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

  • 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.

  • Implied by a fellow student in School of Rock:
    Freddy: I play percussion.
    Classmate: 'Cause he couldn't play anything else!
    Freddy: Shut up!
  • Played for Laughs in This Is Spinal Tap. All of their drummers get killed off.
    • Three spontaneously combust
    • One dies in a "bizarre gardening accident"
    • One dies in a Noodle Incident
      "A case better left unsolved"
      • They didn't really die from stupidity though. They were more a parody of high rates of mortality among musicians. There are several real life examples of "cursed" spots in certain bands, though as with everything else in Spinal Tap, it's turned up to 11 for the film.
      • Admittedly, that doesn't excuse drummer Mick Shrimpton from taking a bath with a plugged-in toaster resting on the side.
  • Animal from The Muppet Movie was portrayed this way.
  • Inverted with That Thing You Do!. The drummer is the hero of the story and even inspires a brief fashion trend with his trademark sunglasses.
  • The drummer in Still Crazy clearly isn't the brightest in the band and the narrator expresses the opinion that "If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then drummers are from Pluto."
  • Joe of Joe's Apartment is made the drummer of a band called Shit shortly after moving in and is humiliated when he plays his first gig with them with zero skill.

  • 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?"

Live-Action TV

  • 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."
  • 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."
  • 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.

New Media

Video Games
  • The Loading Screen for Guitar Hero 3 has random quotes, one of which is, "I'm the drummer, I don't get paid to understand any of this!"
    • Another reads, "Don't let your drummer handle the money."
    • "A drum machine would come to practice on time."

Web Animation

Web Comics
  • Kevin from Rhapsodies is essentially a amalgamation of every drummer joke you ever heard. Though he's more oblivious than stupid.

Web Original
  • Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation invokes this in his Guitar Hero World Tour review in response to some of the songs having non-English lyrics.
    Yahtzee: If you don't speak Spanish, singing them is like if the guitarist was required to play wearing mittens. Or if the drummer were required to think.

Western Animation

Jokes and Anecdotes
  • "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."
  • "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."