31st December 2015
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!
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
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!
17th September 2015
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
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)
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!
8th July 2015
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!
29th April 2015
Another video of the brilliant group (I am biased of course), New Scottish Hymns, with their song ‘O Saviour of Sinners.’ It was an absolute pleasure to be part of this video.
A forthcoming hymn from Scottish hymn-writer, Greg de Blieck as part of the ministry New Scottish Hymns; seeking to encourage and equip the church with new songs and hymns.
Other songs, resources and concert dates can be found at the website – www.newscottishhymns.com
O Saviour of sinners, let voices unite
In praise of that excellent name
Let cares find their place – Our sins are erased!
For Jesus has died and has risen
O Saviour of sinners, now help us recall
The wonderful things you have done
God’s kingdom has dawned, so let us respond
To all the good gifts He has given
Just as the darkness retreats from the day
Let sinful indifference be driven away
Together we’ll stand, and raise up our hands
To praise Him in willing surrender
O Saviour of sinners, though hardly we knew
The wrath our rebellion deserved
You died in our place, then offered us grace
And life in its fullness – forever
O Saviour of sinners, no words are enough
To bring you the praise you deserve
Unmatchable worth! O light of the earth
The heavens are filled with Your glory
Just as the sun overpowers the grey
The clouds in our hearts shall be melted away
Forgiven we rise, so lift up your eyes
For God is our light and salvation
12th February 2015
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!
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
16th December 2013
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.