Despite years of experience playing in bands and performing a variety of music styles, I was caught off guard a little bit when I started playing drums for my local church worship team.
In case you have any uncertainty about it, there's a big difference between playing drums for a gig or concert and playing drums for worship (same goes for every other musician or vocalist on stage).
Playing an instrument or singing for worship is not a performance. I know that's easy to say, but a lot of "performers" on stage can struggle with adapting their style of playing with the needs of the worship leader and congregation. I did when I was a young and enthusiastic drummer!
As a drummer and an audio engineer, I can tell you that establishing a good relationship with your worship team drummer(s) will help you achieve a better mix – especially if your drummer plays a traditional acoustic drum set.
Yes, overall volume level and dynamic controls are important. So is tone. And so is critical listening.
As a church sound tech, you have a responsibility to communicate with your worship leader and drummer to achieve the best sound possible.
Most drummers don't much care for someone telling them they need to tune their drums a certain way or play with different sticks. And they might be used to everyone telling them to "turn it down," but that doesn't mean they like it!
I've been on both sides of this interaction. I've been the drummer that was playing too loud. And I've been the sound guy that kept nagging the drummer to "Turn it DOWN!"
Achieving the proper balance of volume, tone, and energy will take some time, patience, and working together to achieve the right fit for your room and worship team needs.
As a sound tech you should get to know all of the musicians and vocalists on stage, but it is an especially good idea to spend some extra time getting to know the drummer. He or she controls the dynamic energy of the music in a way that few other musicians can.
Trust me, having a good working relationship with the drummers in your church will go a long way in helping you achieve more consistent sound during your worship service.
This can be a fairly nuanced topic, especially when it comes to developing the right tone and "attack" for the drums. I'd like to share an excellent article from the folks at Austin Stone Worship that addresses this important issue: Dynamics and the Energetic Drummer.
And there's one more thing that a drummer might be the perfect candidate for:
Joining the sound team!
This is exactly how I got involved in sound over 20 years ago – playing drums, then getting drawn into all the technology that made live sound happen.
Chances are, the drummers you know might be a perfect match to serve on the sound team!
And even if they aren’t regular tech team members, at least some exposure to what it takes to put a mix together will help them better understand your side of the conversation.
Consider inviting the vocalists and musicians (and especially the drummers) to take part in some basic sound training. They don’t have to be part of the sound team to appreciate the work you do each week.
Consider planning a “lunch and learn” or other team training event where members of the worship team can fellowship and get to know it takes to achieve a successful mix. You might be surprised at how effective this can be at breaking down barriers and building your team.
The free Grow Your Tech Team mini course includes some great ideas and resources to help you get started with inviting new team members and growing your team.
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