things you need to be a better worship drummer.
by Jake Wiseman
1. An Unshakeable Groove
As a drummer, you are “driving the bus.” The band is following you for tempo, feel, cues, and dynamic changes. If you want to be a better worship drummer, focus on achieving an unshakeable groove. I suggest avoiding fills until your part is solid and comfortable. Fills are a great tool for adding character to your grooves, but if you haven’t put the work in to develop your feel, the fancy stuff can throw you and your bandmates off, disrupting the worship. There are many ways to work on this, but from my experience, playing for church is the best way. I started drumming during worship services in 2009, and have continued regularly since then. When I joined the team, I was only about 12 years old. At this point in my life, I only heard worship music on Sundays, and didn’t know much of it as a result. This was an important aspect of my development because it pushed me to explore the world of worship music on my own, with the added bonus of fostering a personal relationship with God. I was also in an environment where I was able to play with musicians on a weekly basis. This allowed me to develop listening skills, an understanding of the overall feel and how to feed off of, and influence, others in a group. All of these things take time. It was five years of playing in the worship team before I started touring with musicians outside of my church. What makes the difference is your effort to work on the small things that seem less important.
2. A “Team Player” Attitude
Being a team player is important, not just in worship drumming, but for being a musician. Creating music is a group activity, similar to sports. You have to work together with your bandmates to make the most musical decisions, ultimately enhancing the worship experience. Don’t be afraid to ask the worship leader, “Are you happy with what I’m playing here?” or, “Can we try changing the feel at this section?” You should also welcome suggestions from your other bandmates. As important as it is to talk through parts with the band, let them know that if they have any issues with what you’re doing or want to suggest that you try something different, they can and should. Listen closely to what the other musicians in the group are doing. Drummers and bassists especially, listen to each other. Bass guitar & kick drum are sonically best friends, so be sure to lock in with one another. If this doesn’t come naturally for you, pull the bassist aside before the rehearsal starts to discuss how you hear or feel certain songs.
3. A Worshipful Headspace
The biggest struggle for most worship musicians is remembering where we should be focused. It isn’t about you. Whether you deal with insecurities behind the kit or feelings of pride, worship drumming is all about ushering the congregation into the presence of God. It is easy to lose sight of the primary goal; we all deal with this. I have personally struggled with keeping my heart in the right place. I often wrestle with these thoughts when I am playing with a worship team. As challenging as it is, it is imperative to remember that you are a servant doing the work of God. Spending time in prayer before you play is just one way you can clear your head for a service. Another way to put yourself in a worshipful headspace is to sing as you drum. Singing and drumming is a challenge, and might take time to become comfortable, but if we believe that the focus of our music is the lyrics, we should know them. In turn, the best way to worship through song is to sing the words, making those statements for yourself. By singing and drumming, you are recognizing what the song is claiming at any given moment, which strengthens your worship, and heightens your impact on the worship of others.