While most teenagers dream of being a lead guitarist, a high paid electro DJ or a singer dancing around on the stage Mick Jagger style, a smarter approach might actually be to consider a rhythm instrument like the bass guitar, or drums. The reason for this can be explained through basic math and statistics: if most people go for the glory by pursuing a conspicuous instrument, you’ll have a better chance of making it if you choose an instrument that makes up the accompaniment. Being a bassist or a drummer takes great physical stamina if you play with an up-tempo band, so it’s also a motivator to get into great shape and become jacked.
While the more prominent members of a band get to jump around the stage and show off like musical peacocks, the rhythm section is really the two headed beast that gets the audience dancing. If you’re playing a decent sized club, it can be very satisfying to send that low-end rhythmic thump out through the crowd and see the dance floor turn into a wild party.
Another factor is the range of what you can do, which is true of most instruments, but especially so with drums. Good drummers are tough to find, so they are always in demand; if you learn to play in a variety of styles and work hard enough at it, you could potentially become a session musician or get work touring with musicians who chop their beats together in the studio but want a live drummer for the stage.
A great example of this is the Swedish drummer Thomas Hedlund, who is best known for playing with the popular French rock band Phoenix when they tour, but who also plays jazz, metal and many other styles. Hedlund notes that recently Phoenix started including him in the studio process, but said they like to chop up his beats, mess with them, and then put them back together. If you listen to Phoenix’s electro pop masterpiece Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, or their more recent album Ti Amo, you’ll notice that the drums are incredibly processed in a way that sounds a bit like their compatriots Daft Punk. Increasingly, it has become popular to replace live drum hits with samples in programs like Pro Tools and Ableton, to create something that is friendlier to the dance the floor. To replicate this effect live, you can employ Roland sound triggers or run Ableton off a computer – in the end, however, having a live drummer onstage always brings the energy up a few notches.
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, maybe you can start with professional drum lessons and see if it is something you’d like to invest a great deal of time and money into – keep in mind, becoming a pro drummer takes resolve and fortitude. A bass guitar is bit easier to manage if you’re rehearsing in your apartment, but keep in mind that you can purchase an electronic drum kit to practice silently and without disturbing your neighbours as well. Good drummers are always in demand, and throwing down a great beat can definitely impress the ladies (and gentlemen, depending on your orientation). If you’re considering learning an instrument, consider the drums.