Dumb and Drummer
"If you're not smart enough to play a real instrument, they give you two sticks, put you in the back, and call you a drummer."
In the eyes of many people, a percussionist isn't a real musician. After all, how many brain cells can it really take to bang on stuff with sticks? For a single
item, probably not many. As a result, it's common for a drummer to be portrayed as, well, stupid. And yet...
Playing percussion adequately often involves managing many more actions and ideas at once than most other instruments. Real drummers often refer to themselves as "percussionists
" in an attempt to distance themselves from this trope as well as because many drummers also play general percussion. Even for those who only
play drums, to do so at any professional level usually requires either the ability to read musical notation or the talent to create beats/play by ear, and they are the backbone of the band's sound in many
genres - so if they are so stupid their musicianship is awful and/or they can't keep rhythm, the entire band
will usually sound awful. So it's not Truth in Television
for the most part. On the other hand, drum kits are expensive
relative to guitars and amps, and require much more practice space; if your drummer is
an idiot (probably not
), it's not all that easy to replace him.
Compare All Drummers Are Animals
, as there can be some overlap, and Alcohol-Induced Idiocy
because of the (not-unfounded) stereotype of drummers often being the heaviest drinkers in a band. Contrast Nobody Loves the Bassist
Anime and Manga
- K-On! has Ritsu Tainaka. As the Light Music Club's drummer, she isn't particularly stupid, just lazy and forgetful. Although the reason she plays the drums is because she thinks playing the guitar or keyboard is too complicated and would frustrate her.
- Vertigo Pop: London is about an aging rock star named Rocky looking to regain his lost youth. In a flashback set in India, a guru offers him some hash to smoke and Rocky's drummer gets envious:
Daz: Hey, I want some of this present. It sounds crazy.
Rocky: Sorry, Daz. Not for you.
Daz: And why not?
Rocky: Because... Because you're a drummer. And drummers... they're not meant to have life-changing transcendental experiences.
- Pierce, from Zits. Unworldly, soft-hearted when it comes to living creatures, and lacking impulse control-yes. He's definitely not stupid, though,and the trope rarely if ever is mentioned in the strip.
- Averted in Zero History by William Gibson: Heidi Hyde is a former drummer, but it doesn't seem to have caused any lasting mental handicap.
- Lias "Cliff" Bluestone from Soul Music is a rather simple-minded troll who's frequently described as "one of nature's drummers".
- Scum of Ande Supporting Bandes is apparently too stupid to be a drummer. "What if I miss?"
- Chapter 15 in the autobiography of famously intelligent/subdued/Deadpan Snarker Progressive Rock drummer Bill Bruford is titled, "What Do You Call A Guy Who Hangs Out With Musicians?".
- Brad Paisley's "Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday," running down the list of holiday songs identifying who they'd offend:
"How 'bout 'Little Drummer Boy?'"
"Nope, that offends short people."
"And you can't say 'drummer,' 'cause that'll offend real musicians."
- P!nk sings in "So What" that after the waiter gives her table to Jessica Simpson, "I guess I'll go sit with drum boy" - drummers get the kids' table? On the other hand, she compliments that "At least he'll know how to hit" (the music video even has the drummer with a Fun T-Shirt reading "I Like to Bang").
- Averted by Rush's drummer Neil Peart, who is incredibly technical in his playing, writes the band's lyrics, has authored several books, and is outright stated by both of his bandmates to "have a bigger brain than [they] do." He has even augmented his kit with instruments such as tubular bells, gongs, bell trees, and crotales. Did we mention he's incredibly technical in his playing?
- Zigzagged but mostly averted by Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan. He's a virtuoso drummer - and virtuoso classical pianist, who isn't as good with but can capably play guitar, bass, and trumpet. He's also a composer, producer, wrote 90% of the lyrics and music for X Japan and all of it for Violet UK's works, an omniglot, and a fairly sharp businessperson. Alcohol and/or his occasionally bad responses to troublesome situations can, however, make it seem true for him if he's caught at the wrong time.
- While Dave Grohl averts this, he stated that when Nirvana was in Australia getting a visa to travel to New Zealand, the consultate wrote "musician" on both Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic's documents, but "drummer" on his.
- Strongly averted by Lille Gruber of Defeated Sanity, who, in addition to writing most of the band's material, is an experienced jazz drummer and theory nerd with a degree in classical composition as well.
- Also averted by Yanic Bercier, former drummer for Canadian death metal band Quo Vadis. He holds a PhD in Physics from McGill University.
- When Phil Collins joined the early incarnation of Genesis, although certainly intelligentnote , he found himself falling into this role, playing comic relief to diffuse tensions between the often sarcastic and pissy boarding school graduates that made up the rest of the band.
- Lampooned in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Don't Download This Song" when it's pointed out that of all people, a drummer went after the file sharers for violation of international copyright law.
Even Lars Ulrich knows it's wrong (you can just ask him!)
- Glenn Fricker, owner of Spectre Media Group and longtime heavy metal record producer, hands drummer jokes out like they're candy - both in the studio and on his YouTube channel. As with his hatred of bass players, he often plays this straight but will sometimes take the time to explain why he feels this way about drummers, noting that as with bass players there are good drummers out there to whom this trope doesn't apply and with whom he has enjoyed working. Unlike with bass players, who usually can't play at all, drummers often can play. The problems with drummers tend to be that they can't keep a good beat, they're unable to keep their affairs outside the studio straight (e.g. Phil Rudd of AC/DC), and they tend to whine & complain when the producer insists on arranging drums, cymbals, & microphones in such a way as to get the optimal sound, seeing it as too much work and too different from how they normally play to the point that they can't play their kit this way at all.
- Meg White of The White Stripes has had to put up with so much criticism of her drumming style, it's no wonder she retired from music altogether when the band broke up in 2011. Criticisms range from her keeping a simple, unimaginative beat to not being able to play in time at all. Bandmate & ex-husband Jack White ardently defended her style, believing that most of the backlash was due to mere sexism and crediting her with being the most important element of the band's garage punk sound, while world-class drummer Brandon Khoo beautifully demonstrated the true value of her playing, even using Ringo Starr as an example. Meg wasn't always able to ignore her detractors, saying that it really did get to her sometimes but the rest of the time she could blow it off since she realized her own worth to the band and how vital she was to their sound.
- Meg probably wasn't terribly keen on being in a band to begin with. Jack noted in retrospect that part of why the group broke up was because she had no passion for it; for example, the two had polar opposite reactions to some of their accomplishments. Jack would be over the moon about something they just did in the studio and Meg would more or less shrug in indifference & move on to the next objective. Obviously, she was never one for the rockstar lifestyle, but it's hard to tell how much of her disenchantment with the White Stripes was due to the criticism she received or just not really feeling the band lifestyle in general at some point.
- In Follies, Phyllis tells Buddy that about a lover she once had who "played the drums and had long hair and no command of language."
- Kevin from Rhapsodies is essentially a amalgamation of every drummer joke you ever heard. Though he's more oblivious than stupid.
Jokes and Anecdotes
- Averted with Metalocalypse; Pickles the Drummer is almost certainly the smartest member of the band (that is to say, the only member of even average intelligence), and was lead singer and guitarist of Snakes & Barrels before joining Dethklok.
- In one episode, SpongeBob SquarePants' band, SpongeBob and the Hi-Seas, has the village-idiot character Patrick as its drummer.
- The 60's animated series The Beatles gave Ringo this treatment.
- The movie Yellow Submarine does too, but to a lesser extent. Ringo's clearly not as bright as his bandmates, but he seems more of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander than anything. In the end his quick thinking is what frees Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band from their imprisonment, which surprises everyone.
George: Ringo, I take back all I said. You're a genius.
Paul: Sheer genius!
Ringo: I know, I know, I know.
- Melody from Josie and the Pussycats.
- Howard Weinerman from Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja.
- Kon Kujira isn't the smartest member in Grojband obviously, but being The Big Guy pretty much makes up for it.
- "What does it mean when the drummer's drooling out of both sides of his mouth?" "The stage is level."
- "What's got three legs and a twat at the top?" "A drum stool."
- "How do you turn a guitarist into a bassist?" "Knock his head on something, but not too hard, so he doesn't turn into a drummer."
- "How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?"
- Answer 1: "Just one, but he has to figure out not to hit it with a stick first."
- Answer 2: "Three. One to hold the lightbulb, and two to spin the stool."
- "How can you tell if there's a drummer at your door?" "The knocking speeds up and he comes in at the wrong time."
- "A percussionist is a musician. A drummer is some guy who hits things with sticks."
- "Did you hear about the guitarist who locked his keys in his car?" "It took him an hour to get the drummer out."
- "How do you confuse a drummer?" "Put sheet music in front of him."
- "What do you call a drummer who's broken up with his girlfriend?" "Homeless."
- "What do you call a guy who likes to hang out with musicians?" "A drummer."
- "Why can't drummers tell jokes timing".
- Q: What's the difference between a drummer and a drum machine?
A: With a drum machine you only have to punch the information in once.
Alternate Answer: About 40 seconds by the end of the song.
- And in revenge: "How late does [band] play?" "About half a beat behind the drummer..."
- "What's the difference between a drummer and a large pizza?" "A large pizza can feed a family of four."
- "Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a drummer!" "Now dear, you can't do both."
- Two musicians and a drummer walk into a bar...
- An oft-seen story involves an interview with The Beatles:
"Is Ringo the best drummer in the world?"
"Ringo isn't even the best drummer in The Beatles."
- A similar one from an interview with Metallica
Lars: How many drummers does it take to change a lightbulb?
James: One... As soon as he gets here.
"And if you're not smart enough to play drums, they take away one of your sticks, put you in the front, and call you the conductor."