Picture a world where there was only one style of drumming, a single drum beat, and a solitary tempo for every song. Music would become as repetitive as daytime television and pop radio stations. Fortunately, music is an art which means there are infinite sounds to create and experiment with. Unfortunately, music is also an art which means it is subjective and people are therefore allowed to like The Chainsmokers. Since music has limitless possibilities and variations, there are plenty of drum beats to choose from. A tasteful drummer is one who has a knack for choosing the beat that best compliments a song and gives it character, rather than a beat that showcases the extent of their skill.
Before I give a song that demonstrates tasteful drumming, I will first talk about what isn’t tasteful drumming. “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes is an example of a song in which the drums merely keep the rhythm and nothing more. Even during the chorus, Meg White just mimics the guitar, adding nothing new or interesting to a song with a fatally simple structure to begin with. I think the drums could be much more interesting and actually add something to spice up the song.
Tasteful drummers, such as Ringo Starr, find a way to keep rhythm and add to a given song simultaneously; his beats may not require a ton of skill to play, but they are creative, interesting, and never overdone. But most importantly, they perfectly blend together with the style of The Beatles and help to give the songs character, making him a tasteful drummer.
To demonstrate this point I will list a few songs and talk about his choice of technique for each. Starting with “A Day in the Life”, arguably the best Beatles song, Ringo is an integral part of what makes it great. Sometimes simplicity is a virtue, and that holds true in this case. Ringo doesn’t come in until the second verse at the 47 second mark, allowing for the song to slowly build up. His fills are unique and not overdone, while his timing compliments the song excellently. It’s hard to imagine the song with any difference in the drums.
Another Beatles track that is a masterpiece in part due to Ringo’s tasteful input is “In My Life.” Rubber Soul marked the period when the Beatles transitioned from craftsmen to artists. Their albums became deeper and more experimental in music, lyrics, and production, and it shows on songs like “In My Life.” Ringo opts for a very simple but distinctive beat, and it blends perfectly with the style and feel of the song. This is a textbook example of a rhythm that not only keeps the tempo, but simultaneously adds character to the song, giving it that final touch and masterpiece status.
After listening to these two songs, try picturing them with symbol crashing rock drums like that of The Who or Led Zeppelin; it doesn’t fit whatsoever. Although Ringo’s drum beats are easy to replicate, they are exactly what The Beatles needed to help become one of the greatest and most influential bands in the history of music.