6 Practical Tips To Be A Better Worship Team Drummer
by Harald Huyssen
This one goes for everyone, not just drummers. Arriving on time and prepared will go a long way to making it a pleasure to work with anyone. An easy way to realize the importance (if you are someone with problems in these areas) is imagining the situation reversed. You have to deal with that ‘guy/girl’ who comes 1-2 hours late all the time. Each time it’s the same excuse, “traffic”. Being prepared means you know the song form and are ready to practice as a band. Band rehearsal time isn’t the time to listen to and learn the songs. If we are on time and prepared for work, then we should do the same as we serve our church. Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
The number one complaint I hear from worship teams about their drummer is, “Our drummer plays too loud!” If your church has a seating capacity of 70-100, you can’t get on the drums and hit them like you are in an arena. Controlling volume is a challenge for many drummers, but is something that you can work on and learn to do. One easy way to start improving is, practice the way you want to (or have to) play. If you need to play quieter, start practicing quieter. The next is, always be aware of your tendency to play loud until you learn to adjust your style of playing. In the end, you want to play at an appropriate volume for the room you are in.
Like a language, building vocabulary takes time. Consistent effort will simplify the process and you will see clear results in just months. Each week, take a song and learn a fill-in, note for note from one or two of the songs in the line up. It doesn’t have to be new songs. You will be surprised by what you can learn from going back and studying songs you have been playing for years. Once you learn the fill-in, try to keep the fill-in rhythm, but change where you play it on the drums. By doing this, you can get many ideas from one idea. In a year, you would have 52-104 fill-ins, and with your variations it may be anywhere from 200-500 or more ideas. By adding simple accents like this video, demonstrates that number could easily exceed 1000 ideas a year.
Always remember, your role as a drummer is the time-keeper. You don’t have to play like the original drummer did. Play a song the best you can while keeping in mind your goal of keeping time. Sometimes this means playing a beat that is less complex so you can play it consistently with the right feel and energy. Removing some of the aspects of the beats that are giving you trouble can do this. Then work on the original version of the groove in your personal practice times. At some point in the future you, will be able to play the original during Sunday services. Here are some other tips for improving your time.
Listen to different artists
Popular jazz drummer, Max Roach, was quoted as saying, “Records are the textbook for jazz.” The same can be said for contemporary worship music and drumming. Listening is how you learn. How can you mature and know what fill-ins fit and when to play certain things? Listen to how successful worship bands deal with certain songs or styles and then copy and develop from there. No need to reinvent the wheel. If it works and you like it, learn it and add it to your arsenal of musical options.
Lifestyle of Worship
Save the most important and best point for last. You cannot expect to get on stage and lead worship if you do not have a life of worship Monday through Saturday. Some worship team members feel like they are just a musician, and not a leader. They would argue that the leader is the one in front singing (‘leading’) the songs. I would say anyone on stage or on the worship team is a leader. Realize your role and walk in God’s calling on your life. To successfully lead worship, the team must be sensitive to the leading of the Lord. It’s not a performance, it’s about ushering in the Spirit of God so that God can be glorified, and He can touch and change lives. Don’t just play the drums on Sunday morning. Rather, worship, pray and be sensitive to the Lord as you play the drums.