Christianity is growing worldwide and the churches are multiplying and growing at the same time. Often in churches, leaders do not have a clear idea of how to form a worship team and this gets even worse when we talk about choosing a drummer for the worship team. Getting to know and understand how to play drums for church is vital in order to have a functional team that knows how to move according to the Holy Spirit.
Drums are a fundamental instrument that supports all of the music. A drummer has the power to make a song sound good or awful, especially when it comes to playing in a church context.
Let’s look at the principles of drumming in a church context, and what we need to know and realize when playing there.
Playing in church vs a secular context
For many believers, asking how to play drums for church wouldn’t make much sense. They might think it was merely a matter of the drummer playing quietly or loudly. But for those who are involved in worship ministry, they know how important the role of the drummer is. So what is the difference between playing drums in church or playing them in any other context?
Playing in church has to meet some criteria. Here are the requirements that a drummer who plays in a worship team should have:
- Being born again – without the Holy Spirit it’s impossible to understand the purpose of the worship team since the concept of worship is not present
- Being intimate with God – we cannot lead others in the presence of God if we first do not know how to get there
- Having a servant’s heart – the purpose of the worship team is to serve God
- Understand that what is being done on stage has a spiritual effect – The drummer should be aware of the role of music as a prophetic tool.
- Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit – each member of the worship band should have an idea of where the Holy Spirit wants to guide them
Playing in any other context is still important, but the difference is that in a church context it’s not only about making the music sound good. It’s also about being prophetic with the instrument and knowing how to express a message to God or from God through an instrument; in our case, through the drums.
Who should play in church?
One of the purposes of the church is to make disciples, and we need to have grace with one another. What do I mean by grace? Having criteria for choosing a drummer is good, but at the same time, reaching those standards can be the goal of a longer journey. I would welcome a drummer who is new in his faith but who has a teachable character and is willing to grow and learn how to play drums for church.
I have seen many churches losing young people because of strict, legalistic rules. It’s good to have high standards, however, we can’t neglect love and grace, or forget that we need to make disciples. If we want to reach such a goal, we need to start where the people are, helping them to rise to the calling they have and also to the standards we are teaching them. This process requires love and patience.
I would mostly define who should be part of the team based on the person’s calling and their willingness to learn and improve.
The role of the drummer in worship
Drums hold all the music together by giving the beat and dictating the dynamics. Although drums usually do not have a melodic role, they are very important in giving the right taste and flavor to a song. If there are some spontaneous moments of worship, the drummer needs to discern when to build up the song or when to stop playing.
The drums have a back leadership role in the band, meaning that the drummer needs to support and make the other instruments and voices stand out. Knowing how to play drums for church means understanding how to support the other members by creating the right dynamics and atmosphere for what the Holy Spirit wants to do in that specific time.
There are some cases when God uses the drummer to lead a specific time during worship. Usually, these times are intense and can lead to a breakthrough, or to changing the spiritual atmosphere. In any case, the drummer has to be sensitive to when its time to get out of the way and not become the protagonist, always moving in submission to what the Holy Spirit wants to do.
If we feel that God is leading us to take initiative, we have to make sure that the other members of the band are following us and that we are not leading in a different way from the main worship leader. Our job is always to serve. Unity in the team is always fundamental. So let’s be sure that we are respecting the roles within the band without creating division or misunderstanding.
Always walk in humility.
The importance of technique
One important thing we need to realize is that having a good technique and wide vocabulary in our drumming will definitely help us to better express ourselves. Among worship leaders, there is the common mindset that the only thing that matters is our heart and how we are able to follow God’s guidance. I honestly agree with these statements, but I believe they are incomplete and can be misleading.
Our focus should be on the Holy Spirit and the motivation of our hearts, but not having a good technique will limit us in our expression. We want to be able to freely express the message. It’s like a painter who paints with only a few colors because he thinks that the others are unimportant. Of course, God can use anything to communicate, but if we want to be serious, we need to enlarge our drum vocabulary.
Understanding how to play drums for church also includes knowing how to nurture our artistic expression without forgetting the main spiritual part.
How to play drums for church – being led by the Spirit
Knowing how to play drums in church comes from experience and intimacy with God. Developing a sensitivity to God’s voice is very important, and, at the same time, comes naturally since we were designed for it.
Here are some guidelines that will help in developing this sensitivity:
- When playing, don’t just play the song – Listen to the band and keep asking God where He wants to take you.
- Do not be afraid of going off the rails – We will never develop this sensitivity if we don’t dare to play freely. (I suggest trying it first during practice times.)
- We communicate through feelings – Being able to express a feeling through our instrument is fundamental.
- In times of silence, ask God where he wants to go next – Don’t rush to change until the time is ready.
- Make sure everybody is on the same page – Give small signals, do little variations, or gradually change the dynamics in order to understand if the other members are sensing the same thing as the drummer. If everyone seems to be on the same page, one can assume that God is taking the band in that direction. However, if the band does not follow, do not force anything. Move in unity.
- Learn how to replicate a feeling with the drums – Learn how to communicate with the instrument.
Tension and resolution
Part of knowing how to play drums for church is in one’s ability to create tension and resolve it.
Here are some small tips on how to apply tension and resolution on drums:
- Displacing a note or doing any kind of modulation gives tension
- Playing on the beat resolves and opens up the song
- Dragging the time gives a sense of big and fat. Instead, the opposite will create tension giving a tight feeling
- The fewer notes we play, the more open and big the sound is
Knowing how to play drums for church comes down to understanding how to partner with God in our executions. Here, I’ve given some guidelines that have helped me in my journey. Maybe your path will look different. In any case, the love for God should always be our fuel. Us giving our best will be a response to such love.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to ask any questions or to leave a comment below.
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