female drummer at drumset

Why are Good Drummers So Hard to Find?

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Good drummers, who possess complete mastery of the skills and professionalism most sought after by other musicians, are seemingly always in short supply. 

I believe the answer actually lies closer to the fact there are plenty of GREAT drummers; it’s just a question of why they are not available.

In this article, I’ll present some of the factors of why skilled and seasoned drummers are not available, and some of the ways other musicians might have better success in connecting with them.

Quality Creates Demand – Including Drummers

The number one asset any musician should possess is QualityQuality is defined as “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.”

Characteristics of Good Drummers:

  • solid time
  • feel
  • dexterity
  • musicality  
  • professionalism. 

Although many drummers excel in certain sets of specific skills such as speed or double bass, the drummer’s overall quality of skill and musicianship are the most in-demand and, therefore, will always find themselves busy. Drummers are recognized as crucial for a good band.

In other words, although it may be great to possess amazing chops if you don’t also have good timekeeping, listening skills, or professionalism, chances you are you will not be in high demand.

If you are a professional drummer, you must consider your playing your business and know that the quality of what your present to other musicians and your students (your “customers”) will be the determining factor to your success- financial and otherwise.

Becoming a Cheap Drummer Doesn’t Help

Many young drummers make the mistake of placing price over quality in an attempt to “undercut” their competitors and create more demand. In the hopes of getting more students and more gigs, they will offer lower, “more attractive” rates than that of quality seasoned professionals in their area. 

Although in the short term this can create more customers and revenue. In the end, it will prove fatal as inevitably the customers (students and other musicians) will be dissatisfied and move on to what they feel is a better quality option regardless of the higher price.

Here is a great article outlining how important quality is for business concerning both its customers and longevity: https://www.mycustomer.com/community/blogs/larryalton/why-quality-is-the-most-important-thing-to-your-customers

It gives a great example of Apple Products and its success with repeat customers.

“Consider Apple’s success in selling more than 800 million devices to more than 130 million users in the year 2015 alone. Those numbers show that customers have bought multiple products from the retailer, and they wouldn’t have that kind of success if people didn’t love the quality, even though their products are considerably more expensive than other options.”

Even when an “in demand” drummer is not booked, why are they just so hard to find?”

Chances are, they are practicing!

Rare Good Drummers Practice More

It’s been well established that the key to having the mastery required by a professional drummer can be attributed to years of study and thousands of hours of practice.

Professional Drummers Master These Skills

  • Accurate Timekeeping
  • Complete Dynamic Control of the whole drumset
  • Listening to and playing with other musicians
  • A great feel for the music 
  • Basic understanding of Music Theory
  • Professional attitude and communication skills
  • Self-accountability (Punctual, Learning the Music)

Journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10,000-hour rule in his 2008 bestseller, “Outliers.” He states that mastery comes after someone practices one skill — like playing the drums — for 10,000 hours.

Although Gladwell’s theory has been both lauded and debunked over the years, you will still need to put in the appropriate amount of time to possess the quality you want to present to your customers.

Benefits of Consistent Drum Practice

  • Maintaining your skills and staying sharp
  • Keeping up with your competitors
  • Elevating musicianship and business dealings

One of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century, John Coltrane, possessed a legendary work ethic and was notorious for non-stop practicing even after becoming one of the most influential voices in Jazz mid-1960s.

Coltrane’s practicing was of such priority that he would not even be available on set breaks during performances and could be found in the men’s room practicing!

The Good Drummers are Always Booked

This phrase can often be heard from other musicians who find it very frustrating that the drummers they want to hire are never available.

A couple of critical points to consider:

  • Experienced Drummers that are in high demand are also very organized. They no doubt will be very on top of their calendars and schedules and will also be blocking off extra time for rehearsal and individual practice time. Most often, their schedules are well booked for a year or two in advance.
  • A seasoned drummer may also be finding a balance between professional and family life and personal interests and hobbies outside of music. This will all be in consideration when calls come in. Time is at an absolute premium.

For these reasons, it can often be challenging to hire a quality professional on speculation or without the promise of a fruitful financial or long-term endeavor.

Although these drummers are still passionate about art and music, they are often unavailable to respond to open-ended requests such as:

  • “Hey! Are your Free?”
  • “Let’s Jam!” 
  • “I’ve got a non-paying opportunity to play for future exposure.”

They are well established and have paid their dues with their rates and reputations are well earned.

Consider that you would never call up a successful airline and say, “Hey! I really like your airline and was wondering if I could fly cross-country for free? If I like it, I’ll tell all my friends about it!”

It would be hard to imagine any successful business operating in such a manner.

Although most in-demand drummers would love to get together for the sheer joy of music-making and connecting with others, it logistically is not often possible.

You Must Attract Good Drummers

Musicians look for that “in demand” drummer to bring quality and experience to their music, which can both artistically and financially rewarding for all parties involved. The drummer will feel that their time and services were appreciated, and the musician will be pleased with the quality that they paid for.

However, more often than not, the disorganized, inexperienced musician will call upon an experienced drummer to solve their problemsThis will not be an enjoyable or rewarding experience and will usually result in the drummer not accepting future requests for services.

For the musician looking to attract just the right drummer for their music, it may be more beneficial to put their efforts towards making sure the opportunity they are offering is at an equal value or, at the very least, musically satisfying. 

A few points for the musician to consider:

  • Are their skill sets of high quality, and are they organized and professional? 
  • Is the gig, recording session, or tour both musically and financially worth it for the requested amount of time? 
  • Are they demanding, entitled, or overall just a “bad hang”? 

These are all factors the experienced drummer will be considering. Of course, negotiating these points can always be done in a friendly, professional matter, but remember this is a business, and again time is at an absolute premium.

I was very fortunate early on to have older, experienced musicians and teachers impart precious advice on matters musical, financial, and otherwise.

Law of Attraction and Drummers

One concept that always stayed with me was the “Law of Attraction.”  Although backed by no scientific evidence and widely considered a pseudoscience, I’ve still considered the basic premise one can apply to how you conduct yourself.

  • “The Law of Attraction” is the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life. The theory is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are made from “pure energy” and that a process of like energy attracting like energy exists through which people can improve their health, wealth, and personal relationships. 

We can apply this very simply. Put the time and energy (by practice) into creating the most quality product you can. In turn, those who similarly conduct themselves both musically and professionally will recognize that in you and be drawn to your services. 

In Conclusion

I hope that these examples explain why those good drummers are so hard to find. I also hope by doing so, I’ve not only helped demystify some of the reasons but also left you feeling positive about making a musical connection with a player of the quality you desire.

Again, the reality is that they are more good drummers out there than not. Remember, anything worth having may not come easy, and you always get what you pay for.

It may take a bit longer to find that drummer you desire, but it will be well worth it as you will have full confidence that it will be the right one for you.

Best of Luck and I hope to see you out there!