After I finished analyzing the data I collected on Tim Alexander and Brann Dailor, I was really happy with how my energy expenditure monitors were performing. I was getting pretty consistent readings on each of the drummers from night to night, and although I can’t directly compare my data to those reported in earlier research studies1,2, my data were matching up nicely with theirs.
The average rate of energy expenditure across all six of my participants was about 10 Cal/min. By comparison, Romero et al.1 (5 drummers) and De La Rue et al.2 (14 drummers) reported average rates of energy expenditure of about 9 Cal/min and 10 Cal/min, respectively. So, even though direct comparisons between the three studies aren’t appropriate, at least I was in the same ballpark.
This was great to see, but a sample size of six drummers is pretty small to be looking for trends or making judgments. I already had a few more drummers lined up to be in the study, but I decided that I wanted another source of data to enhance my analyses. The gold standard for monitoring energy expenditure is indirect calorimetry, but even portable units would be bulky enough to be a nuisance for drummers during a live performance. So, I decided to add a heart rate (HR) monitor to the study protocol. This would allow me to estimate the intensity levels associated with playing the drums using the Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)3.
Next up in the DRUMMER Lab is Steve Molella. Steve is a producer based in Toronto, Canada, and is currently drumming for Finger Eleven. He had already agreed to wear the BodyMedia armbands during two live shows in July 2018, and he was good with adding the HR monitor, too.
At the first show, Finger Eleven played a 75-minute set, including 15 songs and a guitar solo (during which Steve came off the kit). Steve’s total energy expenditure was 750 Calories (including downtime between songs and James’ solo). “First Time”, “Quicksand”, and “Cake” (a song by the band’s original incarnation, The Rainbow Butt Monkeys) tied for most intense song (all ~12 Cal/min).
Typical resting heart rate (HR) for healthy adults ranges from 60-100 bpm4. Steve’s average HR during the show was 152 bpm, which represents 82 percent of his age-predicted maximum HR. The ACSM defines any activities that push your HR into this zone as “vigorous intensity” activities3. Steve spent 74 percent of the show in this zone, and another 19 percent in the “moderate intensity” zone.
At the second show, Finger Eleven played a 79-minute set, including 15 songs and a guitar solo (Steve came off the kit). The band later came back on stage to play the last two songs with I MOTHER EARTH, which was super cool because Christian Tanna was also doing the study that day, so I got to monitor two drummers at the same time!
This time, Steve’s total energy expenditure was 814 Calories (including downtime between songs and James’ solo). “Living in a Dream” and “As Far As I Can Spit” (another Rainbow Butt Monkeys classic) tied for the most intense songs (both 12 Cal/min).
Steve’s average heart rate (HR) during the show was 157 bpm (84 percent of his age-predicted maximum HR). He spent 87 percent of the show in the “vigorous intensity” zone, and another 12 percent in the “moderate intensity” zone.
So…compared to the first show, Steve burned more calories and spent more time in the “vigorous intensity” zone. However, remember that Christian Tanna was also doing the study that day, and his set was after Steve’s. I only have one HR monitor, so Steve’s HR numbers don’t include the last two songs, which might explain why his HR numbers are higher this time around. That, and the ambient temperature – both of Steve’s shows were outdoors, and it was a lot cooler at the show in Kincardine – may play a role.
The bottom line? Drumming is exercise, and drummers are athletes.
Photo credit: Dory Azar
* FREE VIDEO SERIES *
Fastest Way To Get Faster
The Fastest Way To Get Faster is a 10-Day routine that will help you rapidly improve your speed around the kit. You will need to practice hard, stick with it, and push yourself.
Samantha Landa /
How Drumming Tamed His Tourette’s
Twitch streamer Greg Storey (aka 'mrgregles') found that drumming completely stopped his tics.
Jared Falk /
5 Ways To Kill The Quarantine Blues
There's a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, and you might be feeling stressed or isolated as a drummer. Try these 5 tips.
Samantha Landa /
Tips For Drummer Moms
Is it safe to drum while pregnant? Can you play drums with a baby at home? Check out this special Mother's Day article.
Nadia Azar /
The Drummer Lab
Drummers Are Athletes, And Here’s The Evidence
In this article, Dr. Nadia Azar sums up the first year of her drummer research.