In this blog, we examine what exactly makes a musical drummer. You don't need a degree in music, you don't need decades of listening to multiple drummers, and you don't need years of playing experience to attain basic drum set musicality. There is no secret sauce, just a simple understanding of four key areas. At Drum Ambition, we like to call them the Four Keys to Drum Set Musicality, and they are:

  1. Understanding Rhythm.

  2. Developing Control.

  3. Adding Dynamics.

  4. Applying Rudiments.


Understanding Rhythm.

Whether you are playing the drums, or any other musical instrument, an understanding of rhythm is an essential step to developing musicality. We learn rhythm by comprehending basic music notation, and learning how to count music. There is a common misconception that learning music notation is the big scary monster of becoming proficient on any instrument. The reality is somewhat different. Learning basic music notation is quite attainable if approached in small, methodical and manageable steps. Our music notation videos are the perfect supplement to our drum beat and drum fill exercises, and you can view the first one free. Counting music and understanding notation will give you a solid background in understanding rhythm.

Helpful related articles:

Video Blog Episode 1 - Why is reading music notation important?

10 bad drumming habits, and how to fix them.

How important are the Rudiments for beginner drummers?

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Developing Control.

While you are learning music notation, you will be introduced to the concept of "sticking". Simply put, understanding sticking concepts tells you which hand plays which notes. This is essential for building control, because it will allow you to orchestrate drum fills, (meaning playing creative drum fills across your toms in a controlled manner), build speed, and set a great foundation for applying the drum set rudiments - see Applying Rudiments. All of this will help you develop your overall technique in other areas as well, such as holding your sticks, and fine tuning your posture.

Adding Dynamics.

In the most basic terms, "dynamics" refers to how hard, soft, or anything in between that we play a beat, fill, or even individual notes. We achieve this by applying the dynamic strokes to our playing. These are a series of four main strokes that are covered comprehensively in Lesson 20 of Drum Ambition. When used appropriately, these four stokes (down, tap, up and full strokes) will transform your drumming from "one dimensional" beats, to balanced, musical grooves, slick and creative fills, as well as facilitating smoother beats at higher tempos.

Applying Rudiments.

The drum set rudiments are a series of 26 sticking patterns that can add some superb musical options to your playing. That number can seem quite daunting, particularly when mastering each individual rudiment is quite an investment in time and practice. Fortunately, you can fine tune your musicality with a good understanding of just four drum set rudiments, and at Drum Ambition, we like to call these the "Core Four". They are single strokes, double strokes, flams and drags. Subscribers can access our Special Feature Videos for in-depth explanations on the Core Four, along with practical applications and practice tips. Just adding a controlled rudimental stroke to a groove or drum fill can transform a basic pattern into a graceful, musical lick.

We don't want to understate the four points above. To become proficient in these four areas will require practice, repetition, and a commitment to learning important fundamentals that takes time, patience and perseverance. But with the right guidance, structure and a good practice plan, you can open the door to drum set musicality.

If you have any questions relating to this article, please email [email protected]. We would be delighted to help point you in the right direction!

Simon DasGupta.

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