Can Feel Be Taught, or Is It a Gift?

Unlike certain aspects of drumming, suchas timing, technique, and dynamics, developing a drummer’s sense of groove or feel can be somewhat of an ambiguous task. Even more obscuring is the debate that arises among the drumming community over whether groove can be developed in the first place or if it’s a natural ability. Our readers and social media followers recently joined in on the discussion, and here are some of their thoughts.


Having seen it as a student at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles in the late ’80s, I can attest that people can learn to groove. However, there’s a subtle difference between a drummer with a natural, soulful groove and someone that shed for hours along to [Toto’s] “Rosanna.” But it can be subjective, because what grooves for one person may not for another.

Greg Levine

It’s a matter of interest, passion, and the understanding of what groove really is—and I’m still working on that myself after twenty-nine years of playing. But I don’t believe in those who say “I can’t.” It’s just a matter of understanding what it’s all about and falling in love with the process to learn.

Björn Rautio

Talent, be it even minimal, is required to play time. Playing in time is the first step en route to grooving. Musical talent in its minimal form is needed at the very least to learn the elementary aspects of any instrument. Mind you, I’m just speaking about time—to make time groove with nuance and dynamics is an entirely different level of proficiency. But it’s not possible without talent. Groove is a gift because talent is needed. Sure, you have to nurture the talent and practice to develop the skills needed. But without talent, all the practicing in the world won’t help you.

Steve Hass

I think having a natural ability or gift can be a part of it. The sales industry requires a learnable set of skills too, but some people are naturals who start out inherently ahead of the rest.

Jeff Marshall

Anything can be improved upon with dedication and guidance. Otherwise the entire concept of education would be worthless.

Fionn Ó Ceallacháin

Want your voice heard? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and keep an eye out for next month’s question.


November Issue

I was doing my abbreviated charts for a rehearsal and needed a break. My November issue of Modern Drummer had been up on the mantel unopened, so I grabbed it for a look.

Billy Amendola’s Editor’s Overview, “Make Every Second Count,” was as refreshing as a walk on Daytona Beach. His timely advice gave me pause to free my mind from my morning routine and focus on his encouraging words. I pondered my life, blessings, goals, and directions. Bravo!

“What Song Inspired You to Start Playing the Drums?” in Readers’ Platform was a fun read. I’m a vintage drummer born in 1952, and I began playing in 1964 after seeing Ringo and the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, as mentioned by Thomas Reid.

On Topic with the legendary Jimmy Cobb was a real treat. I loved Cobb’s various comments and wisdom on playing and on his time with Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I also loved his commentary on the late, great Mickey Roker.

Thanks for keeping MD founder Ron Spagnardi’s dream moving forward. The service you provide to the drumming community is golden.

Timothy Lee Cromer
Orlando, Florida


Dropped Beats

On page 16 of the October 2017 issue, drummer Steven Nistor should have been credited for playing drums on the Sparks album Hippopotamus.

The photo accompanying the 1984 Tour Custom entry in the “Yamaha Drums at 50” feature in the November 2017 issue was incorrect. That photo was of a YD9000RD set. This is the shot that should have run. Thanks to reader Richie Rosenbaum for the correction.