Modern Drumset Techniques For Today's Worship Drummer

Drum Legends: Steve Jordan

Thank you to all who enjoyed the article on Ringo Starr. Here’s the 2nd drummer in this 4-part feature – Steve Jordan.

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Steve Jordan is definitely one of my favourite drummers. I actually did a full-on book project on him when I was at University. I think its so important to find out about new drummers and develop an interest in those whom we enjoy listening to. It really helps us as drummers become better listeners, better players, and also helps us to play with a band more effectively. In short, we mature as musicians. So without further ado, here’s a bit about Steve, why I think his contribution to music over the past 30 years is significant, and also some wisdom in the form of comments from the man himself as well as a few groove transcriptions.

Steve Jordan was born on January 14th, 1957 in New York. After studying as a classical percussionist at the famous LaGuardia High School of Music & Art in NYC, Steve Jordan launched a legendary career in rock, collaborating with artists such as Keith Richards, Don Henley, John Mayer, The Pretenders, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys. As a Grammy Award-winning record producer, his inspired presence and craft have raised the standard. Steve Jordan is well known as a multi-instrumentalist, musical director, producer and a writer of exceptional quality. In addition to his late 70’s / early 80’s tenure with Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, Steve has been one of the most in demand session drummers in the world. He has recorded and toured with such artists as The Rolling Stones, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, BB King, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and many more. Steve has evolved into a Grammy Award winning producer with Robert Crays’ album ‘Take Your Shoes Off’ and the nominated ‘Bring ‘Em In’ by Buddy Guy. While he has played on countless hits, from Alicia Keys ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Devils and Dust’, and he continues to produce with such works as the John Mayer Trio album ‘Try!’, the John Mayer album ‘Continuum’, John Scofield’s ‘That’s What I Say,’ ‘Possiblilties’ by Herbie Hancock, among many others. As a musical director, Steve has worked on such high profile projects as Superbowl XXXX, the Martin Scorsese/Antoine Fuqua film ‘Lightning in a Bottle’ and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Steve Jordan is one of the most influential and sought after session drummers in the world. He has accomplished more in his drumming career than he ever could have imagined. Steve isn’t known in the music industry for playing the hardest licks ever known to the human mind, or for the technical skills that would make even the late, great Buddy Rich squirm (although he has great technique and soloing ability!). What Steve Jordan is best known for is making the drums sound good in any musical situation. He can take a simple beat and make it sound great. He can take a more complicated beat and make it sound so fluid and simple. He has taken his drumming beyond technique, having studied formally, and found his own sound, making the music the best it can be on each record he appears on. He has taken his influences, from Kenny Clarke to Carlton Barrett to David Garibaldi to Steve Gadd, and formed his own unique voice, and continues to inspire countless drummers today. Steve Jordan is one of my favourite drummers ever, and has made an amazing mark on the music industry.

Some Steve quotes:

“Every building has a strong foundation. When you’re building a rhythm track, you have to provide the foundation. The drummer has to be strong and solid.”

(The Groove Is Here DVD, 2002)

“When drummers practice with time, they usually practice with a metronome. That’s fine except a key ingredient to the secret of timekeeping is overlooked. I realise that in drumming you start the note but don’t stop it. That opened me up to a whole new world for me. You need to know the full length of a quarter note.”

On the subject of groove in an interview with Modern Drummer magazine: “That’s why people play so much stuff, because they can’t play a steady beat. But when you get into playing a steady groove and you can hypnotize somebody with that beat, that’s the bomb. And it takes confidence to know you can do that and not care what anybody says. People might think you don’t play fills because you can’t, but you have to do away with all that. They’ll feel it when it’s good” (Modern Drummer October 2010).

“Simplicity is not stupidity. Just because some- thing sounds good in your mind doesn’t mean that it’s dumb.”

Some transcriptions:

WHO DID YOU THINK I WAS” by John Mayer Trio (from the record ‘Try!’)


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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!

Paul Baloche – Our God Saves

February’s new drum cover, the 2014 version of Paul Baloche’s song (originally released in 2007 on his album of the same name) ‘Our God Saves.’ Enjoy!

New Drum Cover: Hillsong Y&F – Wake

My latest drum cover – Hillsong Y&F’s ‘Wake!’ Check it out!


Some helpful tips from Hillsong’s Rolf Wam Fjell

On the subject of practising, here are a few useful tips from one of Hillsong’s top drummers, Rolf Wam Fjell:

1. Take a 10 min run before practicing. Benefit: mentally more alert and physically firing up your systems.

2. Eat a banana before practicing / playing. Benefit: quick carbs + potassium straight to your system. Benefit: More power.

3. Do a proper carb load before big events. Lots of pasta etc. And drink MUCH water. Benefit: sustained energy.

4. Track your progress. Week one paradiddles @ 120bpm. Week two paraddidles @ 127bpm etc. Benefit: systematic progress.
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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 a bit forthright, I sometimes get through one of the latest mainstream worship albums and find it slightly difficult to not feel slightly bored by the third or fourth song. Yes, there is a distinctive sound, and that’s no major flaw, but a huge strength. But it’s a stylistic thing. I’m not trying to criticize it, nor could I justifiably because of the impact they and others have had on Contemporary Worship music. But it’s mainstream stuff. For the masses. And it sounds great. The lyrics are good, the musicianship is good. 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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Modern Drummer Article on Funk Albums

Modern Drummer has always been my favourite drum magazine. It is packed with such useful information in every issue, and is the first point of reference I use when researching and need some help. Enjoy this article from Modern Drummer’s website.

10 Indispensable Funk Albums

by Jeff Schaller

One could argue that no music form highlights the drummer more than funk. The fat grooves, the dirty backbeats, the snap of a tight snare, the syncopated hits with a stellar horn section, the deep pocket against a smooth bass line…you’re probably groovin’ in your seat just thinking about it. Funk music is all about the beat, and it’s no coincidence that many of our most influential drummers have made a name for themselves playing the style. If you want to learn the essence of the style, here are ten classic albums you should definitely check out.

Dyke and the Blazers - So Sharp (album cover)Dyke & the Blazers

So Sharp! (Kent)
Drummer: James Gadson
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Great Article on Tony Williams from Modern Drummer Magazine

Tony Williams

One of the most influential, inspiring, and spontaneous forces in jazz, Tony Williams remains a classic example of artistry transcending technical analysis. In the October 2011 issue of Modern Drummer magazine, writer Jeff Potter explains Tony’s genius and influence, while in the following MD Online exclusive, Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun shares his own insightful memories of the late, great drummer.
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Steve Jordan Quotes

“When drummers practice with time, they usually practice with a metronome.
That’s fine except a key ingredient to the secret of timekeeping is overlooked.
I realise that in drumming you start the note but don’t stop it. That opened me
up to a whole new world for me. You need to know the full length of a quarter

“Simplicity is not stupidity. Just because something
sounds good in your mind doesn’t mean that it’s dumb.”


Taken from ‘The Groove Is Here,’ Hal Leonard 2002

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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