What Is Bad Drumming?

When I’m playing shows with Wishbone Ash I find myself tuning into the finest details of my playing.

I want to play well and feel like I’m doing a good job.

If I feel like a back beat was a bit late, or that I rushed a fill, I might end up feeling like I’m getting worse.

Depending on my mood such small errors might be brushed off or they might stop me from enjoying the gig altogether.

Having watched other bands from out front it’s become clear to me that the inaccuracies that I notice from behind the kit (with my in-ear monitoring set up and knowledge of what I was supposed to play) won’t be noticed by the audience.

Even the bass player doesn’t notice the things I’m making a big deal about.

And yet I still have plenty of gigs where I just feel like I’m not playing well and that has the potential to diminish my enjoyment of the show.

If I’m sitting behind my drums looking disappointed then that rubs off on the audience.

The Beginner

I occasionally get bored in sound check and find it amusing to play “beginner drums”.

My recipe is something like this:

  • 2 stiff arms
  • A firm base of a groove where no limbs line up with a grid or themselves
  • 1/2 c/95g fills that speed up
  • 1/4 c/60ml fills that last a little bit longer than they should
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons of enthusiasm

I’m convinced that it sounds horrible, but it’s really fun to do.

In sound check the other day the bass player filmed one of my beginner solos.

When I watched it back I was surprised that, even though I’d incorporated all of the above,  it didn’t actually sound that bad. In fact, it was quite enjoyable to watch.

Because nothing was right it kind of also meant that nothing was wrong.

A lot of older rock drummers played grooves, solos, and fills that were really sloppy but it didn’t matter because that was part of the sound. It was messy and exciting.

What I realised is that enthusiasm and excitement counts for a lot.

In many ways I’d rather watch a beginner that’s enjoying what they’re doing than a professional that’s hating it.

What does it matter if one of my backbeats was a bit late. Once the drum has been hit there’s no taking it back.

It’s better to laugh it off and enjoy the rest of the show, no matter how badly I think I’m playing.



  • Kenneth_Brown

    Even the most followed drummers make lots of “mistakes”. I notice that Terry Bozzio has many stick hits and off-center drum strikes and just plays right though as if he meant them. Perhaps it’s a sign of how good a drummer is if they can keep the groove even if they have flubbed.

  • Bad drumming is no fun. Especially when you can feel yourself doing it on stage. It’s the worst feeling. I am always trying to play my best and one up my last performance, but sometimes my leg moves just a little too fast or a fill is slightly ahead of the beat and it really kills the groove. It’s one of the hardest things to deal with as a drummer.