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Get Inspired: 5 Motivating Drum Quotes

Here are five of my favorite epic drum quotes, which I believe can inspire drummers of all skill levels to get better. Of course, these quotes are from some of the most iconic drummers of all time, such as Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, Elvin Jones, Neil Peart, and John Bonham. So, write them down, remember them, and live by their words to be and drum a little better everyday.

Photos by Becker (2008), Hather (1979), Spurk (1977)

"I consider every drummer that ever played

before me an influence, in every way.” - Buddy Rich

Most consider Buddy Rich the best drummer of all time. If you are not convinced of this, check out his Channel One Suite (the drum solo in the middle is guaranteed to blow your mind). That being said, this is a  powerful quote because it is important to acknowledge the drummers that came before us and more importantly that we need to be humble and learn from them. This can be in-person encounters (I remember meeting Jim Chapin at NAMM in the early 2000s and he taught me stuff while just hanging out at a drum booth, he was pretty cool since I was just a young drummer at the time), studying the recordings of great drummers, or watching tutorials about their styles.

“First and foremost I’m a drummer…after that I’m other things,

but I didn't play drums to make money.” - Ringo Starr

So, why do you play drums? For me, it is because I genuinely love the instrument, enjoy making people dance to my grooves, it makes me feel awesome, and it is part of who I am. As a professional drummer, I have certainly lost sight of this a number of times, especially when practicing for hours and getting frustrated. But, I always take time (especially when things get difficult) to play my “Go To Groove,” as this reminds me of why I play the greatest instrument on the planet. I know some say they use drums to get out their aggression, I have never done this. For me, drumming gives me peace, allows me to clear my head, and evokes self-fulfillment. So, what is your go to groove? Why do you play the drums?

What Is Your Go To Groove?

“The greatest contribution jazz has made to music has been to replace the role of the conductor with a member of the ensemble, who instead of just waving his arms to keep time and convey mood, is an active member of the musical statement.

That person is the drummer.”  - Elvin Jones

In the early 1900s marching band music, such as the tunes of John Phillip Sousa and classic music, was very popular. Many towns had their own bands and each of these bands/orchestras had conductors. Small brass bands formed in New Orleans around this same time, which morphed into five to seven piece jazz bands where the marching drums (snare, bass, cymbals) was converted into the drum kit, which could be played by one musician: The drummer. 

While I tell my students that a drummer's job is style, it is also to drive the groove and pulse of the band. Musicians cannot fight the tempo set by the drummer, as we are the primary rhythmic force. We propel the ensemble, establish feel, and even sway dynamics. Jones was on to something, we (drummers) have replaced the drummer and need to inspir, shape, and drive the music.

“Stamina is the force that drives drumming,

it is not really a sprint.” - Neil Peart

I feel like every drummer should know this quote. Every aspect of drumming requires this type of attitude. When playing a tune, we have to maintain the groove for the duration of the song without getting distracted or bored. In fact, we must be hyper focused on the details of the music and lock in with the other musicians. 

When practicing and learning, we drummers need grit when things become difficult. Every drummer at various stages of development hits a wall, which is the point where we have difficulty getting a little better, faster, or stronger. This is when endurance is everything. We have to keep at it and be persistent to get better. 

“Not everybody likes or understands a drum solo, so I like to

bring in effects and sounds that keep their interest.” - John Bonham

It is interesting that the thing we like may not be the thing everyone else likes. The drum solo may be the greatest example of this. While a drummer might be having the time of his life, the audience may not care. I have even heard other drummers say that the "worst part of seeing other drummers live is the drum solo." That being said. Bonham’s advice is focused on keeping the audience's attention by being creative and dynamic. The drum set is more than just cymbals and drums. There are many timbres (sounds) that can be generated on the rims, shells, edge, stands, or with other implements that will intrigue the listener. So, never stop being creative and strive to keep the audiences engaged and digging what you are doing. 

Now you have the words of some of the greatest drummers of all time; so, what are you going to do with it. I suggest taking the time contemplate these passages and more importantly, apply them to your drumming and practice. If you do this, you will think about drumming in new ways and get a little better each day, Thanks for reading and as a always, keep drumming.


For more drum grooves, check out Tactical Drumming: Groove Survival Guide, which will show you a number of shuffle variations and other grooves. This can be found at or on Amazon at

By John Owens, Ph.D (Author, Drummer Educator). For John's bio and publications go to


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