GPdrums || Marathon Drummer

Pocket Playing

Posted in Drumming by gpdrums on August 15, 2007

What the heck does that mean, anyway? I have yet to find a text-book answer, and after more than (enough) years of playing drums, I think I finally have an idea.

Worship (and praise) drumming is not about impressing the audience, worship leader, congregation, or pastor. Hopefully, you already know worship drumming is about worshiping God with your hands and feet, your entire body, and even your voice. More on that in another post. The fact is, most of the people for whom you play don’t know a para-diddle from a flam-accent. They won’t appreciate the fact that you can pull-off a ridiculous left-foot clave. And, your crazy, upside down break-beats only serve to throw the rest of the band into a frustrated frenzy and ultimate train wreck. Does that sound worshipful?

If you’re a drummer for God, I love you (and this isn’t necessarily for all of you); however, I’m just gonna be frank: The worship set isn’t about you; it’s about the worship. You have a responsibility to lead people, or usher them, into the presence of our holy God. Your job is practically as important as the worship leader’s–you know, the anointed person with the guitar and microphone leading the band. You have to know where the song is going. You have to steer the band, yet follow the leader. If you are playing busy, filling every 2 bars, and laying down grooves that are inappropriate for the song, you risk hindering people’s ability to worship God.

So, what does it mean to play in the pocket? Here’s my take: Do you remember when you played your first groove on the drum-set? It was probably a very basic pattern. Mine was a 70’s groove, boom-dat dat boom – dat, while riding eighth notes and closing the hats on 2 and 4. It was simple, yet complex.

Playing in the pocket is the same thing: simple, yet complex. Quarter notes on mid-open hats, four on the floor (or kick on 1 and 3), and snare on 2 and 4. Think “drum machine with no fills. That might be pushing it a little bit, but the idea is to keep a beat–accompany the worship leader and check your showboating at the door. By no means am I saying never fill again or avoid cymbal bashing. I’m saying, “Let’s worship, focus on keeping the beat, and fill and crash as directed by the Spirit.” I hope that doesn’t come across as too deep, but trust me, if you focus on worshiping, you’ll know when to fill.

So, playing in the pocket is NOT filling every 2 bars, pretending to be Copeland on the hats, nailing 32nd note triplet bursts with one foot on the kick, gently ghosting the snare everywhere except 2 and 4, and laying down a foundation of “Peartish” ride patterns.

Pocket playing is like being in a car. You are the driver–you are in control. You must communicate with the worship leader, who is really in the front passenger seat holding the map, or song structure. You must know the map (intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus, tag) so you know where you’re going. The worship leader will usually have a clear idea of the structure, but might change his or her mind during the worship set, so pay attention to what’s going on. Play with confidence. Keep the beat. Don’t get busy. Drive the car.

By the way, when I was learning how to drive, my dad used to get on my case every time we came to a stop sign. He’d say, “If my head moves when you come to a complete stop, you are hitting the breaks too hard. Keep it smooth.” Do the same with worship drumming. Keep it smooth.

Here’s what will happen: The audience won’t be distracted from worshiping God by your “incredible” chops. Even though you are keeping it simple, the worship leader will notice how solid your drumming is. The pastor will see a worship team worshiping God instead of trying to figure out where the 1 is. And, in my opinion, if the worship is good, the church will grow.

Bottom line–chill! Keep the beat. Play in the pocket.



One Response

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  1. frank said, on March 30, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Hi. Thanks for visiting my page. I’m currently using drumming guide type of layout.

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