Why Do Drummers Wear Headphones? A Guide To What Drummers Listen To

Drummers often wear headphones, earplugs, or something similar for several reasons. It has been increasingly popular for decades now to see drummers putting headphones in their ears. One may also wonder why it is unique since guitarists, keyboardists, and other members of bands or groups also wear headphones. If you are a drummer, it is not a must that you wear headphones, though specific environments may demand such.

So Why do Drummers Wear Headphones?

Most drummers wear headphones to reduce noises from their drums and other instruments to a more tolerable level.

What Are The Major Reasons Why Drummers Wear Headphones?

There are dozens of reasons why drummers wear headphones, and the following are perhaps the most prominent among such;

1. Familiarize with a Click Track During a Live Show

Drummers often use headphones during a live performance to stay in tune with the overall rhythm. A click track can be described as a previous recording of a sound played at the same speed as the sound being played during a live performance. A drummer will remain synced to the live performance sound with the click sound in play.

If you are a drummer playing for a group of dancers who need to dance to the tune of a song or at faster speeds, you need headphones with the right track being played. Most touring music or performance bands today use click tracks, and that is why you hear extra sounds that have already been played and recorded before the live show.

Not only is the drummer always in line with the click sound, other musical instruments, including the piano and guitar, must also remain in tune with the click track; hence every instrumentalist may wear headphones during a live performance.

A drummer must keep to the click song tempo to make the entire live band match the recorded sound. Since a group must prevent the live audience from hearing the click sound, headphones will give the drummers and other instrumentalists the click sound while the audience hears the live performance sound. A messy situation occurs when the live audience hears both the click sound and the live sound from performers.

2. Headphones Help Drummers Listen to the Monitoring Mixes

The headphones used by drummers at a live performance can be smaller than those used in the music studios. The tiny drummers’ headphones fit the ears instead of the head. These headphones can provide drummers the monitor mixes. You will receive the monitor feed directly in your ears with these headphones. The headphones will also reduce drum noise and create better clarity. If the kick drum speakers are near your position while others face forward, it becomes difficult to hear your kick drums or bandmates.

3. For Hearing Protection

Another reason why drummers wear headphones may be to protect their hearing. Good headphones for drummers can filter up to 20 dB of sound, and because drums are thunderous, it will be unsafe for a drummer to keep listening to them even for a few minutes.

Listening to sound at certain high levels can cause damages to hear. It is essential to wear headphones when performing for several hours because these huge sounds can cause irreversible damage to some components of the ears. The earliest crash of the drum set can damage your ears permanently.

You don’t only protect your ears with headphones, you can also play monitor mixes safely, and this will give you better control over your performance levels. With sound, filtering comes extra comfort for your ears when using headphones.

You may be wondering how drummers block sounds and at the same time be able to hear what they are playing. The headphones will only block high-frequency sounds only, thus allowing drummers to hear what they are playing.

4. They Work with In-Ear Monitors

Headphones work efficiently with in-ear monitors for proper coordination on stage. While in-ear monitors alone cannot protect your ears, they can enhance your performance as a drummer. Stages often become loud when performers use monitors and loud amplifiers. Switching to in-ear monitors will ensure more minor noises on stage, and all instrumentalists can perform with better convenience.

5. Headphones Facilitate Sharing On-Stage Instructions and Directions

With the stage becoming extremely loud, it becomes more challenging to pass instructions to every instrumentalist. The headphones can be beneficial because a drummer can listen to pre-recorded instructions and the ongoing instructions and directions that can help them play in tune.

Other Benefits And Importance Of Headphones For Drummers

There are many other reasons why drummers use headphones, especially during a live performance; these are;

1. Paying Attention to a Backing Tracks

Have you ever seen a Youtuber drummer playing drums to a song playing underground? This is an example of how drummers use headphones to play along to backtrack or song. With the headphones, drummers will use the device to block out the sound of their drums to hear that sound underneath that they are playing to. The use of headphones to play along a backtrack is mostly for solo performances and not the larger live performances.

2. To Perform Better in a Live Recording Session

As a drummer playing in a live recording session, you don’t want interferences from other sounds, and you want your microphone to pick sounds only from your drumming. If you want to hear sounds from a speaker and, at the same time, the sound of your drums, perhaps you need headphones to pick your sound and ensure that the microphone doesn’t mix your drumming sound with any other sound.

3. Testing and Monitoring Audio Sounds

It is quite easy to monitor audio sounds, especially as a drummer. This monitoring means listening to your recordings while it is being played. For instance, a guitarist may want to hear their sound while they play it, and so is the drummer. You may also want to know how much sound your microphone is recording and then adjust the output settings accordingly. Without headphones, it may be almost impossible to know how much of your sound is being captured.

It is possible to monitor sounds like a drummer even before you start recording. Musicians often use audio checks and monitoring to check the audio settings of their microphones before they begin to record. As a drummer, you may adjust the gain of your output if the microphone is not picking up much of your sound.

4. To Get That Headphone Mix

The headphone mix is that recording you can make with the headphones. Since the typical listener will likely want to hear a song from their headphones, producers would want to produce music that will sound great, especially through the headphones. As a drummer recording audio, you want to ensure that your sound output is compatible or great with headphone outputs. Though, the process for headphone mix can be perfected, especially during the sound mixing phase. The headphone mix may also be completed in the mastering phase.

5. To Keep the Ears Warm

It can be funny to believe that drummers wear headphones to keep their ears warm, but it is true to some extent. Good headphones do generate some heat; hence it could be a great music accessory, especially in winter. Some headphones do come with great heat dissipation for quick removal of heat from the ear, which may be a great thing for those who don’t want heat around their ears.

What To Look Out For In Headphones As A Drummer

Though there are several things you may want to consider in headphones as a drummer, the most important is the noise-cancellation level. You should aim at getting the headphones with the best noise-filtering feature, and that will reduce the noise levels and interferences from other noises or sounds coming from other devices.

Another feature you want to consider is the controls. Difference headphones come with diverse controls depending on the brand and type. Regardless of the type of headphones you go for, you should have sound controls, music playback controls, and the likes. These are basic controls that can make your experience even much better.


Drummers have special reasons for wearing headphones, and their headphones are not limited to having better control over their drumming sessions. The same headphones used in the control and maximization of sound output can also be used in listening to recordings over and over again. From your headphones, you can make corrections as a drummer and make adjustments accordingly. You can also use your headphones to advise other members of your band if you play live music for the purpose of synchronizing with their sounds more effectively. Fortunately, headphones for drummers can also be upgraded like any other device.

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