The Drums Don’t Make the Drummer

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Over my next three blog posts on CreativeLive, I am going to explain to you why the drums don’t make the drummer. We’ll begin by exploring image versus quality and then dive into the basic principles of live performance, sound, and gear.

Throughout my years touring, I’ve met some amazing drummers. I’ve also met drummers with the twisted notion that the mid-level Guitar Center kit their parents bought them for christmas is – for whatever reason – not as good as a custom drum set. They let this idea build in their head until their current drum set is just a heap of trash in their minds and leaves them to make rash decisions like one-off purchases to help “improve” their set. You know the kind – where a kid spends $1500 bucks on a custom snare drum, because they couldn’t “afford the rest of the kit.”

I want to address this issue so that drummers – especially young drummers who are still in the local band/DIY grind – can make smart financial choices and also understand that there is more to being a solid drummer than having an awesome drum set. Why? If you are a drummer in a band that is still in the local/DIY state of your career, you have so many other purchases you have to make that are more important than a $5000 custom drum set. The truth is I have heard entry level Pearl kits at small club venues that sounded incredible, and custom kits at Warped Tour being played by big name drummers that sounded like complete trash.

The first step is to forget about image.

Let me explain this point with a real-life example:

The following conversation is a discussion I have every time I go out on tour.

SCENE KID : wearing a Falling In Reverse t-shirt, So Cal collision jeans, a Sleeping with Sirens  belt,  and TOMS – in the rain.


Scene kid: Hey, dude! Great set.  I Loved the way your drums sound. I wish my drums could sound like that, but I have a pearl kit and sabian cymbals.

Kevlar: Wow, thank you so much I really appreciate you saying that…But what’s wrong with your kit?

Scene kid: Well nothing is wrong with it, I just like really need a custom kit, I think it would make me sound so much better. You know, the drummer of A Day To Remember? He plays an SJC kit. Sounds soooo tight live!

Kevlar: Oh yeah, he sounds sick live, but you don’t need a custom kit to make you sound like that.

Scene kid: Yeah well maybe, but still, I’m gonna get an SJC kit so that I can sound like him.

Kevlar: (nods silently to himself, shakes scene kids hand, thanks him, and tries to understand the logic of this conversation while applying hand sanitizer because he doesn’t want gross scene kid diseases)


Unfortunately, what we’re seeing is a desire to be like the best based on image and not necessarily on skill.  ids see what the drummers of their favorite bands are  playing with live and in the studio, and because of the connection to their music they want that same sound.

There is nothing wrong with this; it’s a natural reaction to want what your favorite musicians use. The drive to improving your kit and expanding your gear based on what your favorite musicians have  is an important fundamental in growing as an artist, and you should welcome that instinct by listening to as many artists as you can.

All you really need is to understand the basic principles of live performance and sound, which we’ll explore in-depth in my next blog post.

Kevin Martin FOLLOW >

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!