GPdrums || Marathon Drummer

Great Precision

Posted in Drumming by gpdrums on June 7, 2006

If you’ve ever played drums in a band before, you know that your ability to keep time is of utmost importance. Who is responsible for time in a band setting? How important is time? When is it time to break the clocks?


To answer the first question, time keeping is everyone’s responsibility. I know, I know, it’s the drummer’s fault. I’ve heard that way too many times in my drumming career. But let’s face it, everyone needs to own up to their part in keeping time. To always blame the drummer is to not focus on improving the band’s overall sound.

I’m assuming that the drummer is competent enough to keep decent time. But if you want to really improve, add a click to the monitor system. If you can’t afford in-ears, buy them for the drummer and feed him a click. It might take a few weeks for him/her to get used to it, but in the long run the whole band will sound better.

My playing situation almost always involves having a click in my ears. In fact, all the musicians have a click. It doesn’t take long to get used to it, especially when you play for some seven thousand worshipers on any given Sunday and three thousand on any given Wednesday.

Our background vocalist don’t have the luxury of in-ear monitors and can’t hear the click. So, if that’s you, remember to listen to the band. Don’t rush and please please please don’t slow down. And if you’re leading the congregation in clapping, follow the drummer as precisely as you can.

That said, drummers must remember that the rest of the band might not have a click. Sometimes, during a quiet moment or a piano intro, it’s necessary to keep time in a colorful manner, using the ride cymbal, cymbal swells, bell chimes, or shakers. Let God direct you. Feel the music. Let God have your soul.

We also use sequenced tracks from time to time to improve the overall sound of the music. It’s not that we are trying to be over the top, but we want people to worship without being distracted. The use of backing tracks can make the band sound incredible while allowing the congregation to focus on worshiping God. Backing tracks might also include a video sync, where the live music being played matches a video being played for the congregation. This is very effective for bringing people into worship.

On a final beat about backing tracks, as a drummer, I really appreciate being able to hear a synth arpeggio or A.M. radio drum loop that backs the verse of a song. Backing tracks also allow the musicians to focus on worship instead of trying to remember what comes next. Using tracks is really effective when used with in-ear monitors since you can add a track of vocal cues that the congregation doesn’t hear, such as “Bridge 2 3 4 1 2 3 4.”

I enjoy perfect timing as much as the next musician. But sometimes the click has to go. I’m fortunate in that our worship leader knows when to cue the Front Of House (FOH) to cut the click so that we can allow for free worship. It’s important to have a set of signals that are inconspicuous enough that the congregation doesn’t even realize that you just told the FOH to cut the click.

Can you imagine, and this happens sometimes, the drummer band is pumped full of adrenaline worshiping God and cannot stay on the click no matter what. If you start jumping up and down in the middle of the song to the point that you’re ready to run back to sound guy and cut the click yourself, you’ve just given yourself a reason to develop a communication system. (Or, let the drummer control the click if possible.)

One more good thing about using a click: First off, I resisted when we went that direction. It so happens that on the very first Sunday of click track they brought in a huge choir. So you had a band director, a choir director, and a click track – all three had an independent idea of where the tempo should be.

It gets better though. The sound team brought in the line splitters. You know, line splitters. Those things that you use to split all the mic and audio lines so you can run them to another mixing board for the purpose of recording all three services. Needless to say, it was a stressful Sunday and the recordings were scrapped. My recommendation is that you add the tricks one at a time. We do all of it now, but it took a while to master.

Oh yeah, the one more good thing about click… It makes for Great Precision.

-GP

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