What you are about to read is huge. It’s about drummers and if you’re a worship leader that longs to achieve the next level of musical excellence where your rhythm section is concerned, well, today, after you read this article, you’ll be poised on the threshold of greatness.

Here it is…

There are three kinds of drummers in this world. Regardless of chops, technique, resume or background, they all fit, for the most part, into one of these three categories:

  • Garage Door – think, “garage band.” This person never really took a whole lot of time to learn proper technique or how to read music. He just parked himself behind the kit one day; decided he loved it and hasn’t come up for air since.

  • Coat and Tie – well trained as a percussionist with some facility on the drum kit. They might even have a degree in music performance. They’re capable behind any kind of mallet instrument, they can converse intelligently about the difference between a rudimental roll and an orchestral roll, but a rhythm chart will catapult them into an intimidating world of darkness and confusion. They need to see things written out verbatim, otherwise they’ve not at all comfortable and inevitably wind up guessing about what to play.

  • Record Deal – this one is a player. He can read, he’s got a formidable collection of licks and grooves and there is rarely a piece of music you’re going to throw at him that he isn’t going to be able to read straight down with few mistakes. The only problem with this kind of player is that they’re rarely challenged; consequently they may play a little too much sometimes. Either that, or they’re just not completely engaged because there’s nothing to really sink their teeth into.

    As a worship leader you want to channel all of the positive attributes represented by each of the above players in a direction that benefits both them and your ensemble. At the same time, you want to address those places where there’s room for improvement in a way that comes across as affirming and legitimately interesting. The question is, “How?”

    Here are some ideas:

    For the “Garage Door”, you need to get this player up to speed as far as reading is concerned. The problem is that a lot of the tutorials that you could buy either require an instructor looking over their shoulder or the subject matter is presented in a way that comes across as boring and laborious. Ah, but wait! There’s a book called “The Starting Line” and it is the perfect solution for your dilemma. The strategy that’s employed in this book is that you’re learning how to read rhythms by playing them with your hands as well as with your feet. So, in the student’s mind, they’re “…playing the drumset” as opposed to merely hammering out rhythms with their hands on a rubber pad. From your perspective they’re learning rhythmic notation and that is the beginning of great things as far as them being able to process the charts you hand out every week.

    The “Coat and Tie” player needs something that isn’t going to insult their intelligence. They know how to read; they just need something to increase their vocabulary on the kit while simultaneously help them bridge the gap between needing everything written out and being able to understand a rhythm chart. Again, “The Starting Line” is what you need. “The Starting Line” is a comprehensive text that comes with 3 CDs featuring audio recordings of the exercises and solos. With it, you have a self-paced study that you can engage with or without a teacher. But the thing that makes it so useful is that it comes as either a total package, or one of three separate books. The “Coat and Tie” player will go with “Book Three” which focuses on just the kit and how to interpret a rhythm chart.

    Finally, the “Record Deal” player needs a challenge. “Book Three” will give them something to work on, but in this case the preferred option is going to be the “Surrounded Solo Performance Series.” This series is a collection of aggressively arranged hymns that showcase the drummer. The first installment is “Heaven Came Down” which is performed as a Samba with some double time swing. The package comes with a demonstration track, a performance track (they could actually play this as Special Music in a Worship service) as well as some instructional commentary that discusses some of the licks and Latin Rhythms in general.

    Don’t you feel better having read this? You can now capitalize on your drummers’ strengths, plus move them forward beyond those things that are compromising their performance simply by picking up a copy of either “The Starting Line” or “The Surrounded Solo Performance Series.” To do that, simply head out to http://www.brucegust.com/Drumset.htm. There you’ll find all of the info you need to get your ace drummer up and running.

    If you have any questions, contact Bruce Gust at bruce@brucegust.com!

    Bruce Gust is a resident of Nashville, TN where he spends his time performing, recording and teaching. He’s a veteran of the United States Marine Corps where he served on staff at the Armed Force School of Music for five years teaching drumset and percussion. He was the drummer on the first Young Messiah Tour, the drummer with the band “Western Flyer”; he’s toured with Steve Green and most recently performed as the drummer with the “Little River Band.” He and his wife Michelle have three kids: Jorja, Vivian and Carter.