Tips on Becoming a Better Drummer

drums-e1278515021125I was in Nashville recently, recording basic tracks for our upcoming album “Risen,” due out in March. The drums were superbly handled by Ben Phillips (and no, that’s not a picture of his set). I asked Ben if he’d answer a few questions to encourage drummers who are growing in their skills. He kindly obliged and the questions and answers appear below.

How long have you been playing and who are some of the artists you’ve played for, live or recorded?
I’ve been playing drums for 27 years. in that time i’ve had the privilege of playing or recording for steven curtis chapman, toby mac, francesca battistelli, natalie grant, josh wilson, plumb, rush of fools, 33 miles, matthew west, chris and conrad, ronnie freeman, & mandisa.

What helped you to develop solid time?
The only thing that helped me develop solid time is time. Lots of practice with a metronome. [no surprise here…]

What has helped you pursue creative playing that serves the song rather than distracts from it?
I learn to serve the song by learning to listen. Listen to the song, the melody, the words. Listen to the dynamic of the singer. I finally realized that every single note I played served a purpose. I also learned from a much older and wiser player who would say ‘he spent many years learning when not to play.’

What do you tell drummers about how to tune their drums?
That’s a hard question to answer quickly. but here are a few things. Tune to the room. I usually tune the drums fairly loose.  I find that gives me more attack and more low end. That’s for a more pop/rock sound. But it’s such an art more than a science and depends on the style and drum.  As a general rule, just make sure all the lugs have even tension. I know that seems simple, but it works.

How many hours a day did you practice/play when you first arrived in Nashville? How about now?
I used to practice about 1-2 hours a day for 15-20 years. Now, not that much. I’ll go through phases every few months where i’ll practice 3-4 hours a week. But other than that, mostly i’m just playing.

What are the most important things to think about when you’re playing?
That’s a good question. I don’t know :)

What qualities do you appreciate in a bass player?
The same thing really in any musician. Someone that listens to other players around him.

What 3 things would you say to a worship team drummer who wants to get better?
Practice. practice. practice. . . . listen listen listen. Listen to other music, styles, drummers. And of course, when you’re playing, listen to the other musicians. And always listen to the song first.

More thoughts for drummers can be found here.

4 Responses to Tips on Becoming a Better Drummer

  1. Michael Sciarra December 13, 2010 at 1:07 AM #

    a really good friend of mine who is avidly(along with myself) on the worship team at church who is in high school as i am, and leads our high school worship, sent me this and i really really appreciate what you have to say! he encouraged me to subscribe to your blog because i will be taking charge of HS worship and more responsibility on the main worship team in service, because of his graduating and going on an extended missions trip. I just wanted to say thanks! ive really really enjoyed what i have read. you are blessing! p

    p.s. i heard you play “all i have is Christ” for the first time at resolved this past year. it was a blessing and we now sing it at our church and it is a big favorite of all.

    • Bob Kauflin December 13, 2010 at 10:58 AM #

      Michael, thanks for your encouraging words!

  2. Jeremy Woodall December 22, 2010 at 2:13 PM #

    Good article, Bob. One of my drummers, Tim, enjoyed reading it and replied back to me with these thoughts:

    (This article) had a lot of the advice which I thought was all good, but deals mostly with studio drumming. A couple of things I would like to pass on for playing at church:

    1. I feel the most important thing for the drummer to do when playing more of the driving upbeat songs we do is to give a good solid 2 & 4 on the snare. I know it’s hard to believe but some of the people in the congregation don’t have a natural feel for clapping on the 2 & 4, and if you can give the song that strong feel it helps.

    2. The other very important thing is to not overplay. Keep it simple. I also think that it is the drummers job to drive the dynamics. Both up and down. It is not the drummers job to decide where the dynamics are, that is the worship leader’s job is, but it’s the drummer who should key in on the worship leader and then bring it up or take it down. I think dynamics are very important to live playing. It brings a song to life. Don’t be afraid to play loud at times, just don’t play too much, too loud. Too many notes and too much going on is usually the problem. Not the volume!


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