This is always a touchy subject, but here are a few qualities we believe are a must for any working musician:

The big Three: Great Time, Feel and Sound.

Number one: Regardless of the type of music, your job is to get the audience moving – pop rock: jumping around, hip-hop: head bobbing, rock n roll: twisting etc…
Prior to the current modern – post70s – industry, all the style of music where named after dances. Think about it next time you sit behind the kit and deliver/project your grooves to your audience. This is what good Feel should be about.

Your voice: This can again be fairly subjective, but generally the idea is that you make a conscious choice of what sounds you’re making on your kit and when you place it. How you draw the sound out and how you balance it out between the different voices (limb) – being your own mix engineer, really is key to become a great musician.
Great Time, isn’t only the ability to play well with 1/4 note click track but more importantly to know how to manipulate the notes in between and therefore being able to create Tension and Release by positioning yourself against the other musician. Check out “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince and try to hear how all of the instruments are playing on a slightly different spot, creating lots of space in the music.

Q:What about technique?

Y: Well yes absolutely, you need to develop great technique to develop all these qualities but for us – and we see it all too often – practicing technique becomes efficient when you practice with your ears and put a context to it.
Next time you sit with a paradiddle, ask yourself: How many phrases/rhythms can I hear? Where is the quarter note pulse, what is the subdivision and what if I change one or the other?
We advocate curious practice _ always challenging our comprehension of all things rhythmical, the sound, and physical. A constant juggling between these three parts is for us an efficient way to improve the technique whilst beginning to use it and make sense of it on the kit.

A very short list of some of the drummers we admire for their musicality and chops:
James Gadson, Matt Chamberlain, Josh Freese, Jeremy Stacey, Joey Waronker, Clyde Stubblefield, Art Blakey, Al Jackson jr, Questlove, Michael Bland, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Jordan, Carlton Barrett, John Robinson, Yogi Horton, Tony Allen, Chris Dave, Steve Gadd, Brian Blade, Keith Carlock, Vinnie Colaiuta, John Bonham, Elvin Jones, Deantoni Parks, Jon Theodore, Carlos Vega, Jim Keltner, Danny Carey, Arron Sterling, Dave Dicenso, Sonny Emory…

You can check them all out at Drummerworld