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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Setting The Mood In Worship Using Rhythms

This is going to be a potentially problematic topic, but one that speaks to the heart of what a drummer is doing participating in a worship setting with a group of believers.  That is establishing the appropriate mood.  Certainly this is going to be influenced by the pastors or worship leaders, and the calendar, and the order of worship for a particular event.  You probably don't want to be playing a dramatic, melancholy funereal march beat on Easter morning but at the same time, on Good Friday, if your church has a service, you might want to go with that feeling.

The drummer's role in a worship setting is fairly important, because you set the tone and the mood for the whole group.  The best advice would be to start with prayer, of course, and ask G-d to help you find the right feeling.  Then, maybe touch base with the pastor or worship leader and ensure that the arc of the music (as it is known to you) is clear and understood.  Your church service might start with a driving, pulsing beat on a song with a lot of energy, and then the next song would be more prayerful and subdued.

Either way, besides prayer, the most important characteristic for a drummer in a worship setting is "listening".  If you are not locked in with the other rhythm playing musicians (bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, etc.) then you are going to be out there on your own, and possibly distracting to the congregation.  You want to provide the right beat and the right feel, and to do so you need to play, practice, and plug in to the energy of the group.

With drum circles, as compared to a drum kit, the mood and feel of the rhythms is going to be more chaotic perhaps, since participants are likely going to be trying to strike up sounds that they can hear over the balance of the group as a whole - and this can escalate into cacophony fairly quickly!  So start out simple, with regular beats on the 2 and 4, or 1 and 3, and let people fill in the spaces in the sound.  Work out a system of calling out changes in dynamics or just explain to the people that when you get soft, they should get soft, and when you play loud, they play loud etc.  The drum circle rhythms are fairly unpredictable, just like the Lord, but it is possible to lead by example and introduce some dynamic subtleties along the way.

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