Carter Beauford Biography

Carter Beauford
Name: Carter Beauford Drums: Yamaha
Born: November 2, 1957 Cymbals: Zildjian
Origin: Charlottesville, Virginia Sticks: Vic Firth
Official Website

Who Is Carter Beauford?

Drummer for multi-platinum recording band “Dave Matthews Band”, Carter Beauford’s playing shows no resemblance to your regular rock or pop drummer. This musician has an exquisite melodic way of creating drum parts that can be traced back to Tony Williams and Steve Gadd.

Carter Beauford was raised in a family with a great passion for music. His dad played trumpet, his mom piano, his older brother the bass, his younger sister the piano and the flute, while his younger brother took up the saxophone. There was always music surrounding him in his household. Jazz, gospel from artists like Mahalia Jackson and Shirley Caesar, and whoever was on the radio at the time, which where his favorites – “The Beatles”, “Dave Clark Five”, “The Monkeys”, “Sly & The Family Stone”, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and “The Jackson 5”.

At the age of 3, Carter Beauford was taken by his father to watch Buddy Rich perform. Carter is not sure why he wound up at that particular show, but he recalls being totally fascinated with Buddy’s look, posture, and speed, even though he knew nothing about music and instruments. That’s when he decided to take up the drums. He wanted to emulate Buddy, he wanted to be just like him. Once he got home from the show, Carter made way to the basement, where a set of drums from one of the bands with which his dad was playing at the time was waiting for him. His dad saw something there, and since Christmas was around the corner he gave Carter a “Roy Rogers” drum kit with paper drum heads and tin shells. Carter promptly destroyed the drum kit, but the passion was there to stay and to be fueled further more.

A self-taught drummer when starting out, Carter Beauford would study indirectly through his father, from listening to him play with his band, and by listening and watching his favorite artists and drummers at the time – Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Tony Williams, Cozy Cole, Papa Joe Jones, “Sly & The Family Stone”, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and “The Jackson 5”. With only 9 years of age Carter Beauford played his first gig. He sat in with a jazz-fusion band led by local celebrity “Big Nick” Nicholas, an associate of John Coltrane. The band members were friends of his dad and invited Carter to one of their shows to play jazz standards, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock tunes. He was such a hit that he got paid for the performance and started playing regularly with them from then on.

As a student, Carter Beauford attended the “Shenandoah Conservatory” in Winchester, Virginia, where he had a close friendship with Billy Drummond, a New York jazz drummer. At the time music was just a hobby for Carter. He attended college where he majored in occupational therapy. His inability to read music hold him back on his musical pursuits, so he decided to teach on elementary and high schools in Albemarle County, Virginia, and in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The call of music was too strong though, so Carter eventually quit to become a full time musician.

After returning to Charlottesville, Carter Beauford played with a few disco and country bands before joining a jazz-fusion band called “Secrets” around 1984. Other members of this band included saxophonist LeRoi Moore, trumpeter John D’earth, vocalist Dawn Thompson, bassist Keith Horn, keyboardist Butch Taylor, and guitarist Tim Reynolds. “Secrets” performed throughout Virginia often at “Miller’s”, a bar in Charlottesville where Dave Matthews worked as a bartender. It was also during this time that Carter landed a gig on pianist Ramsey Lewis’s BET network jazz show – “BET on Jazz”. He remained a member of “Secrets”, while also performing in some other jazz bands, including a few with LeRoi Moore like “Blue Indigo”. After “Secrets” dissolved around 1990, Carter Beauford went to California to tryout for the “Arsenio Hall Show”. He was unable to secure the gig so he moved back to Virginia where he resumed his life in Charlottesville.

Carter Beauford was already playing for almost 30 years when Dave Matthews approached both him and LeRoi Moore with a tape of some guitar work Dave had done for a couple of songs. This was how the “Dave Matthews Band” got started. Carter was able to keep on the “BET on Jazz” show at the same time as he worked with Dave Matthews. As the band began to take off he decided to end his TV career.

Career Highlights & Musical Projects

Carter Beauford has been the drummer for the “Dave Matthews Band” for the last 20 years. His drumming is featured on all of their 7 studio albums, 39 live albums, and 2 compilation albums. The band has sold more than 32 million copies and has been nominated for 27 awards (American Music Awards (3), Grammy Awards (14), MTV Video Music Awards (6), NAACP Image Awards (1), and My VH1 Music Awards (4)), from which they won 6 (Grammy Awards (1), NAACP Image Awards (1), and My VH1 Music Awards (4)).

Besides playing for the “Dave Matthews Band”, Carter Beauford has also worked with various artists throughout his illustrious career. In 1995 he was the man behind the drumming on “Vertical Horizon’s” first album – “Running On Ice”. In 1999 Carter was featured on 4 albums for 4 different artists. He recorded drums for the track “Love of My Life” with Dave Matthews on vocals, for Carlos Santana’s album “Supernatural”. He was on all the tracks for “Zygote”, the first solo effort of “Blues Traveler’s” John Popper. With “Béla Fleck and the Flecktones” he recorded the track “Zenergy” for Victor Wooten’s “Yin Yang”, and was also featured on “Resolution”, another track from the same album.

1998 saw the release of Carter’s first educational product, “Under the Table and Drumming”. This two-hour DVD encompasses Carter Beauford playing to the music of the “Dave Matthews Band”, and lessons where his unique style is broken down. In 1999 the second Carter Beauford instructional product was released. “Making Music” gives an inside look at the approaches followed by Carter and Victor Wooten for the writing of 2 of the songs on Victor’s solo album “Yin Yang” – “Zenergy” and “Resolution”.

For the 4 years Carter Beauford did the show “BET on Jazz”, he got to play with some top-name performers, including Michel Camilo, Roy Hargrove, and Maceo Parker.

What Can We Learn From Carter Beauford?

Carter Beauford’s playing is very popular amongst the drumming community, especially his fancy hi-hat rhythms and open-hand stance behind the drum set. However, like the “Transformers”, there is literally more to Carter Beauford than meets the eyes.

When he was just starting out, Carter Beauford would set his drum kit as a mirror image of the ones played by the drummers he watched on TV. He wasn’t concerned about leading with his stronger hand, but rather in playing like the guys he watched. So he would set the snare and hi-hat by the right side of the bass drum, while leading with the left hand crossed over the right hand. This led him to the strong development of his weaker side. As time went by, he started noticing that most of the drummers played in a reversed position from his, that is, with the hi-hat and snare on the left side of the bass drum, while leading with the right hand over the left. Since he preferred that look over the one he add with the lefty drum set, he decided to switch over, which lead him to the development of the right side of his body also. As you may imagine, this resulted in Carter achieving one of the holy grails of drumming, ambidexterity. At the time, Carter thought that ambidexterity was something common to every drummer, which as we all know, it’s something that is actually pretty rare.

One of the main issues young drummers have when starting out is the lack of strength and control over their weakest limbs. Pursuing ambidexterity is desirable since it’ll not only give you a lot of freedom while you play, but will also help you in further developing your weaker side, acquiring some of the facilities inherent to the stronger side. Although Carter developed both sides of his body, it still felt more natural to him to play with his left hand leading. This ultimately led him to dabble around with open-handed drumming, since he liked playing on a right handed kit.

Open-handed playing allows Carter Beaufrod’s right hand to be a “solo hand”, playing some shots on toms, cymbals, and auxiliary percussion, while the left hand plays ride patterns and the snare drum. This gave birth to another very cool concept Carter has developed primarily since he started playing with the “Dave Matthews Band” – playing percussionist’s parts on the drum set. You see, throughout his career almost every band he was in had a hand percussionist. When he began creating music with the “Dave Matthews Band”, and since there wasn’t any hand percussionist in the band, he felt the need to add some percussionist patterns with his drum set to better complement certain songs. That resulted in him adding different splash cymbals, wood blocks, cowbells, and timbales to his drum set, so he could better emulate or add some percussionist based patterns and textures.

Now, the thing Carter has been most praised about is his hi-hat work. He uses the hi-hat with a lot of different rhythms and patterns. He states that this approach stems from trying to speak harmoniously with the hi-hat regarding the snare drum and the bass drum, through syncopated rhythms. Some of the ideas he gets for these types of patterns comes from the rhythmic phrases his band mates play on their melodic instruments. Playing straight notes on the hi-hat gets monotonous to him, unless that type of pattern is a perfect fit for a given song. He was inspired to develop syncopated hi-hat patterns because of the work developed by drummers Tony Williams, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, and Dennis Chambers. They were far from the stereotype of the drummer, a musician that contents himself with only playing time on the drum set. These gentlemen started using the drum kit in more creative ways, with an exceptional feeling that lend itself to creating syncopated rhythms on the hi-hats. Carter Beauford firmly believes that it’s important to use the drum kit as a melodic instrument also, and not only on a supportive role. This will give a great deal of depth and musicality to the way you support the music.

Carter has a very interesting approach when it comes to creating drum parts for the “Dave Matthews Band”. His creative process usually starts after listening to some ideas developed by Dave on the guitar. Those parts usually remind him of different artists/ bands he listens to. He then creates drum parts influenced by the style of the drummer of that particular artist/ band. He also enjoys including a lot of different things and stylistic features into a one song. Since the members of the band are coming from different musical backgrounds, Carter feeds of off everything and everybody, and incorporates all those different things to create one unique sound. This comes to show how important it is to listen to a lot of different styles of music, different artists and drummers, and to study other styles of drumming as much as possible. This will all make you that much of a better musician, and drummer.

Whether developing his ambidexterity, adding more instruments to his humongous drum set, playing percussionists parts on the drum set, or even messing around with a lot of different rhythms on the hi-hat, Carter’s main focus is music. There is a lot to learn from this man when it comes to creating music with a set of drums.




  • Joe yellen says:

    We all go to hear DMB every summer and enjoy the sounds but I go to catch Carter bang on his kit like no other. He is the sound of summer to me and never fails to entertain my mood. A pleasure to hear

  • Jack F Black says:

    If This Gets To You Carter Please Send Me Your Email Address I Would Like To Tell You about something
    I started Using 57 Years ago when I was a kid. I will even Make it For you if you Like. Sorry I have to go
    my hands are beginning to cramp. God Bless, You are Phenomial.(?)

  • spenser says:

    hiy this was an amazing site

  • Tree Gallagher says:

    I was blessed to become close w Carter in Charlottesville LONG before his drumming talent & Dave Matthews popularity.. He was a teacher at a small special education school called Ragged Mountain where my younger sister attended. I had be granted custody due to a family abuse issue, and was only a few years older (9) than the sister I was placed in charge of. He was an emotional touch stone in assistance w so many questions and problems then.. Throughout the years to follow we remained in touch on the occasional run in regarding local musical experiences and also when I managed his favorite restaurant Copacabana which soon became a favorite of Daves in that period.. Carter has the most inertial talent of those also preforming alongside, Boyd’s original Cville band w Harry Faulkner preformed many original methodologies of expression that I still here in DMB today, as the beat heard then in many local establishments aired a mysterious thread of lyrical percussion and guitar/violin strings blend that stand separately from any other musical talent most DMB enthusiasts give pause to allow enter into musical moment.. Carter is so sound of soul, imaginative of idea, emotionally charged of pure spirt in all he feels, not a wonder the band is “heard” by those that really listen to the heart of drum that beats..

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  • Timo castle says:

    Talented drummer

    • Agueztvierra says:

      Matt,What a blessing to hear more of your bagrnkoucd! The electronic music vocabulary is over my head, but it was great to hear you say that your songs arose out of your personal alone time in prayer and worship with God. He is using you in so many ways. Love your enthusiasm for music, but more importantly that you have chosen to use your talents to glorify The One Who has given you the desires of your heart!Love and Blessings~Colleen Easton

  • Stephanie says:

    I love your work!! Looking for some more advice on advancing a drumming career! Please email me back, I would greatly appreciate it!!!! Thanks, look forward to hearing from you!! 😉

  • Melvin bichell says:

    Thanks carter im glad dave matthews came together
    In my opinion there is never been a better group I seen you guys live 15 times your group is the greateat ever

  • Mabel says:

    I had a bit of trouble getitng the sound to work with my system, so my first attempts with this program were strickly visual. I could hear drum sounds from my drum module, but not from the software / computer. This prooved very frustrating and boring. The manual and tech support were of no help to me since I did not have the HD-1 drum kit. I did a lot of experimentation and finially found the right combination of settings that work with my system. Now that I can hear the notes and background music being played it is definitely more interesting and more practical. This prooves that the visual part of this software is for confirmatation, more than for timing (wheter in Graphical mode or in Notation mode).I still think this program has a lot of potential especially for experience drummers, but it may be very challenging to beginners.I don’t think it is fair to compare this program to Rock Band or Guitar Hero. The graphical interface is much more like Dtx Mania or Rock Revolution.There should be more lessons / excercies for beginning drummers, since that is who they are supposedly marketing to. There should be links / integration with this software to good usable midi songs and the lessons available from Rolands web site. It would also be very helpful if you could see your results until you start a new set. Instead the scores dissappear as soon as one stops drumming. Ideally they should have allowed us to save our progress. Roland should also have links to a support group, for tips, suggestions and trouble shooting.I don’t understand why they can’t incorporate drum rudiments, for the snare. These could also be adapted later for the rest of the kit. They could show rolls and buzzes similar to the extended notes in RB / GH.I would consider paying extra for midi files that have been tested and proven for this program or for additonal lessons / exercise. Again it would be helpful it this was integrated in the program or at least available through links without having to leave the program.They need to add some elements to make it fun to play along I am not sure how, but again perhaps some cues from GH / RB are in order. Perhaps inclusion for some popular tunes or at least clips of intersting parts. We don’t need a lot of video / animations as they can be distracting. The interfaces (graphical and notation modes) are very clean, so I hope they don’t bog the sceen down with useless information (or at least alow us to disble / hide).The menu system seems very bleak, especially for chosing setup options. Recommend settings should be highlighted.I hope Roland is committed to improving this software and makeing it more accessable to both Roland and non Roland drum kits. I will be looking forward to the next version and any updates / upgrades that might be available (hopefully as easy downloads). Perhaps they will even consider making a version of this for people who only have USB or GHWT and Rockband drum kits.I hope this sets a standard for other visual oriented (scrolling tab) lessons. Perhaps a little competition will push Roland into deleoping this package into something really useful and fun?

  • Mike Marra says:

    hey i love you playing and would def. love to meet you sometime, ive been a gifted player for 15yrs now and can play alot of stuff by ear i just need to know how to count time, if you say to me this song is in 6/8 time i have no clue what you mean but if the rest of the band starts playing in 6/8 time i can hear the time and jump right in. i just want to be able to know a head of time and know how to count it in my head on drums,lol people say i can go far b/c of the gift i have and dont need to know how to count time b/c i can just hear it but im like no way i need to know and want to learn and play Professionaly as A Career! please help if possible you may call me 919-841-3352… Thank So Very Much.

    p.s. I wont tell no one if you Personaly called that would be a hughe Blessing…..