Modern Drumset Techniques For Today's Worship Drummer

Christian Albums of 2013: A Review Part. 1

Ah the predictable ‘end of year review’ blog post! On a serious note, I’ve never done this and I wanted to write an article about some of the most-well known and some not-so-well known Christian albums released that over the past year I’ve come across. I say the past year…  I mean, a year or so…give or take…some were released in late 2012. Here’s Part 1.

*a brief note: I am not taking a swipe at any particular band or ministry. I am just trying to critique music in general, according to my taste.
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One further tip for playing drums in Church (my view)…Listening to Music!

I thought the MusicAdemy article on top 10 do’s and don’ts for drummers in Church was really good. But I thought I’d also share one further thing I’ve encountered in my journey so far…but it is a major thing.

LISTENING. I don’t mean listening and learning the set list for Sunday. I don’t mean on a lyrical point of view. I mean listening to music. Lots of music. Not just the latest worship albums. Secular music. To be blunt, I can barely get through a Hillsong and Jesus Culture album  (and others) and not feel slightly bored by the third or fourth song. Yes, they both (as well as other artists) have a distinctive (worshipful) sound, and that’s no major flaw, but a huge strength! I’m not here to criticize them, nor could I justifiably, because of the impact they and others have had on Worship music. But it’s mainstream stuff. For the masses. And it sounds great. The lyrics are brilliant, the musicianship is fantastic. But…how did they form their sound? Through extensive listening…to secular music predominantly! Of course I don’t want to make this sound like an exercise, but why not challenge yourself to listen to more and more music? Funk, rock, metal, jazz, fusion, Latin pop, R&B, etc etc? Learn from great musicians, listen to great drummers, enjoy expanding your horizons. Do your research. With so much music available online there are virtually no boundaries. You’ll find that it’s really helpful in your development as a musician. Enjoy!

What about this for a listening exercise, check out these bands:

 


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Ten do’s and don’ts – drummers

Good article from Musicademy.

You make a huge racket and as a result there are people in the church who have little sympathy for what you do. If you are stuck behind a screen and your volume levels are low a lot of people will be happy with that and will leave you alone. If that isn’t the situation, however, every Sunday can become a pride-swallowing siege punctuated by the phrase: ‘Can you play a little quieter?’

Playing with Hot Rods becomes a way of life and the obsession with your volume levels has reached an unhealthy state. Soon your drumkit looks like it’s been constructed of gaffa tap and cushions, not wood.

Somehow you have to fight through all of this. Your job is to keep time and, on many occasions, it is to lead the band. Non-musicians are not aware of how key your job is so it is important you keep your wits about you and try not to take all that criticism to heart.

Here are few tips to help you stay sane.
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My Drum Videos

MUSIC VIDEOS:

The Church Drummer Videos, January 2012 Sessions. Posted on Vimeo and YouTube: here’s a mixture.

YouTube Channel: Brian Macleod

How Great Is Our God

Blessed Be Your Name

Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)

Shout To The Lord

Mighty To Save:

In Christ Alone

My Drum Solo:

Bob Kauflin’s Top Ten Reasons to Share Musical Opinions Humbly

Taken from Bob Kauflin’s website, Worship Matters. His book title of the same name is a belter, too.

 

I’ve been musing recently about how we express our musical opinions. Why do we feel so strongly about songs, bands, and styles? And why do we draw conclusions so quickly? Nope. Don’t like it. That stinks. I can’t stand that kind of music. You like that stuff? Is there anything wrong with raving about the music/artists we love and being swift to trash those we despise?

If we’re Christians, yes. Let me suggest ten reasons why musical forbearance might be good for our souls.

1. Being a self-appointed music critic is often just a sign of pride.Using outrageous or exaggerated words to put down certain songs, styles, or artists can be a symptom of selfishness, laziness, or arrogance. We don’t want to spend time investigating whether or not our assessment is accurate because we’re too busy sharing our opinions. (Prov. 18:2)

2. Music doesn’t define us. Why do we become offended when someone critiques our favorite song, group, or style of music? Because they’re insulting “our” music, which means they’re insulting us. That’s idolatry. Music isn’t our life — Christ is. (Col. 3:4).

3. Great songs don’t always sound great the first time through.Some songs require repeated listenings to appreciate their value.  Albums and songs often grow on us over time. Is all the best music always instantly accessible or appealing? I hope not.

4. The introduction to a song isn’t the same thing as the song.The first twenty seconds of a song usually doesn’t represent the whole song. It just introduces it. Deciding we don’t like a song from the start can keep us from hearing something we might truly enjoy or benefit from.

5. Listening to music the masses have never heard of doesn’t make us better. Some of us derive a particular joy in finding and listening to obscure, undiscovered artists. As if being unknown was admirable in and of itself. Some bands are undiscovered because they’re not very good. And if we do happen to discover a talented unknown band, it’s an opportunity to serve others, not look down on them.

6. Listening to music that is massively popular doesn’t make us better. This is the opposite craving of the previous point. It’s the mindset that says if the song or artist hasn’t been on the radio, at the top of the charts, or on TV, it’s not worth listening to.

7. Learning to appreciate unfamiliar music is one way to prefer others. Why does everyone have to like the music I like? What might I learn about my friends by patiently seeking to understand why they like the music they do? (Phil. 2:4)

8. Learning to like other kinds of music can open my eyes to God’s creativity. In his book, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Harold Best addresses musical elitists. “Among all this stuff that needs aesthetic redeeming, there is also goodness, a whole lot of integrity and honesty, from which they themselves can learn.” (p. 89) That means I can actually enjoy music that is less sophisticated than what I’d ordinarily listen to.

9. We may have to eat our words. It’s happened more than a few times. I mouth off about how bad a song is, and later on start to think it’s actually pretty good. Or I tear up a song on my blog and later find myself talking to a person who loves it or the person who wrote it. Oops.

10. We might be missing an opportunity to be grateful for God’s gifts. Our tendency is to assume that God’s gifts all look and sound the same. They don’t. What would happen if the first time we heard a song we sought to be grateful rather than critical?

Let me be clear. No song is above evaluation and there are truly bad songs. We just might serve others and ourselves more effectively if we expressed our musical opinions with a little more grace.

[originally posted Dec. 7, 2008]


Steve Gadd

Steve Gadd is one of my favourite drummers of all time. Actually, one of my favourite musicians of all time. Steve changed the way drums were played. Of course, many before him led the way: Buddy Rich with his technical and musical brilliance, Louie Bellson and Gene Krupa swinging the big bands, Max Roach’s melodic philosophy, Roy Haynes snap, crackle and pop, Elvin Jones polyrhythmic phrases etc etc. The list could and should go on. But back to Gadd. He is a one-off. He is a pocket master. His individual style saw him being elevated as a drummer and emulated. He took marching band rudiments and made them groove in rock, pop jazz, funk, fusion, big band, latin and more. He played musically and thought only to enhance the music. He never over-played or missed a beat. He always meant what he executed. He could totally beast his chops with artists like Steely Dan and Michel Petrucciani. He could just lay back and swing playing crotchets and you would still recognise his sound. He could groove on his Yamaha drums and you would recognise the tone and the way he hit them. He influenced countless drummers and raised the bar with how drums should sound and support the band. 

For this first article in a series before my videos go up online I would like to highlight Steve Gadd, one of the most important drummers of all time.
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I’m Back!

It’s been quite a few months since I’ve written or done anything in my website. I’d like to now state that I’m back in business and will be sharing my thoughts over the next 8 months how I feel about worship, my personal experiences, as well as future plans for more drum instructional videos and methods.

Since my last proper post, I’ve toured America, joined a couple of bands, recorded some great records, got engaged and am now working in full-time Christian music ministry. But all of that will be shared properly later.

Vinnie Colaiuta

Carlos Benson, Director of Drummers for Jesus, interviews Vinnie Colaiuta at the Christian Musicians Summit

INTERVIEW WITH VINNIE COLAIUTA – PART I

CB: With all the religions in the world, why Christianity?

VC: Wow, that’s a great question. One thing that I’m apt to think is that God came to me and sought me in a sense. Because see, I grew up in a Catholic background, although I was not what you might call a “GOOD, PRACTICING” Catholic, it seems as though in my younger years of childhood growing up I believed in Jesus and what I knew about him. Of course there was no scripture teaching so that was all really a mystery to me. And as I grew into adulthood I remember, I would like to say, for maybe ten years, I’m just throwing a wild number out there, before I got saved in 1998, that I had gradually found myself seeking spiritual answers, reaching out to spiritual values and higher values and spirituality and had sort of racked my brain philosophically and coming up empty. I found myself bargaining with God and I realized a lot of things. Wanting to know answers. It’s real easy for us to come up with answers to satisfy ourselves and appease our curiosity. After a lot of questioning and searching I think that God had engineered these circumstances providentially to bring me to him and that led up to me going to Switzerland [where friends of Vinnie would lead him to Christ]. So, it wasn’t like a situation where I was “SHOPPING” and looked at a laundry list: “Buddhism, Hinduism, etc, oh Christianity – that one looks good.”
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Paul Baloche Drummer Carl Albrecht on Worship

 

Carl in worship

In my journey as a drummer it seems there are foundational concepts that ALWAYS have to be in place to do well as a musician and a worship leader.  (Yes, you are a worship leader if you play before a group to lead them into the presence of the Lord. It’s just not about the singers or person out front.)  These foundational concepts never seem to loose their significance.  I guess you could say these are the pillars of a worship drummer’s life. These are the four elements that will always need to be in place if we are going to hit the mark in our calling.

 

I.  Heart & Soul

II.  Timing & Groove

III. Team spirit

IV.  Playing to the room

I know there are many concepts, both technically and spiritually, that we use to play the drums in worship. But these four are really the corner tent pegs that hold it all together. I think everything else rest on these principles. All that I have ever shared and taught on the subject of drums in worship seem to be built on these four essentials. When any of them are out of place it seems the whole thing falls down!

First, “You gotta’ have heart… lots and lots and lots of heart.” These words from an old song still have the most profound meaning. As a musician, if you are not fully engaged in the emotions of the music you’re playing it will feel lifeless. I believe that playing with passion and purpose is felt by you, your fellow minstrels, and the people listening.

This concept is a little difficult to describe in technical terms. I can only testify to my own struggle with staying engaged emotionally with the music. I just know that music feels differently when I’m aware of what I am suppose to communicate, and that I am excited to tell the story. When my heart isn’t in it there is an energy that’s lacking. I think that is the “soul” part of music.

This is even more critical when it comes to worship. We must be worshipping when we play. It has to be more than getting the notes right.  Playing with excellence is great to a certain level, but there is a realm of spiritual power that will only happen when we are playing to honor and love the Lord. The times I have been disengaged emotionally during a performance it felt rather lame. (*The word performance is only being used to refer to a time of playing*) Again, to specifically describe what is lacking in those moments is tough. I truly believe that the music is lifeless in some way and everyone suffers because of it.  So, guard your heart! “THOU SHALT NOT PLAY THE DRUMS IN VAIN.”

Number two… Your sense of time and groove must be solid. This is the technical side of your playing. As much as your heart being in it is vital, so is your ability to do the job well. Keep working on your chops! Make sure you have every song worked out thoroughly. If you know there are spots in a tune that are challenging you, work on it some more. Using a metronome when you practice is most critical. Keeping the time solid and the groove feeling great is primo! Don’t be content with anything less than your absolute best. BUT, don’t get caught up in self-destructive thoughts either.  I.e. “I wish I could play like that drummer.” OR … “I’ll never be able to get this right!” It’s OK to be inspired by other players but… “THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBORS DRUMMING”

Team spirit is the next pillar for a great worship musician. By the way, remember that each element is vital. Just because I’m using a particular order does not mean I’m placing more significance on one area. Besides having your act together on the spiritual and technical side you have to help your teammates as well.  Ah…you thought this would be easy. NO WAY! Now, you have to build up your fellow worship warriors.

When you’re feeling strong look for those that are not having a good day and encourage them. Actually we need to do this whether we feel good or not. Rise above your emotions!! (Me too!)  It could be something very small in your own eyes. Just a kind word or maybe helping the team set up can change the atmosphere.  The ordinary things can have such a huge impact. Look for ways to build people up and you’ll find it becomes an emotional glue that holds you all together.

If you feel there is a spiritual void and no one is giving much attention to prayer and heart issues, you might be the one to draw the team into fellowship time. Don’t nag, but encourage the troops to gather in for a focused time before an event to meet with the Lord. Like great teams in sports always have a locker room gathering before a game, a worship team has got to pull together in the final moments before a service. Oh, by the way, ask the leader if it’s OK. Don’t just take over the role of leadership. Always strive to be the encourager! “THOU SHALT HONOR YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS.”

Last, but not least, be sure to play to the room you’re band must play in. Yes, this means to control your volume. Everything else could be in place, but if you overpower the room it will weaken all the other pillars. You could be a great drummer with incredible skill, have the passion to worship, and totally be the team player, but if you don’t adjust to the acoustic environment you’re in you’ve failed. Usually this means being too loud, but on rare occasions you might be playing too soft to get the band to sound good together. Sometimes you have to dig in a little bit to get the band to gel.

I just experienced this recently with Paul Baloche on our 2 week tour across Canada. One night we played a huge auditorium and I could play as hard as I want. The very next night it would be a smaller  venue with terrible acoustics and I’d have to play the whole evening with “hot rods” and lighter sticks. I always work with the engineer and the whole team to be sure we sound as good as we can for whatever room we play. “THOU SHALT NOT KILL THE WORSHIP ATMOSPHERE.”

So you say, “Hey, Carl that’s only four; I thought there were Ten Commandments.” …Hey!  Yo… give me a break! I’m not Moses, here!!  Sheeesh! Anyway, enough of my cheesy humor. The point I’m trying to make is that these four pillars are really the primary things that come to mind when I’m playing. Every job seems to lean upon these concepts. All the other elements of being a great worship drummer rest on these four.  At every conference or clinic these are the most discussed topics amongst players, worship leaders, and pastors. REALLY!! I’m being dramatic on purpose. You have to get this!!! Make these the cornerstones of your calling and you’ll truly be the drummer the Lord has called you to be.

Standing on the Rock,

Carl

Tim Keller: Evangelistic Worship

A great article from Dr. Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City:

http://theresurgence.com/2011/03/23/evangelistic-worship (a snippet)

http://theresurgence.com/files/2011/03/22/Evangelistic_Worship.pdf (the full thing)