Renowned rock drummer Bill Bruford analyzes the creative processes of drumming, using his own— and other famous musicians’— expertise and insights

Look Inside


What do expert drummers do? Why do they do it? Is there anything creative about it? If so, how might that creativity inform their practice and that of others in related artistic spheres? Applying ideas from cultural psychology to findings from research into the creative behaviors of a specific subset of popular music instrumentalists, Bill Bruford demonstrates the ways in which expert drummers experience creativity in performance and offers fresh insights into in-the-moment interactional processes in music. An expert practitioner himself, Dr. Bruford draws on a cohort of internationally renowned, peak-career professionals and his own experience to guide the reader through the many dimensions of creativity in drummer performance.

Bill Bruford spent a working life as an internationally known musician and teacher before starting to investigate aspects of creativity in popular music performance. Having earned his PhD from the University of Surrey in 2016, he now writes and lectures on the topic. Dr. Bruford was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the group Yes in 2017.

“… an intelligent, thought-provoking treatise on the notion of creativity in Western popular music. Over the course of a number of interviews and case studies involving expert drummers, Bill Bruford examines how such practitioners approach and understand creativity. In the process, he crafts a relational processual model for understanding creativity and the creative process for real-time interactive performing arts (theatre, dance, music). The result is a fascinating and rewarding read that will surely affect players and listeners alike as they think about the concept of finding ‘creative meaning in making it work and making it matter.’”
—Rob Bowman, Grammy Award Winning Professor of Music

“It is no surprise to find Dr. Bruford so eloquently putting into language that which springs from such a non-linguistic source. Bill’s scholarly insights matched with a career’s-worth of personal experience shed an authoritative light on the creative role of the drummer. In today’s world of computer-generated rhythmic music, how wonderful to tap into this most organic and visceral element in music’s heritage, and deepen our appreciation of this immense creativity, past and present.”
—Tim Garland

“The contributions of the wide-ranging active percussionists Bruford surveyed will make this an important primary document for future researchers examining the role of drummers in group improvisation, the recording process, and more.”
—Kevin Holm-Hudson, University of Kentucky
“The author cites relevant scholarly work, his roster of drum experts is beyond question (including himself), but most importantly, the insights he synthesizes from his source material are both original and valuable.”
—Shaugn O'Donnell, The City College, CUNY
“The book lives up to its expectations. Drawing on his own insider’s knowledge and extensive interviews with an impressive roster of expert drummers about the nature of creativity and what it means to them, Bruford has produced a brilliant ethnography of professional drummers and drumming culture in the rock era.”
—Mark Spicer, Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center
“After forty years of creating professional music, pretty much all of it to his taste (passing rare), Bill Bruford has laid down the torches — and tried to capture their flame in words. Begin by running your eyes down the list of Bill’s collaborators. The expert performers and teachers will attract any reader with more than a passing affection for music. Simply put, it is a lights-out masterpiece of useful insight and passionate, reflective wisdom.”
—Neil Peart

"An extremely interesting read, which has the merit of analyzing in depth, as never before, the point of view of the performer regarding the theme of creativity in music."

- MusicOff

"The book is reminiscent of a semester in college spent in the thrall of a favorite professor/lecturer. Bruford traded his sticks—and perhaps his iconic status—for the persona of a scholarly educator, confidently striding through a term's worth of dense, theoretical material, consistently making points filled with "ah hah" moments, and dazzling impressionable undergraduates with the depth and breadth of his knowledge."
--All About Jazz

- All About Jazz

"Uncharted is a fascinating, forensic look at creativity and collaboration, with reverberations that go far beyond the world of music."
--Moving the River

- Moving the River

"Uncharted is more about creativity than it is about drummers; and it is more about the group of expert drummers than it is about Bill Bruford. However, any
drummers keen on reading it will enjoy a rare opportunity to have a practitioner in the field such as Bruford being able to share not only some of his insights from a lifetime’s worth of experience, but also many insights from that selection of expert drummers in such a candid fashion. Those involved or interested in the field of creativity studies will find rare and crucial insights into the nature creativity at a fundamental
and essential level – an uncharted one, until now."
--Popular Music

- Popular Music

Listen: Bill Bruford interviewed on Jazziz Link | 2/4/2018Listen: Bill Bruford interviewed on Drummer's Resource Link | 5/7/2018Listen: Bill Bruford interviewed on Echoes Link | 9/25/2018Listen: Bill Bruford interviewed on The Trap Set Link | 10/10/2018
Listen: Bill Bruford interviewed on The Partially Examined Life Link | 10/2/2016Read: Bill Bruford interviewed in World Jazz News Link | 1/30/2018 Read: Bill Bruford interviewed in Herald de Paris Link | 10/22/2017Read: Review from All About Jazz Link | 6/3/2018Read: Bill Bruford interviewed in the University of Buffalo Spectrum Link | 4/19/2018Read: Review from Moving The River Link | 3/6/2018Listen: Bill Bruford interviewed by Drummer's Resource Link | 5/7/2018Listen: Bill Bruford interviewed by Echoes Podcast Link | 9/27/2018Read: Bill Bruford interviewed by Modern Drummer Link | June 2018