Drumming for Film and TV

Posted on Aug 5, 2011 in Guides and Resources


Choreographing a Drummer.

One of the services we provide is drum coaching for films, TV, adverts and other visual media. It involves training actors who have not played drums before to look like a convincing drummer on screen. Essentially, it’s drumming ‘choreography’ – just like training a dancer to do the right moves, except instead of dancing it’s drumming.

The process of teaching non-drummers to look as if they have been playing competently for years teaches us a useful thing or two about playing drums for real. This article will talk about some of the aesthetic and physical aspects of learning to play drums.

“Drums of Death”

Here’s a little video clip featuring a fashion model who was choreographed by Elephant Drums teacher Will Connor. Before the video shoot the model had never picked up a pair of drum sticks before. After an hour of coaching and filming, this was the end result…

For anyone curious to know, the drumming track used in the video is based on “Guns Blazing (Drums of Death part 1)” by Unkle.

Aesthetics of Drumming

The video example above is all about the aethetics of drumming – the art of looking like a real drummer. The concept of the video was based on the idea that the model looks like she’s been playing drums for years (and to play “Drums of Death” she would have had to have been drumming for a few years!). However, of course in real life she had been playing drums for less than a couple of hours.

But what can this teach drummers who put in hours/months/years of practise and are learning to play drums for real?

Does looking the part make you sound and play better? Can the way a drummer looks have any influence on their confidence and conviction?

Looking the part

To look (and play) convincingly as a drummer is a combination of:

  • attitude towards playing,
  • technical ability,
  • mental approach (i.e. what you’re thinking about), and
  • physical appearance.

Notice that physical appearance comes at the bottom of the list.

There are a few stereotypes of what a drummer physically looks like – but in reality there’s no template for how a drummer “should” look. There are some obvious practical considerations for being comfortable behind the drum kit – i.e. not wearing clothes that hinder your ability to move around the kit. High heels and a very stiff long-sleeved jacket are not ideal items of clothing.

Some drummers might develop a dependence on wearing (or not wearing) a certain item of clothing in order to feel like they can perform properly. Some drummers prefer not wearing shoes, for example. It has been known that some drummers need to dress up, wear a costume, or a particular favourite pair of underwear! Anyway, as you can see this is not the top factor that will affect the more metaphysical essence of what it means to look (and play convincingly) like a real drummer.

Attitude, technique and mental approach

We have covered a number of relevant topics in previous articles on this website which relate to attitude, techniques and mental approaches. For example, amongst the practical tips for dealing with stage fright, we discussed the drummer’s attitude to performance. In the article “If you can say it, you can play it” we revealed a creative technique for internalising rhythm and performing naturally. The 3 ‘M’ words reveal the Mathematical, Methodical and Mechanical approach to playing drums. And we’ve covered numerous topics on mental and physical techniques including Timing and Time-Keeping, Beat Displacement, Rolls, Accents and Dynamics, and Paradiddles.


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