Levon Helm Mandolin Drummer


Levon Helm.  No need to introduce this gentleman.  Besides being one of my drumming influences, he also introduced the mandolin  into the  Americana/Roots/Rock  music scene with The Band.


Levon’s influence on me was so great that when I chose the finish on my first Ludwig drum kit it was Sky Blue Pearl, similar to a kit Levon was using!   The other thing I identified with?

The mandolin.  Although his style of playing mandolin differed from what I was interested in learning at the time, the fact that he could switch from drumming on one song to playing the mandolin on the next caught my attention.  Although I have to say, the fact that most members of The Band could switch and play other instruments was very cool to me.


There has been more than one mandolin influence I have had that seems to gravitate from the drum kit to the mandolin. Sam Bush also comes to mind.  The mandolin is indeed the snare drum of the bluegrass band.  Its articulate percussive snap, a product of good rhythm technique across its eight string real estate, is the outcome of good right hand rhythm technique.

Triplets, fifth’s, seventh’s, and ninth’s are drum rudiment, single stroke rolls used in mandolin playing. The tremolo, a very important and expressive component of mandolin playing, is nothing more than a controlled drum roll of various speeds, created by the right hand on the mandolin.  Any mandolin player having trouble with rhythm can do themselves a huge favor by listening,  or, better yet,  getting lessons from a good drummer!



Leave a Reply