My first instrument is the drums. I've been playing for nearly 20 years I reckon, and while there's room for improvement, I'm not bad even if I do say so myself.
The thing is, I know my strengths. I know that my style and my playing isn't cut out for the big stages and the big crowds. I can pull it off briefly, but sooner or later I'd get caught out for what I am... And I think what I am is a small-room worship drummer.
The key, I've always been taught and stand by to this day, to being a good worship drummer is to know what to play, to know when to play, to feel the room and to sense what is going on.
You could apply it to any musical instrument really.
This thought isn't really about music though.
It's about that rule that I try and follow in my worship playing that needs to translate more into my everyday life:
1. Know what to play
The thing about a drum kit is the scope and the variety of sounds.
I learnt early in my worship career that there were sweet spots all over that added great emphasis to what was going on, but also like Paul says there are also times where you get it wrong and it just sounds like a "clanging gong".
There were times when I needed to put in a big fancy off-beat fill round the kit, and others when all it needed was a constant, steady, predictable rhythm.
There are times, sometimes within a single song, to use all the different parts of the snare drum to give the gentle rim, the full skin, or the biggest rim-skin shot combo going (I'm sure that's the technical term for it...).
So many choices, so many possible combinations, so many potential rhythms... But the most important thing is to take the band and the congregation with you when you go.
The other important part of my drumming development was that my parents bought me some hot-rods.
Hot-rods are sticks that are made up of bundles of smaller canes, and the result is a quieter, more respectful sound. They often come with a moveable band that makes the rods tighter to increase the volume and intensity of the sound, or loosens them to give the opposite effect.
Which "sticks"/gifts/sensitivities do I need to use to do the best in this situation? What do I need to hit? Do I need to be constant and predictable, or is now the time for an infusion of something different and "off-beat"? How loud does my voice need to be in this moment?
Am I taking people with me through the choices I'm making, or have I disrupted something that should've stayed the same?
2. Know when to play
The other thing about worship drumming is knowing that you don't always have to play.
There's power in the sharp stop that surprises people and makes people pay attention. The absence of something often draws attention to the space that is created.
There's strength in coming in slowly or later and allowing others to take the lead, or bowing out gracefully earlier in order to let others have the last note.
I have lost count of the number of times people have come up to me after a service and commented that they appreciated the capacity to pick out everything, and to think, and to hear their heartbeat along with the worship.
When we know when not to play, the re-introduction of our instrument, of our lives and contributions to what's going on around us is all the more noticeable. Even the slightest ripple of the cymbal stands out loud and clear after the silence of the snare.
When I'm playing/speaking/acting, do I really need to be? Am I distracting from something more important? Will I have more of an impact when I come back in? What is it about me that feels the need to have the first and the last word? Am I the right person to do that?
Almost definite is the fact that I am not the one who deserves to be ringing out at the end to receive the applause. If we went for a musical level beyond my capabilities, in an orchestra or big concerto the first applause is to the conductor, the controller, he who sets the pace and the tone, not to the last instrument playing.
3. Feel the room and sense what's going on
And the only way I'm going to accomplish those first two is by reading the room, noting where people are at, seeing where God might be moving, what affects the way people are responding, and responding accordingly.
Easier said that done, but it involves keeping your eyes open and watching your fellow musicians, keeping your heart open to worship through leading, keeping your mind open to the possibilities. It involves prayer, and patience, discernment and Spirit... And the courage to do something about it and not just assuming that you are right.
I'm sure you're more clued in that me, but sometimes my arrogance, or my impatience come in. I often want to show off what I can do rather than by being exemplary in the space I create for others to take a lead, or respond, or to invite me back in. I'd rather be invited to contribute than be asked to stop! It's far less embarrassing.
Let's see how that works out for me this week...
Remarcable is one man blogging about Youth Work, Theology, Family, Life and those other random things that come to mind.