orange Pearl drums

Are Drummers in Demand Today? (Get More Gigs)

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Since I have a bit of a business-oriented mind, I’ve often wondered if drummers are in demand where I’m living. After all, I want people to call me for gigs!

The demand for drummers is above average compared to most other musicians. I have found that bass players are the most in-demand for a typical band situation. Of course, all of this is relative and mainly in your control as a drummer. I always remember that I mostly create my demand as a drummer.

I’m going to discuss why, where, and how you can increase your demand as a drummer. There are several reasons drummers are in high order compared to most other musicians. I’ve considered a few of these areas while increasing my demand over the years.

Why are Drummers in Demand?

Solid drummers will always be in demand because the great ones are difficult to find. Drummers are the foundation of a song. They are the backbone of a band or ensemble. You can find many average drummers who can play a basic rock beat, but they can’t play solidly consistently.

Can they stay steady with their time? Can they play a whole gig without wavering a lot? Most drummers cannot do these things, and it takes most players years of playing to a metronome before they are very consistent. There just aren’t that many skilled drummers for bands to choose from, so the good drummers will always be in demand.

Here are some further reasons that contribute to drummers being in demand:

1. Drums are Physically Bulky

They are challenging to move around. This is one reason some fewer people prefer drums as their instrument of choice. I know I try to avoid carrying my drums around in my car, if possible. I like to play gigs where a drum set is already setup at the venue. This is another reason there are fewer drummers compared to other musicians, thereby causing more demand.

2. Drums are Loud

Guitarists, bass players, and others can practice with headphones in silence. It’s much more difficult for drummers. We can use specific pads to silent drums or purchase and electronic drum set, but it’s simply not the same as playing a standard acoustic drum set. I need to have a practice space where I can play at full capacity without worrying about disturbing neighbors.

A few years ago, I bought an electronic set, and I could never get it to feel like a regular drum set. In the end, I sold it to a Berklee college student after posting it on Craigslist. Some people swear by electronic drums, but it’s not the same experience for me.

3. It Takes Years to Become a Great Drummer

Over the years, I’ve played with rock groups and some jazz ensembles. I’ve been humbled many times by bandmates who ask me to sound different or be steadier with my time. As most drummers will tell you, it’s a constant process to get better and become consistent.

I’ve wanted to give up many times because it feels like one step forward and two steps back. One day, I can walk out of a jazz practice, thinking, “I’m pretty good.” The very next week, it feels like I can’t play any of the tunes well, and I get discouraged.

It’s essential to have other drummer friends for a pep talk whenever I get discouraged about my progress. It always feels good to hear one of my teachers tell me they still experience many setbacks as professional drummers. If you don’t talk to other musicians, you may feel you are the only one feeling inadequate as a musician. Trust me, you are not the only one! I have found this is a typical experience for most musicians progressing along the path to becoming a master. A lot of drummers give up after a while.

4. Most Drummers Don’t Know How to Play for the Song

Learning to play just what is needed for the tune and not overplaying is a skill. It’s a sensitivity that requires listening to other musicians. Nothing is more frustrating than playing with a drummer or other musician who isn’t listening to everyone else. It becomes apparent when you hear a drummer overplaying or playing offbeat compared to the other musicians.

One tip my ensemble leader taught me is to imagine you’re sitting in the middle of the room listening to the tune played by all band members. Now, I can adjust my drumming to compliment the other musicians playing the song, so the overall composition sounds balanced and complete.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision and become unaware of the big picture when playing in a band situation. Your goal should be to make the overall tune sound perfect. Become a great listener.

Remember, when you’re first learning to play drums, you have to concentrate a lot on your four limbs staying in concert with the situation. If you haven’t developed limb independence, you aren’t going to be able to pay enough attention to your fellow players. I’ve painfully learned this while becoming a jazz player. At first, I had to line up my right hand on the ride cymbal with my left foot on the hi-hat during the two and four beats.

If this hasn’t become automatic, you simply can’t musically discern what is happening with the rest of the band. It takes time. Few players are willing to put in years of practice to develop this independence, which allows a drummer to immerse themselves into a song or musical moment fully.

It’s been a great feeling for me as my capacity has strengthened and I can be fully aware of my fellow jazz musicians in the room and play exactly what is needed in a song. Believe me, other musicians appreciate it the process becomes a lot more fun.

We drummers are in demand because it’s challenging to find the truly great ones who have mastered their craft through years of diligent practice. There are many “average drummers” who don’t provide anything special to a song or sound.

Where are Drummers in Demand?

I live in the Boston area, which has some of the most talented musicians in the United States. There are A LOT of great drummers in this area. New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville are some other cities where you will meet heavy competition as a drummer or any musician.

Medium-sized cities with great music scenes, such as Asheville, North Carolina, would be a possible hot spot to be a drummer in demand. I would suggest staying close to these medium-sized cities that are a little under the radar in regards to vibrant music scenes.

Of course, if you feel you are in the top 15% of drummers, go to New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville, where you can play with the best musicians and possibly find more lucrative opportunities.

How to Increase Your Demand as a Drummer?

I had a great jazz instructor recently in my ensemble tell me about the 3 Ps, “proximity, punctuality, and personality”.

1. Proximity

I have gotten to play with some great musicians above my skill level simply because I hang around some of their same circles. I’m a member of an adult music school so I play with different musicians and meet people every week. Simply being around more musicians increases my demand as a drummer compared to some more skilled than me who practices all day in their house alone most of the time.

2. Punctuality

You can find a lot of gigs by gaining a reputation as a drummer who shows up on time. Believe it or not, a lot of talented drummers can’t do this consistently.

How many times have you met flakey musicians who don’t show up on time or have other problems that cause band angst? People notice when you show up on time and are consistent. It just makes everything more fun and easier if you’re playing with musicians who care enough to show up on time.

3. Personality

I’ve learned to become friends with many musicians. Think about it, don’t you want to create music with people you like and not necessarily the most skilled musicians? I’ve always loved creating music with my friends because you are communicating on an intimate level through music and brotherhood is developed through the creative process.

In the past, I felt I had to become the most skilled drummer to find gigs, but that’s not the case. I became a member of an adult music school and met all kinds of great people who became my friends. As a result, I get calls to substitute for ensembles or play gigs with people I know.

It’s not only about your skill level. If you are a reasonably solid drummer with good time, you can find gigs by adhering to the 3 Ps.