Opinion: Are Drum Covers Beneficial?


Welcome back to the Chops blog! Today I’d like to address a topic that I feel has needed attention for some time: drum covers.

Over the past five to six years a type of video called a “drum cover” has become popular on the internet, especially on YouTube. If you’re not familiar, a drum cover is a video of a drummer playing along to a prerecorded track. However, rather than playing an authentic, straight-forward version of the track, the drummer plays their own version of the song. This often involves unique beats, fills, and solos. There are many drum cover videos available on YouTube that showcase some incredibly creative and technical playing.

Despite their prevalence, and the impressive musicianship often on display, drum covers are often a negative influence on young or otherwise impressionable drummers. When a naïve musician watches a drum cover, they are easily impressed by the complex techniques on display. They then think that these things are important, and should be emulated in their own playing. This idea is then reinforced by the number of times the video has been viewed.

Unfortunately, drum covers are unrealistic and impractical for drummers in the real world. For every YouTube drummer that uploads an exciting drum cover, there are thousands of drummers and percussionists that survive as professional musicians and hobbyists without the flashy skills needed for their own video. These musicians are successful because they understand a few fundamental truths that you may not find in a drum covers:

  1. Drummers and percussionists play a supporting role approximately 99% of the time.
  2. In the real world, drum solos are rare. If you are given the opportunity to play a solo it will probably occur in the context of a song. Instead of spending time developing your chops for an “open” solo, learn how to solo over a vamp, or trade fours and eights.
  3. Simple is always better, and more effective than complex. The flashy licks and beats from the drum cover will not work when you play with other musicians. In other words, play the song.

Instead of watching drum covers, try these few tips instead. First, listen to, watch, and study great drummers. A five-minute video of Steve Gadd will teach you more than any drum cover ever can. Second, get out and play with other humans. Listen to what they’re playing, and match it as simply as you can.  Third, find a great teacher who can explain and demonstrate what it means to be a great musician, not just a drummer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that drum covers have no purpose or value. What you need to understand about drum covers, however, is that they’re just for entertainment and self promotion. They have little to no value in the real world.

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