Drums play a vital role in most band setups. Since the drums don’t produce any melodic notes, a drummer will take a more rhythmic approach to songs, providing beats and rhythms to benefit those songs.
Drummers are important in a band because they act as the timekeeper, lead many of the song transitions, and help build intensity with the volume of the instrument. A drummer also provides a full sound for the band, create an interesting aesthetic element as well as adding energy and showmanship to performances.
If you’re wondering what all of that means specifically, here’s the detailed breakdown:
The Role of a Drummer in a Band
Every drummer has an important role in a band environment.
Being the drummer comes with a fair bit of responsibility as most of the other band members will lean on them for support in songs. This role can be broken down into a few sections.
The biggest responsibility of a drummer is to keep time. This refers to keeping a steady platform for everyone else to play on top of. A constant sense of rhythm will help the rest of the band stay in time.
Typically, this comes in the form of beats, but it works with drum fills as well. No matter what the drummer is playing, he always needs to keep a steady pulse so that the rest of the band doesn’t waver from the planned tempo.
Every song has a different tempo, and it’s often the drummer’s job to count in those tempos before the songs start. Many drummers have metronomes near their kit that help them count in the correct tempos before all the songs.
Not all bands have drummers do the count-ins. A lot of modern-day gigging involves the use of backing tracks and electronics that do that already. But if it’s a classic band environment with no electronics, it will fall on the drummer to count in all the songs.
2. Leading Transitions
Another responsibility of drummers is to lead transitions in songs.
Most songs have a typical structure of verses, choruses, and bridges. When the song moves from a verse to a chorus, the drummer will typically play a transitional drum fill or groove to let everyone in the band know that they’re moving to the next section in the song.
In a band setting, it’s easier for the drummer to do this as chord structures are often the same through choruses and bridges. So, a changing drum part is much more effective than the melodic instrument part as it’s clearer and more audible.
If those transitional fills aren’t present, the song often sounds flat all the way through. So, it’s good for both for the the quality of the songs as well as for alerting the other band members that a new section is about to come up.
3. Building Intensity
One of the most predominant qualities of a drum kit is its dynamic range. A drummer can play fairly soft to provide subtle rhythms for a band. They can also play incredibly loudly to drive the point of energy and passion through.
This dynamic range gives drummers the platform to build intensity in songs. You can see a classic example of this is in Christian Contemporary Music. Typically, the bridges will start with no drums. The drummers will then build and increase the intensity of their playing as the bridge repeats, creating heavy momentum in the song.
Other instruments can’t achieve the same effect as energetically, making drummers vital in bands that have heavy builds in their songs.
Additional Benefits of Having a Drummer in a Band
While drummers play roles that are massively important in most band setups, there are also a few benefits of having a drummer in a band that aren’t directly related to those roles. The two biggest benefits would be presence and aesthetics.
1. Energy And Showmanship
When it comes to playing the drums, a drummer can put a lot of energy into their playing to boost the overall energy of the whole band.
In rock gigs, drummers will play with large arm movements, giving the impression that they’re hitting harder and bashing the drums. This energetic drumming display will boost how the crowd feels when watching the band.
Drummers can also incorporate stick tricks (such as twirling their sticks before hitting a cymbal or a drum), or just playing some very fast fills and this creates visual excitement for the audience.
Sometimes drummers will get audiences involved by having them to clap along to song intros or the beginning of drum solos, slowly raising the difficulty of following along until the audience has no choice but to stop and watch!
2. Aesthetics And Branding
The presence of a drum kit on stage usually looks quite thrilling. It boosts the overall aesthetic of a band significantly in most cases. For example, many bands swap out the front head of the bass drum with a head that displays their unique band logo.
Having a drummer sitting in the middle of the stage near the back also adds a sense of symmetry and organization to the stage setup as all the other band members can place themselves around it.
Drummers have a huge aesthetic benefit to bands in this context!
2. Creating A Full Sound
Drums tend to fill out the sound of a band.
Having a drum kit in a band environment makes the band sound much bigger and tighter. If a band is playing an acoustic set, the sound can be fairly mellow and laidback.
If a band wants to play heavy and loud music, the fuller sound of a drum kit is absolutely vital. Without it, the band won’t achieve an effective overall sound. While other instruments have the power to play loud and boldly, they’re never as effective as a driving kick drum and crashing cymbals.
All of the above reasons have led drummers to be seen as the backbone of every band. While vocalists are the leaders up front, drummers are the leaders from the back. They drive the band and provide the platform for everyone else to lean on.
If anyone ever tells you a lazy drummer joke, you should hit them back with all the points we covered above:
- They’re the timekeepers.
- They lead transitions between song sections.
- They build the intensity of songs.
- They provide energy and showmanship when playing.
- A drum kit provides a great stage aesthetic.
- Drums provide a full sound for a band.
Every band member has a role to play, but drummers tend to take on more than one role in most band settings. This is why it’s so important to have a drummer in a band.
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.