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Music / Bill Bruford

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"But no air drumming this time. Bruford can change up the timing so fast you can snap your wrists."
Bruford Circa 2010, shortly after he retired from popular music.
William Scott Bruford (born 17 May 1949) is a retired English Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion drummer, who started his career with Yes in 1968 and went on to become one of the defining drummers of the Progressive Rock movement. After leaving Yes following Close to the Edge, he joined King Crimson, and following that moved between different bands like a fish through water.

He is renowned for excellent drumming skill without playing insanely rapid solos (in fact, he almost never takes solos on studio recordings, preferring to keep the beat in unusual or technical ways) or resorting to All Drummers Are Animals behavior, maintaining a relatively modest style. In particular, he makes extensive use of Uncommon Time.

In the 80s, he was an enthusiastic user of electronic drums loaded with strange sound effects, and he was important in popularizing them.

As stated above, Bill Bruford has been in a lot of different bands:

  • Starting his career with Yes from 1968 to 1972...
  • Joining the second incarnation of King Crimson from 1972 to its dissolution in 1974...
  • Playing live with Genesis in the transitional period after Peter Gabriel's departure...
  • Starting up a solo career in 1977, which later became a full band called "Bruford"...
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  • At the same time, joining a short-lived supergroup called "U.K." in 1977 and leaving the following year...
  • After the collapse of Bruford, joining a reformed King Crimson for 3 years...
  • Founding a jazz group, Earthworks...
  • Joining and leaving King Crimson again...
  • Forming a group with former Yes bandmates called "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe", which was absorbed back into Yes after one album...
  • Joining and leaving Yes again...

Plus studio work for oodles of other famous artists and brief stints in other supergroups. While it would appear that this man does not take a break, he in fact retired in 2009. Since then, he has earned a Ph.D. in music from the University of Surrey. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Yes. He attended the ceremony but didn't perform.



  • All Drummers Are Animals: Averted completely. Bruford is very erudite, and subdued in his motions. Soon after his retirement from the music business, he began studying for a Ph.D. Notably, not once during his time with Yes did he ever record a drum solo.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: In his autobiography, Bruford describes his drum kit during his first tenure with King Crimson as sprouting "tendrils" of unusual percussion instruments. On their album Red, he even used an old, beaten-up cymbal he had found in the trash at the studio for a unique percussive effect.
  • Genre Roulette: Despite mostly only playing in the rock and jazz world, Bruford has played with many different bands that have many different styles—and he himself has combined tons of drumming techniques into his own style.
  • Improv: As a jazz musician, makes frequent use of this—even in backing rhythm parts.
  • Revolving Door Band: A remarkable inversion—as remarked above, he was in and out of King Crimson 3 times. Partially because most of the bands he's been in were examples of this trope.
  • Rock Trio: Bruford usually plays in larger ensembles, but the first incarnation of King Crimson he was in eventually shrunk to one of these.
  • Supergroup: He was involved with U.K., which also contained John Wetton (a former King Crimson player), Eddie Jobson (who worked with Roxy Music and Frank Zappa), and Allan Holdsworth (from Soft Machine).
  • Uncommon Time: A lot. He also uses polyrhythms - playing in a different meter signature than the rest of the band - extensively, to the point that it's one of the features most commonly identified with his playing (probably second after his distinctive style of hitting the snare).