How to Talk to Your Drummer

A Guide for Worship Leaders

For many worship leaders communicating with your fellow musicians is a huge challenge. It can be very intimidating to give an opinion about an instrument you don’t play.

Since the drummer and the drumset play such a critical role in the overall sound of our bands, here are here are several ideas of how you can talk to your drummer.

1.  Learn the Names of Drums and Cymbals 

Throne – The stool the drummer sits on is called a “throne” – and no that’s not a joke! Most drum thrones are adjustable and you might suggest raising or lowering the throne if you have a new drummer or someone unfamiliar with your church kit.

Kick Drum (aka Bass Drum) – This is usually the biggest drum on the drumset. It is hit with a pedal that has a beater attached. This drum has the lowest frequency of the drumset. It is a very important part of the overall sound. The bass guitar should interplay with this drum.

“Let’s really lay into that kick drum on this song.”  

“Don’t play the kick at all during the first verse.” 

Snare – Equally as important as the kick, the snare drum is commonly what plays the backbeat (where you want to clap). Snare drums can be tuned high or low. Snare drums can be struck in the center and on the edge of the head for different tones. You can turn the snares (the metal strings that line the bottom snare head) on or off and they can be adjusted to rattle more or less. You can hit just the rim of this drum for a muted click sound that can be pleasing (this is technically called a “cross-stick” although some mistakenly call it a “rimshot” which is something else).

“Play the snare really loose on this section.”  

“Maybe try a cross stick rim thing on this part?”  

Hi-Hats – These two cymbals join together on a specialized stand that is hit with a stick or “chicked” by simply depressing the pedal with your foot. If your foot is pressed down hard these will have a quick, tight sound when struck,  the more you lift your foot the louder and more wild they become when struck. How “open” the hi-hats are when hit will DRASTICALLY alter the volume and perceived volume of the drumset.

“Can you close the hi-hats a bit more?” 

“What would it sound like if we just keep the hi-hat going during the chorus instead of ride?” 

Tom(s) – These drums are powerful for creating transitions between song parts. They are the most melodic elements of the drumset and can create pleasing (or irritating) rhythmic patterns.

“Let’s do a tom fill going into that outro.” 

“Lay off on the toms to open up space under that guitar solo.” 

Floor Tom(s) – This is the larger of the toms and can be used to create low-end power and energy. If you have subwoofers in your sound system then should be rocking when this drum is hit.

“Can you play eighth notes on the floor tom instead of the hi-hat?” 

Crash Cymbal(s) – These typically have shorter sustain and add an accent to song sections or transitions.

“I like that bigger crash on that intro.” 

Ride Cymbal – This is a complex cymbal that can have a “ping” sound or “washy” sound. The sound changes depending on where you hit it.

“Maybe a little more wash on this part and less ping?” 

Splash Cymbal – These cymbals are super small and provide a very high pitched and short sustaining accent.

“Can you take the splash cymbal home and never bring it back?” 

Chime Tree, Tambourine, and Shaker – Random percussion can add pleasing elements to the song selections. It’s common for a drummer to use a shaker for a verse section or for the whole song. You could use a tambourine laying on a floor tom for accents.

“You can only rake the chime tree only two times in this song… thank you.” 

“Let’s do a tambo hit on 2 and 4 instead of the snare for this section.” 

2. Learn and Speak the LANGUAGE OF RHYTHM for Drummers 

Kick, hi-hat, and ride cymbal rhythms are vital to the feel of the song sections. You might simply ask the drummer to “play busier” or “play simpler”, but if you know a more specific language, it would be helpful.

Setting Up A Click Track For Your Worship Team

Adding a click track (metronome) to your worship team setup is easy and the video below shows you how to do it. Despite what some believe, adding a click will not automatically void the Holy Spirit from your church or kill the “feel” of your musicianship. Here are some reasons why I love having a permanent click ready to go at the church:

  •  It is a helpful tool to have for younger drummers, as timing is usually the #1 issue.
  • You can easily reference the tempo of a song before you rehearse or lead.
  • It’s a great tool for drummers in training if they use the church drumset during the week to practice.
  • Your musicians can learn the art and joy of pushing and dragging against the click.
  • Familiarizing your church culture with a click will give musicians a tool that will aid them if they enter a recording studio.
  • If you are recording your services you can sync other musical elements later with more ease.
  • Metronomes are standard tools for most world-class musicians.
  • You don’t have to use it on every song, but the tool is there if you want it.

This video shows my process for setting up a permanent click (metronome) next to the drum set.

WHAT TO BUY:

Tama Rythm Watch: https://amzn.to/2Lhrq0e
Power Adapter for the Tama Rythm Watch: https://amzn.to/2LTOQdu
The Mount for the Rythm Watch: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/deta…
Clamp for Holder (clamp to the high hat or other stand): https://amzn.to/2LPXnhj

Here is a little chart showing you how the audio will be run for the click:

The finished project will look something like THIS

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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A Worship Leader’s Guide to Cleaning Toilets

From worship star to janitor in one day

“Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet,
what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.”
Bernard of Clairvaux

There is a deep transformation that happens when cleaning up the waste of those you are leading in worship. This is my story of going from worship star to janitor in one day.

My story of going from worship star to janitor in one day. Click To Tweet

A couple of years ago, when I was about to finish up my prestigious Master’s degree in Worship Studies, I got word that our church was making some cuts and had to let the cleaning company go and they put me in charge of all church janitor duties. 15,000 square feet of carpet to vacuum, tile to mop, walls to dust, 20 trash cans to empty, and yes, 11 toilets to clean. I thought for sure I would have written a hit worship song by now or maybe have an assistant after all these years, but nope… I’m a 40-year-old janitor/worship leader for a resource-strapped church. Sweet. Dream come true.

10 Vineyard Songs That Are Working (2018 Edition)

Over the past two years, I have visited over 50 Vineyard Churches in the states. I thought it would be helpful to share 10 Vineyard songs I see and hear that are “working” well in many contexts; these songs share our values as a Kingdom people and the lyrics hold up theologically.

I understand that the distinctives of a particular stream of churches are nothing to die for, but they are something we should lean into from time to time. It’s nice to have some common melodies and words to rally around as a family of churches. When choosing songs to sing in my local church, I typically will look to our local, regional and Vineyard family expressions before I reach into the endless pool of songs available today. It’s a bit of a farm-to-table approach knowing the effortless, radio CCM options are always there.

If you are a Vineyard worship leader or pastor, my hope is to remind and encourage churches in our movement that we STILL HAVE a vibrant and every growing songbook, one that is crucial to forming our people in Kingdom practices. Let’s celebrate who we are! 

TEN SONGS

Honestly, there are more than 100 songs I would include if space allowed. This list represents songs that are written in the past few years, are easy to play, have a track record of success, and align with our Kingdom (Vineyard Value) Theology.

Full disclosure: I do contract work with both Vineyard USA and Vineyard Worship, but these thoughts are my own and do not represent the movement or the worship label. Although I am a friend to many of these songwriters, I have tried to be as unbiased as possible.

1. Pour It Out
Written by: Stephen Lampert & Samuel Lane  ©2013 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing (ASCAP) / Vineyard Songs (UK/EIRE). CCLI #6615343

5 Big Ideas for Every Small Group Worship Leader

As a small group worship leader, your role is no less important than the main stage worship leader. You are creating space for God and you are helping to form people as they worship. After 25 years of leading worship, many of my favorite memories are leading songs to groups of 3-10 people in a living room.

There is so much to say about this critical role in the Church, but here are some unique points I stress to every new small group worship leader I train. Five practical ideas for every small group worship leader:

1. Set a Mood  

Worship leadership has more than just songs and singing to consider. Think about the physical space. Working with your host and group leader, get the couches, chairs, and lighting best for the group (this might be different than the normal layout). Try to face as much seating as possible pointed away from the entry point(s) and face chairs towards one another. Dim, or turn off the overhead lights, turn on some lamps and light some candles.

BIG IDEA: A small group worship leader helps create a physically inviting and worshipful environment. 

2. Stand Opposite the Main Entry Point of the Room 

In order to minimize distraction for the group, consider standing facing the main entry point to the room.  People facing you will not be as distracted when people arrive or step out. Since it’s a small group just one person making a move will cause focus to turn to them. Do the best you can to help folks avoid distraction.

BIG IDEA: A small group worship leader strategically places themselves in the room to help remove distractions. 

3. Sing With Clarity and Boldness 

Leading songs without amplification has unique challenges. There can be crying babies, coffee grinding, and kitchen chatting competing with the focus. Try to articulate and be clear with every word and phrase.

Be clear and direct at the beginning of each phrase; sometimes I put a little rush on the first syllable. This is a subtle but important factor to small group singing that can help people engage the lyric more fully because everybody will better anticipate the first word of the next line. Use your body and facial countenance to lead into each section. Consider cueing the ensuing lines, especially in the beginning of the songs.

BIG IDEA: Sing lyrics with conviction and confidence, often times in front of the beat. 

4. Plan Songs With Simplicity and Repetition in Mind 

Some worship songs are more lyrically dense than others. Assuming you are not projecting or handing out lyrics*, consider choosing songs that have less overall words. Here are some approaches:

  • Use songs that have melodic and lyrical anchors “Great are You Lord, Great are you Lord”
  • Start with the chorus and repeat it.
  • Repeat verse sections. Repeat chorus sections.
  • Consider dropping whole sections of the song if they are too wordy or complicated.
  • Leave intentional space in the songs. Breathe.

*I would discourage the temptation to set up screens, powerpoint on TVs or handing out song sheets for small groups. What did the church do for centuries before printed sheets and electricity? Can you connect with those historic roots and turn off visual media?

BIG IDEA: Choose and arrange songs for your small group that are simple and memorable. 

5. Sing Really Soft and Really Loud

One of my favorite parts about small group worship is the invitation explore volume dynamics in worship. You can simply strum a chord once and start to sing without constantly strumming. You can and should lead “fast” songs, don’t be afraid to be loud together! Within songs, you can make verses whisper while choruses explode. As long as you are INTENTIONAL and CLEAR, people will follow.

BIG IDEA: In a small group, allow your musical worship to be both loud and soft; use your instrument and voices explore every dynamic possibility. 

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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What the Vineyard Can Learn from Liturgical Streams

Reclaiming historic worship elements for modern services

When I walked into a Vineyard church in 1994 my mind was blown. On a Friday night, the room was full of expectant people singing TO God. Coming from Presbyterian roots, the only time we gave this expression of exuberant praise was at summer camp! For the first time in my life, I learned of the power of the Holy Spirit through an extended, uninterrupted time of singing.

Fast-forward a couple decades and the “5 songs + sermon” model has become the standard “liturgy” of the modern church. Outside of our empowered ministry prayer times, you would be hard-pressed to see what makes a Vineyard Church distinct from many evangelical church models today.

I believe that as a movement, a time has come for us to pause and reconsider the way forward in worship, both musically and sacramentally. What did we fail to carry forward as a new movement (started in the late 1970’s) that can be reintroduced with care? Here are a few practical ways worship planners in the Vineyard can consider and implement elements of liturgical form in our services:

 

1. Eucharist (celebrated weekly)

Avoiding mindless, heartless repetition is a common reason many Vineyard pastors say they don’t want to lead their congregation to the table on a weekly basis, favoring to do it once a month or less. It begs the question why we sing, preach and offer prayers repetitively? Are these features any less special because we repeat them over and over? Are we increasing demand by planning scarcity?

A weekly invitation to feast on Christ is a beautiful picture of our Kingdom theology (God is here, now). In the meal, we are reminded that His active presence is with us; it is a vibrant and visceral picture that embodies all the senses while engaging everyone on the same level. Creatively and enthusiastically inviting our people to the meal more frequently might be the greatest discipleship plan we have.

  • Church planter, Luke Geraty recently submitted an excellent paper on Sacraments to the Society of Vineyard Scholars, check it out HERE.

The 7 Minute Worship Team Check-In

Transform your culture through care

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. –  Romans 12:10-13 

Band rehearsals are not usually super fun. Many times they are in the early hour or after a long day. Musicians and tech teams are all arriving with a variety of emotions, experiences and energy levels. Yes, your job as a worship leader is to get the band on track musically, but there is actually something more important that should PRECEDE music making.

Before your next rehearsal do this one thing and it will transform the culture of your volunteer worship ministry.

As the leader, arrive earlier than everyone else. Do everything administratively and technically possible to make the stage ready (print charts, check audio lines, etc..). Musicians will arrive and get set up. Once you and your bandmates have monitors solid and are ready to rehearse….

STOP EVERYTHING AND DO THIS… 

Drums, Drumming and Church: Podcast Guest Appearance

I recently sat down the Drummers Weekly Groovecast Podcast. We talked drums, drum, ing and church. Worship leaders, drummers, and pastors should check it out!

Four Behaviors of a Thriving Worship Ministry

Lessons From Churches from 50 and 5000.

Over the past 18 months, I have served fifty-plus churches as a worship team trainer and guest worship leader. I’ve noticed some interesting trends in worship ministries that are healthy, growing, and happy. This post has little to do with the quality of liturgy or congregational worship experience, but it’s more a peek under the administrative hood. It is not exhaustive, it’s just a list of markers I have noticed.

FOUR behaviors of thriving worship ministries:

1. THEY CONSISTENTLY (and uniformly) SCHEDULE THEIR VOLUNTEERS 

Most churches have multiple worship leaders. If you have three worship leaders and three different ways of administering bands, you will drive your volunteers crazy. There should be one system that everyone adheres to. If possible, try to implement the SAME system across the board for all volunteers so families can serve in multiple areas of the church without confusion.

  • Pick a System – There are several ways to let people know when they are serving at church. Planning Center Online is the king, however, you can also look at worshipteam.com and others. You might use a mix of online tools and simple PDF attachments to email. Your system should have a way to communicate seasonally (1-4 months at a time), weekly (hey, you’re on this week), and the day of service (hey, you’re on today). Provide schedules at least 1 month before the start of the schedule. (i.e. the January schedule is emailed November 30th etc…).
  • Do not avoid creating a system because one volunteer doesn’t use email or Facebook. Those people either need to yield to the agreed method or you can build a secondary system for them. Either way, there should be a system to reach everyone.
  • Once a healthy method for communication is in place, don’t constantly change your methodology. You will build trust with consistency, which is measured in years, not months.
  • Raise heck when your system is ignored or amended by well-meaning, creative people. Consistency breeds faithfulness (and more drummers).

Screaming on Saturday, Singing on Sunday?

During my college years, I had three musical gigs outside of school which all involved my vocal cords: church worship, a jazz trio, and my heavy metal band. People asked me all the time how I screamed and growled one night while angelically singing the next morning. I never really had the right answer, until now. Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski of San Francisco’s Pacific Voice and Speech Foundation, reveals his new findings in this video below.

Similar to heavy metal singing, leading worship vocally has some unique, admittingly differing peculiarities. 1. For many, it’s the only time they sing. 2. It’s typically happening before noon. For these reasons and others, it’s good to understand how the voice works and how we can maintain it for the long haul. Check out this video about heavy metal singing; the hope to get us thinking about (and visualizing) some science behind our voice.

Vocal training is one of the most requested classes when I coach worship teams. If you haven’t already, download the FREE $200 Vocal Lesson from the sidebar on my website.

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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