9 Reasons Why Drummers Wear Headphones

April 17, 2024

It is typical to see drummers wearing headphones when practicing, rehearsing with the band, recording, or performing. 

But why are headphones so popular, and why do drummers wear headphones? Is there something special about them that makes them superior to other drivers?

Why do drummers wear headphones

They result from a need to quieten the stage environment and fine-tune sound exactly as you wish. Headphones tend to kill a lot of background noise from vocals, guitars, or a stage echo. With a set of headphones or in-ear monitors, you can make your own mix.

However, if you don’t wear a pair of headphones or in-ear monitors, it may cause that while on stage, you don’t hear your bass drum or toms loud enough. In the past, musicians used onstage speakers as monitors. 

Same as the headphones and in-ear monitors, you can get a mix of instruments, but one thing is different. The speakers will not kill the environment noise and leave just the instruments you want.

In this blog, I will include nine reasons why drummers wear headphones. This list is not ranked in any particular order, but they are all essential.

1. Click Track for Live Performances

For drummers, keeping up with the rhythm is crucial. 

A click track records a click sound at the same tempo as the music being played. Therefore, drummers are in sync with the beat. 

Many touring bands these days use click tracks. As musicians play their instruments, their music is filled with extra sounds already recorded before. 

This is typically a keyboard track or backing vocals. It’s also possible to add special effects or different voice-overs, among other things.

The live band needs to play at the same tempo as the recordings to match. So, they play at the same metronome click via:

  • Headphones 
  • Or IEMs (in-ear monitors) 

They play with the ones used in the studio when they recorded the songs in the first place.

When it comes to using conventional monitors, it is a big no-no.  

Conventional monitors, better known as the speakers, are located at the front of the musician, so the audience can hear a click, which will mess up with the sound mix. 

With headphones or IEMs, musicians can hear the click without being audible to the audience. Any other method would result in the audience hearing these clicks; therefore, headphones became necessary. 

In addition, sometimes the drummer hears the click whereas, at other times, all live musicians do.

why do drummers wear headphones

2. Track the Monitoring Mix 

When artists are performing, they usually wear those earphones that are much smaller than studio headphones. They look like tiny buds that fit in your ear instead of over your head. In addition, those headphones provide monitor mixes. 

It will be difficult to hear your bandmates and kick drum simultaneously as a drummer. However, there is a solution to this. 

The speakers must all face forward while placing the kick drum speakers away from you. Additionally, you’ll have the issue of not hearing your kick drum clearly. 

By pumping the monitor feed directly into the drummer’s ear, headphones will make it easy to hear what’s happening on the stage. At the same time, the headphones reduce drum noise for improved clarity.

3. Protect the Hearing

Drum headphones provide hearing protection, which absorbs at least 20 decibels of sound. 

However, considering how loud drums are, you can never listen to any part of them for more than a minute without experiencing damage to your ears. 

Perform for hours with drums, cymbals, and monitor speakers together, and you can experience severe hearing damage. 

As a matter of fact, the first crash is enough to gravely damage your hearing.

Therefore, drum players wear these headphones to minimize their drum noise. Those headphones also allow you to play the monitor mix safely, letting the drummer hear the whole band without compromising its hearing. 

You might now wonder how they can simultaneously play the drums and block the sounds they emit?

The drummer can always hear what they are playing because the earpieces only block high-frequency sounds.

4. An Alternative to Loud Stage Noise

The purpose of headphones drummers is to act as an alternative to the necessity of a loud stage.

When the band uses both conventional monitors and large-scale amplifiers, that’s when the stage get’s really loud. 

But, if all bands switched to in-ears, stage monitors would be less noisy. 

As a result, in-ears are not here for protecting ears only, but they are an alternative to a far louder solution.

drummer using headphones on stage

5. Onstage Instructions and Directions

Due to the ruckus that occurs on stage, it is challenging to communicate instructions. Headphones would make this much more accessible. 

Headphones allow the drummer to hear the instructions and directions recorded in advance, effectively supporting the drummer in its drumming.

6. Listening to a Backing Track

This usually uses drummers when practicing. They would listen to a track they drum along to and use their headphones to block out the drum sounds to hear the music they were playing to.

This is mainly for solo gigs but not for live performance. When doing live shows, it’s mainly just a click track and a couple of support tracks.

7. A Better Recording Session

If you are in a studio and recording a session, the last thing you want is a microphone that captures sounds other than drums. 

If you opt to play the music on your speakers, the microphones will pick up the speaker’s sound and interfere with the recording.

8. Testing the Audio for Recording

It is easy to understand how audio monitoring works. Simply put, you listen to the recording as it is being played. 

For example, drummers want to hear their drumming, or a singer wants to hear its voice when singing. If they want to know how much sound is recorded with a microphone, they wear headphones to track the sounds.

It is also possible to check your mic even before you start recording. You probably already know the famous “1, 2, 3” check. 

Musicians do this when they are in the studio to see how much audio is being recorded by the microphone before recording. If the microphone records too little or too much, they can adjust the gain accordingly.

9. Checking the Headphone Mix

The headphone mix is when a song is recorded using headphones. It is common for consumers to listen to music through headphones or earbuds. 

Producers and musicians are aware of this fact, so it is so vital to produce music that sounds good on headphones.

The recorded song must sound perfect over headphones as it does on the speakers. Naturally, this process can be adjusted during mixing and mastering; however, it can also be done while recording music.


What are drummers listening to in their headphones?

Drummers wear headphones so they can listen to the metronome while playing.

If you are a drummer beginner, you need to keep the tempo with the whole band. Therefore, to keep the beat as flawlessly as possible, it is required to use all the tools available. 

This includes wearing headphones. Usually, drummers listen on their headphones to something called “click sound,” that I already mentioned and explained above. 

Why do drummers wear earplugs?

By wearing earplugs, you can lower the sound volume that reaches the eardrum. 

Tis way, drummers prevent long-term hearing loss and any other hearing problems. The musicians have special earplugs that still allow them to hear the music at a lower volume.  

Do drummers wear headphones on stage?

Yes, and this is due to two reasons. First, it helps them stay on time with other instruments while performing live shows, and second, it serves them as ear protection due to the constant exposure to loud music.

Whether they are using headphones or in-ear monitors, drummers are most likely wearing headphones on stage for these reasons.


Headphones are essential for every drummer, just as cymbals and drums are. They are not a special feature compared to other hardware, but they play a big role. 

Usually, a beginner drummer wonders why they are so important, why drummers wear headphones? To clear all this confusion and unsolved questions, I have thoroughly explained why in-ear buds or headphones are necessary. 

They are mainly used for protecting your ears and helping you stay on time with your band members. 

However, they are also here to track monitoring mix, receive instructions and directions, listen to backing tracks, test audio for recording, check the headphone mix, improve recording session, and be a great alternative for the loud stage.

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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  1. Here is this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDfAdHBtK_Q

    In this video, only the drummer has got headphones on; the other three performers are not wearing anything in the ears.

    Which of the above reasons explains why only the drummer is wearing headphones?

    • Hi Stella, in the old days’ bands rarely used headphones, instead stage monitors were in wide use. The drummer on the video is Keith Moon and I can only guess why he used headphones. it might be just his personal preference or he listened to a click track which is also a rare thing back in the day. It can just be that others liked stage monitors rather than headphones while this was not the case with Moon.

  2. Drummers who wear fully closed headphones on stage tend to play much louder because they can’t properly gauge their stage volume. They also have a harder time locking with the band unless the whole band is using IEMs.
    That’s been my experience as a musician with 47 years of experience.

  3. Keith Moon wore them to hear the prerecorded keyboard tracks on songs like Baba O’Reilly and Won’t Get Fooled Again. Since those tracks weren’t being played live he had to follow them, rather than the other way around. Danny Seraphine used them early on because when Chicago started out floor wedges hadn’t been invented. He got used to using them so kept on doing so after monitors came along, eventually switching to in-ears for comfort when they were perfected.

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