Photo by Scott Pickering

Friday, May 27, 2011

Setup for Great, Great God EP

Wow!  Recording six songs LIVE for the Gateway Worship EP meant bringing in more gear that usual.  Percussion instruments in my setup included snare drum, Chinese bell tree, suspended cymbals, two floor toms, mark tree, shekere, cabasa, shakers, crash cymbals, triangles rack, and tambourines.  Once everything was set was a percussion playground!

Conga Ideas: Random and Useful

Congas are almost always part of my set-up when I am playing Contemporary Worship music but I usually play them sparingly.

  • Use the basic conga tones to copy phrasing with the other instruments. If the rhythm section plays hits that are short / long / short / long / long /short…try playing slaps for short and open tones for long. A much tighter sound!
  • Avoid playing congas on top of a drumset fill. I look for a musically logical spot to stop the conga pattern before the drummer starts the fill.
  • Muffled slaps played loudly in unison with the snare drum can point up precision problems. Back off on the back beat!
  • When playing “time” on congas, pick a pattern and stick with it. Do not “improv” while the rest of the rhythm section grooves.
  • Pick your spots judiciously. Do the congas really enhance that section?
  • Tune tight for easy response and good projection. Even with amplification, you want to send a solid projecting sound into the microphone.
  • Simple can be effective! Listen to the congas in “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” ...The Temptations version. You'll see what I mean.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's okay to not play

How can they miss you if you never go away?

As percussionists, we have the ability to change the timbral texture of the ensemble with our variety of sounds and instruments but always remember that we can also change the sound by not playing. You can increase your impact by dropping out for a while. Demonstrate your taste and restraint with the confidence that the decision not to play IS a musical decision. Try waiting until the second verse to enter or maybe that intro with piano doesn’t need those triangle notes on top (or fewer). Sometimes…less is more.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Searching for Sounding Metal in the Scriptures

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, cymbals are mentioned sixteen times in the King James Version.  Fifteen of those are found in the Old Testament while the singular form (cymbal) occurs just once in the New Testament.
Check out this passage:
And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, and to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel:
Asaph the chief, and next to him Zechariah, Jeiel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Mattithiah, and Eliab, and Benaiah, and Obededom: and Jeiel with psaltries and with harps; but Asaph made a sound with cymbals; 
Benaiah also and Jahaziel the priests with trumpets continually before the ark of the covenant of God.
1 Chronicles 16: 4-6 KJV

I get a kick out of reading that Asaph was both the bandleader and percussionist of this large combo.