Tommy Lee was one of the most famous drummers in the world in the 80s and 90s. While Motley Crue is still going strong, there are countless other drummers who have taken the spotlight.
People often compare these drummers to Tommy and wonder whether he’s actually a good drummer or whether the fame of his band is what put him on the map.
We’re going to take a deep dive into Tommy Lee and his playing abilities. By the end of this, we’ll explain whether he’s a good or mediocre drummer.
Who is Tommy Lee?
Tommy Lee is one of the original members of Motley Crue, which is a metal band that got together in the 80s. He has parted ways with the band a few times, but he’s always come back for touring stints, so he’s remained a vital member of the group since their formation.
He’s also had a solo rap career with a band that he formed called Methods of Mayhem. He took more of a vocalist role in that project.
He’s played drums for a few other bands and projects over his career, but nothing has been as significant as his role with Motley.
Tommy Lee’s Drumming Abilities
Tommy Lee’s style is centered around straightforward rock drumming ideas. Motley Crue was commonly known as a glam metal band, and all the drumming involved playing double pedal grooves in 4/4 time.
While that isn’t very technical, Tommy’s drumming was always spot-on for every song he played. He was clean in his ideas, and his drum parts always sounded very tight.
His drumming abilities have remained mostly the same until this point. When the band plays shows now, you’ll hear him playing all the same things that he played in the 80s.
The drum parts can be simplistic at times, and that’s where people get the idea that he’s not actually an amazing drummer. However, establishing whether someone is good or not goes a lot deeper than that.
Tommy Lee’s Performance Abilities
Tommy Lee’s performance abilities far exceed his drumming abilities. That’s one of the biggest reasons why he became so famous in the music world.
He’s done some crazy things on stage, and watching him perform live is far better than listening to his drum parts on albums.
The biggest thing that he’s known for is putting his drum kit in a modular rig and playing drums upside down. This blew people’s minds when he first did it, and it became a staple of Motley Crue shows after that.
Over the years, his drum kit rigs have become crazier with more lucrative design ideas.
What Makes a Good Drummer?
For us to answer whether Tommy Lee is a good drummer, we need to see how he stands in the following aspects.
Good Sense of Timing
Having a good sense of timing is the most important skill that a drummer needs. Drummers keep a band together, and a weak sense of timing will make everything fall apart.
Over all the years that Tommy Lee has performed live with Motley Crue, he has demonstrated an incredible sense of timing behind the kit.
He keeps the band locked together while doing crazy things on stage at the same time. That shows that he’s a great drummer in that area.
Musicality refers to how well a drummer plays within musical contexts. A musical drummer will make good choices on what to play, and whatever they play will improve a song instead of detracting from it.
All the drum parts of Motley Crue’s songs sound perfectly suited to the music, and that shows Tommy Lee’s musicality in creating them.
Tommy Lee may not be a musical drummer in the sense of improvising and creating stories behind the kit like jazz drummers do, but he’s definitely musical in his songwriting abilities with his drum parts.
Good drummers will always radiate confidence when playing live gigs, and Tommy Lee is one of the best examples of this. When watching him play live, you’ll see how confident he looks in everything that he does.
He always looks like he’s having the time of his life, and that shows that he doesn’t need to put a heavy focus on what he’s playing. When drummers are relaxed and confident in their drum parts, they give off a sense of intention and strong ability.
Is Tommy Lee a confident drummer? Definitely.
Showmanship isn’t something that every drummer needs. It depends on what style of music they play.
When it comes to rock music, things need to look exciting on stage, and the drummer can do a lot to boost the energy of the band.
Tommy Lee has always thrived in this area, as his showmanship skills are the best part of his whole playing style.
The final thing to consider when deciding if someone is a good drummer is what accolades they have. What bands have they played with, and what albums have they recorded?
Some amazing drummers never get the opportunity to make it big, whereas a lot of mediocre drummers find themselves in world-famous bands.
However, a bad drummer will never make it to this point. So, the fact that Tommy Lee plays in one of the most famous bands from the 80s proves his success from a career standpoint.
Final Thoughts on Tommy Lee Being a Good Drummer?
Seeing that Tommy Lee thrived in all the criteria that we listed above, it’s easy to say that he’s a fantastic drummer. The best part of his playing is his showmanship abilities, but he also has solid timing and excellent drum part writing skills.
Some people may consider his playing mediocre, but that’s only when you compare him to technically brilliant drummers like John Bonham and Neil Peart.
Not every drummer has to be able to play intricate patterns to be considered good. Tommy Lee’s success is proof in itself. He made himself known throughout the world with his stage antics, and his solid playing abilities have kept him performing on the biggest stages around the world for decades.