8th August 2016
Here’s the 3rd video from the Scottish Worship EP: ‘Give Thanks To God’. This is like a traditional metrical Psalm with a call and response from the leader and the congregation. Here’s what Pete Crockett, who co-wrote this song with Allan McKinlay, said about it:
Here’s a song myself and Allan have written based on psalm 136 and is intended to be a modern liturgical metric psalm.
I have used this form recently for prayer meetings where this liturgical form works well with the leader, or someone else singing/speaking a prayer and everyone else responding e.g.
Lord you have been so good to me
All – His never ending love is steadfast and sure
Where would I be Lord without you
All – Give thanks to God for he is good
It works completely acapella or with instruments
written by Allan McKinlay & Pete Crockett
14th December 2015
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!
31st August 2015
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.
31st July 2015
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)
- 5 stroke rolls
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!
22nd July 2015
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.”
25th January 2015
You’re the Shepherd’, taken from New Scottish Hymns Live Streaming Event, 24th January 2015.
Sheet Music, Lyrics and more information on the project can be found at www.newscottishhymns.com.
You’re the shepherd, we’re the sheep
You won’t slumber, though we sleep
Oh what love our saviour shows
To the little ones he knows
We are guilty, You are good
We fell short, but You withstood
For Your father’s holy name
You endured and overcame
We were helpless in our sin
You forgave and took us in
Though our hearts still turn from You
Yet with patience You pursue
You’re the teacher, we are taught
By Your precious blood we’re bought
You’re the healer we are healed
By Your cross our hope is sealed
We’re forgiven by Your blood
Orphans called as sons of God
Brought from darkness into light
Washed in red and clothed in white
Yours the triumph, Yours the throne
Praise and glory, Yours alone
Tongues of angels, songs of men
Let the heav’ns resound again
19th January 2015
My latest drum cover – Hillsong Y&F’s ‘Wake!’ Check it out!
10th April 2013
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.”
28th June 2012
I thought it was time for yet another interview about worship, again from a slightly different perspective. So I donned my ‘Parky’ hat and caught up with poet El Gruer just after the Church of Scotland Heart & Soul event to hear her thoughts about poetry and worship.
Firstly, I was really inspired and taken aback by your poetry and drama at the Church of Scotland Heart & Soul event. There was so much passion behind it. Where did that come from and why did you choose to do it in such a manner?
Every piece I write is immersed in prayer before-hand. I trust that the words are from God for his people and so I can’t help but be passionate about them. I chose to use the visual element in the Heart and Soul piece to keep the audience anchored in the simplicity of the message but to also do something a bit different that would hopefully help people connect to it and remember it.
How long have you been working with the band Awaken?
I do collaborations with different musicians/ bands/artists and solo pieces too. I have worked with different members of awaken over the past year but this was our first live collaboration with the full band and that particular piece.
Do you think that there’s a strong link between worship music and poetry and drama?
Worship overflows in so many different ways, I don’t think there is a definitive line between different art forms, where does poetry finish and songwriting begin? I think there is incredible power in bringing all types of creativity together in worship, it opens more of our senses to who God is. I love the body of Christ and am desperate to see people released in their gifting to bring him glory. I hope that what I do can in some small way encourage others to step out.
21st June 2012
It seems that with the last week or so I have not updated the website! Here is one thing to kick it started again…Interview taken from Christian.co.uk.
Brian Johnson has been leading worship since he was 17. He is the co-writer of some of the United States most popular worship songs including One Thing Remains and You Are Good.
He leads Bethel Church’s worship team and produced the church’s latest acoustic worship project: The Loft Sessions.
Brian lives in Redding, California with his wife Jenn and three children. He is the son of popular author and church leader, Bill Johnson.
1. What made you record The Loft Sessions as an acoustic project?
There’s so many live worship CDs right now and I just took a step back and thought we want to do something that shows the fun, raw, real and passionate elements of our worship. And show that it doesn’t have to be on a massive stage with lights. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before, but for us we were excited to do something different.
2. There’s a great acoustic vibe to the record. How would you describe the sound?