Three things to work on in lockdown- drummer edition

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Psalm 33:3

If you’ve got some extra time on your hands then why not invest it wisely. Develop your skills as a drummer so you’re more equipped for when we meet together as church again. Here are a few ideas of things you could practice.

You can do these even if you don’t have access to a drum kit. Dust off the djembe or crack out the cajon. Even just practice with your hands and knees!

Practice drumming more simply

That’s a boring one to start with. Maybe… but that doesn’t mean it’s not important!

We want to play whatever is going to help people to sing. We don’t want to distract the congregation from praising God and encouraging each other. The simple fact is that often means playing simply. If you don’t believe me just listen to some live recordings (like this one) and pay attention to the drummer.

How long can you play a four-on-the-floor groove for? Have you got the discipline to play it for an entire song? Go and try it. Play along with your favourite song and see if you have the self control to only play one simple beat for the whole thing.

Here’s another way to practice simplicity. Start a stopwatch and start playing a groove. You’re only allowed to play a fill every 16 bars. See how long you can last. It’s surprisingly difficult.

By all means practice your ‘flamadiddles’ and your ‘ratamacues’. But try drumming simply for extended periods of time. I promise it will pay off.

Practice drumming with a metronome

I suggest that a band should spend at least as much time deciding what tempo to play a song as they do deciding which key to play it in. A song could be pitch perfect but if it’s too slow or too fast then people won’t sing. And they’ll struggle even more if the tempo changes mid-song.

As drummers we are supposed to keep time. We are that rock solid foundation on which the rest of the music can be built. We need to be able to keep a constant tempo as best as we can.

Question: Have you ever practiced with a metronome? If so, how often?

Here is a two step guide to practicing with a metronome. Step 1: download a metronome app. Step 2: start the metronome and play everything you already know.

Try to “bury” the metronome with your drumming, playing exactly on top of the click. Counting out loud as you practice will help massively.

As you’re playing with the metronome try different tempos. Do you notice that you struggle with anything in particular? Are you better at quick or slow tempos? Do you lose time when playing fills? Try and critique your drumming as you practice. It can be brutal, but record yourself drumming and watch it back. You’ll soon spot your mistakes.

You might have to play with a backing track one day, so practicing with a metronome will stand you in good stead. Either way we can all work on our timing.

Practice drumming and singing

We drum in order to lead people in singing to their Saviour. If we can sing whilst we are drumming then we set a fine example.

Now obviously this can be tricky. A drummer’s voice has been described as their ‘fifth limb’. I’ve already got four limbs doing stuff, now you want me to add a fifth?!

Give it a go. Practice singing and drumming simultaneously. Multi-tasking like this is going to be much simpler if you can put one of the tasks on auto-pilot. So start simple and sing a song you know well over an easy drum beat.

This is another reason to play simply as you’ll have more capacity to sing at the same time. I’d also suggest learning the lyrics to the songs your church sings. Hopefully you have a list you can access. Knowing the lyrics will help you sing whilst you drum (and praise the Lord on top of all of that!)

On a Sunday, even though you’re sitting down and might be partially hidden behind the guitarist, people are watching you. You are leading by example.

I pray that as you practice some of this that you’ll develop in your skill and serve your church family more effectively, all to God’s glory.

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