Miles Teller was one of the biggest actors to get attention from musicians in 2014, and it was due to the release of Whiplash.
A fantastic drumming movie focused on jazz and jazz education, Miles Teller’s role had him working hard to become an all-time drumming great.
While there are dozens of scenes of Teller playing amazing things, it’s hard to know whether that’s actually him or some Hollywood filming trickery.
I’m going to take a deeper dive into the movie to answer whether he was really playing, and I’ll explain whether Miles Teller can actually play drums in real life.
Who is Miles Teller?
Miles Teller is an actor who had his first big break with the movie Rabbit Hole which came out in 2010.
Since then, he’s starred in several big movies, including Whiplash, Fantastic Four, Divergent, and Top Gun: Maverick.
I’m a big fan of Miles Teller, as I love the roles he plays in all the movies I’ve seen him in. I think he’s an excellent actor who seems to have the chops to play various parts.
He was born in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, in 1987, and he grew up learning how to play multiple instruments and being a valued member of a few drama clubs.
He then studied acting, transitioning his life into the film industry.
Can Miles Teller Play the Drums?
After checking out a few videos on YouTube, I can confidently say that Miles Teller can definitely play the drums.
From watching a few interviews he did for the press around Whiplash, I discovered that he grew up with a love for rock music.
I can see that influence come out in his playing, as he likes to play quick 16th note grooves with dense fills around the toms.
There aren’t any clips available of him playing with bands or other musicians, but there are a few of him jamming on kits.
However, his personal playing style and what you see him doing in Whiplash are very different, and it’s because they got body doubles to play the trickier drum parts.
So, Miles Teller can play drums, but he’s far from the skill level of what is being played in the movie.
How Good is Miles Teller at Playing Drums?
I’d say that he has a similar skill level to someone who has been playing drums for a year or two. He can keep a strong beat and place a few creative fills around, but you can see that his technique isn’t refined.
You can typically see this in how someone holds their drumsticks. He has a fairly loose grip, making his strokes sound a bit too relaxed.
He also isn’t the most skilled when it comes to jazz drumming.
However, it’s hard to say without seeing him play more, and there really aren’t too many clips of him playing various things. He mostly gets asked to jam on a kit for talk shows and interviews, and he plays for about a minute or so.
If I were to place him in a category, I’d say that he’s on the lower side of intermediate, and I think he could likely sound fantastic if he were to play with a band.
Remember that drumming is just a hobby he had when growing up, and he can apparently play a few other instruments as well!
Miles Teller and Whiplash
Whiplash is the main reason that people are aware that Miles Teller can play the drums, so let’s take a closer look at a few more questions that people have about the movie.
Who Played Drums for Whiplash?
No one really has a definite answer to this. It’s quite strange, but there was never an official credit for the person who played the proper drum parts for the trickier bits of the film.
I’ve heard a big reason for this is that American jazz musicians are part of a union that helps them earn more money. This union locks them to certain gigs, so it was likely that a union drummer did the drum parts, but the movie was created independently without the union being involved.
So, the drummer or drummers had to go unmentioned so that they didn’t get in trouble with the union.
No one has stated that to be 100% fact, though. It’s just one of the possible reasons.
Another theory is that the drum parts were likely played by drummers like Kyle Crane, Jeff Hamilton, or Bernie Dresel.
Why Does Miles Teller’s Drumming Look So Convincing?
The people who filmed and edited Whiplash did a brilliant job of making it look like Miles Teller was playing everything in the drumming scenes.
There are some incredibly tricky drum parts and techniques in the film that I could only ever dream of playing, and they require immaculate jazz technique control.
When watching the film again, I mainly saw that the camera zooms out on Miles Teller for the easier bits. The close-up shots of his hands are when you see the trickier patterns being played. So, it’s just a lot of clever camera work.
There are also a few parts where you can clearly see that the drum parts aren’t matching what you hear, but I’ve never seen a movie that got that nailed down.
Are the Drum Parts from Whiplash Hard?
Yes, especially the parts for the songs Whiplash and Caravan. Whiplash is a song with multiple time signatures, and following those time signatures while keeping a solid groove is very challenging.
Caravan is a whole different beast, and it’s often considered to be one of the hardest jazz standards for a drummer to play. It’s very quick, and you need to have a mastery over playing Latin grooves and a double-time swing.
While Miles Teller can play drums, he’s more of a casual player than anything. He definitely didn’t play most of what you see him doing in Whiplash, so don’t believe that if you read it somewhere.
That’s not to take away from the skills he does have, but the drumming in Whiplash is clearly coming from masters who have dedicated their lives to getting to that level with jazz drums.