Musically Excellent or Irrelevant Brilliance?


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Your Favorite Drummers… Musically Excellent or Irrelevant Brilliance

There’s a lot of talk on this forum as well as many others about great drummers that truly have advanced the art of drumming. They set the stage for both advances in technique as well as expanding the range of musical ideas as the music industry moves forward.

But many of these drummers that push the envelope of technique do so at the expense of feel and groove… They play GREAT STUFF that is PROFOUNDLY difficult and insanely impressive, but musically, it’s as inaccessible as some of the more angular Picasso paintings that, while creative, fail to “move” the viewer.

I was thinking about this the other night as I was reading yet another in a long line of “who’s the best” posts, and it occurred to me that in the grand scheme of things, There is “Feel & Groove” and there is “Technique & Chops” and they are truly two entirely different areas of discipline. It is only when the two areas overlap that they can harmoniously coexist.

I also discovered that my favorite drummers seem to fit into that area of overlap.

It is entirely possible, with limited chops to have a great feel and groove like a mad man! I’ve seen teenagers in high school bands that have a great pocket, and in time their chops will catch up and they may well become monsters! I have also encountered drummers that have their chops all lined up and can play dazzling fills with nearly flawless execution, and they play a basic beat that is so inaccurate when it comes to the meter that these guys could NEVER back a band without driving the others in the band crazy.

So I made up this graphic… On the left we have Groove and Feel, on the right Technique and Chops… In the overlap, Musical Excellence… A drummer with limited chops and good feel is going to be a bit boring and a drummer with limited feel and insane chops fits into the far right side, Irrelevant Brilliance…

Who would you put into the category of Dull and Boring?

Who would you put into the category of Irrelevant Brilliance?

Who would you put into the category of Musically Excellent, balancing both worlds?

And last but not least, give examples of WHY they belong in the crossover space! (list tunes that demonstrate both great feel AND technical Excellence!)

I’ll start with a short list:

Dull and Boring:
Ringo Starr (great feel, massive pocket, chops???)

Irrelevant Brilliance:
Thomas Lang: (The best chops of this century, can’t groove his way out of a paper bag)

Musically Excellent:
David Garibaldi: (Feel AND chops… Example: What is Hip)

Now, feel free to have your own opinions, and nobody bash anybody for having that opinion… Just put down your list and lets see where this goes!


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:lol: Leave it to zen_drummer to post a logical, well planned, intelligent subject which tries to pinpoint the proficiency, groove, and chops of drummers in a graph that looks like a pair of "DD" boobies pushed together... :shock:

seriously... I'll have to think about it for a while.


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I disagree about Thomas Lang not being able to groove, why would he have been hired for so many sessions if all he could do was show off?
His favourite "beat" happens to be the basic 4/4 too, it just happens that hes figured out alot of formulas to improve technique so that you can groove much easier.


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I'll throw out a name and see what you think:

Dave Weckl

He's a pretty polarizing figure in my circle of drum buddies- some people absolutely love him, others think that his technique is stiff almost to the point of being mechanical and soulless.

Your thought?

Totally agree with the Thomas Lang comment. Every song doesn't need to be a continuous wank fest.....



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zerodogma":23j7jst8 said:
:lol: Leave it to zen_drummer to post a logical, well planned, intelligent subject which tries to pinpoint the proficiency, groove, and chops of drummers in a graph that looks like a pair of "DD" boobies pushed together... :shock:
Gotta love the boobs...

daneman":23j7jst8 said:
I'll throw out a name and see what you think: Dave Weckl
Weckl is a tough one... Serious chops, he CAN groove, but sometimes feels stiff, depending on the situation. His work with Electric Band is stiff because the music calls for it, there are rigid patterns in place that he did follow to a "T", but on the other hand, there was and is room for a deeper feel... I guess I would place him just outside the crossover point on the side of chops & technique.

Will":23j7jst8 said:
I disagree about Thomas Lang not being able to groove, why would he have been hired for so many sessions if all he could do was show off?
His favourite "beat" happens to be the basic 4/4 too, it just happens that hes figured out alot of formulas to improve technique so that you can groove much easier.
Feel free to disagree, but in my mind, keeping immaculate time does not in any way equal grooving... Lang gets hired for so many sessions because he lays down time with a click, and it works well in a pop setting like the Spice Girls and other top-40 favorites. I was once told by a producer friend of mine that Lang gets so much work because "he reads well, sounds like a drum machine and is easier to program" and I have to agree with that statement... to me, he feels like a drum machine. On some level that's a compliment, but on the other hand, it is sterile and lacks feel. I know I'm not the only one that feels this way. Yes he has MONSTER chops, Yes he can play perfect time, too bad it feels like a machine!


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i vote for zen_drummer having his own personal educational thread. i learned so much simply by ready his posts. it takes a great drummer AND a great teacher to be able to convey the message like he does on a community message forum.

keep the post coming man!


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I think this system is flawed.

Your opinion of picasso is your own and there are others that would disagree with you: such is the subjectivity of art. Comparing drummers in this manner is like comparing van gogh to rembrandt or Scorsese to Woody Allen. (interesting side note to some- Lang is a collector of abstract art, possibly a window into why the guy plays the way he does.)

I do love your description of Ringo though, could never understand his popularity other than the fact that he was in the beatles. Though I can't really stand anything pre-rubber soul anyways so like my aforemention arguement suggests I'm not properly qualified to judge him as a drummer.


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Flatliner":2j96uwsa said:
I think this system is flawed.
OF COURSE it's flawed... ALL systems are flawed!

Now, regarding art being subjective... Yes, it truly is, however, the way art makes you feel CAN be objectified, and it is with this objectivity we decide which artists move us, and which fail to do so. There is no right or wrong, it either moves you in some way, or you will be indifferent to it.

So looking at our flawed system, we can place drummers on the scale based on our own subjective criteria thus objectifying the result. Do you follow me so far?

If you feel that Lang isn't a techno-weenie, then that's the way you feel. It's OK to feel that way. If you don't place the same value on "groove" as I do, then that's OK as well.

I think putting Ringo on the far left is pretty fair. He's in the corner keeping Charley Watts Company :lol:


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Zen...Even when I disagree with you, you've always got a great point and manage to be hilarious at the same time.


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I'm going with Vinnie Colaiuta in the cleavage, I can listen/watch him all day long! I think he is truly excellent.

I can't really say anything about the other categories because I think all famous drummers are both at times.


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Where would Keith Moon be placed in the boobie chart? He might be somewhere on another chart. There are a couple of others like him, Ginger Baker and I cant leave out Richard Bailey on Jeff Becks "Blow by Blow" album. A recording that changed my life!!
And dont forget Joey Kramer over there with Ringo and Charlie.
And what about Graham Lear, amazing chops and can groove like nobodys business!! Gino Vanelli's "Storm at Sunup" is a classic example of sweet grooves AND awesome chops. I could go on and on.
But I must admit, this has made me take a different look at the drummers I listen to.....


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where would you all say josh freese fits in on here???

i personally am stumped. i can see him going both ways...

one of my fav drummers however.

id have to agree with Will and say thomas lang is great with his musicianship...he definately is awesome and has a groove as well. BUT again...i can see him going both ways as well...

just want to know what you guys think of my two picks

awesome post zen love to see more like this


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I vote for Elvin in the cleavage.

I think some drummers that challenge your system include Tony Williams, Mel Lewis, and any video footage of Vinnie on a Baked Potato gig.

Tony seems a challenge to me because there's no denying he was one of the great innovators of the 20th Century. He'd make Numero Uno on a lot of lists. But Tony purposefully challenged base things, like time keeping, how to keep time in jazz, what jazz is/was ... and was ultimately criticized for not having a good feel and not being able to swing (they were inter-related). So maybe where you put Tony depends on (a) whether you paid attention to his stuff with Miles or more on the fusion stuff and (b) whether you could find it in your heart to forgive Tony for not trying to swing. It's a hard one, but that's what you get for being a pioneer.

Mel Lewis, because there's two eras of Mel Lewis. There's the early ML where he's like clockwork. Then there's the later Mel who was WAY out in front of the pulse, so much that he pushed the limits of the pocket.

When Vinnie's dishing out drum porn, he's clearly on the right side of that graphic. When Vinnie's playing professional drummer, he artfully fills the middle better than most, maybe anyone.

Another guy who I think really lives in that middle ground is Omar Hakim. Or at least he used to. Now he's Mr. Big Money Tour, so we don't see him stretch over 6/8 vamps anymore. I don't have a problem with that. He definitely has a killer feel and we know he can shred whenever he feels it's appropriate.


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Not a big fan of the technicians per se.
But the best that ever were.. were technicians whether they got credit for it or not.
John Bonham chops are STILL being debated and disected on innumerable forums.
I think that the guys who play for the song... The overall big picture, are the real creative geniuses, they blend technique and feel.

meta L ucas

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danney carey has a good balance of the two. (oh, and theres phil rudd joining joey, ringo, and charlie over there on the left.)

E dog

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ok, i no im going to get like, digitaly slapped or something but, after hours on end of listening to his durmming, he may be really cocky. i dont care. Travis Barker, deffinetly belongs mostly in the middle. great drummer, but they always get ragged on these forums


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Im thinking....

awesome chops = Travis Smith, Joey Jordison, Dave Lombardo,

Cleaveage = Mike Portnoy, Ian Paice, Vinnie Paul?

Groove = Chad Smith, Jose Pasillias II,

Great topic Zen :D


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justin headley":q49t1qmn said:
Steve Gadd... 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.

his pocket is huge and his part is very difficult, and whitty
If you can withstand the might of the Moog, check out Gadd on Lenore from Chick Corea's The Leprechaun. It is improvisational, orchestral, and big-time funky in a big fat Gadd pocket. Impossible to describe the brilliance. You just have to hear it for yourself.

50 Ways is just a taste of the whole Gadd. It's a slice of apple compared to the whole apple tree.


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That is a great topic. Garibaldi, Weckl, Horacio Hernandez, Buddy, Tony, Cobham, Vinnie, and tons of others can groove with technique. You all know that Thomas Lang can groove and play some innovative beats. I mean c'mon, if you know stuff about drums, you know that Weckl is grooving hard. Seriously. I think most of those punk/metal/core drummers couldn't groove if they were paid to...but it's another area of study. The drums were made to be funky and make people dance. Its fun to hit 'em hard but not bash.

It just matters where you are within the spectrum and how many styles you can play adept. Weckl is probably the best I know of ....or Steve Smith

check that drummers :lol: