His mother-in-law, Jacqueline Dobson, confirmed the death but did not give a specific cause.
A sought-after session musician fluent in the percussive idioms of rock, funk, gospel and R&B, Mr. Spears played with entertainers including the Backstreet Boys, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Chaka Khan.
“You’ve seen Aaron drum prolly 5-10 times in your life if you attend concerts & sometimes without knowing,” the drummer and producer Questlove wrote in an Instagram tribute. “That’s how much in demand his services were.”
Mr. Spears was in his late 20s, playing with a Christian group called the Gideon Band, when Valdez Brantley, Usher’s musical director, heard one of the group’s recordings and asked, “Who’s this on drums?”
He was soon recruited to audition for Usher’s backing band, and he toured with the singer-songwriter before receiving a Grammy Award nomination as a producer of two tracks on Usher’s 2004 album “Confessions,” which was nominated for album of the year and sold more than 15 million copies.
“There are good people and then there are great people. Aaron Spears was great!!” Usher wrote on Instagram Friday. He added that Mr. Spears “motivated me to do more, musically. Them drum rolls and that pocket was like none other.”
As a studio drummer and accompanist, Mr. Spears was seldom flashy, more interested in establishing a groove than in seizing the spotlight. “I learned that early on,” he said in a 2016 interview with the podcast Drummer’s Resource, recalling his early years drumming at church. “I got a lot of dirty looks and a lot of frowns if I stepped outside of the zone in times where I shouldn’t have.”
Yet when he was playing solo, whether at a master class for university students, or a drum festival in the United States or Europe, Mr. Spears showed that he could be a headliner in his own right. His performance of Usher’s “Caught Up” at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, received hundreds of thousands of views after it was posted to YouTube.
The song became a signature for Mr. Spears, who was filmed in a bright red polo shirt, calmly unleashing a four-minute broadside of tom hits and cymbal crashes while never losing his grip on the tune’s propulsive dance beat.
“I had absolutely no idea,” he said in a 2022 interview for the website Drumeo, “that playing that song on that particular stage at that time was going to cause such a ripple effect that almost 20 years later, people were going to be asking me to play that song.”
The oldest of five children, Aaron Preston Spears was born in Washington on Oct. 26, 1976. His father, Kenneth, is a minister at the Cornerstone Church of God in Christ in Temple Hills, Md. His mother, Denise Spears Colbert, worked at what is now the U.S. Government Publishing Office.
Mr. Spears started drumming at 3 or 4, at times sitting on someone’s lap because his legs weren’t long enough to reach the pedals. He graduated from Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, Md., and studied music at Los Angeles Harbor College before returning to the Washington area, where he held down a succession of day jobs — selling suits at a department store, copying documents for a law office, working as a computer programmer at a consulting firm — while playing with the Gideon Band, which set spiritual lyrics to a funky blend of gospel and R&B.
“Throughout all of the rehearsals, performances, and sheds, Aaron had the uncanny ability of never repeating a chop,” the group said in a Facebook post after his death. “He would play something mind-blowing, and the next time we played, he would play something equally mind-blowing and unique. It was a divine ability that reflected God’s creativity.”
Mr. Spears said he initially struggled to transition from the local music scene to the national touring circuit with Usher, at one point asking bandmate Buddy Strong, the keyboard player, “You think I’m supposed to be here, man?”
But he “pushed through that,” he told Drummer’s Resource, to establish his place in the band and later tour with artists including Grande. He had just finished a show with her at the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 when a suicide bomber set off an explosion, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of others. Two weeks later, Mr. Spears backed Grande in a benefit concert for victims of the attack at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground.
Mr. Spears married Jessica Dobson, a special-education teacher, in 2012. In addition to his wife, survivors include their son, August; his parents; and four sisters.
He and his wife lived in Prince George’s County, where he was the lead drummer at First Baptist Church of Glenarden. The day before he died, he played at three separate Sunday services, according to a church spokeswoman.
“I feel like, again, the reason that I’m here is to be able to be a positive impact, a positive influence,” Mr. Spears said in a 2018 interview for DrumTalk, a video magazine. “You can’t do that with your nose in the air, like you are the king of the world. That just doesn’t work.”