Modern Drumset Techniques For Today's Worship Drummer

New Scottish Hymns Blog: Practice & The Technical Aspect of Drumming

Thank you to those who have either read or commented on these posts so far. This post is on practice and the technical aspect of drumming. It is by no means a comprehensive guide but just a few helpful tips for all you church drummers out there.

Practice can be a big hurdle to all musicians.  Whatever size your church or worship team is, or whatever type of equipment you have, being able to set aside time to practise and knowing what to practise can sometimes feel like the most difficult thing to overcome. Firstly, I’d like to encourage you if you struggle with practising: you’re not alone! Let the biggest hurdle not be focusing on our failure to practise or that we don’t know what to practise. Rather, let’s be kind to ourselves and know that there are many different methods of practising and we are all on a journey.

With that being said, I’d like to suggest 3 simple methods of practising for any drummer that will help. They all relate to each other and they’ve helped me on my journey so far.

1. Practising ‘on the go’. For me this includes using e.g. traveling time to listen to a new album (more on this in the next post). Listening firstly to the band and the song arrangement as a whole, and then listening again specifically to the drummer. It also includes ‘charting’ songs (more about this in the final post), and putting a click track on at various tempos (between 80-120bpm) in a pair of headphones and tapping along. The benefits of this type of practice are that you are learning without having to sit down and play drums, improving your time, and learning about arrangement and how the drummer sits in the song.

2. Noise-free Practice. This takes place on a practise pad. I call it noise-free because it is very quiet! Purchasing a practise pad is essential for every drummer. Once you have done that, put a 2p coin in the middle and draw around it. This allows you to focus where the sticks should hit. Rudiments are also an essential ingredient to every drummer’s cookbook. They are the foundations upon which you add the spices to every good drum groove and fill.

Here is a good warm-up routine for playing on a pad. Try two minutes each of the following:

  • single strokes
  • double strokes
  • paradiddles (with and without accents)
  • triplets
  • 5 stroke rolls
  • flams.

That’s a total of 12 minutes – not long at all! Practice these along to a click and at various dynamics. Tap your feet along too and try to sing “1+2+3+4+” aloud – this means all your limbs are active. Don’t go faster than you feel you can – slow and steady wins the race! You will find that through small doses of dedicated “noise-free practice” your hand technique will improve, you will have more control of the sticks, and will have a greater vocabulary of material when you come to the drum kit. For more info on rudiments, check out the Vic Firth website.

3. Drum Kit Practice.  Not everyone has access to a drum kit at home so practising can be quite hard. But if you do have access to your church’s drum kit throughout the week this will be helpful for you. Being honest here, you don’t need to have a large vocabulary on the drum kit to be able to play drums in church. But the more in your arsenal, the more comfortable and enjoyable it is! Here are a few exercises I would recommend:

  • Play along to a click at a slow (60bpm), medium (90bpm) and fast (120bpm) tempo. Start off by only playing 1/4 notes. Keep a strong backbeat at all times and focus on the sound and dynamic level throughout. Ask yourself questions such as: “Is my technique good? Am I sitting up straight? Do I feel comfortable and in control of what I am doing?” Once you do feel comfortable with this, move on to 8th notes and 16th notes. Having only certain notes to play helps you feel restricted and opens up new avenues of creativity. You will also be more aware of the sound you create on the kit and how your ‘feel’ is. Persist with this, and you will find yourself improving your concentration as a player.
  • Practise playing 4 bars of time with a simple fill at the end. It could be the “Pat-Boone, Debbie-Boone” fill and variations of that. Use the exercise system in the previous bullet point by only using certain note values and that will help you become better.
  • Practise in odd-time signatures such as 3/4 and 6/8. Try to feel the difference between the two and play different grooves in each.

Two final things – use your phone to record your practice session. It’s important to listen back on your progress and if you are able to do this on occasion, you will notice the difference.

Count aloud. It’s important to do this (as frustrating as it is sometimes!) because your coordination will greatly improve as a result of this.

In conclusion, let’s not forget something: Practice should be fun! If I have 45 minutes to sit down per week for church and practice, I usually set it aside like this:

  • 10 minutes warm-up on practice pad
  • 10 minutes playing along to a click at various tempos
  • 15 minutes learning specific grooves/song parts for upcoming service
  • 10 minutes have some fun playing along to tunes that I enjoy!

Every Blessing,

Brian

New Scottish Hymns Blog: The Heart of Worship

This is the 2nd blog post is from a series I recently did as seen on the New Scottish Hymns website.

What does it mean to have a heart of worship? Good question. We could talk about this for the rest of our days, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet!

Romans 12:1 says to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What does that mean? Simply put, I think it means being in a right relationship with God- that I’m on good terms with the Bible’s author. Do I please or grieve the Holy Spirit with the way I lead my life? That’s a challenging question I face each and every day.

Whilst I will admit that there have been a few times I have ‘gone through the motions’ in Church, especially if I’ve had an ‘off-day’, or just feel that the worship ‘isn’t great’, I know that the fruit of my ‘sacrifice’ to God is that I give my whole self to Him. I submit to Him. He knows best. So I’m reading my Bible, praying, confessing sin, spending time with Him experiencing God’s great love. Whatever that looks to me might be different for you. And the fruit of that ‘sacrifice’ to me is to know I deeply loved by the Father. My identity is secure in what He thinks of me, not what other people say or think!

When I am in a place of heartfelt worship, I know that I am chosen by God, anointed by God, and saved by God to serve the One who saved me from my sin. And that I know and can experience His love. For me that is the heart of worship. As one of my heroes, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said:

Holiness is not something we are called upon to do in order that we may become something; it is something we are to do because of what we already are.”

I don’t confess to be a ‘holy’ person by my own strength, but through Christ who strengthens me and makes me holy. Weakness is the way- because He is strong. I love the quote from the great preacher Robert Murray McCheyne: “Lord make me as holy as a saved sinner can be.”

So when it comes to playing drums in Church, I try to pray a short prayer. When I pray this simple prayer in faith, I believe that God will act.

“Lord, help me to fix my eyes upon You today.
Thank You for your mercy, for Your love & grace.
Thank You for sending Your Son to die on the Cross for me.
Thank You for the indwelling Holy Spirit. Fall on me afresh and fill me to overflowing. Grant me the humility to play, help me to play the best I have ever played.
Come in Power in this place today, that we as a Church may know and experience You. Change us Lord, from the inside out.
Let there be freedom for You to move today.”

Every Blessing,

Brian

New Scottish Hymns Blogs: About Playing Drums In Church

This blog post is from a series I recently did as seen on the New Scottish Hymns website.

When I was asked to write a series of blogs on playing drums in Church, it conjured many thoughts.

Firstly – the great privilege to play drums in a worship band! The enjoyment of being able to make music to my Saviour, help lead people in worship, and to be able to worship with other people.

Secondly, the technical aspect of drumming. The practice, the dos and don’ts of what that is. The joys and frustrations that come with all of that!

Thirdly, the enjoyment of listening to music. I love listening to new worship & secular music, and my love of music continues to grow year after year.

Fourthly, the challenges that come with playing drums in a church setting. Drums can be loud (dependent on whether you have an electric or acoustic set), offensive to some people, and at times overlooked. While this has softened to a degree with the development of mainstream Contemporary Worship Music over the last decade in particular, drums can still be a controversial matter. Let’s not forget drum gear & getting a good sound from the drums in Church. That’s a toughie!

So with that in mind, over the next four posts, I will be going over the following four things:

  1. The Heart of Worship
  2. Practice & The Technical Aspect of Drumming
  3. Listening to Music
  4. Sound, Other Helpful Suggestions & Tips

So unfortunately, no posts on ‘Gospel Chops’, ’How To Play 20 Minute Drum Solos’ or ‘How To Twirl Your Drum Stick Like A Boss,’ – as fun as that would be!

Every Blessing,

Brian

Chris Tomlin – God of Angel Armies (Whom Shall I Fear)

And another ‘Church Drummer’ cover! It’s been a few months but here’s the latest one: Chris Tomlin’s ‘God of Angel Armies (Whom Shall I Fear).’ A great song from his 2013 album ‘Burning Lights.’ Nice drumming from both Paul Mabury and Travis Nunn throughout the album. Enjoy!