The Drums Don’t Make the Drummer Part 2: Principles of Live Performance


Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 1.40.44 PMphoto credit: Toby P

This is part two of a three-part series dedicated to exploring why the drums don’t make the drummer. Today, we dive into the basic principles of live performance.

There are several factors that contribute to why great drummers sound, well, great on the road. Those factors vary from person to person, but the basic principles of live performance typically stay the same. Access to the desired gear, solid sound engineering, proper mic placement, talent/work ethic, and confidence are what drive a drummer to create a unique sound that an audience can identify with.

In the end, what kids tend to focus on the most – having great gear – matters the least. If you take a great kit away from a professional drummer and give him a crummy one, the results are going to be the same – he’ll still tear it up.

The drummers that you know and love are in bands and possess most, if not all, of the following: Because most of your favorite drummers are probably in “professional” bands and have most of the following:

Talent: Can you believe that your favorite musicians have a little thing that helps them with their music called “talent”? Pretty unbelievable. And guess what? You too have or can develop talent. Professional musicians are who they are because they have given themselves the opportunity to work on their talent. The good news about talent is that you have everything you need to achieve it: a brain, hands, arms, legs, and feet. Give yourself the opportunity to hone your talents and you will play just as good, if not better, than your favorite musicians.

Endorsements: The excitement of having all your favorite gear handed to you for pretty much nothing is totally killer, but let me break some news to you: endorsements aren’t all that common. They are given to a performer based primarily on popularity and each company has their own set up requirements to warrant an endorsement. That said, you can’t worry about winning endorsement deals. Instead, work on developing your talent with the gear you have and the rewards of your labor will pay off in due time.

Proper mic equipment: In a DIY touring world, if you are lucky enough to even be mic’d, the house engineer who would be running your sound might not have the knowledge or care to mix you properly. With that being said, there are excellent house engineers that have a tough time simply because you as a musician may not be the superstar performer you think you are (refer to the talent section above if you are confused).


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When a house sound engineer decides to mic your snare right where you hit. #epicfail.

Confidence. Confidence. Confidence: The music business and it’s marketing practices can have a negative effect on up-and-coming drummers.. Custom drum companies, whether it be Truth drums, SJC drums, or cymbal companies like TRX and Soultone, understand the concept of marketing. They all have great drummers on their rosters who dominate the stages of the most popular tours out there to date, and use their fame to market their products to the eyes of the consumer (being you).

There is nothing wrong about this, but if it affects your confidence to the point where you feel like you can’t improve or won’t sound better without a certain product, then you have already hurt your chances of succeeding. This lack of self-empowerment comes from a lack of clear perspective on some basic drumming fundamentals that drummers tend to overlook.

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Kevin Martin plays drums in Goliath, and has worked with bands including Suicide Silence, Winds Of Plague and Body Count. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram!