The world of drumming has advanced at a staggering rate over the last 100 or so years. From the birth of revolutionary new techniques and styles, to pioneering technology that’s resulted in more versatile, better-sounding gear – drummers have never had it so good. At the same time, the music industry is changing, making it harder to sustain, let alone start, a career as a drummer. So, what does the future of drumming look like? What gear will drummers be playing, how will we learn our craft and what will a career in drums look like in years to come? Roland takes a peek inside its crystal ball to find out…
Mastering your craft
While we’re yet to reach the point where a drummer can download a lesson straight to their brain, Matrix-style, our go-to learning tools have changed dramatically. Lessons with a teacher still have a place, and tuition mags and timeless books like Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone will continue to inspire. That said, increasingly drummers are going online, heading for sites such as Drumeo, due to the sheer volume and immediacy of expertly-curated, well-produced educational resources. Check out this free hour-long tutorial video from Michael Schack, long-time Roland endorsee and drummer with Netsky Live, for a taster of what you can expect. You can also sign up for a free 90-day Drumeo trial here.
You may be taught by a holographic Thomas Lang sat in the room with you
In the future, regular lessons may no longer fit with our increasingly busy schedules. As a result, drummers will binge on online tutorials in their free time, much like we do with TV boxsets. With such a dizzying choice of content available, this solo learning style will require a healthy dose of discipline, but has the potential to produce an amazing new wave of self-taught drummers.
If you’ve taken formal lessons yourself, you probably studied topics such as rudiments, linear grooves and improvisation. But how about using a sampling pad or setting up an acoustic drum trigger? Understanding electronics is a real-world skill that’s set to become a vital element of learning drums, particularly for those with sights set on a career behind the kit – more on this later.
And if you still like the idea of interacting with a teacher, as video and audio technology develops, and internet connections get faster and more reliable, remote online lessons on your computer or mobile device will become the new norm – and they’ll look and sound amazing. Eventually, you may even be taught by a holographic Thomas Lang sat in the room with you. Bonkers.
However you choose to learn the drums, the essential building blocks of rudiments, timekeeping and musicality will never change. Only the format within which you’ll learn them.
Just as athletes continue to smash records in the sports world, drummers will continue to push the boundaries of technique, human mechanics and endurance to develop faster hands and feet, master staggering time signatures and reaching the extremes of limb independence. In 2013, Canadian drummer Tom Grosset played a staggering 1,208 single strokes in 60 seconds, and you can rest assured there are drummers putting in the hours at the pad to smash that record and take the discipline forward. And, just as the pursuit of technical prowess will persist, so will the drummers claiming that Ringo and Charlie Watts have never been bettered! And so the cycle of drumming continues.
The future of drumming involves electronics
Incredible advances have been made in the acoustic drum world – from pioneering shell construction and materials, to durable, synthetic drum heads – but the basic concept of a tensioned skin stretched over a shell that vibrates when struck has barely changed in centuries.
So, the acoustic drum revolution has peaked, but what about electronic drums? Their future potential is only constrained by the technology available. Modules will become infinitely more powerful, sampling and sensor technology will evolve, and taking your stick to a pad will feel and sound unbelievably realistic. E-kits will continue to ‘borrow’ acoustic drum visuals, too – take a look at Roland’s new TD-50KV to see where things are headed: the kit features a 14” snare pad, an 18” ride cymbal, and an optional KD-A22 kick drum converter that brings the feel and look of a 22” acoustic bass drum to your electronic kit.
Could the functionality and versatility of electronic drums, combined with the traditional look of acoustic drums, inspire a new movement of e-kits on stage and in studios? And how about a complete blend of both, fusing electronic kits, hybrid setups with additional sequencers and sound modules? Case in point, check out this drum jam featuring Michael Schack and Tony Royster Jr – doesn’t need to be complicated and is a lot of fun.
Drummers are officially as fit as football players, and fitness wearables are booming, so here’s a not-so wild idea: fitness tracking drumsticks. The Bluetooth connected sticks could include sensors to track body temperature, heart rate, hydration levels and timekeeping (via a built-in metronome that uses haptic feedback to tap out the tempo). A companion app could log your fitness stats and tell you how steady your tempo was through the gig. On second thoughts…
Careers behind the kit
Understanding electronics will be key to maintaining session work in the future
We’ve advised you on how to forge a successful career as a drummer (you have read it, haven’t you?), but what about the long-term future of professional drumming? If the drum machine boom of the ’80s taught us anything it’s that, even when session drummers appear to be verging on extinction, there will always be room for talented, musical players with the right attitude.
A solid reputation and proven recording and performing experience will always be important to landing those big gigs, but increasingly so will a diversity of skills and your ability to adapt to different scenarios – that could mean you’re doing a studio session one day, a theatre gig the following week, and a corporate function on the weekend. You’ll need to be a drumming chameleon, ready to handle any number of styles. What’s more, adding skills such as percussion or vocals to your arsenal will instantly open up more opportunities for you.
As studio numbers dwindle, producers will be on the lookout for talented drummers who can record their parts remotely. Recording software and hardware will continue to evolve, making this a viable route for any drummer with an appropriate recording space at their disposal.
Finally, if you only take one thing away from this blog, it should be this: understanding electronics and knowing how to use them effectively as part of your set-up will be key to maintaining session work in the future. More artists, MDs and producers will demand drummers who can replicate album sounds, trigger backing tracks and deliver consistent sound on stage – and in the studio, too – and you’ll be expected to know what you’re doing.
Whatever the future holds for drummers, there will always be a need for real drummers, playing great-sounding drums and making exciting music.