How To Think Like A Drummer

Part 2: Addition Vs. Subtraction

In our last installment, we talked about playing to the room. In this post we're talking about playing to the band. Check it.

Ever notice how you can practice along with an album and it sounds amazing but when you play it with the band it just feels flat? These moments call for making changes and depending on the song, you may need to do some math.


When you practice with a record it can feel huge because there are so many other parts creating textures. Strip it down to a live band and it and you need to create some filler. Maybe there was a loop subtley moving in the background or maybe some synth part kept things rolling with an arpeggiator. As drummers we need to hear the song as it is and there are a few things I like to add into the mix when things are sounding less than full. To create movement, a tight hat with 16th notes or a shaker can fill in where a much more complicated drum loop was. Some ghost notes on the snare can also lift dynamic. Maybe a crushed hat instead of a ride? It might even be adding a groove where there isn't one to help carry the song like I did on It Is Well. The key is to not complicate it so much that you fall out of the pocket.


Other times the album has too much going on. If you are down to a 3 piece it may be beneficial to back off. Simplify that kick pattern. Drop into a lower dynamic tom groove so you have room to go up. If you can't create a wall of sound, it's best to try and create something that just sounds good on it's own. You don't have to be Hillsong.


It's all about using your ears. Don't get so set on something just because "that's how it is on the record". A little addition or subtraction can go a long way in creating an arrangement that carries a song. Think like a drummer.

Josh Ward is a versatile drummer of 18 years and heavily involved with the worship team at Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. He is a husband to Rosie, dad to Amos and drum instructor for

How To Think Like A Drummer

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