In modern worship, like other musical genres, we have to constantly adapt to the trends that are unfolding. The biggest mistake we could make, as musician/drummers, is to refuse to expand our skill set. Let’s look at a few ideas that are prevalent in the worship drum world. Actually, these ideas aren’t that new anymore. We’ve been hearing these drum concepts quite a bit. OK, here we go!
Because of the simplicity of the normal worship song styles we’ve been challenged to come up with different tones or colors to make drum parts more interesting. There are now several YouTube videos that even mock the few patterns a drummer needs to know to play worship drums. I even have a video on the essential grooves for worship called “Drum Grooves For Worship.” My intent was not to over simplify, but to give drummers a foundation to build on. The art and essence of every song is in the details. Mockery doesn’t help anyone… but I won’t turn this into a sermon on that. If you can’t play simply and with passion, then just don’t play. OK… I’ll move on.
Riding the floor tom
Yes, everyone does this. So many songs in the worship catalog have the ride pattern, not on a hi-hat or cymbal, but on the floor tom. My best recommendation for this is to be sure to tune it down as low as it will go before it sounds “flappy.” Use a double-ply head on top, a medium weight on the bottom, and tune way down. Muffle according to the resonance you want to control, and you’ve got it. Depending on the drum (a standard is 16” X 16”) the fundamental pitch should be a low B or even down to an A or G if it will go that low. Just find where the drum still “speaks” well at a low pitch and be sure it’s not out of tune (resonating between pitches – half flat or half sharp). Riding on 8th or 16th note patterns, while throwing in accents as the song needs, is what we hear most of the time.
One great example is the song “Cornerstone.”
*There are tons of other examples on YouTube. Listen and learn!!
Riding the snare or playing cadences
This is also a cool way to build energy into a song. Using a snare cadence isn’t really that new of an idea, but in modern worship it has become the signature feel for many tunes. I hope you have a solid grasp of rudimental drumming. Steady single stroke rolls are a must. Also, using the “numbered rolls” is important. i.e. – 5, 7, 9 stroke rolls, etc. – Here’s link to Vertical Church Band playing “Found In You”
And a look at a 5-stroke roll approach on Paul Baloche’s “We Are Saved.”
Riding the rims
You can also play any of the rims of the drums as you choose for a ride option. This can be seen in the previous clip from Vertical Church Band. He’s using the rack tom rim. It’s an idea I also used in conjunction with a loop we used on Paul Baloche’s “Our God Saves.” I used the snare rim to play that pattern.
There are some other drum cover videos that are pretty close, even using the tom rim. Sorry, there wasn’t a drum cam on Paul’s live version.
You can also use tambourines, blocks, trash can lids, cardboard boxes, stacked cymbals, ribbon crashers… etc. Anything can become an option for new sounds when looking for something fresh to create that subdivided ride pattern. Going beyond actual instruments or “non-instrument” items to hit, don’t forget the digital sampling option. A multi-pad is now a common tool for many drummers. I’ve mentioned them before when writing about hybrid drum kits. I encourage everyone at clinics, seminars, and in private lessons to make it a priority to invest in the digital technology that is available today. A multi-pad with a great library of samples and your laptop with extra music software is an endless resource for sounds to utilize in your modern drumming.
Be bold and fearless in your growth as a drummer/musician. Embrace the challenge and enjoy the discovery of new sounds. You’ll be amazed at how it will inspire your playing and inspire your team as you expand your musical production chops. BUT, as always… Keep it grooving! Peace, Carl