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Drummer

Last updated: Apr 28, 2022
Reads: 8,922

Career Overview

A Drummer is a musician who provides rhythmic accompaniment in an ensemble or band using percussion instruments like drums, cymbals, and drumsticks.

Alternate Titles

Percussionist

Salary Range

$0 to $100,000+

Career Description

Most bands playing contemporary music styles such as jazz, rock, pop, R&B, country, blues, reggae, and Latin have a Drummer to keep the time, provide the rhythmic underpinning of the music, and shape the overall sound of the group. Drummers have a strong influence on determining the tempo, dynamics, and timbre (tone) of the music being played by a group.

In western musical styles, Drummers play a drum set or drum kit–a collection of drums, cymbals, accessories (such as a cowbell or tambourine) with stands to hold up various parts of the set, and pedals, all played by a single player. The drum kit used by most Drummers today includes a bass drum (or sometimes two) played using a beater mounted on a foot-pedal, floor toms, snare drum, rack-mounted toms, hi-hat, ride and crash cymbals, played with drumsticks. Some Drummers also use percussive instruments like bongos, gongs, shakers, triangles, cowbells, or wood blocks in their performances and may use brushes or mallets instead of sticks as beaters.

Drummers set the tempo and provide the pulse of the music, accompany the harmony and melody players, and support the Singer or Vocalists when present. Drummers playing traditional music in many cultures use individual drums that are sometimes played using bare hands.

Drums are also used in marching bands and military groups, usually played by groups of Drummers playing synchronized or interlocking parts. Throughout history, military drum ensembles were used to coordinate marching and to instill fear in the heart of the enemy. Drums have also been used since ancient times for communicating across distances.

Drummers play a hugely important role in maintaining the rhythm and sound of an ensemble. They have an impressive knowledge of rudiments such as the single stroke roll, double stroke roll, and flam stroke; these are the short percussive patterns that serve as the foundation for more elaborate drumming sequences. Drummers also help to delineate the form of a song or composition, especially by making changes to the groove or playing improvised fills on the drum set to mark the beginning or end of sections in the music. Drummers sometimes play solos or might play on their own during a musical section featuring rhythm only.

To learn what it’s like to be a working Drummer and build a career in performance, we talked to:

  • Chris Beck (Soloist, Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid)
  • Terri Lyne Carrington (Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding)
  • Ray “Quasi” Nelson (Kehlani, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Sabrina Claudio)

What is the role of a Drummer in a band?

Terri Lyne Carrington (Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding)

Every person in a band is responsible for some of the same things. People like to think that Drummers are responsible for rhythm and groove, but everybody’s responsible for rhythm, groove, and time. Drummers also need to know and understand melodies, lyrics, and harmony. They need to know the same things about music that the other musicians know, because I play differently when I know lyrics, when I know the chords, where it’s going, and when I can sing the melody, you know? I can’t really play unless I know the melody and can sing it.

We’re all responsible for everything, but in essence, a Drummer can very much help control the direction a song goes in, the mood, and the dynamics of a piece of music. We can demand that everybody play softer or everybody play louder. So that part, dynamics, rests a little more on the Drummer sometimes. But they have to be in tune with what everybody else is doing.

Chris Beck (Soloist, Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid)

First, you’re preparing through method books and things like that to gain knowledge of rudiments. You gotta have some sort of knowledge of the instrument in order to play the instrument.

Secondly, I would say in terms of the business aspect, you just have to be a team player. Most of the time, when you see a Drummer, they’re in the context of a full band. So, unless you’re playing drums by yourself, your job is to support the other musicians, whether it’s a Sax Player, or Guitar Player, or Vocalist, whatever–your role is to support them.

For me personally, that’s a huge thing. Any opportunity I get to play, I have to keep in mind that my overall job is to support and make the other musicians feel good and feel warm, and able to bring out their ideas.

Ray "Quasi" Nelson (Kehlani, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Sabrina Claudio)

I don’t want to sound cliché, but in the movie Drumline they say: The drums are the heartbeat of the band. It’s the pulse. Genuinely, we are the foundation. Across any genre, we’re responsible for keeping the time, holding the band together, and being that foundation, that base where everybody can lock in.

Everyone can kind of do what they want in their own musical sense, but the Drummer has to be the more consistent one. That speaks across all genres from jazz to pop to rock and Latin. Drums are that foundation.


Are drummers in demand?

Caleb J. Murphy

Yes, drummers are in demand. Because of the electric energy of a live performance, drummers will always be needed on the stage. As for the studio, technology has improved to the point where producers and artists can get drums in their songs without a human drummer, but the downside is that it takes a lot of time and effort to program drums to sound real. When recording a live drummer, the producer or artist can give immediate feedback, allowing the drummer to quickly play what’s needed.

Salary

With the wide range of roles Drummers can fill, it’s tricky to get a handle on exact financial figures. Entry-level Drummers will make less per gig than more experienced, well-known Drummers, who will usually be first in line when a lucrative touring gig opens up. A Session Drummer who’s at a high level in their career could make around $100,000 annually. There are some who make much more, depending on the style of music. There’s generally more money paid to Drummers playing in popular styles with famous groups than in jazz, blues, or less popular styles.

Of course, this isn’t a salaried career and most Drummers piece together gigs through different means, whether that’s teaching private lessons while holding down a residency at their local jazz club or being placed on retainer to tour with a superstar band. There’s also a diversity in pay structure, which means some Drummers may set an hourly rate for studio work while many others will be paid per week when they’re on the road with a band.

How much does a professional, touring Drummer make?

Ray "Quasi" Nelson (Kehlani, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Sabrina Claudio)

It varies. In the music industry, everybody’s story is different. For me, I had to diversify my portfolio throughout my journey. It wasn’t just financially. Me being an entrepreneur and business person, I always wanted to come outside of just being music-centered. Because I grew up in a musician family, I knew that no matter how good it can get, it varies. And there are a lot of variations.

In music, it levels to some guys in rock bands who make over $100,000 a year. One thing I will say as a musician, in the rock community, those bands get paid very well. From my knowledge, they take care and make sure everyone is accounted for with tours. I don’t know if it’s still the same way, but in the ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, rock bands were treated very well.

I don’t want to say I ventured out of jazz because I still play a lot of jazz but I knew there was a cap to that. Especially with playing with such a prestigious and legendary band like the Count Basie Orchestra and where the jazz scene is at now, I knew there was a cap. In the jazz world, you make more money when you’re the lead person. Numbers can be anywhere from $1,000 a gig.

Stepping into the more pop, R&B side of things … more mainstream if you will … it can be contingent upon the artist; you’re still with a high-profile artist, but your work is contingent upon the artist, unless you’re on retainer. When you’re playing with somebody like Michael Bublé and you’re on retainer, you’re getting paid even when you’re not working, which is essentially a salary. You can bring in $60,000–$100,000 just by being on retainer. But those gigs are very few and far between. When the cats are on those gigs, most of the time, they’re not leaving.

For an entry-level touring musician with a decent budget, you can make anywhere from $800–$1,000 a week on the low end. That’s just speaking touring. There are levels to it. Then you can get your residency. If you have a residency every Tuesday night, that’s your income. If you play at church, that’s your income. There’s a bunch of different ways you can be a musician. If you’re in a union, you make even more money. It’s about being knowledgeable about your resources and not being closed-minded. Don’t think you’re going to do just one thing. Be versatile.

I always think it’s best to diversify your portfolio. The more you can bring to the table, the more rooms you can be in. I got into production. I run a non-profit that’s geared towards music. It’s a non-profit so we don’t make money, but again, because I’m the Executive Director, there’s room for a salary in that realm once we get to that level. We’ve been in existence for six years and it’s been a journey. We’ve only been a non-profit for the last two years.

Long story short, I think it’s about being versatile and about being aware and knowledgeable. Knowing what the gig pays. Knowing what other cats in the same arena are getting paid. Making sure you’re somewhere in that range and not getting the lower end of the stick.

Terri Lyne Carrington (Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding)

Generally, it takes a hustle in other areas besides just touring, because if you rely on just touring and then a pandemic happens, you’re really in trouble, right? Often, it does take other areas like teaching or composing. Some people got grants during the pandemic for composing. There are online opportunities now. It still revolves around teaching, but it could be just speaking on a subject. It goes back to having knowledge that you can use in your favor.

But it really varies. Some people make $100 or $200 a gig, and some people make $1,000 or $2,000 a gig touring with other people. It really varies with the level of the band you’re working with. That level generally reflects the level of your playing. Sometimes it doesn’t.

It goes back to those other skills about knowing how to market yourself–being the type of person that people want to hire. Some people would rather hire someone who’s a lesser player, but who’s somebody they can depend on, somebody that adds value to the room, somebody that they like to be around. All of that goes a long way. That person will get hired before the person that plays a little better than them but who’s a drag to be around or is undependable, doesn’t show up on time. All those things become factors.

But all things being equal, you generally gravitate to the level that you’re at. There’s like, an energy that connects you to where you’re supposed to be. I think the universe unfolds as it should. I always say that. If you’re attuned, the path that you take is generally supported. You know what I mean? People find their way.

So, as far as income, it’s just gonna vary with all those things. If people are touring clubs, they’re not gonna make as much money as people touring theaters. If people are touring stadiums, they’re gonna make more money than people touring theaters, in general.

Chris Beck (Soloist, Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid)

That’s a really open-ended, deep question. You have different perspectives. You have Drummers that are super-super-wealthy, and then you have Drummers that are just holding on or trying to make it to the next gig. What I’ve been told and what seems to work for me is, if you truly take care of the music, the music will take care of you. Whatever that means. Everybody’s level is different in terms of that.

When I first moved to New York, I was doing $50 gigs. That was then. Now if someone called me to do a $50 gig–I mean, if it was one of my friends, I may still do that gig–if it’s not someone I know, I may not be available for that just because it may cost me more money to actually be involved.

There are different levels to this thing. But what I initially said still stands. If one is truly taking care of the music, it will take care of you. It will take you all over the world like it’s done for me. Now in terms of actual numbers, there are some Drummers that are multi-millionaires, billionaires, but they’re involved in many different things. It’s different for everybody.

I can just say in my own life, there have been times where I make a lot of money one year and then the next year may not be so great. Of course, I have to get paid when I play, but for me, it’s like when I’m playing, I’m making history. So it’s a different thing. It’s not just, “Oh, I need to get money, money, money.”

There are different things that go into it. Like, what am I gonna learn from this work? Because sometimes you can have a really good gig that doesn’t pay, but you learn so much about the music, about yourself. You learn so much spiritually. But it may not pay the amount of money that you think it should pay. Then it’ll be those gigs that pay super well, but the music sucks.

It’s really different for every person. I’ll say it again: if one takes care of the music, the music will take care of you. I’m a living witness because I’ve been all over the world, and it’s been the drums that have taken me there. And when I go, I don’t have to pay for my stuff to go. I just bring my drums, and I make sure, of course, that I’m clean. I like to dress; I’m into dressing. So I pack my suitcase, I have my drums, make sure my drums are prepared, I got my clothes, and I’m ready to hit the stage. Music is great. It’s awesome, but it’s not for everyone.

Sometimes when you’re playing, you may not be making the amount of money that you think you ought to make. And if you need to do other things to supplement that, then that’s fine. The best musicians have done that. It’s all about your passion, staying focused and clear, and knowing what you wanna do.

Now, I can fully, honestly say I’m supporting myself off of music. I do teach a couple of times during the week, but for the most part, for the last seven years, it’s been music. So I’m grateful for that. I used to work at Home Depot, and I used to work at the post office, so it’s like, I’m never too proud. If I need to go back, I’ll be ready to go. But I’m doing my best to take care of the music, so it’s been taking care of me quite well.


Can you make a living teaching drums?

Caleb J. Murphy

You can definitely make a living teaching drums, it just depends on your willingness to do it for living. Many drummers treat drum lessons as a supplemental income to their gigs and session work, but drummers who are passionate about teaching can make a decent salary. People are willing to pay a high fee to learn drums, as long as you’re a knowledgable, patient, adaptable, and professional drum teacher.

Career Outlook

Like most artistic careers, building a career as a professional Drummer will take time, hard work, tenacity, and some luck. Although there are a limited number of high-paying gigs available, there is a strong community of musicians, and individuals and groups are always on the lookout to hire a good Drummer. Since most Drummers find work through the relationships they build with other actively performing musicians, developing and maintaining a strong personal and professional network are key to becoming employed.

Some Drummers choose to specialize in a single style and may become well-known in musical circles for playing that style. A Drummer who excels in a certain style will have opportunities to play with groups playing that style and may secure a good position that way.

Alternatively, many Session Drummers are competent in playing many different styles and may get lots of calls to play because they are so versatile stylistically. From playing local gigs to international tours, performing at festivals, with marching bands, or in a theater orchestra pit, offering private lessons for students, to being a Band Director or Music Teacher at a school, there are many opportunities for young Drummers to build a thriving career.

How long does it take to become a pro-level Drummer?

Terri Lyne Carrington (Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding)

That’s a tough one. It’s different for everybody. Some people are very quick. There are people that started playing one instrument and changed instruments in college and became whizzes, and they have amazing careers. Then there are people who have been playing since childhood–since single digits. So it really depends.

I do know that hard work is generally involved. There are some people that are just naturals … they have an aptitude for certain things a little more than others. But either way, it involves hard work, because if you have an aptitude for something and you don’t work hard, chances are you won’t go real far. Sometimes your aptitude may not be as strong as someone else’s, but you work harder and you go further. It’s a combination of both things.

As far as the time it takes, I was always taught that it’s really not about the fast race. It’s about the slow and steady race. As long as you’re getting better every day, every week, every year, then that’s really all you should be focused on. Somebody once told me the only competition is yourself.

Chris Beck (Soloist, Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid)

That’s a pretty heavy question. I would say it depends on the person. What I consider being a pro is being paid to play. Now, everyone has to negotiate their fee or whatever, but if you can sustain yourself by playing the music, then I would consider you a pro. But to answer your question, I would say that depends on the person.

Ray "Quasi" Nelson (Kehlani, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Sabrina Claudio)

As an artist, you never see yourself as becoming proficient. There’s always this level of greatness we’re chasing. My parents did a really good job of putting me in these programs and talent shows and allowing me to perform. I was like eight-years-old playing these shows and by the time I’m ten-years-old, I think I’m killing it. Then you get to YouTube and you see all these other Drummers that are really killing it!

As you progress, you never really get to that level of satisfaction with your art. There are levels to it. You get to the point where you’re comfortable. I would say proficiency is where you put in the work, put in the hours, walk away for a couple of weeks or months, and when you sit down you can get back into it and it doesn’t take too long. You did your due diligence.

In terms of developing a career, I think that’s a twofold thing … where preparation meets opportunity. I always credit a lot of my success to the relationships I’ve built over the years; that I’ve been able to maintain a good rapport with people who can help me or work in collaboration. You don’t even know what that relationship may lead to at the time.

Being proficient, being a good person on the gig, hanging out. Being on time. Being prepared. A lot of these things play a role in allowing you to maintain those relationships so that people want to call you to work. Set yourself up for that, whether that be going to a college you feel is going to provide some opportunities, or going to a concert with live music and bumping shoulders with people who can lead to some other doors.

Create that kind of network that can eventually lead to you getting those calls. That’s the reality of it. A lot of people think you can go audition and get this gig. Sometimes that works, but a lot of times it’s phone calls and referrals. “Hey, I got this gig–I can’t do it, but you should call Quasi.”

Be a good person. Be professional. Carry yourself a certain way. Prepare for the opportunities.

Career Path

While there isn’t one career path that everyone takes, most professional musicians start playing at a young age, and fall in love with playing drums at some point. This leads to the decision to play drums for a career, usually in high school. Most Drummers develop their love and commitment to self-improvement through long hours of practice. Most study with a Private Teacher to give them direction and focus in their practicing.

The next step is to join or form a band, to gain experience and build connections for future gig opportunities. Being surrounded by career-minded musicians and playing in more advanced settings is a good way to prepare for the opportunities which will come later. Attending music school is another path many future professional Drummers take, to form more relationships and contacts, and to learn musical skills. Most Drummers learn to read music, as this is generally required for Session Drummers. At all stages of a musician’s career, it’s important to be constantly learning.

After school, they may continue to study privately with a Teacher. The focus then becomes on finding work. Having an electronic promo kit (EPK) or website with music videos, a music resume, an artist bio, list of recordings and gigs, press releases, and promo photos is important for Drummers to aid in getting gigs.

Word of mouth is equally important. Most Drummers get hired because someone recommended them. Showing up on time and being prepared goes a long way in getting referrals and call-backs for gigs and sessions. Drummers who reach the top of their craft are highly respected and will have strong demand for their services.

How do you become a professional Drummer?

Terri Lyne Carrington (Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding)

My steps were different from most people’s because I started very young and I had access to a lot of great Jazz Musicians through my father. They gave me a chance, so I was playing professionally by age ten.

But my path’s not the normal path. The normal path is people show interest at a young age, they go through some school programs hopefully, maybe starting in middle school, and by the time they get to high school, there’s something there. They’re trying to join a high school band, or go to a summer camp, or whatever they do in high school that is preparing them for college.

Then most people go to college and major in something related to music. It doesn’t have to be performance but it could be related to music. (Often people do that to have something to fall back on as opposed to just majoring in performance.) There are people that get Master’s degrees in Performance. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll necessarily be able to leave the Master’s program and then go perform on some higher level. It doesn’t correlate with your degree.

The point of getting a degree, to me, is to be able to teach or to have something to fall back on, but it’s also to get more knowledge. That’s really the point of going to school, to have the knowledge.

And you want to be a well-rounded person. That comes out in your music. The more well-rounded you are, the more opportunities you have in life in general, and the more opportunities you have in the music industry. I can make a living in the music industry without playing the drums, and that’s because I’m well-rounded. For me, even during the pandemic, that’s pretty much been the path.

Chris Beck (Soloist, Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid)

Honestly, it’s a community. It’s a community of people who gather together, and by word-of-mouth, your name can get to some Bandleader’s desk, and then they give you an opportunity. Most of the time, it’s just word-of-mouth. It’s just simple things like showing up on time.

I know now we’re in a different age, but when I came up, my Teachers told me, “Hey man, when you start to play, when you go to jam sessions, have your business card.” I know that’s not a popular thing now because we’re in this technology age and everything is on social media. But I still have business cards. I would say have a business card, especially if you’re migrating to an area where you don’t know people and people don’t know you, and you go to jam sessions and you meet people. You give out your card, or you say, “Hey, check out this CD,” or, “What’s your name?”

It’s communicating. Being a people person. Being a person that can sit down and have a basic conversation like, “How’s your day? How’s your family?” Just basic things. And like I said, being able to show up on time and be ready for the job.

They [the musical community] will decide if they think you’re good. If they think you’re good, maybe they’ll give you an opportunity. Maybe they’ll call you and say, “Hey, you wanna get together and have a session?” Usually, a session is like an unpaid rehearsal. People get together and they’ll jam. Some people will bring original music. Maybe some people will just have an arrangement of an old standard. But generally, if someone asks you to come by and do a session, that’s a hint that they like your playing.

Ray "Quasi" Nelson (Kehlani, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Sabrina Claudio)

For a long time you’re growing up and seeing all these pro Drummers and you’re like, what classifies a professional Drummer? Doing solely that for a living, whether that be touring or being a Studio Drummer, whatever? But as you get older and you get into it, you see the world and the reality of what that is.

I would consider myself a professional Drummer from the things that I’ve done. I was blessed to do some TV stuff and record stuff when I was really young. My first touring gig was with the Count Basie Orchestra. I was able to get that shot through Scotty Barnhart who is the Director of the band and also my big uncle. (He was friends with my dad and they went to college together.) That was my first official touring professional gig and it was a great experience.

When you get into it, it always looks different from what you thought. I had a very strong history of jazz growing up. I have my degree in jazz studies. Never thought I’d go on tour with a big band or within that music scene, but when the opportunity came, it came around full circle. (I was thinking I was going to get into some hot R&B gig, which eventually did come down the gate.) I got that because of a relationship I had developed with Scotty Barnhart, because he was calling me to do gigs in college. He was a Professor at Florida State and I went to Florida State A&M in Tallahassee, and those schools are right down the street from each other. So I studied a lot at FSU on the side and played with a lot of cats there. I did a lot of gigs with Scotty in college and he would say, “This guy’s going to be the next Drummer for the Count Basie Orchestra,” and I’d be like, “Ok, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

After I graduated, I got the call four or five months later to come and sub for the band, and then two months later I was offered the position. From there, all the other gigs I started to get outside of that were from relationships I had with friends or referrals.

Be prepared. You gotta put in the work.


How do drummers get gigs?

Caleb J. Murphy

It depends on the type of gig you’re looking for. The two main types are performance gigs and session drummer gigs, which are when you play drums on someone else’s recorded song. Assuming you’ve got the chops, you can start by creating an electronic press kit (EPK) for yourself. This is a folder on your computer and/or on your website that includes your bio, your favorite bands/drummers, professional photos, the drum kit you play, and a recording of you playing. To get performance gigs, you need to network with other local musicians ‒ go to open mics, concerts, and musician events. Networking will also help you get session drummer gigs. Additionally, you can get remote drumming gigs through websites like SoundBetter and Fiverr, although this requires you to be able to record drums on your own. Either way, you’ll be sharing your EPK with potential clients.

Experience & Skills

It’s important to note that Drummers are also musicians, and must know about all aspects of music, including melody and harmony. Reading music is an important skill, and not just drum music. Drummers must be able to look at sheet music and quickly understand the melody, harmony, and form of a piece. There may be a few Drummers who don’t read, but this is becoming increasingly rare, as Music Directors and Bandleaders aren’t able to take the time to play or listen to a piece over and over in order for musicians to learn by ear. That being said, it’s also important to be able to quickly memorize new music.

In addition to strong music skills and knowledge of music theory, Drummers must have a firm grasp of rudiments and the ability to stay on tempo while creating a rhythmic groove that will support and enhance the music. Listening carefully to the other players in the group and blending their sound, the Drummer must lock in rhythmically and find appropriate patterns using the components of the drum kit to complement the group and make the musicians playing the lead (melody or solos) or the Vocalist sound good. It’s especially important for the bass drum to fit precisely with the rhythm of the bass guitar or double bass instrument.

The Drummer should play in a way to provide exactly what the other players need to perform their parts, without adding too many extra embellishments or fills that might sound too “busy” or get in the way of the other musicians. There’s a fine line to doing this, and the best Drummers know how to do this masterfully.

After playing accompaniment roles in bands, some Drummers advance to Music Director or Bandleader. In these roles, they make decisions about which musicians to hire, select the music to be played, and write and direct arrangements for the group. Many Drummers also sing, both lead and background vocals. Singing is always viewed as a valuable skill and is likely to increase Drummers’ opportunities to perform. Being able to write musical compositions, arrangements, or songs, and produce shows and recordings are also extremely valuable skills a Drummer might bring to the table.

Beyond technical and music skills, Drummers must have strong people and leadership skills. Working collaboratively as part of a team, taking leadership roles when needed, and being an effective communicator all contribute to a Drummer’s ability to succeed. People and leadership skills extend beyond networking to include managerial ability, project management, time management, planning, and executing on the operational and logistical requirements of running a professional performing and recording band.

Music is a business, and the best Drummers understand the business of music inside and out. They tend to be easy to work with, friendly, and fun to be around. (Nobody likes a sourpuss.) It’s important to know how to listen and make genuine connections with people. Being positive when engaging with the community of musicians is key to finding and maintaining work as a pro-level Drummer.

What skills do you need to become a Drummer?

Chris Beck (Soloist, Cyrus Chestnut, Rufus Reid)

In terms of pedagogy, there are rudiments that you have to learn. After you have the knowledge of the rudiments, you would obviously know how to read music. I would say reading music is not 100% necessary, but it definitely makes your job easier. Especially these days, most Bandleaders don’t have time to keep rehearsing, rehearsing, and rehearsing before the show. A lot of the time, you see the music like fifteen minutes before you’re about to go and play.

Being able to look at a chart and decipher, “What am I playing here, and what’s happening? What’s the form of the tune?” All of that stuff comes with the role of being a Drummer. So I would definitely say reading is important. However, there are so many examples of great Drummers who don’t necessarily read. That doesn’t take away from their musicianship and the mastery of what they do artistically. You know what I’m saying?

However, in my own experience, being able to read music has allowed me to get through the rehearsals and get to the next gig. Because if somebody puts a chart in front of you and you don’t know how to read, or you need to hear it multiple times to get it … These days everything is fast and in a hurry, so I would say it would help out if you knew how to read.

Ray "Quasi" Nelson (Kehlani, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Sabrina Claudio)

Speaking of foundation, I think at the root of everything, you have to be in tune with what your rudiments are. A lot of the time, you take private lessons growing up or have an educational background, or you learn just by hearing and watching.

It’s all rudiments. You’re able to merge what comes naturally and what you’re able to pick up with the educational component, once you know all the necessary basics such as how to hold the sticks, rudiments, how to tune the drums, history of the drums, the list goes on, then you are on your way.

At the core, it’s really about that technical background and developing that. With any skill or instrument, it’s about studying as well–taking private lessons or watching Drummers on YouTube. I know a lot of Drummers are always studying other Drummers, whether it be social media, YouTube, or old videos, and learning that way. Being some type of student to the game is a skill.

Definitely discipline [is a skill]. You have to be disciplined because, being a Drummer, you have to be ambidextrous. There’s a lot going on, from what you have to think and what you have to do between different limbs. Being in tune with the feeling but also being in tune with the band. There are so many things going on. You have to be good at multitasking. You have to be able to walk and chew gum.

Terri Lyne Carrington (Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, Herbie Hancock, Esperanza Spalding)

The days of living in a silo and just doing your thing on your instrument are over. Everybody has to know the industry or you will not succeed. You don’t have to know every detail, but you have to have an understanding of how everything works, or you could be taken advantage of or just not do well. The industry now is made for people that reall