction when you should be using your ears. 

It’s been over a decade since I played one of these games, but it looks like certain Rockband installments have some sort of drum solo mechanic where you can ad–lib on the controller during song transitions. Watch this guy play “Everlong” and notice how the timing falls apart whenever the game stops telling him what to do. 

I don’t blame him, since he’s not drumming — he’s playing a video game. And that’s my overall argument. I’m generally of the opinion that the only way to get better at the drums is to play the drums. Rockband won’t tell you anything about how an actual drum set works, let alone the finer points of playing like dynamics and articulations. It also isn’t very helpful in teaching you how to come up with your own drum parts, which is pretty goddamn important if you ask me.

So… I don’t buy this. 

Ok, that’s enough. If another one of these pops up, don’t count on me engaging. It’s probably for the best.

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