Is there a technical musical term for this?

I’m trying to describe how hard a drummer hits the drums.
As in, “Charlie Watts tends to use a heavier/harder/higher ______ than Ringo Starr.”

A precise word is eluding me. Force? Doesn’t seem exactly right. I could just say “He hits harder,” but is there an actual word for that?

I would say “heavier touch,” but I’m not sure if that’s standard terminology or not. It’s just how I would phrase it. Or just say “hits the drums harder.” (Although does he? I would’ve put Ringo as the heavier hitter of the two.)

In electronic music (MIDI, sampling, etc.), the force of a note is referred to as “velocity”. I don’t know if that term is used in live playing.


Interesting; would love to hear from Drummers. In guitar lingo, we say that a person who is a hard strummer, flatpicker or fingerpicker to have “a heaver attack” vs. a lighter attack.

Attack is used also to speak to the properties of the initial contact between pick and string. If you graph the loudness of a pick strike, it has a big initial attack and then a decay.

If someone is using a Volume Pedal, where they strum the note(s) with the Volume all the way down, the use the pedal to swell into the notes, they are removing the attack portion of the note.

ETA: Ninja’d by burpo the wonder mutt!! That’s what I get for adding bits of trivia!!

“Attack” generally just means the beginning of a note (on any instrument). I don’t think, by itself, that it really captures what Wheelz is asking.

In a sense, “dynamics” might be all you need, since fundamentally, the harder you hit something, the louder it’ll be.

Posts #2 and #3 try to explain better.

In informal guitar speak, it pertains to both: one can describe their attack and mean the initial contact of pick to string(s), or it is used in general to describe how hard they tend to play.

Jimmy Page and Billy Gibbons are known for playing with lighter strings and having a lighter attack, whereas Malcolm Young and Stevie Ray Vaughn were both known for using heavier gauges and playing with an overall heavier attack.

“Dynamics” is how much you vary your playing between loud and soft, yes? So Nirvana had songs with a lot of dynamics. A metal song that is full-out from beginning to end would have less dynamics. I think.

When I describe my playing, I say I “play with a heavy hand” and other guitarists seems to pick up on what I mean.

The drummer that has adopted me as “his” bassist, and therefore he’s “my” drummer has attack to the point where other drummers comment on it. They always describe it as “he hits hard”, even if they’re a very technical drummer.

They’re right. He’s what sets the volume level for the current band, and he’s playing an old, small Rodgers jazz kit. We have been asked to turn down far below our practice volume, with the PA running nothing but vocals, at some recent gigs.*

So, I’d just describe it as “hitting hard”. Some drummers just want to play the ride and the snare, and others want them to potentially die before the end of the set.

*WHAT?, I don’t use earplugs…WHAT?

I think what I’m trying to say (badly) is that “attack” is too general a term to apply here.

Dynamics aren’t really the variations, it’s more of an absolute (although still relative; there’s no absolute value for “forte”, it’s just louder than “mezzo forte”). If a song has a lot of dynamic variation, I wouldn’t say it has more dynamics; it just has more dynamic variation.

(I should also emphasize that I have no idea what I’m talking about re drums.)

I think that “attack” is a perfectly good word for this. I might also say that someone has heavy hands.

Not just a drummer, but a Drum God

Well, I think this one has been resolved :wink:

Thanks for your interesting replies.
The question arises from a discussion I’ve been having with a Beatlemaniac friend of mine. Perhaps I’ll start another thread about that discussion; it’ll probably make for a lively conversation here!