Why have drums at all? What does a drummer do?
In a standard band set-up, the drummer has the foundational role of setting the tempo and ‘feel’ of the song. He or she provides the rhythmic backbone on which the whole arrangement hangs. This is especially true of rockier, up-tempo songs, but can still be vital in providing support to slower, gentler songs. Often the dynamics at any given moment are primarily dictated by the drummer. As the foundational instrument, it is appropriate for the other musicians to take their cue from the drums in terms of tempo and dynamics – when the drums build, we all build and vice-versa!
What qualities make a good worship drummer?
First and foremost the ability to set and maintain a solid tempo which is appropriate for the song, without deviating from it. Also a developed sensitivity to appropriate dynamics at different times. Often in worship, a simple rhythm works more effectively than a busy one. Sensing where to build an arrangement by increasing the intensity then ‘bring it down’ in more reflective moments is an essential skill.
It's also important to be conscious of how loud you are compared to the other musicians and congregation. Unfortunately the nature of church meeting room acoustics and the disposition of the congregation often means that you need to drum more quietly than you would ideally like to - so be sensitive!
Should the drummer or the worship leader start each song?
Sometimes if the worship leader is already playing round the chords on a guitar etc, they will naturally start a song, but usually we’d expect the drummer to set the tempo and click in the band (once he’s been given the nod). This actually takes pressure off the worship leader at that point, and makes it easier for the whole group to start in a deliberate, tidy way. It becomes part of the drummer's job to make sure songs are at an appropriate pace.
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Do I need to use a metronome?
Sometimes it can be very helpful to have a metronome or click which will not only help you keep steady, but also make sure that you start songs at the right tempo. If in your rehearsal you have established the appropriate tempo for a song, you can use a metronome or click to bring you in at that speed, even if you then turn it off for the rest of the song. This is made easier if you have in-ear monitoring so that the metronome sound isn't heard out front. But even just a flashing light may be enough to help you establish the tempo and avoid the distraction of a song that's rushing or dragging.