You and Your Drummer Can Understand Each Other
Ever been caught in a rehearsal or service where you and your drummer could not communicate? They have one idea, you have another. What do you do as a leader?
First, learn the language.
Every instrument has a method and a style of communication. Drums are no different. Speaking drum is not a second class engagement or a “do this / do that” madness. Your drummer is one of the most critical people of the worship band. Between the leader and the drummer, there should be a level of respect and esteem. I should know as both a worship leader and a Promark Endorsee Teacher for twenty years.
Recently, I spoke with a worship leader that was frustrated with their drummer. It was the kind of situation where he could not get what he wanted. And, the drummer was getting frustrated and the two of them began to rail each other.
I offered this advice: Get a book on drumming, Youtube some good well-known drummers such as Tony Williams, Jack Deshonette, Greg Bissonette, Buddy Rich, and Zoro the Drummer, and familiarize yourself with the instrument.
In the first article of this series, I presented a medium sized kitchen sink of terms with explanation of equipment and purposes. In this article, I’ll talk about styles and effects, starting with the Hi-Hat.
Generic Styles for Hi-Hat
Fast Rock – closed, sizzle or open hat
Medium Rock / Pop / Country – closed and sizzle fills
Ballad – closed and sizzle
Anthem – Sizzle or Slosh
Jazz – Foot Pedal / Along with Snare on back beats
R&B/Gospel – various closed to open patterns
Snare – the middle drum of the kit, between the high-hat and kick – center to the drummer.
Edge of the Head – playing on the edge is used for crescendos, high tonal qualities, drags/rolls and ghost notes (Ghost notes are subtle small notes that are played, but rather felt than heard on the snare as well as high-hat. It’s an effect and used for creating texture – listen to any James Brown tune.)
Middle Head – playing this area also is used for ghost notes, rolls as well as brushes.
Center Head – played with stick in dead center to produce a full body sound
Side Snare or Rim – played as an effect – shell of the drum, lugs or rims to produce high pitch percussive textures
Strainers – the coils you flip “on” or “off” on the bottom head of the snare drum that creates the buzz
Cross Rim – the wood-sounding click that’s produced between the stick and palm over the snare drum
Generic Styles for Snare
(example time signature is 4/4)
Ballads / Rock / Pop / Country – edge to center to cross rim
Jazz and R&B – all variations of edge and stick combinations to produce the desired tone. Played in Grooves resulting in playing whole, half, and quarters notes. Eights and sixteenths are for mainly fills.
Standard: Rock / Pop Styles: 2 & 4 back beats or only on the 4th beat
Motown / Rock: all quarters 1,2,3,4
Jazz / R&B: brushes, light sticks, edge of drum and center, multi-rhythms and effects
Reggae: on the 1 or 3 – Sly Family Stone / Bob Marley
Latin Basic: 2/3 or 3/2 clave patterns: 1,2 – 1,2,3 or 1,2,3 – 1,2 (endless combinations)
Kick – same as bass drum (“kick” is a studio term to disassociate from the bass guitar)
Foot Pedal – the device that is operated by the foot ti a heel to toe rocking motion – that swings the drum beater to the head
Soft Kick – Pressing the foot pedal softly against the head to produce soft volumes and for ghost notes
Medium Kick – Medium pressure of the foot for common bass drum patterns – medium to loud volumes
Hard Kick – use for accents or effects
Wooden Mallet – very bright and solid sound
Soft Mallet – soft and damp sound
Rubber Mallet – hard to medium attack
Medium Felt – common medium all purpose beater
Common Generic Styles for Kick
(example time signature is 4/4)
Simple Kick Pattern – On 1 (whole note) every bar (or played every two bars)
Standard – 1 and 3
Pop – 1, & of 2’, 3
Rock or Dance (Four on the Floor) – all quarters: 1,2,3,4
Toms – the medium shallow to deep shelled drums that produce a tonal/non-snare sound. They are placed according to the drummers comfortability and reach (same goes for all drum stands, cymbals and equipment).
Rack Toms – drums usually placed over the kick drum, between the crash and ride cymbals. They are to be placed within the drummer’s reach and comfortable for the wrists and arms. These drums are pitched/tuned about 2-3 steps apart (or as desired), for mid to high tones.
Floor Toms – generally to the drummers right side (right players), adjacent to the rack toms, but a bit lower – about the same height of the snare. These drums are tuned down, for a lower pitched tone. A good pitch separation between rack toms and floor toms is a common practice.
Edge – like snare: for tonal effects, crescendos and dynamics
Middle – common striking area
Generic Styles for Toms: fills – multi-purpose from simple to complicated
Notes: It is better to keep fills at a minimum to secure solid drum groove (same for crashes) – not every 4 or 8 bars.
Less is more
Crash – Commonly made out of brass and alloy, hand hammered or stock produced, multiple circumference sizes and thin to thick measurements.
Like drum heads, the thicker and wider produce dark and heavy sounds; smaller and thinner sizes produce light and brighter sounds. They are usually placed overhead, just off to the left of the snare and hi-hat, and just right of lower toms (right handed drummer placement / opposite for lefties).
Edge – the common struck area to play: on song section markings: downbeat of measures, sections or after fills
Generally, drummers strike a crash with a drum kick accent simultaneously to produce that “punch” effect.
Middle – the area to play for light textures and rolls
Side – for effects when the shoulder of the drum stick hits the very side-edge of the cymbal for a pipe-sounding “ting” effect
Soft Rolls – played with mallets or shoulder side of the stick to produce cymbal swells
Hard Rolls – played with edge of sticks or tips for dramatic loud effects – or to injure the elderly
Tip Rolls – texture uses that can mimic Ride cymbal patterns
Wash – hit with the shoulder side of the stick against the heavy edge of the cymbal for a dark tone – better on larger sizes
Shimmer – light rolls on the tips of the sticks for effects
Ride the Crash – using the crash cymbal in replacement for ride patterns – used for rock or anthem styles
Generic Styles for Crashes: Marking Song Sections: Verse, Chorus, etc., Drum Fills (use sparingly: 8-16 bars)
Ride – This is the larger cymbal that hangs over to the right of the kit (right players), placed just over the floor tom, or in another comfortable reach for the player. This cymbal also has an enlarged crown in the center known as the “bell.” This cymbal is unlike the crash, as it has a ping percussive brass sound.
Edge – this is the cymbal’s outer surface that produces most of the tone and ring from the cymbal.
Shoulder / Ping – this is the normal playing area, about 3-4 inches from the edge. The shoulder possess a balance between a tone and a bell sound, producing a “ping”.
Bell – this is the crown area that bulges out from the middle and top of the cymbal. When heard, it produces a bell sound that is commonly used in punctuating musical sections.
Wash – this is a sound when you hit the very edge of the ride with the shoulder of the stick. It makes a very wide whoosh sound.
Chain – this is a drum accessory that provides the sizzle effect like a partly opened hi-hat, but for the ride. It is actually a little chain made out of metal or brass links or beads to create a rattle or buzz quality, and is typically used in Jazz music.
Generic Styles for Ride
The Ride is often used as a playing pattern area, again for the Chorus and Bridge song sections. In combination of strikes between the shoulder and bell, this sound is unmistakable and adds color to the song. You may play quazi hi-hat patterns on the ride, as it is controlled by the same strong hand of the hi-hat.
Playing textures on the ride offer a variety forms of use to widen the song and add sparkle to the band mix.
Now you know the parts of the kit. Add your music terminology of what you want and your drummer will appreciate your knowledge! Saying things like: “give us more of the floor tom here in 8th notes” or “will you play four on the floor on the kick and 2 & 4 on the snare.” Easy!
Now go and make beautiful drum music as you worship as one church and one team.