Last month I had the opportunity to play drums for a night of worship that was recorded for a live record. There's not a lot of room for issues or mistakes on something like that, and we wanted everything to run flawlessly. It would have been much more challenging if I didn't play consistently.
For this project, I had to load in Friday morning, learn 10 songs, rehearse all day Friday and Saturday, then remember and execute Sunday night with a couple of thousand people. With an experience like this, that's being recorded and videoed, there's always a little stress. But there are ways to keep that stress to a healthy level and feel confident.
One way I can learn 10 songs that I've never heard before and lock them into my brain is by playing consistent grooves. Now in this case, the producer and the worship leader had some grooves and specific parts that they wanted played, so this helped me with coming up with parts/grooves quickly and sticking to them.
The most critical part of a song to me, and what I'm most concerned about, is how the song starts. As long as I start the song right I can get through it from there. Chances are, even if I don't nail it like I rehearsed I can make it sound fine and nobody will know, but if I can't remember how the tune starts, I'm in trouble. I would make notes on the setlist that showed me that, for instance, song number one starts with a tom groove, or this song has a hiphop or pop feel, or maybe there is a specific bridge part. These notes can save the song. If I'm playing consistant parts, I can make it work more easily than if I'm not in the practice of playing consistently.
You have to remember that YOU are the backbone and the whole band is relying on you to lock everything in. That's a huge responsibility! If you miss an intro or specific driving part that everyone is hitting on, things are going to fall apart or feel empty. Playing consistant parts will not only help you remember, but it's also important because it helps the rest of the band. Your team may be relying on a certain fill or groove to bring them into a part and if you're not playing that fill every time, that landmark not being there could throw them off. I know I listen for vocal and guitar landmarks sometimes to lead me into certain parts of songs. Now this doesn't mean don't practice or don't know your parts front to back and sideways. But if you're used to hearing something a certain way and then for some reason you don't hear it that way the next time you play it, it could easily make you second guess yourself. Playing consistant grooves makes everyone feel more confident.
I'm happy to say that all went well at the night of worship. I'm grateful that I nailed all of my parts and the night went flawlessly. I may have been learning songs for the first time that night, but even if you're playing songs you've played before, play the parts consistently. If you do, you'll see stress and nerves go away and you and your team playing with confidence.