You Don’t Always Have to Have a Drummer

If I could have all of the energy back that I’ve spent over the last several years trying to round up a drummer for the weekend when my regular one is out of town or unavailable, I could probably climb Mount Everest. Seriously.

I wonder if you can relate. I have a good number of singers, and enough bass players, guitarists, and pianists to allow me to lead with a standard 5-6 piece worship team every Sunday. But drummers are harder to come by. Good drummers, I should specify. Since I’ve chosen to set a fairly high standard for drummers, there are middle school drummers and other less experienced drummers who might be in town that I don’t use.

And so I’m in a bind every once in a while and have every other position filled except for the drummer. So I email all the other drummers I know. I beg someone. I ask God to drop one in my office out of thin air. I use someone on the djembe. I offer to fly my oldest brother up from Florida to play drums for me (I actually offered this once…) I might eventually find someone but only after spending a substantial amount of time and energy.

And sometimes it’s what you have to do. Drums are essential to getting a certain “feel”, they are the backbone of the contemporary music sound, and they (hopefully, with a good drummer, and this is why you should have semi-high standards for drummers) hold everything together. Drums are crucial.

But drums can become a crutch for you, your team, and your congregation. But unlike a crutch that you actually need because you can’t walk properly without it, drums can become like a crutch that you don’t need, but you’ve just gotten so used to walking with it that you’re afraid of it being taken away. You don’t need drums. This might be news to you. It might make you shake with fear.

(For others out there, you know this, because you don’t have any drummers. A middle school drummer would be a welcome addition for you. This post isn’t so much for you, although you’re welcome to keep reading. This is more for those of us who have drummers and think that without them the Holy Spirit won’t show up on a Sunday).

You don’t need drums to lead worship effectively. You don’t need drums to have a worship team that sounds good. You don’t need drums to get your congregation to engage with God. And you certainly don’t need drums so that the Holy Spirit will show up on a Sunday. If you doubt that any of these statements are true, you could probably use a break from drums.

So pick a Sunday, any Sunday, and go drum-less. It will force you to choose different songs (and this is good for you), it will make you re-think instrumentation and arrangements (and this is good for you), and it will make you less confident and more dependent on God’s help for things to work (and this is really good for you). 

4 thoughts on “You Don’t Always Have to Have a Drummer

  1. Josh May 10, 2011 / 7:38 pm

    I agree that you don’t always need a drummer, in fact, I lead worship regularly in a church that doesn’t have a drummer for the most part and really the space that we use at the moment is not the most conducive to drumming anyway (it’s really an echoey space!!).
    But I disagree that not having a drummer makes you pick different songs – it might give the same songs a different feel, and it certainly stretches you (in a good way) to have no drummer and need to change the arrangement or put more emphasis on a different instrument or (shock horror!) trust the guitarist or piano player to provide the backbone to the sound, timing etc, but I don’t choose different songs because I have a drummer or not.

  2. Adam Diehl May 11, 2011 / 3:26 am

    I don’t like this post very much. I don’t like you right now, either. MY TOES ARE SORE FROM BEING STEPPED ON!

    …. but you’re right. Thank you for sharing! 😀

    I think the biggest reason I put such an emphasis on drums is not for the end product (it’s better that way), but for the success of other volunteers. Without a drummer, it’s difficult for the other volunteers to feel good about their gifts they’re presenting. It would take A LOT MORE WORK…

    And in my church (550 people), I have three teams that rotate… and I intentionally do not have an “A Team”… the totally awesome one. I’ve mixed up the talent so I have three “good” teams. Most of the players are average… and so if I’m changing instrumentation or styles significantly … depending on the people I have in that particular team, I may have nothing worthwhile on the team! Drums hold so much together for EVERYONE ELSE – not just the worship leader. I’m inclined to worry about my other volunteers.

    Nevertheless you’ve provided valuable and truthful information to consider. Thank you.

    I also wrote about “How to Survive Without a Drummer” very recently as well. Readers might appreciate this related resource: http://www.cmiworship.com/2011/04/no-drummer/

  3. samanthalimhf October 28, 2014 / 12:32 pm

    Reblogged this on #sammoments and commented:
    “So pick a Sunday, any Sunday, and go drum-less. It will force you to choose different songs (and this is good for you), it will make you re-think instrumentation and arrangements (and this is good for you), and it will make you less confident and more dependent on God’s help for things to work (and this is really good for you). ”

    I so need this for the upcoming worship set where I’m leading worship… drummer-less.

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