The definition of a "good drummer"


Senior Member
After being sent this clip on YouTube I had a discussion with some people I know (that do not play drums) and with some people on the Internet (that do not play drums as far as I know).

They argued (and persistently asked for my acknowledgement) that this guy "must be the best drummer I have ever seen". The only thing that kept going through my mind when seeing this was: "technique is fine (the right foot is nice, but not much different from using a bass pedal) but not remarkable, tempo is bad, variations are non-existent, rather boring to listen to. Nice stick tricks though." And when I told the other people this (in a more subtle way, obviously) they were slightly offended and thought of me as a superficial know-it-all. "The mood and atmosphere is great. I would rather play with him in a band than with any drummer that is timing-perfect. At least this guy is fun," they said. Following attempts to better convey my meaning fell on deaf man's ears.

(Not a relevant paragraph:)
For myself and for other people I always look into things that can be improved. I know it might not be the best approach, but that is how I keep pushing myself further. The down side is that when commenting on other people's work and efforts, you might bump into disagreements - as the one above. People quickly think that you are mean, or are "only looking at the bad things" or that you "always think you are better than everyone else". In my case, nothing of that is true, because I can appreciate the good things quietly but I want to give feedback to a person to improve him or herself. And that's what people often find offensive. I am having difficulty giving feedback to someone without coming on too offensive. But that's for another topic.

My point is that even though the atmosphere and the general vibe in the clip are positive and cheerful, I cannot look past what in my opinion makes a good drummer: technique, a feel for rhythm, timing, creativity and playing along with others (among other things). It appears to me, then, that for a lot of people "a good drummer" is defined by the atmosphere and vibe he or she delivers rather than the actual capabilities of that person. Even though I agree that those factors are important, I think that the more theoretical characteristics of a drummer that I mentioned earlier (technique, timing etc.) are at least equally important - but non-drummers do not see it that way.

Tl;dr: what defines a good drummer according to you?


if you are a player who other musicians desire to play with you are a good drummer

nothing more and nothing less than that


So the "audience" has no say in this? "Being a good drummer" is defined by the guys you can or can not play with?

I said nothing about can or cannot.... I said if others desire to play with you....if reputable musicians enjoy creating and expressing with you

it is sure not up to me to say whether I am good or not

... and I'm not sure I would hold an audiences opinion in extremely high regard on this topic though I do appreciate their compliments and enjoyment of my art

but to me this is decided by the musicians I respect and how often my phone rings

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
He was the best drummer on that street at that time. Several people put tips in his tip bucket.

I played two 3 hour gigs last week. I was the best drummer at both of those gigs. Nobody left me any tip$.

I think that with anything in this world, the different level of skill you have with something will inform your own criteria for determining whether or not someone else is also good at that thing.

People who have dedicated years of their life to painting can truly appreciate the level of skill that goes into Color Field paintings, whereas laypeople often dismiss them as absolute nonsense and much prefer fancy landscapes regardless of the technical skill that the brushwork shows.

People who have studied music for years can more easily appreciate tasteful and subtle music-making, interesting rhythmic choices and a nice balance of variation and repetition than a layperson who listens only to pop music for its driving beat and catchy hooks.

A good drummer to a layperson could easily be the loud, flashy busker they see using items that aren't actually drums to bash out the same beats over and over in the street. A good drummer to them is not the person who specifically tries to go un-noticed at the back of a band, preferring to only show off when the music really allows it.

Of course, all of this isn't to say that I don't have an idea of what a good drummer is or is not, merely an acknowledgement that there will never be an agreement on the subject, and attempting to educate non-musical people on what a good drummer "actually" is is futile, as the distinction is entirely subjective.

Personally, if I were the drummer in the video and I was analysing my playing I feel that I would say to myself: "OK, so I'm good at drumming... how can I build on that to be a good drummer?"


Junior Member
I second WholsTony?.

To my mind the 2 things about being a good drummer (hell, a good musician) are being competent enough to be able to play the gig, you don't need to be outstanding but you need to play appropriately, and not being d**k.

I can critique or compare other drummers until the cows come home but that does not detract from them already being able and likable enough to get the gig in the first place, being 'good enough' if you will.

I should also probably say that I haven't watched the video yet. (I'm at work and they block youtube)


Platinum Member
What the heck is going on? That's the second time I've seen some guy in Australia hitting buckets on this forum today.

Anyway, I can't get through much of that, I find it really boring. I'm not a "great" drummer by any stretch, but there wasn't anything in that vid I couldn't do right away except maybe a few of the stick tricks, which I've never worked at in the slightest.

I'm with you, I don't get why someone would call this guy the "best".

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
For me a good drummer has great timing and feel, first and foremost. Without those I don't care how fast or technical they are.

The average person probably looks for speed and chops, exaggerated motions, stick tricks.

I think the best person to judge a drummer is a drummer himself, but if you want to appeal to the masses you should be in touch with what they want.


Gold Member
I think if you ask another musician what makes a good drummer, they will say something like shows up on time with drums and brings you a beer when you tell them to.

Ask a general audience, you might get anything, from "can dance to it", to " awesome showmanship" or "not too loud", maybe "Groovy".

Ask another drummer you might get anything from has good equipment to good technique, feel, time, etc...

Ask a sound guy...


Gold Member
I agree with Tony and Dre. If you can (1) attract great musicians to want to play with you, and if you can (2) play with great time and a great feel for most any song, you are a good drummer in my book.

The problem with this video is he isn't playing with anyone. This isn't a "song", its just elementary variation on a basic groove. Its impossible to judge how that scenario would play out.

He might be a good drummer. Those other people in that other forum the OP was talking to, seem attracted to his playing (He is got #1 down). But say they get together in a band format, can he listen and balance to the other players? Is he going to react and respond to whats played, and provide a creative groove that keeps the listener and the players engaged and supports the song? How will his timing issues be affected by playing with others? "Well Dude, we just don't know." - Brandt (RIP PSH)


Platinum Member
I dont believe there is a consistant definition of 'good drummer'.

My definition is not anothers....and may vary over time.

In the end, it has to do with the listener....not the drummer.

Some drummers fall squarely into a large number of listeners use of the term 'good'...but it is STILL a function of the listener...and the listeners current application of the term 'good'.

A popular interpretation that a specific musician falls into the category of 'good' is an illusion of concensus rooted in poorly communicated varied interpretation of the term 'good'...that popular interpretation IS NOT proof of the measures objective validity.

One persons Meg White is anothers Buddy Rich...and I think neithers music is 'good'....and am not sure if that observation even has a role in the statistically dominate usage of the term 'good drummer'...when it should be central, in my opinion.

"Stupid is as stupid does..." - Forest Gump


Senior Member
Completely agree with Tony on this. There are so many subjective variables as to what constitutes " good". The only real way to know is if the phone rings.


Platinum Member
Completely agree with Tony on this. There are so many subjective variables as to what constitutes " good". The only real way to know is if the phone rings.

I might argue that musicians interpretation of 'good drummer' does not define the term.(and therefore a call to play wih other musicians might not define the term)

I think we lack objective measures of 'good' in terms of a musicians contribution to music...and that is the way it should be...imagine a mono-chromatic musical world of congruent opinion...blech.


Silver Member


adjective, bet·ter, best.
morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious: a good man.
satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree: a good teacher; good health.
of high quality; excellent.
right; proper; fit: It is good that you are here. His credentials are good.
well-behaved: a good child.

Seems to me 2-4 can be used to define any drummer within the context of any music the drummer plays within. If they fit, do a proper job within the context of what surrounding musicians want and do it with excellence and to the satisfaction of both musicians and audience, that person is a 'good' drummer. And #1 & 5 certainly count, as well. If a person carries around a bad attitude it doesn't matter how 'good' they play if people do not like being around him or her.


Gold Member
• Shows up on time, prepared. Prepared means knows the music. Chops don't mean anything when someone's trying to remember the tune or is playing it totally different than the rest of the band! Congruence. Learn it.

• Sober enough to do the gig.

• Has well maintained gear. Doesn't have to be top-end stuff just well cared for.

• Plays at a dynamic that is congruent to the setting at hand.

• Plays nice with others, doesn't talk about pointy subjects like religion, politics, or anything that can be construed as "chafing the attitudes of others".

• Takes care of all business ahead of time so there's no surprises at the gig. ("How much am I being paid?" "Is there a dress code?" "Will there be food or should I stop for a bite on the way?")

I think that about covers it. Being a "good drummer" means a lot of things. But if you want to be a "good working drummer" that what I mentioned will get you farther, faster.
I think a good drummer is anybody, that when you finish listening to them, does not make you think, "eh, that's just a bad drummer".