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3 Proven Rock Drumming Tips From Simon Phillips

Simon Phillips  /  UPDATED Aug 22, 2022

Simon Phillips is one of the most diverse rock drummers of the last 50 years, laying down rhythms with Toto, Judas Priest, Jeff Beck and many others. He’s also a pro engineer, so he knows what a drummer should do in the studio to sound their best. 

Don’t miss these three quick tips for rock drummers from the man himself:

1. Don’t be afraid to play simply

Drummers have a tendency to overplay, including adding fills when they aren’t necessary. In “The Pump” by Jeff Beck, Simon only plays two or three fills the entire track. Drums sound best when they support the song – not the other way around.

“A groove can actually sound bigger if you play less on the kick and let the snare speak.”

2. Touch and consistency are more important than you think

As a rock drummer, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of “I need to be a heavy hitter” and just going through the action of playing. But to become a really great player, you can’t forget about groove, touch, and consistency.

Simon emphasizes the latter. Make every backbeat the same. Get that snare dead on every time. If you want the studio engineers to love you, give them consistency!

(Click here for tips from Alice Cooper’s Glen Sobel on mastering that perfect rock snare sound)

3. Don’t forget about dynamics

Maybe you don’t notice them as much as you would in styles like jazz or latin, but there are dynamics in rock! A common misconception is that rock should be played at one level. But playing too hard and strong throughout the entire song can mean feel goes out the window.

When the singer is singing, reduce your volume. Be mindful on the hi-hats: tighter in the verse, a bit more open in the pre-chorus, and move to the ride in the chorus.

Simon isn’t the only one who advises rock drummers to keep volume and feel in mind. Todd Sucherman is also a big advocate for dynamics in rock drumming.

(Read: 9 Drum Recording Myths, Busted)

Want more from Simon Phillips? Check out his course for Drumeo members, “Elevate Your Drum Sound”!

Simon Phillips has been a household name in the drumming community for decades. Known for his incredible groove, virtuosic chops, and iconic drum sound, he has been one of the most prolific musicians of his generation. Simon has performed with Toto, Jeff Beck, Hiromi, Pete Townshend, Judas Priest, with his own group, Protocol, and as a session drummer with countless more artists. Beyond his drumming prowess, Simon is also an accomplished producer and audio engineer. In this role, his depth of studio knowledge and distinct musical sensibility has served an entire new generation of musical artists.

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