I’ve been drumming about once a month at my church, and loving it! I’ve probably played drums at church for over 25 years (yikes!). And I’ve played drums at quite a few churches (because of moves to different cities, etc).
I’ve also lead (guitar and singing) at a few churches too – so I know what I like in a worship drummer from a couple of different angles!
So here are 6 tips for Worship Team Drummers that I’ve picked up over the years:
- Play for the song. Listen to the CD version of the song, and play your own version of that part. Nail a similar beat and feel. Add in the hooks (i.e., the floor tom on Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons, for example). If you do drum fills, make them simple. Your goal is to NOT confuse non-musical people. Which leads me to #2…
- Play for the congregation. You’re there to keep the song going, and to help people connect with God. Not to show off flashy fills. If people want to clap on 2 and 4, don’t mess that up with funky syncopated beats. If people know the song, they’ve heard it on the radio or Spotify … so play what they expect to hear. Your job is to blend in. Not to stick out. When you purposefully show off your amazing skills, you stick out. Which means that you are distracting people from worshiping God. Be the solution, not the problem.
- Follow the leader. Yes, you need to sync with the bass and the band. But you also need to hear and follow the worship leader. Preferably their instrument. So if you can only get one thing in your monitors, make sure it’s the leader’s guitar or keyboard. Because that’s what you need to follow. You’ll hear the peaks and valleys better, and be able to anticipate where the leader is going if you follow their instrument, because they will usually lead into where they’re going next, a few bars before they actually get there vocally.
- Watch your tempo. Practice with a metronome or click of some sort. At different speeds. Nail that tempo! I’ve actually played to a click at a previous church, where loops and other time-based stuff were really important. Easiest way to do this? Treat the click like another instrument (although a really boring one), and it will come pretty easy.
- Watch your volume. Here’s a hint – if your church has built a cage around you, you are playing too loud. So … stop hitting so hard! Also, experiment with thinner sticks, different drum heads, different sizes of drums, thinner cymbals, etc. Maybe even change up part of the song. Learn to play a driving beat at half-volume. It’s definitely possible!
- Turn the snares off! Just a picky little thing that the pastor will love. When you’re done playing, turn the snares off. That way they won’t buzz when the pastor is talking.
What would you add? Let me know!