To all you wonderful drummers out there - please don't take this the wrong way because we can't do without you, and I mean this more in fun than a criticism: Do all drummers feel that as soon as they sit behind the drums they have to pick up the sticks and start playing, very loudly, no matter what is going on around them? All conversation has to stop, the guitarists have to stop tuning, because the drummer can't sit without playing. It's like an itch that needs scratching. We have very talented drummers (and I love them dearly, honestly!) but they all seem to have this inability to control the urge to play, and they drown everything else out. They don't want electronic drums because they won't be able to 'express themselves'. So - are all drummers like this?
Some of the best drummers that I have ever played with are progressive rock drummers that played in many odd time signitures. Not too appropriate for worship music but the most talented none the less. What you want to look for in a great drummer is someone who can keep rhythm and time perfectly, someone that has good talent for timing. Playing with a metronome is really key here. The bassist and drummer are the foundation of any band so these two need to keep time and have good rhythm. it is up to the guitarist, piano and vocals to really come up with the harmonies and melodies.
Having a good drummer is the rock of the band believe it or not. If the drummer can't keep good time, it all falls apart.
You have to stay in time and be in sync with the other members of your band. Good idea is to practice with a metronome and everyone take ear training classes together.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
- Winston Churchill
Do you really want to keep rhythm and time perfectly? Why?
By 'perfect' do you mean so that the tempo never gives, never intensifies or relaxes with the feeling of the music? (If so, then "equal" beats such as a metronome produces are not perfection).
A flight of geese is sheer perfection, yet within are birds moving forward and falling back; and who could fail to find perfection in the swoop of a hundred birds suddenly banking on a turn, the rhythms of which cannot possibly be measured with a machine.
Now metronomes do have value, and they look very attractive sitting on a piano. But they were originally made not to rule music, but only give musicians a fair idea of the tempo of a piece, or give a reality check to a musician who has a habit of racing or lagging behind.
Perhaps you know how to live and thrive under the tyrrany of that... ticking thing and still keep your sanity and love for music. And certainly the rhythmic sense of a drummer is key to the success of any group of musicians.
Perfect timing isn't metronomic rigidity but it is about control. Playing with a great drummer is much more exhilarating than playing with a metronome but I don't think there are many great drummers who aren't more than able to play with and around a metronomic tick when they want to.
I've worked with great drummers who could play rhythm clean as a clock, but had different degrees of ability to play against the comings and goings of singers and other musicians. Some respond to rubato by saying "you're throwing me off!" and others revel in the intertwining of vocal and instrumental rhythms.
As one who leads singing from a keyboard, I naturally tend to favor the drummer who is good at flexing with the breath and flow of singers. If I were a drummer, of course, I would not care to play with a keyboardist or singer who arbitrarily changes rhythm and tempo (particularly with no warning).
I've observed generally that a director can move a group of singers or wind/string instruments faster or slower with just the wave of a hand. To adjust the tempo for pianists and guitars, you need more forceful gestures (they have to readjust the clack-clack of their own sound mechanisms). Since a drummer hears way more of himself than anyone, and the sound is so pointed, it is extremely difficult for a vocal leader to do anything (hence, worship teams often have to work out, in detail, even the expected ritard at the end of a song).
The individual abilities and personalities you have may dictate how free or rigid your music may be. When I don't have a drummer, and if the lead vocalist is insecure, I will play steady as a rock, providing the most comfortable, predicatble matrix I can -- in effect, I am leading the leader! If the leader is an Alpha, I will take on the role of a Beta. In one's own group, the decision must be made (not always in words, but by consensus and hopefully in the Spirit) as to who ultimately determines the beat of a song.
I have been guilty of this and I am not a drummer. The last church I was at I found myself on platform before the service playing a piece of music I was feeling nervous about and realized I had just played right over our 73 year old pianist who is a lovely lady that showed up early to play some "mood music". I felt like a real insensitive heel and never did that again. I guess sometimes we just get a little too focused for our own good.
Now I am in a new church, no longer the "boss" so I am relating to the drummer on new footing. I don't think he liked me much at first because I did have to say over and over that I could not hear my instrument (pennywhistle) over the drums. It seems like that was frustrating him some but what do you you do? The sound system is not the best but you have to hear what you are playing. I am pretty sure that strange new wind instrument at a high pitch was maybe driving him nuts but I think he was trying to be patient with the change. We finally began to smile at each other though when we came to some camaraderie over the "I really hate flags in church" issue so maybe that is a start. (We both think they are distracting to us as musicians, especially for me as I have been hit in the face so I really do lose my focus when people come into the body and start waving them right in front of me).
Hmm - i drum ... i think its a toooo-focused-need-to-grow-up-a-bit-boy thing. Just before i start playing i still get a bit 'twitchy' ... but now i recognise it so i can do something about it... this can also be a 'warm-up/ thing too so be nice...
Just stop everything ... sit him down ... take away his two drumsticks (or he wont hear you) ...once he has started calming down ... ask him to stop tapping his feet ... then smiling, clearly explain how his co-operation will help with the whole picture ... ask him then to explain it back to you with an analogy of his own making - this way you can monitor if he's heard you properly ...dont just accept the 'i understand...' thing ... he may just be saying that to send you back to where you belong ... When ever i play with musicians i always tell them that im never offended and that im there for them ( '...prefering one another...) i also tell them to say what ever they want to and in anyway they choose (grumpily, kindly,etc) - this always gives me plenty of room to quietly listen, heed and humble myself when they do. If he is to be any good to anyone he must learn to prefer others - he is there to make others look and sound more beautiful - Likewise you are there to make him more beautiful. At this point he's probably beyond offence as he would want to play his drums more than you want to hear them ... so patiently remind him as he grows what a sensitive musician he is ... Tell him,''...most people can play drums but not everybody is a true musician.'' These sorts of encouragments will start to give him a better identity then the one he may be trying to cultivate... try asking him for input with, say, a 'soft' piano part ...ask him how the pianist could make it even gentler... this will teach him to listen out for quieter melodic subtilties that can often go un-noticed and unappreciated. There are certain types of drumstics that play softer.... pass comments about how skillful one needs to be in order to be able to play them...
I know this all sounds very patronising but once he's getting it right he probably wont be needing that much 'encouragment ' any more
Also dont forget that 'church' is probably one of the very few places disparate people can get together and make it happen - in most places if the band aint workin' everyone leaves - here its not like that - here we gotta ride it out and still stay beautiful