Thursday, October 2, 2008

Youth Band: Leading Worship from a Drum Set

Recently, our youth worship band in our fairly small youth group suffered a tremendous loss when our drummer's family moved away. I played drums in a worship band in college so the natural transition was for me to move to drums. Although, I considered myself to be a better drummer than guitar player, it has been a difficult transition. I would like to share with you some of the obstacles and frustrations I've experienced. If anyone out there has any advice, please post a comment. I'm thinking of getting a drum machine, so if you've worked with those, maybe you can make a recommendation.

A drummer doesn't have a commanding presence over the rest of the band. Unless the band members are intent on watching you for cues it's difficult to have that nonverbal communication you have when standing up and playing guitar. With a guitar you can move around, bob your head, and even turn and show them your fingers on the fretboard. From a drumset, you are limited to really only being able to control the tempo and texture of the song.

It is difficult to interact with the audience/congregation from behind a drumset. In worship circles, we talk about the invisible wall between the stage and the audience. As a worship leader, that wall really gets bigger when the "leader" is at the back and tied to a chair.

Having a band leader on drums puts more pressure on the singers because there is no one standing up beside them singing with them. Although you may be singing from the drumset, they still feel isolated from you and can make younger singers more nervous.

Leading singing and playing drums can be challenging in itself. This may just depend on the person doing it, but certain instruments, like rhythm guitar, really lend themselves to accompanying singers. I find it easier, in fact, to sing from behind my guitar than without it (if it's a song I know). Drumming and singing don't always blend, especially if the drum rhythms are not right in sync with the vocal lines.

As I said earlier, I'm considereing getting a drum machine for our worship band and going back to guitar. What have your experiences been with drum machines? Is it a good thing, or is it too "canned" where the kids don't really connect? Also, would I be better served having another student learn to play djembe or cajon? My guitar player doesn't have an acoustic, so I don't think that would blend very well. What do you think?

1 comment:

Justin Pitts said...

The thing with a drum machine is simple that, it's a machine. It cannot replace a real drummer for the fact that it cannot adjust it's playing intensity to match the mood of worship. I understand your position for the fact that I am in need of a drummer myself and many times it seems like something is better than nothing. But I also agree with you wholeheartedly that you just cannot make the connection with your students while lurking in the shadows. The worship leader must be frontman. On a lighter note: The little dudes one blog up are about to eat like KING!!!