I have played the drum set since 1978 and have been in a number of bands since 1985. As a certifiable fanatic of music and as a drummer, I have heard many myths about drumming over the years. Here are just four of those myths:
- Aspiring drummers must take drum lessons. There is no doubt that taking drum lessons is enormously beneficial since an aspiring drummer will learn the basic 13 rudiments and then add the other 13 rudiments to complete the suite of 26 drumming rudiments. Knowing the rudiments does give a drummer a great feel, an ability to understand and play in many different (and some very difficult) time signatures, and it will pay off since once a drummer moves from the snare drum to the drum set he/she can bring those rudiments to every drum that is a part of the drum set and that makes for interesting drum fills; however, there are many drummers in the world who have never had a drum lesson in his/her life and they are amazing drummers. Ultimately, music is about expression and passion, so I believe it is best to play by what is in his/her heart, by natural feel (we human beings are tribal since our beginnings and the beats and rhythms are “in there”), and by whatever mood he/she happens to be in while playing songs X, Y, and Z. At its root, music is about digging deep into the players’ and the listeners’ heads, hearts, and souls and one can do that quite successfully as a self-taught drummer while playing by heart, natural feel, and mood. Yes, lessons can go a long way; however, a future doctor ultimately needs to go to medical school while a future drummer does not ultimately need drum lessons.
- Drummers need to be able to read music. Again, the same as lessons, the ability to read snare drum music, drum set music, and even—at an advanced level of playing—drum charts (very stripped down versions of drum set music) can be an added advantage, I believe and many drummers have proven that—just like #1 above—playing by heart, natural feel, and mood can be and is also a legitimate and wonderful way to convey expression and passion.
- A drum set player needs to have a massive drum set. No. A drummer needs to be able to play drums first. And, there are countless drummers out there in the world who can blow the roof off of a venue and utterly capture the crowd with a small drum set. The biggest advantage a drummer gets from a large drum set is simply more voices (more drums) that can add to the music. Many of my most favorite drummers—including my favorite drummer of all time, Neil Peart (Neil Peart) of Rush (Rush)—have large drum sets, but it is not a necessity. Watch Mike Portnoy (Mike Portnoy) with Dream Theater (Dream Theater) and the different massive drum sets he had over the years with that band and then watch him playing a significantly smaller drum set with The Winery Dogs (The Winery Dogs) and you will see what I mean.
- Every drummer should aspire to be their greatest drum idol. Not true. As already stated, Neil Peart of Rush is my all-time favorite drummer. While his superhuman playing, musicianship, and otherworld creativity inspire and motivate me to the max each and every day, I have no desire to be Neil Peart. The world already has a Neil Peart and the world only has one of me. So, I wish to be the best drummer I can be (be better today than I was yesterday and the day before and so on) while looking to all of my drum idols and heroes to inspire and motivate me, but I want to be Scott McBean the drummer and not Scott McBean—another Neil Peart the drummer. This really applies to all aspects of each of our lives. All of us are unique, so we need to be ourselves no matter what we are doing, including playing the drums.
Here are two examples with Mike Portnoy insofar as a large and small drum set:
With The Winery Dogs and his much smaller drum set with that band: