When we chose drums as our instrument, we signed up to be the leader of the rhythm section and that’s a vital role. As we go so the band goes. So how do imperfect people play in perfect time?
Using a metronome or click track is a great place to start but it’s no substitute for developing your “internal click." Here are a couple of training exercises to help you develop your internal metronome.
Match The Track
One of my favorite little games to play is to keep time to a song I’m listening to. I’ll start near a speaker and get my internal click going and then leave the room for 30 seconds or so, never letting the my click stop. When I return I compare my place in the song to the one on the stereo. This not only helps me stay in time but also identifies bad tendencies. Am I consistently ahead or behind? If I am, it’s time to recalibrate my click.
Hear The Parts
You may be the foundation of the rhythm but you aren’t the only one playing. Tracking to a click can help you stay in time but listening to how other instruments interact with each other can help. Today's worship music is saturated with electronics, loops and tracks. You do yourself a favor to listen to how they interact with the rhythm of the song. I like to start with my click pretty hot in practice and then slowly back it down into the mix. It not only helps me become more independent, but I also enjoy the music more. Eventually the metronome will just become another instrument and you'll be playing to it, but you won't even notice that it's there.
It’s imperative you practice with a click but unchaining yourself when you're ready can be a really freeing experience. The key phrase is “when you are ready." Now get practicing.