Andy Doerschuk

Five Ways To Spot A Drummer

(Left) How could this guy be anything other than a drummer?

While nobody likes to be stereotyped, it’s hard to deny that drummers share certain character traits, and some are quite quirky. Even those of us whose demeanors have more in common with techies or dentists can reveal a unique tic that hints at a background in the percussive arts.

So imagine you’re at Starbucks sipping a latte. You spot someone across the room that seems familiar, even though you’re positive you’ve never seen that person before. Something tells you he or she is a drummer – you aren’t sure why.

But I know why. Here’s a list of things you might have seen that when personified within a single individual almost guarantees a drummer is in your midst.

1. Black T-Shirt

Many people enjoy wearing back t-shirts, but most wear other types of shirts and colors too. Drummers don’t want to think about fashion that much. They have other things on their minds: Practicing, gigs, more practicing. Plain black works, but printed shirts tell you something about the drummer’s preferences. Sometimes it’s scary. And if you see a sweat stain on the chest, be it fresh or salty dry … bingo. You found a drummer.

2. Rhythmic Tics

Marriages break up because of this one. The guy at Starbucks is sitting in a chair looking at his iPhone while his right leg is bouncing at about 160 bpm. Or he taps out single-stroke rolls on the tabletop with his fingers, or clicks his teeth together in time. He isn’t aware he’s doing it, doesn’t realize how weird he looks, and doesn’t care anyway. He’s working out a drum part in his head.

3. Presence

More abstract, harder to spot – it’s a certain kind of grandiosity that is both street and celeb. Many drummers have a big personality. We like to show off onstage under spotlights. We don’t blend into the background. We’re often loud even away from the drum set, although that also might have something to do with deafness.

4. Time-Zone Disconnect

Starbucks again. It’s 9:00 at night and everybody is ordering dessert and decaf, except the guy in the black T-shirt. He orders a triple espresso. Alternative scenario: It’s 11:30 a.m. He rolls in with his hair messed up, bleary eyes, and wearing sweatpants. Still orders a triple espresso.

5. A Logo

It can be on virtually any kind of personal item: a backpack, a wallet or keychain pulled out of a pocket. The ultimate is a T-shirt. Seriously. If the Starbucks guy is wearing a black t-shirt shirt with a big, hairy Zildjian logo – or Pearl or Pro-Mark or anything else – totally ignore the first four bullet points. Just walk up and introduce yourself. He’s a bro.

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  • That guy in the photo looks a lot like me when I was a kid- except for the junk in his face, the ink on his neck, dorky hat, hair and glasses- and his funny looks.

  • ouch…I hate being pigeonholed but that point about black t-shirts and with stains no less.  I’m a public finger drummer too but I’m self conscious about it. I’d like to think I have a big personality but the number of people who approach me after a show compared to the string players indicates otherwise.

  • The truth will set you free!