Are drummers real musicians?

I get asked often what I think about the whole drummers not being “real musicians.” First, I don’t have to tell you how much that fries me, but instead of simply flaming anyone who says that, I thought I’d blog my eloquent reply …

Drums are a musical instrument capable of just as many notes, tones, sounds, and expressive capabilities as the guitar or saxophone. I’d challenge any horn player to try and outnumber the number of sounds I can get on a drum kit .. heck – ONE DRUM! Why then, is it assumed that just because this instrument does not prescribe to the Western concept of a set of 12 semitones per octave that it somehow requires less musicality to play? In fact, it requires just as much musicianship and I feel, dare I say more creativity to play an instrument with such an abstract musical nomenclature.

It is true that some drummers submit to the gorilla mentality of drums being merely an outlet for their raw agression. Simply put, they don’t make it easy on the guys trying to break down this non-musician myth, but even in their bashing, there is an element of musicianship. Just as there is musicianship and talent in the latest pop single from the hippest boy-band. Like it or not, they are musicians.

I think a big problem with the non-musical stereotype continuing is the fact that it is not difficult to actually cause a sound on a drum. Stick+Whack=sound, right? Still, can I not blast into a trumpet and at least get something?? Can I not simply sing and get music? Just because you can get sound out of an instrument does not mean you are playing it musically. What about expression, dynamics, rhythm, tempo, meter, style, etc.? Do these not require musicianship to play? Does it not require musicianship to play in an ensemble at a certain tempo, at a certain volume, and all while maintaining function over not a set of lips, or fingers, but all four limbs at once?

I guess what it comes down to is attitude. You may be reading this and not buying ANY of it, and that’s fine. You are certainly entitled to your opinion; however to consider drummers less of a musician because “they don’t read notes” is simply ignorant and degrades your own status as a musician, because in my opinion, if you have such a disregard for music and instruments you do not understand, then you still have a long way yo go in your own musical journey.

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