Are Drummers Obsolete?

Drummers are not obsolete, but they are becoming increasingly replaced by drum sample libraries and drum machines. It’s also far easier and cheaper to tour without a drum set. However, live drums still offer a unique quality and presence that you can’t replace digitally.

Are drummers obsolete? It’s a valid question in today’s musical landscape. With high-quality drum sample libraries, drum VSTs, and drum machines, it’s become easier than ever for musicians to create their own drum tracks for both recording and live performances. This has led some to believe that there is no longer a need for drummers.

In this article, I’ll explain why drummers should not be considered obsolete, but I’ll also explain the genuine reasons why we’re seeing a decline in live and recorded drums across many different genres.

At a Glance

  • Drummers are not obsolete, but their role has changed quite a bit in today’s musical landscape.
  • While drummers are not essential for every type of music, they can still add a lot of value to a live performance or recording.
  • Many drummers are also adjusting their style and embracing digital through hybrid drums, which can make them much more in demand in today’s world of music.
  • Drum machines or VSTs are just too ‘perfect’. There’s a certain element of imperfection of the human touch that is just more relatable to people. Plus, people want to listen and watch drummers play live.
  • It is very time-consuming and costly to record acoustic drums in the studio so people naturally turn to VSTs and drum machines to speed things up.

Why Drummers Still Play on Stage and in Recordings

Live drums have a certain quality that drum machines and sample libraries simply cannot replicate. There’s an energy and power to live drums that give a group a unique identity. Drummers are also excellent at improvising and changing up a song on the fly, something that is extremely difficult to do with pre-recorded tracks.

In the studio, drummers can add a lot of character and personality to a recording. While drum machines can create perfectly polished tracks, there is something to be said about the imperfections and human touch that a live drummer can bring.

Also, there are many genres where using a drum machine or backing track would simply be very strange, such as metal, rock, and jazz music. Of course, you will likely find sub-genres where this is the case, but as long as genres like this are being played in the world, then live drumming will live on widely in the music world!

Why Drummers Are Being Replaced

Drum sample libraries have massively improved in quality over the last few years, and it’s now possible to get extremely realistic-sounding drums without having to record a live drummer. This has led to an increase in the number of recordings that are made without a live drummer.

Let’s also keep in mind that it’s quite time-consuming, costly, and takes a lot of expertise to record acoustic drums. Also, touring is also becoming more and more difficult in the streaming age for bands as it’s becoming harder to make money from ticket sales alone. Touring without a drummer can also be much easier and cheaper, as you don’t have to lug around a drum set or pay for additional plane tickets.

Drum machines have also become much more popular as mainstream genres such as hip-hop, pop, and electronic music are now at the forefront. These genres often don’t require the same level of complex rhythms that live drums provide. In fact, the more metronomic sound of drum machines can simply work a lot better in these genres.

With all of the above, you would be forgiven for thinking that drummers are on the way out. While there has been a decline in the use of live drums, they are still very much present in today’s music landscape.

Drummers that Are Embracing Digital

In fact, many drummers are now embracing digital technology through hybrid drums. This is where a drummer uses both acoustic and electronic drums in their setup (the electronic drumming elements can also be in the form of triggers or sample pads, as well as regular electronic drum pads). This gives them the best of both worlds, as they can take advantage of the depth of sound of their acoustic drums while also being able to control and tweak their sound with electronics.

Using digital technology in their playing allows them to create new sounds and textures that would be impossible to achieve with an acoustic kit alone. For example, by layering different sounds and samples, they can create unique soundscapes that can really add a lot to a live performance or recording.

For drummers who want to reproduce unique or digital sound designs from studio albums, they need to use means such as this.


Drummers are not obsolete but their role has certainly changed in the current musical landscape. While they may not be essential for every type of music, they can still add a lot of musical value to many situations. In fact, many drummers are now using digital technology to help them produce interesting sounds on the fly as it’s essential when playing more heavily produced music live. If you cannot beat them, join them!

Mike O'Connor
Mike O'Connor

I've been playing drums for over 18 years. I work as both a session drummer and a drum teacher, and I love to share my knowledge and tips on this site. You can also find me on the Electronic Drum Advisor YouTube channel.

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