Why drummers really are the backbone of the band

By Ash Soan

Drum Expo 2013: "I play and have played mainly song-based music over my time as a drummer and I'm now very aware of what my role is in those bands and the recordings I play on. Time after time the same words crop up when in the studio with a producer. Words like 'dynamic', 'vibe', 'energy', 'feel' and 'groove'.

"Of course guitar players, piano players and bass players have the ability to have vibe, dynamic, groove and feel, but no other instrument effects all these things in such a powerful way as the drums. We all know if the drummer isn't grooving or listening because the whole band sucks... even if they might have the best guitarist in the world. That guitar player can make it feel even better but if the fundamental feel isn't good then "game over" and that feel comes from the drums.

"Most bands have a drummer, some bands have great – even legendary ones – but why do they have a drummer in the first place?

"Imagine Led Zep without Bonham, Toto without Porcaro or Paul Simon's songs without Steve Gadd. These drummers did their job in those bands like no others could do but how about if those bands had no drums? At best it would be weird. At worst a shambles ending in a possible punch up.

"Singer saying, "Follow me I'm the singer", bass player laying it down with no one listening... The drummer's role is to play time first and foremost, in my opinion, and the rest of the band rely upon that time. I do feel, however, that every player in a band should have good time (no excuses) but the drummers time should be the best and be the one the rest of the players play to.

"Now add to that the power to build the dynamic or decrease it, or to lay back or push the time feel, and being the most powerful instrument in the band, this backbone thing starts to make a bit more sense.
You see some artists using the same drummer for not only a tour or two but in some cases years. My friend David Palmer has been Rod Stewart's drummer for 25 years or more. He understands Rod's dynamic and feel better than any other drummer in the world probably. Also, Rod knows he will get the support and feel in his songs from David and can rely on him in every situation. I'm sure Rod would say that David is the backbone of his band.

"There's even more to this backbone thing. I've heard that if Charlie Watts left The Rolling Stones they would break up and never tour again. When Bonham died, Led Zep, as good as they are, never recovered. The Police reforming was utterly unthinkable without Stewart Copeland. These drummers are and were the backbone of those bands not only for their drumming but sometimes a driving force in other areas too.

"Neil Peart, for instance, is the lyric writer in Rush and therefore in some ways the spokesman for the band too. Being the backbone shouldn't just mean you are at the back. Dave Grohl, Don Henley, Levon Helm and Phil Collins prove this with their songwriting and vocal skills.

"I enjoy being the one people rely on musically and knowing I can make all the difference to a recording or tour. I like being at the back, keeping an eye on everyone too. We are all very luck to be considered the backbone. Enjoy it!"

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