Without trying to sound too daunting, let me tell you that drumming can get fairly difficult at times. This is especially true when playing certain styles of music. Over my 20 years of playing the drums, there have been countless times when I’ve played certain genres and thought “I need to practice playing this style a lot more”.
Certain styles are just harder to get a grip of. This leads me to the question of which drumming style is the hardest for most drummers to play?
The hardest style of drumming to learn is jazz, followed closely by metal and latin. This is because jazz has one of the biggest ranges of material to learn to be a proficient drummer in an ensemble. Metal requires more technical control than other styles while Latin needs a fair amount of coordination between all your limbs.
The following are some insights that I’ve gained on each of these styles during my history of drumming:
The reason to why jazz is so hard is because it is a huge genre that has many different sub-styles within it that can take decades to master.
You may be good at playing slow swing ballads, but double-time swing bebop tunes are a separate skill set to master entirely
As someone who has met many new drummers over the years, I’ve also found that jazz is one of the harder styles for drummers to get into. We all start by learning how to play a basic rock beat instead of learning how to play a basic swing pattern. We’re trained from the start to only consider playing jazz at a later stage.
Something that I struggled with for the longest time in jazz drumming is the improvisational aspect of it. Jazz drummers never stick to one thing for very long, especially in small ensemble scenarios.
You need to keep playing things to enhance the tune and interact with the other musicians in the band in a conversational manner. This requires a wild amount of vocabulary needed from your side. Basically, you need to be able to play a lot of things!
To play jazz in a professional setting you also need to be familiar with jazz standards. These are popular jazz compositions that listeners love and musicians are expected to know, and learning these takes time.
From seeing the progression of drum students, I’d say that it can take up to 5 years of drumming before someone might feel comfortable playing jazz with a band. If you’re thinking of playing jazz in a professional setting, it could take up to 10 years.
While jazz is certainly difficult, there are a few other styles that are almost as hard to learn and master.
Latin drumming requires the most four-way independence out of any other drum style.
The roots of Latin music come from bands that have several percussionists playing different rhythmic instruments. Drummers decided that they would try to combine all those parts into one on the drum set and we ended up with beats like the Samba and Mambo.
Playing four different rhythms with all your limbs at the same time will never be an easy thing to do. Especially when the rhythms feel so unnatural to play at first. It’s for this reason that you’ll mainly see advanced drummers and pros playing Latin grooves on the drums.
Latin also closely ties in with jazz. There’s quite a bit of crossover between the two styles, so they both will take around the same amount of time to learn and get used to.
So this means up to 5 years before you feel comfortable playing in a band and up to 10 years before you can play in a professional setting.
Metal drumming is a different ball game to Jazz and Latin. The main focus here is speed and power behind the drum set.
I’d say it’s a hard style of drumming to learn as you need to have excellent technique to keep up with the intensity of most metal songs.
Playing things like blast beats and insanely fast drum fills requires you to be exceptionally skilled when it comes to hand speed. On top of that, you need to add in the double pedal on the bass drum.
You’re now playing with two bass pedals when most other drumming styles only need one.
Some may argue that playing with two pedals makes drumming easier. I don’t think that’s true in the case of playing speedy double bass patterns in a deathcore tune. You’ll find that most drummers who play in metal bands purely focus on metal drumming. The more focused you are, the better you’ll get at it.
I don’t think it will take as long to learn some metal beats and fills as it will with Latin and Jazz. So, you could be playing with your friends in a hard garage band in just a few months.
However, it will take a lot longer to get the level of playing high BPM (beat per minute) tunes that have complicated double bass parts. I’d say it would take minimum 5 years to get to that level. It would then take a lifetime to perfect it.
If you want to improve at these styles of drumming at a faster pace, there are a few things you need to do.
My biggest piece of advice would be to listen to as much of that music as you can. This is what I beginner drummers when they’re starting out on their drumming journey.
The more you listen to the music in your spare time, the more you’re going to immerse yourself in everything about it. You’ll start to hear what drummers play in the style and you’ll learn what is needed in certain parts of songs.
If you listen to a heavy amount of jazz, you’re going to be a much better drummer when playing jazz in a band scenario. All that listening will improve your ear for the music and help you create drum parts that are suitable.
The same can be said with metal and Latin music.
Overall, the key to being a great musician is listening to music. It’s a strong life lesson that I learned over the years.
The next and most obvious thing you need to do is practice. You won’t get better at the drums if you don’t practice. If you put in the time, results will start to show sooner than you think.
So, go work on your double-time swing patterns or your gravity blasts!
Daniel started drumming as a teenager after realizing just how fun air drumming is. He was blown away by the power of the drums at his first drum lesson and hasn’t looked back since.
He has almost 20 years experience drumming and was heavily into Metal when he first started playing but has since transitioned to Jazz, Funk and Progressive Rock.
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