You can download the PDF of this resource here.
Your role as a drummer or percussionist should always be to provide a steady backbeat that keeps the band and congregation in time, helping them to express their praise and worship and get closer to God. Worship should be corporate, inclusive and intimate. As a drummer your approach to playing the song will need to reflect these.
Keep it simple and consistent
Keep your focus on complementing the rest of the band, providing a steady consistent beat. Fills are great at appropriate times in a song to add extra interest, but make sure to play within your ability and land on the beat. That’s your job! The focus should not be on you - our focus of worship is always God so we have to be sensitive to the fact there is a danger that in our playing, we can become a distraction to people’s worship. Worship should be about the groove rather than what drum fills you use on a particular song, about a steady beat that fits well rather than calling attention to ourselves.
Practice is key
Develop your skills at home - Rudiments!, playing to a click track to help with keeping time, playing to different time signatures, adding texture and dynamics which means knowing when to use light and shade and not playing everything at one volume. Try adding other percussion to your kit to develop a vocabulary of sounds you can worship with.
Drumming is not about the drums! These are just the tools that you use to express your worship and the joy that God has placed on your heart. Your playing should always be a response from your heart and to bring this sense of joy through your playing. Developing a ‘heart to drum’ - Psalm 33 encourages us to play skillfully although this word is translated from the Hebrew ‘Sakal’ which as well as developing the technical skill and vocabulary also means; to play with a heart open to God’s spirit, with wisdom, understanding, obedience, consideration, sensitivity, patience, passion and authority!
Listen to the rest of the band
Don’t overplay. Familiarise yourself with the music and words before your band rehearsal and work out your drum part and how you should respond differently through the verse, chorus and bridge section. Spend time with the sound engineer before you start playing and discuss what you need in your monitor mix. You are one of several musicians in the band and you might want to hear certain instruments and the vocal lead louder than other parts. If you are playing behind a drum screen this balance of sound is even more important so also check the worship leader and other band members can also hear you in their mix.
Use a range of sticks, hot rods and brushes to add texture to your feel and play. Always spend time working on the arrangement - space, silence, tone, feel, will always add richness to your playing. Know the tempo of the song. Even if you don’t play to a click you will often be required to click the band in.
Make the bass player your best friend
Drums and bass go hand in hand, after all you’re both members of the rhythm section and you need to play as one unit - this is key to the feel and dynamic of the sound you create as a band. There are as many drummer jokes as there are bass player jokes so learn to play together and spend time talking about your parts and how they compliment each other in a particular song. You need the bass player close to you and most often positioned on the side of the kit you have positioned your hi-hat, so you’re automatically looking at them when you’re playing a beat on the hats.
Resources & links:
www.psalmdrummers.org A network of Christian Drummers
www.musicademy.co.uk Extensive resources for training the worship team
Book - A heart to Drum - Available on Amazon - Values and authority for playing drums in worship, written by Terl Bryant, founder of Psalm Drummers