Modern Drumset Techniques For Today's Worship Drummer

Drum Legends: Ringo Starr

ringo1

 

***NEW BLOG SERIES: DRUM LEGENDS*** (VOL.1 – Ringo Starr, Steve Gadd, Neil Peart, Steve Jordan)

RINGO STARR IS ONE OF THE GREATEST DRUMMERS OF ALL TIME…not a sentence you hear all that much. But it is definitely one I am going to use here. In terms of technique – the statement is not true. In terms of natural talent – no. In terms of skill – no. In terms of reading music – no. Etc etc…you get my drift. But in terms of playing the right beat for the song, in terms of knowing what to play and when to play it – Ringo is one of the most influential, most copied, most underrated and most beloved drummers of all time. It helps being in perhaps the most celebrated and popular band of all time, The Beatles. Unfortunately some people have not appreciated Ringo because he isn’t “technically” a good player. And they’ll use the argument that he couldn’t play to a click, he didn’t (supposedly) play on all of The Beatles songs, and that Paul McCartney said he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles. I must admit I used to snub Ringo. But once I delved into his playing, his unique, left-handed on a right-handed kit style, his sloppy hi hat hits, his inventive drumming – I came to love him. I mean, Ringo has played some really cool beats over the years, ‘Rain’ being a great example. What about ‘Ticket To Ride’? ‘Come Together’? ‘The End’? ‘Helter Skelter?’ ‘Help?’ Of course, there are so many more great Ringo moments. What are yours? Leave a comment below.

Ringo still plays drums and tours into his 70s, wearing well for his age – and currently has drumming legend Gregg Bissonette, one of my favourite drummers of all time (and who is a Christian himself) playing in his band.

Gregg constantly talks up Ringo’s skills in interviews and mentions things such as: what about the “coolness” factor? Ringo looked great behind that beautiful Ludwig drum set! He had a big hand in making Ludwig drums famous worldwide. And let’s not forget Ringo also helped made Modern Drummer magazine famous by giving them the 1st interview he had done in a long time – back in 1982. Here’s a snippet from that interview:

MD: What were the highlights of your time in the Beatles, in terms of the band and your playing?
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Review of Worship Albums in 2015: Part 2

My apologies for the lateness in this post, I originally wrote it before Christmas but my Macbook had some issues so I lost the document. Thank you to those who have read part 1 ! Also are my links to 2014’s album reviews, as well as 2013’s (part 1 & part 2):

July was a good month for album releases, as a good offering from Worship Central Director Tim Hughes was released, entitled ‘Pocketful of Faith.’ The album is based around Hughes’ move to Birmingham (see more here). The title track is particularly good, and there are other nice moments from tracks such as ‘Hope and Glory’ and ‘Symphony’. ‘The Way’ and The Cross Stands’ also feature as “singles” from Worship Central’s previous albums and sound pretty decent in the studio. Hughes has used a Nashville band for this, and the familiar Nathan Nockels produces.

I’ll pause here and make a slight critique
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Review of Worship Albums in 2015: Part 1

There have been a lot of new releases this year in mainstream Christian Worship this year. I’ve purchased quite a few and so I’d like to briefly review some of them, month-by-month through 2015. Click here for my review of 2013 (part 1 and part 2) and 2014’s albums. I’ll also mention at this point that the reviews are not based on lyrical content as such, but primarily musical. The reason for this is that I am reviewing from a musical perspective, and that I believe each album has Biblical, Gospel-centred lyrics. Secondly, I will not be reviewing Christmas albums: sorry!

Ratings:
5/5 – outstanding                           4.5/5 – exceptional                      4/5 – excellent

3.5/5 – very good                            3/5 – good                                     2.5/5 – average

2/5 – below average                       1.5/5 and below – poor

In January,
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Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Drum Cover

My latest drum cover is the wonderful song that is ‘Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)’ – but first…at the bottom of this article I’ve put a fun link to something many of you will probably have seen before. It’s a video that has gone viral! My question is how did the worship leader manage to keep time?

Hope you enjoy my cover! *Skip to 1:33 if you just want to go straight to the drumming, but if not, please enjoy the visuals!

 

 

Simon Kennedy Band

A slightly different post: earlier on this year I joined a new band, a blues trio outfit (with great Scottish musicians Simon Kennedy & Miroslaw Hodun), the Simon Kennedy Band. It’s been great fun gigging so far, and all of us are Christians. We enjoy the performance aspect and improvisation, and play in a lot of secular venues. Check out the video (before I had joined):

About The Simon Kennedy Band:

BIO – A GUITAR AND ORGAN DRIVEN BAND, IT WAS FORMED IN 2014 BY DUNDEE BORN GUITARIST SIMON KENNEDY. ENLISTING MIREK HODUN ON THE ORGAN THEY SET ABOUT WRITING AND PRODUCING THEIR DEBUT ALBUM MAKE UP YOUR MIND THEMSELVES WHICH WAS WELL RECEIVED BY CRITICS AND FANS ALIKE WITH BBC RADIO 2’S PAUL JONES SAYING THE BAND WAS “DESERVEDLY THE RECIPIENTS OF A GREAT DEAL OF PRAISE” AND THE INDEPENDENT BLUES BROADCASTERS ASSOCIATION VOTING IT THEIR ALBUM OF THE MONTH.

IN 2015 EDINBURGH BASED SESSION DRUMMER BRIAN MACLEOD WAS BROUGHT IN TO COMPLETE THE LIVE LINE-UP OF GUITAR, ORGAN AND DRUMS.

WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE DEBUT ALBUM THEY HAVE BEEN SOUGHT OUT TO PLAY MAJOR FESTIVALS SUCH AS THE ORKNEY BLUES FESTIVAL, PERTH’S SOUTHERN FRIED FESTIVAL AND GLASGOW’S MERCHANT CITY FESTIVAL. AT THE END OF THE YEAR THEY WILL ALSO BE PLAYING AT THE EDINBURGH BLUES CLUB, SCOTLAND’S BIGGEST BLUES CLUB, IN SUPPORT OF BIG JOE LOUIS.

WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SAID:

“Deservedly the recipient of a great deal of praise since the album came out”
Paul Jones BBC Radio 2

★★★★★★★★★★
10/10
CrossRhythms Magazine

“…Stunning…Irresistible…Rousing… Recommended!”
Blues Matters Magazine

“This is a solid debut album and deserves to be heard for its excellent sound qualities and stirring playing.”
Blues In Britain Magazine

“Cracking album this one”
Dave Watkins, Blues & Roots
(2014 British Blues Awards Independent Blues Broadcaster of the Year)

“Highly accomplished blues release” 5/5
Lins Honeyman, Broadcast Magazine

“Brilliant album”
Paul Stewart, Pablo & The Blues Show

“Funky, defiant and triumphant, these gospel-tinged songs tackle the classic blues themes of faithlessness, hope and heartbreak in an unusually affirmative fashion. His commanding vocal presence is matched by his effervescent guitar.”
The Musician Magazine

The Independant Blues Broadcasters Association voted “Make Up Your Mind” their Album of the Month.

New Scottish Hymns Blog: Sound, Other Helpful Suggestions & Tips

Here we are at the last blog post. I have really enjoyed writing them and I hope you might have been blessed too. I thought I would finish off with some general tips and helpful suggestions for playing drums in Church.

Get A Good Sound Out of A Cheap Drum Set 
There a few good ways to get a good sound out of a cheap drum set, and it doesn’t have to cost your Church a tonne of cash. This video on YouTube is very helpful too.

Drum Heads 
Replacing seriously old drum heads on a well-used Church kit can make a world of difference. It can add that extra bit of warmth and tone, livening up the sound. I currently use the Evans 360 G2’s – coated. I love the warmth and sustain as well as the range of tuning they give. Learn and experiment with tuning drums. There are so many helpful videos on YouTube nowadays. The coated heads are also great for brush sounds.
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Allan McKinlay – Follow the Star

Here is an awesome music video I was involved in released very recently by the brilliant Allan McKinlay!

‘Follow The Star’ by Allan McKinlay from the album ‘Nothing Hidden’ available to buy from MUSIC 4 MISSION RECORDS now! http://music4mission.com/artists/alla…

Find out more about Allan McKinlay at www.allanmckinlay.com

 

LYRICS

We lift up our eyes
And follow the star
Guided by The Light
That shows us where You are

We’ve come to worship
We’ve come to bow down
And give you all we have (x2)

Angels gather round
Releasing a heavenly sound
And together we Honour
Our King Jesus Immanuel

We’ve come to worship
We’ve come to bow down
And give You all we have (x2)

We lift our voices
And join with the angels
Singing Glory! Hallelujah! (repeat)

New Scottish Hymns Blog: Listening to Music

Sometimes I wonder if I listen to too much worship music. “What?! Did you really say that?” Ok, let me re-phrase that. Sometimes I wonder if I listen to too much modern worship music. “Ok, I see what you are saying. Are you now going to speak in favour of the old hymns?” No, I’m not going down that route either, even if I am part of New Scottish Hymns! For the record, I love both!

What I’d like to speak about in this blog is the importance of listening to different styles of music, and how that influences and enhances our development as musicians. The result I believe is that it helps us play better, and gives us greater freedom on whatever instrument we may play. Of course, I also believe is of first importance that we share musical opinions humbly, and it is my hope and prayer that I come across in that light here. (Bob Kauflin has some excellent thoughts on this matter)

The Importance of Listening

I love learning about new music from different people, to hear what influences and inspires them. I remember when I was about fifteen, and through my uncle, being introduced to bands like Deep Purple, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who amongst others. That was a real eye opener for me! A year later I started taking formal drum lessons and my tutor introduced me to a wealth of jazz and great drummers such as Dave Weckl, Steve Gadd, Dennis Chambers and Vinnie Colaiuta, which completely changed my look on drums. He actually gave me a tonne of CDs and drum instructional books – thank you Paul Hudson! Around that time I also got into bands like Rush, another eye opener.

When I was eighteen and studying music I would use a good portion of my student loans either purchasing CDs, DVDs, or iTunes music. A lot of my suggestions would come from my tutors, fellow students and people in my Church. One day I would be listening to a new worship artist, perhaps someone outside the mainstream market like Misty Edwards, Sovereign Grace Music or Kings Kaleidoscope. The next day I would be listening to Miles Davis, then listening to artists like John Mayer, Chick Corea, Tower of Power, Dave Matthews Band, Robben Ford, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Peter Gabriel, The Police, many great drummer solo albums and much more. I found that through this my influences increased, my love for music grew, and I was encouraged to practice more.

Musical Snobbery vs. Musical Humility

I guess I could end the article there and say ‘happy listening!’, but whilst I love learning about new music, I equally dislike musical snobbery. I say this because I know how much music I have ‘snubbed’ in the past. I can and have snubbed music without listening to it whole-heartedly because I have a ‘Music Degree’ and therefore ‘know my stuff’…apparently! This is sooo not true. I believe my outlook has changed from that (and changing still) and today I try to listen to as much mainstream as indie music so I can keep up to date with what’s popular, relevant, as well as what will influence and what is fresh.

However, on the other side of the coin, before I studied music, there was also a tendency from me and others, to snob those who have studied music and look over genres like jazz and classical music (that second one I still need to work on!). I remember I used to think jazz was “above me” and immediately I ignored a lot of the great stuff. Oh, sure I knew “Take Five”, “Cantaloupe Island” and “In The Mood”…but not a lot else. I think we are all on a journey and we all need to be humble enough to be open to listening to new styles of music. And to give the whole song, or even the whole album a chance, having the discernment to appreciate what’s good and what’s bad.

Listening to the Whole Song

I remember once hearing a story about a well-respected Christian label executive who used to get so many CDs to listen to he would only listen to 30 secs of each key track. No disrespect to this executive but how can even the greatest expert discern what is good from that and why as an industry are we so reliant on one person to get results? Surely some tracks and albums take longer to get used to than others. There are many songs and albums that we listen back to and say “that one hit the spot straight away” whilst others were more along the lines of “I think I’ll put that one back on the shelf and listen to it later.”

If you had told me 10 years ago I would love a band like Steely Dan I would’ve told you to “get a life” whilst I put on the latest Blink 182 record. I would’ve also said that the production was “old school” and the instrumentation was “weird”. Now, that has a completely new meaning for me. I love the production values, instrumentation and high level of musicianship and great grooving drumming in Steely Dan, making them one of my favourite bands to listen to. I learn so much from the nuances of each song, how to play ‘for the song’ and to make it feel good. So it is also important not just to listen to the drumming in the song, but to listen and enjoy the whole song and the whole arrangement.

The Importance of Listen to New Drummers

I also love finding out new drummers, whether from past or present. For me, it’s not nearly enough to scroll on YouTube and see the latest drummer tear up the place with an awesome 15 mins drum solo (though I can’t hide I do love that every now and again!). I now find myself in a place where I listen to great ‘groovers’- guys who play for the song. That does not mean ‘boring’ or ‘non-technical’, because usually guys who are known to be ‘groovers’ have the ‘chops’ anyway! Whilst I will always love guys like Dave Weckl (my personal favourite), Steve Smith, Jojo Mayer, Antonio Sanchez etc – some of the greatest players in the world, right now in my own musical career, I mostly play ‘backbeat’ music, so I listen to a lot of ‘backbeat’ drummers.

Here are 10 drummers I have been deeply influenced by over the past few years: –

– Aaron Sterling (John Mayer)
– Jim Keltner (studio great)
– Rick Marotta (studio great)
– Jeff Porcaro (Toto, studio great)
– Daru Jones (Jack White)
– Chris Layton (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
– Russ Miller (session musician)
– Keith Carlock (Steely Dan)
– Carl Albrecht (Paul Baloche)
– Steve Jordan (session musician)

So, what are you listening to at the moment? What drummers inspire you just now? I’d love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment below.

Blessings,

Brian

Steph Macleod – Give Me A Sight O Saviour

This is another video I was involved in recently, featuring acclaimed Scottish Christian singer-songwriter Steph Macleod. It was great fun! Here’s what Steph said about the song:

“This song was inspired by the original hymn composed and written by Katherine Kelly (1869-1942) and was then rearranged, rewritten and a new song composed. I found the lyrics in the back of an old hymn book, and the lines, ‘make me understand’ really cried out to me. We often speak of the price Christ paid for us on the cross, but these words ask Him to make us understand that sacrifice. It’s mind blowing. Essentially we just wanted to worship. Here I am with my band The Second Mile Society performing a live take, recorded by Christy Mearns and Garry Boyle. This production was also made possible by working with my partner charity Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

The original lyrics:

Give me a sight, O Savior,
Of Thy wondrous love to me,
Of the love that brought Thee down to earth,
To die on Calvary.

Oh, make me understand it,
Help me to take it in,
What it meant to Thee, the Holy One,
To bear away my sin.

Was it the nails, O Savior,
That bound Thee to the tree?
Nay, ’twas Thine everlasting love,
Thy love for me, for me.

Oh, wonder of all wonders,
That through Thy death for me,
My open sins, my secret sins,
Can all forgiven be.

Then melt my heart, O Savior,
Bend me, yea, break me down,
Until I own Thee Conqueror,
And Lord and Sov’reign crown.”

This song was inspired by the original hymn composed and written by Katherine Kelly (1869-1942) and was then rearranged, rewritten and a new song composed. I found the lyrics in the back of an old hymn book, and the lines, ‘make me understand’ really cried out to me. We often speak of the price Christ paid for us on the cross, but these words ask Him to make us understand that sacrifice. It’s mind blowing. Essentially we just wanted to worship. Here I am with my band The Second Mile Society performing a live take, recorded by Christy Mearns and Garry Boyle. This production was also made possible by working with my partner charity Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

https://www.maf-uk.org

The original lyrics:

Give me a sight, O Savior,
Of Thy wondrous love to me,
Of the love that brought Thee down to earth,
To die on Calvary.

Oh, make me understand it,
Help me to take it in,
What it meant to Thee, the Holy One,
To bear away my sin.

Was it the nails, O Savior,
That bound Thee to the tree?
Nay, ’twas Thine everlasting love,
Thy love for me, for me.

Oh, wonder of all wonders,
That through Thy death for me,
My open sins, my secret sins,
Can all forgiven be.

Then melt my heart, O Savior,
Bend me, yea, break me down,
Until I own Thee Conqueror,
And Lord and Sov’reign crown.

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