Tracks, Clicks and Worship Drumming

Paul Blood

Junior Member
I'm excited that I got hired by a church and will be out playing again! I assumed at the audition, I'd be playing with a live band, but it turns out the band consists of an acoustic guitar player, pianists, and a bunch of singers. Everything is on a recorded track with a loud click, and a automated voice that tells you what section is coming up. Anyways I passed the audition, didn't have any trouble playing to the track, but this Sunday I'll be playing with the rest of the 'band", the congregation, along with the tracks and the service.

Any tips on making on playing with tracks in a live setting? Also any tips on CCM drumming in general? Resources for learning songs? I'm definitely noticing that tom ridding is a big thing now, very low tuned drums and Turkish cymbals are the rage.

Anyways, I just want to do a really good job, keep the gig, and stay active on the drums. Wish me luck!
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I stopped playing on my praise team last year, but I have 25+ years experience playing church music. I'll do my best to answer your questions:

Any tips on making on playing with tracks in a live setting?

One thing I always tried to remember that you are playing WITH the track, not AGAINST the track. Leave musical room for it to happen, and don't try to over-power it. I feel like I did this at one point, but I don't do it anymore. Those auditory cues are a God-send if you have to play multiple services. I know for me, I had to play every song 4 times every Sunday (1 rehearsal, 3 services). By the third service, my mind would wander pretty easily.

Also any tips on CCM drumming in general?

I could get into semantics on the differences between CCM and worship music, but the two have sort of melded into one thing, but I digress. The best tip I can give? Have the attitude of a good sound-tech: a.) It's not about you, and b.) if you are noticed, you're doing something wrong. I don't want to get my thread pulled for stepping over into faith-based commentary, so this is the best I can do.

Resources for learning songs?

One thing that's cool about this is that there are many tutorials on YouTube, and many of these tutorial are taught by the people that actually wrote the tracks. In addition, there is worship music software out there that many worship ministers use. A lot of these versions of software include isolated drum tracks so you can listen to them.

I'm definitely noticing that tom ridding is a big thing now...

Ah yes, I used to call these "hipster tom patterns." Youtube is very helpful with these because many of the recordings sound like every tom is just a different size bass drum.

Turkish cymbals are the rage

Yup, I love them too.


I'm not a huge fan of a lot of worship music these days for stylistic reasons in addition to other reasons I'll just keep to myself. I hope your gig goes well!
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
Thank you PorkPie, good advice. One thing I've noticed on YouTube, is that there are lots of renditions of these songs, some with the "hispter tom ridding" others with more standard rock based time keeping, while others are "acoustic" with cajon or other hand drums. I am a jazzer of sorts , and normally don't learn specific drum parts, I just try to come up with something that fits and flows. I'm not sure, especially with these tracks, how close to follow the "original" I just try to follow the form, stops/starts/ hits, and come up with my own time keeping patterns and fills. I got lots of compliments at the audition so we'll how it goes once I start working at the church.

As far as CCM/ worship music, I not a fan per se, I mean I wouldn't seek it out for personal listening pleasure. Most of my listening time is involves studying the greats from jazz, Latin, soul, and classic rock. But a gig is a gig, and I always try to do my best.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Thank you PorkPie, good advice. One thing I've noticed on YouTube, is that there are lots of renditions of these songs, some with the "hispter tom ridding" others with more standard rock based time keeping, while others are "acoustic" with cajon or other hand drums. I am a jazzer of sorts , and normally don't learn specific drum parts, I just try to come up with something that fits and flows. I'm not sure, especially with these tracks, how close to follow the "original" I just try to follow the form, stops/starts/ hits, and come up with my own time keeping patterns and fills. I got lots of compliments at the audition so we'll how it goes once I start working at the church.

As far as CCM/ worship music, I not a fan per se, I mean I wouldn't seek it out for personal listening pleasure. Most of my listening time is involves studying the greats from jazz, Latin, soul, and classic rock. But a gig is a gig, and I always try to do my best.

I think you are on the right track. Maybe this was a little "unprofessional" of me, but after a while, I just started playing my own tom patterns that I thought would fit and flow well and not be too much of a distraction. I think you'll do fine!
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
As someone not at all versed in this world, is there an obvious reason why? Is it just because cymbals can be so dominant and this is an antidote to that?

Good question, maybe someone with deeper ties to the CCM world knows, but I'd think maybe toms maybe don't cut through in such a loud/harsh way as cymbals do, and give a mellower dark tone that maybe fits better into a church environment. Same thing the Turkish cymbals? Just pure speculation on my part though.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Any tips on making on playing with tracks in a live setting?
Learn the material well enough to enjoy worship. Put your own slant on it if songs get stale. Bring snacks for sharing in the green room.
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
I hadn't played in church since 2009, so when I started playing at this church 2 years ago, it was a little humbling at first. The beats weren't hard, I could play all the notes just fine...it's just that I came from a fusion background, so I didn't have the "style" or dynamics of a modern church drummer. It took a little while to get the tom-riding beats to flow and groove as much as I wanted, but I'm really enjoying myself now.

My best advice, listen to a lot of the songs on Youtube and learn the playstyle/vocabulary/dynamics/fills of the genre. Sounds simplistic, but it really helped me. Some great channels on Youtube for this are DeBoltDrumming and Daniel Bernard, but there are plenty of others I'm sure.

And always play to a metronome, if you don't already. :)
 
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brentcn

Platinum Member
Good question, maybe someone with deeper ties to the CCM world knows, but I'd think maybe toms maybe don't cut through in such a loud/harsh way as cymbals do, and give a mellower dark tone that maybe fits better into a church environment. Same thing the Turkish cymbals? Just pure speculation on my part though.

You’re spot on, really. Much of modern CCM music models itself after popular artists and sub-genres that exhibit these traits you describe. And it’s kind of always been that way. Decades ago, CCM artists sounded about 10 years behind the pop artists of the day, but that stylistic gap vanished somewhere in the early 00s. The vibe that has stuck around for the last decade or so is a sort of mellow, atmospheric version of Coldplay or Amos Lee, plus some Americana instrumentation, a marching snare cadence now and then, and some very, very long crescendos. Overall, there’s a sort of meditative, repetitive style that works for newcomers who may not know the words at first, but can easily learn as they listen.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
The vibe that has stuck around for the last decade or so is a sort of mellow, atmospheric version of Coldplay or Amos Lee, plus some Americana instrumentation, a marching snare cadence now and then, and some very, very long crescendos. Overall, there’s a sort of meditative, repetitive style that works for newcomers who may not know the words at first, but can easily learn as they listen.

This is the best description I've heard of this. Perfect.
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
Thanks, the service went really well, got lots of compliments. Apparently the volunteer drummers from the church couldn't sync well with the tracks, so they just were using the "canned" drums. It made me very happy to hear that so many folks really like the live drums over the "canned " drums. It got me thinking why that it? I mean , does the "lay person" simply like the visual element of a live drummer, or it is sonic? Both?

Anyways, the kit was a nice older Pacific kit ( my first time to play one) with coated Pinstrips and with some good sounding Sabian AA dark cymbals. Everything was mic, I was on a riser which is enclosed in plexiglass. My wife told me that the drums blended very well with the band/tracks. I am very happy to be out working again!
 

Chris Whitten

Well-known member
I never got the seeming contradiction of mic'ing everything on a kit, then putting Plexiglas around the drums to keep the volume down.
I'm not at all religious, but living in Australia I was aware of Hillsong. The music and dress code was a definite nod towards alt-rock, or that kind of rock inhabited by Coldplay (U2) and Nicklelback etc... It sounds edgy and dangerous (like punk and new wave), but isn't.
 

Chris Whitten

Well-known member
I know. I was really just teasing. But on a more serious note, I think plexiglass sounds bad around drums and it would be better if people played to the stage volume rather than relying on isolation and IEM's.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I know. I was really just teasing. But on a more serious note, I think plexiglass sounds bad around drums and it would be better if people played to the stage volume rather than relying on isolation and IEM's.

But now you’re getting into the visual aspect of the instrument. An audience probably enjoys watching someone play drums with a certain amount of vigor. And you can’t get that vigorous when you’re trying not to bleed into the vocal mics.

Thanks, the service went really well, got lots of compliments. Apparently the volunteer drummers from the church couldn't sync well with the tracks, so they just were using the "canned" drums. It made me very happy to hear that so many folks really like the live drums over the "canned " drums. It got me thinking why that it? I mean , does the "lay person" simply like the visual element of a live drummer, or it is sonic? Both?

It’s both. Watching a drummer is interesting, simply because there’s visible movement from far away. A non musician gets to visually connect a part of the kit with a sound they hear, which is fun. You can’t really see guitar strings move, or piano keys being played, from a distance (without the help of AV equipment).

Visuals aside, your playing is likely adding as well. Probably the canned drums are very repetitive, lack fills, set ups, and dynamics. Your playing is also more musical with respect to coordinating with bass/riff/whatnot, and playing phrases longer than one measure.
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
I'm excited that I got hired by a church and will be out playing again! I assumed at the audition, I'd be playing with a live band, but it turns out the band consists of an acoustic guitar player, pianists, and a bunch of singers. Everything is on a recorded track with a loud click, and a automated voice that tells you what section is coming up. Anyways I passed the audition, didn't have any trouble playing to the track, but this Sunday I'll be playing with the rest of the 'band", the congregation, along with the tracks and the service.

Any tips on making on playing with tracks in a live setting? Also any tips on CCM drumming in general? Resources for learning songs? I'm definitely noticing that tom ridding is a big thing now, very low tuned drums and Turkish cymbals are the rage.

Anyways, I just want to do a really good job, keep the gig, and stay active on the drums. Wish me luck!
Keeping a band on track with the click is a skill unto itself, and they'll get off right where you think they might: starts, changes, busting into solos like a horse leaving the gate at the track, and any time you lay out. You have to do extra overwatch of the tempo, such as using hat chicks during layouts and gaps, or getting into the habit of always discreetly conducting the beat with a stick when you're out, so your band mates will get used to thinking "okay, something's off, so I'll look over at dependable Paul to catch the beat he's always feeding us". You've gotta be constant and consistent.

Most of it will come together easy since they're already used to it and know the material. But you have to be on your toes. A mate being off a tiny whisker quickly evolves into a lost beat, and a total mess when Mac ( a pet name for the computer) starts blaring horns and playing keys. So the finest loss of time by a player has to be audibly checked by you in a way that doesn't sound obvious to your audience. hat chicks or louder hat taps, ride cymbal, or even counting out loud. Once in a great while you may have to do something over the top like playing quarter notes on the snare to tell an undisciplined player to get their skinny butt back on the beat. It can feel like herding cats at times.
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
Keeping a band on track with the click is a skill unto itself, and they'll get off right where you think they might: starts, changes, busting into solos like a horse leaving the gate at the track, and any time you lay out. You have to do extra overwatch of the tempo, such as using hat chicks during layouts and gaps, or getting into the habit of always discreetly conducting the beat with a stick when you're out, so your band mates will get used to thinking "okay, something's off, so I'll look over at dependable Paul to catch the beat he's always feeding us". You've gotta be constant and consistent.

Most of it will come together easy since they're already used to it and know the material. But you have to be on your toes. A mate being off a tiny whisker quickly evolves into a lost beat, and a total mess when Mac ( a pet name for the computer) starts blaring horns and playing keys. So the finest loss of time by a player has to be audibly checked by you in a way that doesn't sound obvious to your audience. hat chicks or louder hat taps, ride cymbal, or even counting out loud. Once in a great while you may have to do something over the top like playing quarter notes on the snare to tell an undisciplined player to get their skinny butt back on the beat. It can feel like herding cats at times.

Good advice on playing with the tracks/click. Thanks!
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
Visuals aside, your playing is likely adding as well. Probably the canned drums are very repetitive, lack fills, set ups, and dynamics. Your playing is also more musical with respect to coordinating with bass/riff/whatnot, and playing phrases longer than one measure.
Well, I'd like to think my drumming is just as good as the pre recorded stuff, but the studio drummers/ programmers have a lot more time and thought to put into the tracks than I do. I am sure the preordered tracks get quantized and perfected in programs like Pro Tools, and sound engineers enhance the sound of the drums. So I am inclined to think the folks at the church liked my drumming better than the prerecorded stuff because of the visual connection, and perhaps the "raw" energy of a skilled live drummer.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Well, I'd like to think my drumming is just as good as the pre recorded stuff, but the studio drummers/ programmers have a lot more time and thought to put into the tracks than I do. I am sure the preordered tracks get quantized and perfected in programs like Pro Tools, and sound engineers enhance the sound of the drums. So I am inclined to think the folks at the church liked my drumming better than the prerecorded stuff because of the visual connection, and perhaps the "raw" energy of a skilled live drummer.

No kidding? My experience with pre-recorded drums (whether they be loops or specifically programmed) is that a drummer is nearly always going to take things to a much more musical place. But hey if the church’s studio people really know what they’re doing, then great! Most non drummer musicians I know — good ones — are just terrible when it comes to stuff like that.
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
No kidding? My experience with pre-recorded drums (whether they be loops or specifically programmed) is that a drummer is nearly always going to take things to a much more musical place. But hey if the church’s studio people really know what they’re doing, then great! Most non drummer musicians I know — good ones — are just terrible when it comes to stuff like that.

Just to clarify, the church does not make the tracks, they are purchased. The tracks are either the original version of the song or remade versions that sound very close to the original. The band leader has the ability to edit the tracks. In my case the drums on the track get deleted, other parts might get mixed lower, keys signatures and tempos can be edited too, . Sections of the song can be repeated or deleted. A loud click track runs the whole time and there is a voice that tells you what section is coming up and gives a count off.

This is all new to me, but I suppose pro acts in all sorts of genres have been working like this for years. It is what it is....
 
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