Monday, September 19, 2011

DiW: What to play?

Having had a look at why we use drums in worship, here's some thoughts on how to approach playing drums in worship:

As drummers, if we are aiming to play our part (pun intended) in leading people in worshipping God, then I think it's important to be deliberate about what we play, when we play it and what it achieves.

When I'm learning a new song, or writing a part for a new song or new arrangement, I have a few things to consider. They are not so much hard and fast rules, especially the first, but here we go anyway.

Original Arrangement?

With just about any kind of church based drumming this is a key question. Most church music I play (and have heard) requires you to learn someone elses drum part. Be it the classic (and somewhat predictable) Hillsong 16th note highhat/8th note kick drum/ cool tom pattern stuff, or the smoothed out, well produced (and somewhat uninteresting) Soul Survivour offerings or the almost chaotic, unstructured Jesus Culture coolness.

I should probably add that although I may describe these styles in less than flattering ways, they are all good and valid in their own context, especially those that are designed to be copied. Yes, believe it or not, some parts are written in such a way as to make them more easy for other drummers to play!

(Please bear in mind that I'm talking about the kinds of churches I would play in, which is just a small fragment of what's going in in the UK, let alone the World.)

If I'm learning someone else's part, I have to listen to it, or watch it (Youtube, yey!). Dissect it, decide what I can play given the other points, practice it and job done.

Writing new parts, or new arrangement probably needs it's own post.

What energy level?

Fast? Slow? Powerful? Majestic? Cool? Haunting? Emotional? Shouty? Minimal?

Someone is in charge. Someone can tell you what energy level the song it meant to be. Your playing, and that of all the other musicians involved, should match that. Bringing me to my next thought....

Other instruments?

Who else is playing? What do they contribute? Playing in your own space, whilst creating space for others to play, is a key musical skill in any genre. So make space!

As a key part of the rhythm section, you have a responsibility to bring rhythm, dynamics and energy to a piece of music. If you're playing with a bass player, you need to work with them to create the rhythm section part. Sometimes you'll play the same rhythm, sometimes you'll each play different things to create something together and sometimes one of you will create the bedrock for the other to play on top of.

Just work out in advance who's doing what!

Ostinato gone mad?

In music, an ostinato is a motif or phrase which is persistently repeated in the same musical voice.

This is a personal obsession of mine.

Most songs I end up playing have a repeating structure. Verse, Chorus, Bridge plus maybe some other made up bits like 'tag', 'pre-chorus'. My approach to these is to decide what each piece should be like and to STICK TO IT!  
By doing this you're creating an accessible structure that those who you are leading can get to grips with much more easily and to be honest it's less distracting. I'm pretty sure you don't want to be distracting, right?

And finally.......Dynamics

I could say a lot about dynamics, again it probably requires a post of it's own. So for now I'll just add this:

Once you've figured out what pattern, feel and fills you want to play, be aware that you can play them all at differing volumes and with heavy or light feels.

And  don't forget the why!

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