Together in Time
Being a drummer myself, I know the determination and effort it takes to help your musicianship and band
As much as it can depend on the drummer alone, I strongly encourage private lessons, practice time, and working with a metronome (click track). Your drummer can work in a vacuum, if they are not working on other skills for growth. I have heard many o’ drummer say, “my practice and/or instruction time is at band rehearsal.” This is not being real. Rehearsal time is not practice time.
The rehearsal time with your church band is for your church band (worship team), not for the drummer (or any other player’s) “practice time.” When you come together for rehearsal, you are rehearsing the whole entire sound of the band and the songs. Rehearsing the overall big picture is much stronger and more important in the preparation for your singers and congregation.
Individual practice time is done at home. I have also heard, like you, “I don’t have the time to practice at home.” I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but if you cannot find the time to practice at home, you are not best serving your band and church.
All of us are busy; this is no longer a valid excuse. Finding time to practice, even if it’s 10 minutes a day, is doing everything in your power to better equip your team. For example, if you are on a volunteer sports team, you’re always practicing your skill and position at other times, rather than on the team’s practice day. You show up and know your part. God honors our self-discipline, commitment, and dedication in our team settings.
It is important for all drummers to learn how to play different volume levels and tempos. It takes a lot of control for any musician to practice soft volumes at slow tempos; this well defines a musician at having superior control over his or her instrument. With this in mind, the drummer needs to use the right tools for the right musical settings.
Drum grooves are not always 4 on the floor rock beats. The drummer’s job is to maintain pulse and timing for the rhythm section. This could be as simple as a single high hat groove, a little kick for punch and a bit of snare for accents. Timing is everything. The best bands are the ones who can play clean and in time, every time.
Again, the bigger picture is involved where the band supports the singers. Any time the band’s volume overrides the singer(s), the congregation will have a more difficult time a catching the lyrics.
Being a worship leader myself, I understand the importance of getting what you want from the drummer
All in all, you want to have drummers play with their strengths. Let’s say your drummer has a strong right-hand, but a very weak left hand. Have the drummer play the high hat and kick drum, with limited snare. Another scenario could be that your drummer has both strong right and left hands, but their feet coordination tell a different story. In this case, have the drummer play with both hands and limited foot action on the bass.
Another example, let’s say both feet and hands work well together, but they’re only used to playing one tempo. What do you do? Who says you have to have drums play on every song?
In working with inexperienced drummers, I’ve had them play shaker or some other hand percussion parts just to hold down the time. We would resort to other percussion instruments on similar slow or medium songs. As we would do faster songs, the drummer would switch back to his kit.
As they continued to practice at home, the alternation of percussion and drums worked to our advantage for style, color, and sound variations. I have found that it’s better to look for the positive opportunities in being creative instead of deciding that things can’t be done.
Lastly there is the issue of the availability of your drummer. As I said before, the band is a team effort. If your drummer (or any other band member) has commitment issues, this needs to be addressed first outside of rehearsal. The team is for the greater good, not for the silo of one. The drummer’s part is essential to the worship band. However, negative attitudes and personalities are not healthy to the team (no one is critical).
Let’s say your drummer, being a committed team player, travels often and is not able to play every week. In today’s world this is common. In this case, pick songs where drums are not much of a requirement, use a drum machine, or train a singer to play hand percussion like shaker or something similar. You are only able to do what you can accomplish reasonably by manpower. When drums are not an option, there is nothing wrong with completely redoing a worship set to make it more acoustic driven. Be creative and vary up the worship band sound occasionally.
Don’t get locked in to the idea that you cannot accomplish a full sound without a drummer – or that you can’t work with the one you have. Bottom line, do what it takes. There is plenty of enjoyment that music diversity can bring. Be as open-minded as possible and try new things; it will bring refreshment to your band and ministry and more importantly, to your congregation. Always remember who the worship is for: our Lord.