GPdrums || Marathon Drummer

Preparing for the Train Wreck

Posted in Drumming by gpdrums on August 29, 2007

So there we were ten minutes before the worship set praying for grace, praying to have fun, and praying for God to be in our midst. We practiced for something like three hours last night. There was a lot of new material—mostly United stuff. We had all played each of the five songs in the set, just not within the same worship band. What I’m saying is that the songs were challenging but not too hard. It was now time to go on stage and have some church.

Cue the smoke, dim the lights, and cut to camera four: I started the click at 148 beats per minute for the first song and made a slight adjustment to my in ear monitor. I spun a Pro Mark 2B in my right hand as I looked out at the crowd of about 2,500. They were eagerly anticipating the start of praise and worship and we planned on rocking the house like we do every Wednesday night.

The leader gave me the nod. I played quarter notes on the hi-hat and counted, “1—2—1234!” Crash cymbals exploded on 1 with a continuous four on the floor and 8th notes on the hats for four measures. The vocal was about to start on the 1 of measure five.

Measure five—my thoughts: What’s going on?—those aren’t the right lyrics—the singer is singing the lyrics to the next song—and the next song is at 154 beats per minute—this is too slow—at least the whole band is still playing the right song—oh snap! The bass player just switched bass lines to match what the singer is singing—the rest of the band is still on the original song—but the tempo is too slow—we’re still near the beginning of the first song—this is a train wreck—play—a—fill—and—STOP.

All eyes on the drummer—my thoughts: Hey, I’ve done this long enough to know that when the song is train wrecked this bad, just stop and start over. It’s the beginning of the set, this is church, and people understand things happen. Besides, we started the set a couple of minutes early, so we have time.

The problem was only one of the musicians followed my lead. The singer had that deer in the headlights look and motioned for me to continue playing. I shrugged, chuckled, and came back in, setting the song up for the bridge. We nailed the song from that point forward. By the way, if you ever happen to be on a huge stage in front of a lot of people and a train wreck is happening, take a look at the confused faces of the congregants.

Needless to say, we crashed out of that song in a hurry. The leader motioned for me to start the first song since we just finished playing the botched, condensed version of the second song; thus, there was no need to change the click. So, here we were ready for round two.

I played quarter notes on the hi-hat and counted, “1—2—1234!” Crash cymbals exploded on 1 with a continuous four on the floor and 8th notes on the hats for four measures. The vocal was about to start on the 1 of measure five.

Measure five—my thoughts: Thank God—right lyrics—cool!—Okay this is a new song—where are we?—Oh yeah!—okay—cool—we got it—the bridge is next—wait, after the guitar solo—phew—alright—we’re there—tag four times—perfect!

The rest of the set, for the most part, was free from hiccups. I have to admit things were not as free and smooth as usual. Our cages were a little rattled after the first song and the music, though good, felt stiff. With a completed worship set, we exited the stage and went backstage. I think we laughed more than anything. We teased the singer about singing the wrong song and we came to find out that it wasn’t until I stopped playing that he realized he was singing the wrong lyrics.

Under normal circumstances, this was not a funny incident; however, in almost 10 years of playing drums for this church, tonight was only the second time I can remember where things came apart this noticeably. We are lucky in that respect. We have some top-notch instrumentalists, audio and video engineers, and production people. Glitches are rare enough that when they happen, most people laugh about it and move on. Of course, we go back and examine how to avoid a recurrence, but really, there are more important things to worry about.

I got to thinking about how to avoid train wrecks. The fact is, they can’t be avoided. However, we can have a plan in place. I mentioned to the singer, “We don’t want this to ever happen again, but if it does, we need a plan. For example, if I stop drumming, ideally after having been cued by the leader, everyone stops playing.” I know it is not always feasible, but stopping, laughing, and starting over is a viable option. The audience will know what happened, true, but it is better to stop, acknowledge the mistake, and move on. Selah

Well, to redeem ourselves, we decided we would close the service with the first-second song… or the second-first song… you know—the second song that was supposed to be second but was first—at least from a lyrical standpoint. We nailed it for Jesus.

Have a plan.



4 Responses

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  1. kristin said, on August 29, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    so, this singer….was it really a “he”?

  2. gpdrums said, on August 30, 2007 at 12:36 am


  3. alex mclean said, on August 30, 2007 at 6:45 am

    oh I feel your pain – glad to hear it happens to the big boys too…

  4. drummerchris said, on August 30, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Last week our pastor plugged in his wireless as we were in the middle of worship. You can imagine the horrible sounds that rang through the theater. Lucky me! It was particularly impressive through my headphones.

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