Medical Mysteries of Music

Despite all the jokes, drummers are a lot smarter than people think

As a drummer myself, I enjoy a good drummer joke.

How do you tell if the stage is level?
The drummer is drooling from both sides of his mouth.

How can you tell a drummer’s at the door?
The knocking speeds up.

What’s the last thing a drummer says in a band?
“Hey, how about we try one of my songs?”

How many drummers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Five: One to screw the bulb in, and four to talk about how much better
Neil Peart could’ve done it.

In fact, ribbing like that doesn’t bother me at all. That’s because we drummers know that we’re a little different from everyone else. And we’re smarter than you think. And science as the proof.

According to a study by the Karolinksa Instituet in Stockholm, there’s a link between intelligence, good timing and the brain’s ability to solve problems. I quote from

Researchers had drummers play a variety of different beats and then tasked them with a simple 60-problem intelligence test. The drummers who scored the highest were also better able to keep a steady beat.

But even though a steady drummer may be more intelligent than his or her bandmates, the drummer’s gifts can be shared: a tight beat can actually transfer that natural intelligence to others. In studies on the effects of rhythm on brains, researchers showed that experiencing a steady rhythm actually improves cognitive function.


So the stereotypes about drummers aren’t just baseless, they’re also plain wrong. Drummers are people tapped into a fundamental undercurrent of what it means to be human, people around whom bands and communities form.

You can read more about how much smarter drummers are here. So there.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38427 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Despite all the jokes, drummers are a lot smarter than people think

  • Not unlike catchers in baseball. They refer to a catcher’s equipment as “the tools of ignorance”, but look how many end up as managers. (Nine currently in MLB.)


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