Seeing the probationees playing drums while I guide then seeing Josh and Leb just made me remember my probation period. I remember how horrible I was! HAHA!
Why did I try out for drums in the first place?
Well, during Bare Bones, the Lord spoke to me, “What have you been doing for me?” I honestly had no answer. All I did was go for cell all year long. Not serving. Not doing anything. When that question came to me, I just broke down. That was why I decided to go for drums. I used to have this desire to audition for both vocals and drums after secondary school, but this moment with the Lord changed that and I just went for it.
My audition was really humbling. I didn’t know 6/8 so I had to ask and get help. I asked so many people. I asked Marcus Goh. I asked my teacher, Jenny. I asked James Pang. I asked Leb. Then when we got to it, even then I failed. We had three songs. Two selected songs and one choice song! I did decently for the selected but I got quite confused because I lost count. So I was like, “should I continue? Or should I stop then start again?” So I was like… Argh…. 😦
Somehow or another I got into training. It was with the adults and I actually thought that it was a good practice! After all, it would have brought everyone in the ministry together! There is no “youth is better” or “adults is better” concept for we were all trying to be able to play for service! The experience was really good!
Then came probation, it was REALLY humbling. It was me coming into a band that obviously knew what to do and I was simply just there spoiling the music, wasting my trainer’s time on the kit! It wasn’t because I wasn’t trying my best; I was. However, people don’t realize that there are certain issues. First, I am new to the music thing. I do not know much of the lingo of the band. I have little idea if it was my playing or the band’s fault. When they were brainstorming for different parts(for example, confirming chords), I took it as a message that I was doing something wrong and they were thinking how to help me. I always see my trainers playing certain stuff when there was time, but I did not know that they were playing that when no one is discussing stuff. I thought when they were confirming chords it was alright for me to play little stuff here and there; unknowingly, I was disturbing the band. Sometimes I feel that the drum shield makes me silent, but it really doesn’t.
Then, there was so much going on… I need to keep time. I need to care for dynamics. I need to be able to fill properly. Then, there are those difficult stop starts/punches etc etc. I had no idea how to play them. With so many things going on, it was REALLY tough to play anything well. Every alternate week just felt horrible, with me just really sad that it had to go the way it did. It only gotten a bit better when Mel moved up to YA and I was under Nell. Perhaps I am more familiar with the people in the ministry? Nevertheless, it still took about another 4 months before I ended probation.
Ever since then, it was one heck of a journey. It has been almost 2 years serving! Wow. I never would have imagined that I could play as well as I could today. There were several milestones that I never noticed until I reflected.
First was confidence. For a drummer, confidence of what you need to play is key. Someone that doesn’t keep time properly, but is able to be confident about dynamics can sound better than a person who is keeping time but with no/little dynamics. Slowly, I somehow or another managed to learn dynamics! This then came with an internal metronome, after a while, I was able to tell the difference between the counts, rather than taking the crash as a reference!
Then, next is special stuff like stop starts and punches. I really can’t get it right when I first started. It was like, wait, what count is that? Then after serving for a while, I realized that they were doing the same kinda stuff! Like stop starts are generally on the same count, punches are just on lyrics and you need to practice that!
Then, song form. I never knew that there was a standard song form! Then some where along the way I kinda figured it out!
Then, it was suggestions to the band. I never did become vocal for suggestions until last year. For I felt quite inadequate to do so. There are people way more qualified to do so. They were trained with chords etc etc and I was just a drummer. It took much probing and time before I was comfortable giving suggestion to support the band.
Time keeping. Wah, this is the area that has been my weak spot for the longest time. In probation, I could not keep time; always speeding up or slowing down. Then when it has gotten better and I started serving, I still couldn’t keep time properly… it was only last year when I started with the metronome when I felt exactly how horrible my timing was. I realized that I was keeping time with the vocals; following them unconsiously. It was when Isaac told me to follow the click and not the singers that I realized that I was following them. It was then a fun journey with the metronome to improve my timing. The results had been quite good! My timing has definitely gotten better from last year! Still need much more practice though.
Using the metronome also reveals that sometimes it is not the instrumentalists that are speeding up or slowing down; sometimes, the singers themselves are speeding up.
It is understandable luhh, Chad Smith once said that playing music is like breathing. It is natural to speed up a bit and slow down a bit. He referred to the old rock bands when the metronome technology isn’t that developed yet. They would speed up together a bit in the chorus then when they go back to the verse they would slow back down a bit. A metronome will not let you do that. While that is true, it should NEVER discourage people from using the metronome! I mean, the drummers back then did not have this tool! You have! Why not make use of it and be an even better drummer? Then, you must realise that even though they were speeding up, the drummers back then had to have a good sense of tempo as well. No matter what, a drummer cannot speed up like 5bpm! So even though they were speeding up, they were still in total control of their tempo. A drummer still needs to be the time keeper and his strokes still need to be on pocket.
While I am not particularly aiming the vocalist; I am not aiming them at all! Haha! I just want to point out that they can do their part to help us keep time as a band. Why not practice with a metronome? I mean they are affecting the tempo, with them leading people to sing along, perhaps even more so. It might be a good practice to learn how to work with a metronome. After all, if you ever get to record something, you will have to eventually work with one, so why not start now? It might be distracting at first, but nothing you learn will be easy the first few times you try it out! So try it! It will help with your singing and helps you surpport the band better!
The metronome has transformed from a hated enemy to a well loved friend. I have been practicing a lot on a drum pad and simply just practicing even strokes and instead of annoying me, it has been motivating me to practice even more! With the help of the metronome I will be a better musician!
Somehow, I quite prefer a horrible player with a good heart to a wonderful player with a horrible heart. Well, I hope that I will always be playing drums from an outflow of joy from my heart! 🙂 thank you Lord!