Ah, the drummer! So many jokes about that guy! So many punchlines! He plays too loud, too fast, too much. He’s drooling as he works up a sweat, he can’t count further than 4, he’s the best groupie of the band. Yes, the drummer provokes a lot of laughs.
He’s also the guy nobody understands in the band. Any discussion goes above his head. Here’s an example:
Bass Player: Hey, what are the chords in the bridge?
Guitar player: It starts with Em, then A, jumps to D, then goes back to Em.
Bass player nods silently as his fingers move on the fret board.
Drummer: All right, cool. What do you want me to play?
All other musicians: ???
Because no one knows a difference between a shuffle and a nanigo (And if you don’t, there’s a great drum teacher that can explain to you what’s what). Because, contrary to the rest of the band who can all follow a few notes jolted down on a piece of paper, the drummer cannot. He has to, have a bank of knowledge before he steps into the rehearsal space.
An yet, the drummer is the most important piece of the modern orchestra. Everybody needs him. Everybody. For the beat, for the mood, for the orchestration, for the structure of the song.
When I get a beginner, I show them a simple beat at first. Then I grab a guitar or a piano and I play a song with them. They are always surprised that I follow them, that they need to keep a steady and strong beat, that they cannot be distracted by the music, they have to keep plowing through their thing no matter what. In one word: they are all of the sudden the ones I lean on. I build upon their beat the walls and the roof of the song. But I need the foundation to be strong.