Photo by Scott Pickering

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Two-tone Drumstick

When you find yourself in that musical moment that requires the sharp attack of a drumstick bead or shaft AND a less pointed sound (soft mallet) but no time for a stick /mallet change, this simple modification can help you deliver both timbres.

Take any drumstick and wrap some "Cushion Tape" (like 3M Nexcare Absolute Waterproof or Dr. Scholl's Moleskin) around the lower shoulder / upper shaft area of the stick. (App. 3 inches of tape)

That's it!  Give this treatment to a couple of sticks and you can easily play that suspended cymbal roll and move instantly to using the bead on the snare drum--or the butt end on the cowbell. 

You can even generate a decent suspended cymbal roll with one stick.

I keep a "doctored pair" in my mallet case.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Setup Of The Month December

Here's the setup that was used this past weekend at the Plymouth Park United Methodist Church (Irving, TX) performance of the Benjamin Harlan cantata, A Candlelight Christmas.

I played percussion along with my college-age drumming daughter, Anna.   We played all the timpani parts (quite a bit) on the Handsonic 15...and the conductor was quite happy with the "digital kettles."   Notice my electronic tuner on the trap table to boost my confidence in the timpani pitches.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sleigh Bells--Just In Time

December is here and it is my solemn duty to repost my sleighbells tutorial video.

If you are a percussionist---Don't leave your home without the sleighbells for the next 24 days!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Worship Musician Magazine Article

The recent issue of Worship Musician contains an article based on writings from Percussion For Worship (unpublished book).

You can read the article on line.  Hit the link below and flip to page 48 to read "Tambourine Tips: Random and Useful" in the November / December issue.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Triangle Vibrato

        Here's one of my Percussion How To videos

 A short tutorial on triangle vibrato

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tycoon Rhythm Rack

In the "Why didn't I think of that?" category...
The Rhythm Rack from Tycoon Percussion!

Here's a photo that I snapped at PASIC earlier this month. 
I was so impressed by The Rhythm Rack! 
Not only can you mount blocks, bells, etc...but you can play them without picking up a stick.  The circular paddles operate mallets that strike the instruments.  You can easily move from congas to cowbell and back using only your hands to play all the sounds.  
Check out the website  (link below) for more info on The Rhythm Rack and other great gear from Tycoon Percussion.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Set Up Of The Month November 2012

Mike Smith sent these photos recently.  The percussion playing of Mike has accompanied James Ingram, Gladys Knight, Marilyn McCoo, Macie Gray, and many more artists. 
The top set up is from a Kirk Whalum show.


Get more info on Mike at his Facebook page:

Monday, November 5, 2012

PASIC 2012

It was the return of the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) to the Lone Star State last week.  Attendees to the world's largest gathering of drummers enjoyed Austin's warm temperatures and dozens of concerts and clinics. 

The event is always inspiring (and humbling) as I listen to some of the "greats" perform.  I really dug Keith Terry's body percussion presentation and the father-son duo of Richie and Roland Gajate-Garcia.  Another highlight was the Roland V-Drums National Championships which included performances by Johnny Rabb and Thomas Lang.  The V-Drums are amazing! 

As a member of the Interactive Drumming Committee, I facilitated a Flash Jam on Friday morning.  What a blast!  Drums and Boomwhackers were jamming for about ten minutes outside the exhibit hall.  I looked over and saw my friend, Rich Redmond (Jason Aldean band) joining in the action.
You can get lost in the moment checking out gear at the Exhibit Hall.  Check out this photo of Neil Grover and me at the Grover Pro Percussion booth. 

Grover instruments have been a part of "my sound" for over two decades!

Several months ago, Grover released the Roll Ring.  Wow!  With the Roll Ring, you can lay down a confident thumb roll on the tambourine (with no saliva).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Give Me A Groove

Lorentz Publishing / Heritage Music Press has released Give Me A Groove, my percussion book for elementary music grades 3-6.   I'm very excited about this project and decided to share the news with readers of Percussion For Worship.  There are eighteen grooves written for percussion instruments commonly found in music classrooms along with melodies that work on recorder, barred percussion or Boomwhackers (tm).   A performance CD+ Printable Resources is included.   I had a lot of fun writing the book and recording all the percussion parts.   If you know a music teacher that might be interested in this resource, send 'em this link for more info:


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Set Up Of The Month October 2012

This was my setup this weekend in Black Mountain at the Lifeway Ridgecrest for the NC BC fall convention. I use the same setup from last week at Campbell. It was an amazing time!Check out this photo from William Johnson Garcia !   This was William's layout for the North Carolina Baptist Campus Fall Convention from a few weeks ago. 

Don't you dig the two cajons?

I just want to jump into the photo and start wailin' for about twenty minutes.

More info on Mr. Garcia's music at

Thursday, October 18, 2012


A short tutorial on the Vibraslap

Vibraslap is a tradmark of latin Percussion

More Percussion How To videos at

Monday, October 8, 2012

Short---But Worthy Of Much Thought

Did you know that there is not a single word for worship in Greek or Hebrew that has anything to do with music?


Zach Neese, How To Worship A King (Southlake, TX: Gateway Create, 2012, p. 52

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"How Beautiful Shines Your Glory" Demo

Jonathan Malone (my songwriting partner) and I wrote this song recently.  I finished mixing this demo recording.  
No percussion...YET         ...any ideas?

Check it out.  You can download it for free. 
Go to 
Remix it...toss in your ideas

...interested in the lyrics and/or chord chart?
Contact me at 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tambourine Timbres

In addition to the percussion teaching posts on
Percussion For Worship, there's video tutorials on my You Tube channel.   You'll find info on tambourine, shaker, triangle, snare drum, and more.
Here's a sample from
Be sure to sign up for email alerts when there is a new posting at
Percussion For Worship.
It's at the top right corner.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Finger Shot

"Play a light shaker on the verse and then go to djembe when the chorus hits.   Oh, is there any way that you can keep the shaker going?"

You could grow any extra arm out of your stomach OR use a couple of Finger Shots from Latin Percussion.  

Like the bigger brother One Shot, the Finger Shot only produces sound on one surface. When you place the device on your finger with the elastic band (as in the photo), the shaker sound is activated with the downward motion into the drum head or any surface.  A striking surface is not even necessary...just wave your hand in rhythm! 

Play congas or bongos with a Finger Shot on each hand and there's another layer of sound right in unison with the drums.

I'm keeping a pair in my mallet case.

Monday, September 10, 2012

September Setup Of The Month


Here's a shot of a recent setup of mine.  I was laying down some 808 kick and handclap with the Handsonic 15 (while playing shaker) on that particular weekend.   The Gajate bracket with bass drum pedal is a big help when I need some backbeat tambourine while playing djembe or congas.  The trap table lives on my right side so I can access the items with my dominant hand.   I have a couple of suspended cymbals on my left so that I can play one-hand rolls while playing something more rhythmically intricate with my right.  The tambourines are at the ready on the launch pad (see posting from 4/19/10 on making a launch pad).
 Percussion For Worship wants to see your setup for possible inclusion on the blog.
Send those pix to

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How To Worship A King

"Worship is the soil out of which all meaningful Christian endeavors grow."
You get a lot of “heavy” in Zach Neese’s book, How To Worship A King. 

The same guy who penned “The More I Seek You” brings out his serious “author chops” to instruct, inspire, and challenge on the topic of worship.

Zach defines and clarifies the meaning of worship for the believer. 
You become more aware of your role as a priest. 
There is interesting historical perspective on various “Reformations” within Christianity 
…and you get some good anecdotes from the author.  (The rock climbing in sneakers story is quite astounding.)

One of my favorite chapters provides information on Biblical expressions of praise.  While singing, instrumental music, clapping, uplifted hands, dancing, and bowing are all addressed in the section, I was especially drawn to the section on Biblical words for praise. 
Here's #4 on Zach’s list:

Zamar: to sing and give praise while playing an instrument
…and I will sing praises (zamar)  unto thy name. 
                                                 2 Samuel 22:50 KJV
…I will sing, yea, I will sing praises (zamar) unto the Lord.                                         Psalm 27:6 KJV

Percussionists…Buy this book and get to zamar-ing!
For ordering info, go to Zach Neese’s website at

Monday, September 3, 2012

Maracas / Shaker Style

When I play maracas in a "pop" setting, I often use a shaker style method.

More tutorial videos at

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Interview With Javier Santiago

If you get the opportunity to hear the Annie Moses Band (, you'll be impressed with the intricacy and musicianship.   Javier Santiago supplies the percussion power in the ensemble with tasteful trap set playing AND hand drumming skills.  

Percussion For Worship: What was your musical training as you grew up in Puerto Rico?
Javier: I started taking percussion lessons at the age of eleven at a performing arts school in San Juan. I started drumming at church a year later and continued playing music and traveling across Central and South America all through my teen years.  I have a Bachelor's degree in Percussion Performance from the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico and a Master's degree in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Miami. My musical training and experience are very diverse and full of varied influences.

PFW: What drew you to move to Nashville?
Javier: I moved to Nashville in January of 1999 upon receiving a phone call to tour with the band TRUTH.  Moving to Nashville was never in my long term plans but the call came at just the right time for a fresh start and  a change of scenery. After the tour ended, I felt God prompting me to remain in Nashville and follow His lead. This was a free new start indeed!

PFW: You’ve backed some well-known Christian artists.  How about dropping a  few names?
Javier: Back in the mid 90's, I had the opportunity to play with Ron Kenoly in a couple of festivals in Puerto Rico. In 1999, I played percussion in a tour that included 4Him, Russ Taff, and Wayne Watson. I also played for Travis Cotrell, Ronnie Freeman, Nestor Torres, and many others.

PFW: I heard you playing with the Annie Moses Band a few years ago.   There are a lot of styles being played in that show.  Tell us a little about playing drums and percussion with that ensemble.
Javier: Playing with the Annie Moses Band gives me the opportunity to put into practice everything I learned in school and every previous musical experience. Growing up, I played in many churches and with a wide variety of ensembles. AMB's arrangements are extremely musical and require great sensitivity and creativity. Drum parts are not specifically written for me so the end result is typically a combination of many ideas tried and worked out during rehearsal and recording.

PFW: I understand that you have an interest in some “expanded techniques” on the cajon.  Please share a little about your cajon ideas. 
Javier: I love to play the cajon! It's one of the most versatile hand drums out there. I was introduced to the instrument in Peru a few years ago and to the flamenco cajon shortly thereafter. First of all, it is very important to know the difference between the two instruments and the techniques and applications of each one. I've studied some of this techniques and use them in playing the cajon in all kinds of musical situations. I also add a hi-hat, tambourine with a pedal, and shakers to play more of a drum set/percussion  part in acoustic and semi-acoustic settings. Using a combination of hands and left foot  (playing the hi-hat in more of an open hand technique between it and the cajon) allows me to play any kind of pattern imaginable. You can make this instrument as personal as the sticks you play.  

Javier Santiago endorses and plays with joy:
Innovative Percussion
Longo Custom Solid Shell Snares
Machudo Cajon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Percussion Tutorials at PraiseCharts /WorshipTraining

Check out PraiseCharts / WorshipTraining

Follow the link at the bottom of this post for a sample of a video and info on Worship Training Courses including:

Percussion For Worship: Technique & Tips

Professional percussionist Mark Shelton shares information for percussionists, worship leaders, producers, and anyone desiring to learn about the use of this family of instruments in both contemporary and traditional Christian worship. Enjoy Mark’s entertaining (and sometimes humorous) teaching style while acquiring knowledge on tambourine, triangle, cymbals, timpani, claves, maracas, and more.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August Set Up Of The Month

Jon E. Kirk ministers from this grand percussion station at Concord First Assembly of God Church.
You can also find Bill Elliot sharing the duties at this multi-timbral playground in North Carolina. 
In addition to his work at the church, Jon serves at a band director / percussion specialist in nearby China Grove, NC.

Keep sending in those photos to Percussion For Worship (

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DVD: Transitioning From Drummer To Musician

Whether an absolute beginner or seasoned pro, there is valuable educational material on the new DVD from Chris Knox.  The recent release from Musical Metamorphosis, Transitioning From Drummer To Musician contains instruction on a wide range of topics including grips, set up, fills, rudiments, and developing creativity. 

You'll enjoy Chris Knox throwing down (with taste) on a few songs backed by a highly skilled band. The Texas musician gives you ample servings of knowledge on this info packed disc.   The DVD is just under two hours AND includes downloadable exercises in PDF format.

Solid teaching, practical info, and inspiring playing!

Check out for more info.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Stick Control

Among the hundreds of percussion instructional books available, there are several "classics" of teaching texts.   Stick Control is a favorite of mine and the "tape repair job" on my personal copy bears witness to the many times it has been used in my drumming career.  For three quarters of a century, drummers have sharpened their skills with this famous educational opus by George Lawrence Stone. Stick Control contains material that can benefit ANY percussionist (drum set player, hand percussionist, mallet player, orchestral percussionist, or drum circle enthusiast).   The first nine pages of exercises alone can increase your playing level.  Mr. Stone's tome gives variation upon variation of sticking patterns for many basic rhythms.   The exercises can be played with sticks on a single surface, executed on multiple surfaces (giving you some ideas for fills), and played with brushes "sliding" the patterns (an idea from drum set great Ed Soph).

Stick Control is currently published by Alfred Music.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Song Of Truth Fast Tempo

Jonathan Malone (songwriter, worship leader, and pal 'o mine) wrote this with a little help from me.
No percussion on this demo version...If you were adding some percussion, what would be your choices? Comments?

Listen    Enjoy    Worship      Tell a friend

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June Set Up Of The Month

Percussionist Marlon Lewis shared these photos of his set up.  The Maryland musician has the goods to groove AND create some color with Mark Tree, Rain Stick, Chajchas, Togo Seed Rattle, Thunder Tube tm , and Finger Cymbals.

Friday, June 15, 2012


Steve Jobs said,  "Creativity is just connecting things."

That statement has the ring of truth.  Keep in mind that you have to collect those "things" so that you can have a stockpile in your brain at the ready when the creative moment is needed.  That is why it is important  to explore and grow as musicians.  LIsten to different styles of music...including pieces WITHOUT percussion. Check out methods of playing other than your favorites.  Read up on the newest innovations that you cannot afford...yet!  Attend concerts and clinics presented by great players that will inspire (and humble).

This "collecting for connecting" extends outside of music.  Studying other fields (history, visual art, dance, math, astronomy) can spark creativity in music.  

Devote some of your practice time to creativity. Improvise. 

As percussionists, our number of instruments keeps growing, the sources of educational media increases, and players continue to push the technical limits.

Be a lifelong learner.

Connect and Create !

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.  Their ears are open to knowledge.

Proverbs 18:18 New Living Translation
Scripture quotation from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

What techniques do you use to spark creativity?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tambourine Energy Boost

You're playing that smokin' sixteenth tambourine pattern on the last part of the song and you know that final chorus  should go up a notch in intensity.  

What can you do?

Here's an idea:
Keep the sixteenths going and toss in some accented upbeats.  Experiment with accents on the upbeat of one and three (similar to hi-hat opens) or on the "and" of all four beats...or some other variations.  
It doesn't work on every song but when it does...POW! 
You can really feel the tambourine give an extra "lift" to the overall groove.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eric Darken Interview

Eric Darken's percussion has been a part of hundreds of recordings over the last few decades.  The Nashville session great took a few moments recently to answer a few questions:

Mark:  What is your background / training as a percussionist?

Eric:  I started out playing drum set at the age of twelve.  I played timpani and mallets in high school.  I attended Brevard College in North Carolina and studied with Mario Gaetano who was a wonderful orchestral percussionist and educator.  He really got me started into the whole orchestral percussion world.  After a two year degree, I transferred to Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.  There I studied with Roy Smith who was the principal percussionist for the Tulsa Philharmonic.  At ORU, I was asked to be a part of the Richard Roberts "live" TV show which aired five days a week.  This was a great experience because it taught me how to sightread and perform charts very quickly.  We would rehearse a few songs for the show and then tape "live" an hour later.  This was not only a wonderful experience, but quite an education.

How about name dropping some artists with Eric Darken percussion on their recordings?

I have had the opportunity over the years to record for a variety of artists and bands.  Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Gaither Vocal Band, Taylor Swift, Bob Seger, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Bon Jovi

You've been involved in a variety of aspects of the music business.  In addition to playing percussion, what else have you done in your career?

I started out years ago copying music for various music arrangers.  It was a lot of hard work and long hours but I learned a lot by doing it.  Over the years, I have composed music for TV and film and continue to do so as time permits.  You can hear some of my music on such television shows as Dateline, 20/20, NFL Films, National Geographic, and Fox Sports.

How has your work as a percussionist changed / evolved over the course of your career?

I'm always trying to learn and grow as a musician and by doing so that includes keeping up with the electronic world as well.  Years ago, I began recording projects of my own in my studio and that has moved into people sending me their tracks to play on .  I'm constantly trying to stay up to date with the latest recording and software gear.  I do the same with my acoustic percussion as well.  My set up incorporates both acoustic and electronic options.  I use samples and can create original loops in the studio as needed.  On any given day or song, I can incorporate all types of percussion, some electronics and even some drum set parts if needed.  By having my own studio, it forced me to not only keep up with things percussion-wise but also recording as well.  There is always something to learn!

I'm sure that there are many times in the studio (or preparing for a live event) when there is no written chart.  What is your method for creating a percussion part?

I don't have a formula per se when there is no written part.  I try to communicate with the artist or producer on what he or she might like or what they want to accomplish with percussion.  A lot of times, a producer will give specific instructions or often times, they will just tell me to "do my thing."  I try to listen to the "big picture" with a track.  If there is a lot of motion going on within the track then I might adjust what I do from a shaker or hand drum part.  I tend to try to blend into what the drums are doing and not stick out in any way...even if there are a bunch of different parts!  Ultimately, I would like to believe that what I bring to a track is inspired by God.

Eric uses Meinl Percussion, Paiste Cymbals, Mike Balter Mallets, Remo Heads, and the Trash Kat Drum from ThunderEcho Drums.

Monday, March 19, 2012


The caxixi is a percussion instrument traditionally made with a woven basket cone attached to a circular piece of gourd.   The gourd functions as the primary striking surface.  Some modern versions use plastic or metal instead of gourd.   The instrument contains some type of "fill" material (beads, seeds, shot, etc...).  Sound is produced by the fill contacting the gourd surface when the instrument is shaken.  There is some ancillary sound from the fill striking the basket.

I dig the earthy and slightly imprecise sound of the attack as the fill strikes the slightly convex surface.

Holding a basket in each hand allows the player to play fairly complicated rhythms.  Playing a simple downbeat pattern along with a drumset "toms groove" can lend a raw ethnic flavor.   Try holding three or four to get a big sound.

Are there some creative ideas that you'd like to share about the caxixi?  Comment below.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spherical Shaker To The Rescue

Your choice of a shaker is usually guided by the tone that is appropriate to the music.   Sometimes logistics and convenience must have a say in the decision.  A spherical (round ball) shaker can be a handy friend in some tricky settings. 

With prism and cylinder shakers, you have to make sure that the instrument is parallel to the floor for a "straight feel."  With a sphere, it is not so much of an issue. 

Recently I had to play (LIVE) a shaker pattern with my right hand and a cajon bass / slap rhythm with my left.  The shaker in the picture worked great...a good timbre and I could give my attention to the cajon without having to think much about the shaker angle.  

One more a quick instrument switch, a spherical shaker can be easier to pick up and move into playing position.

I keep this one in my mallet case.  
Whatdayathink?  Comments? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rock The Glock

Call it the orchestra bells, glockenspiel, campanelli, or just plain "bells"---- It's an IN sound.  You hear the metal-barred cousin to the xylophone in pop and alt rock (or Pomplamoose) these days...and worship music.  

You might consider investing in a set of bells.   They can come in handy in a variety of musical situations--- choir anthems, cantatas, hymns, and worship songs.

Glockenspiels come in two flavors: Steel and Aluminum
Steel:  Best sound, Heavy, Pricey
Aluminum: Sounds okay until you hear steel, Lightweight, Easier on the budget

Some bands use the bells from beginner percussion kits.  It works.  Mike 'em up and throw on some reverb.  You can get the desired effect.

My "gig glock" has aluminum bars mounted in a case which reflects the sound (like a resonator).

Check out the song, "When I'm With You" from the Great Great God CD from Gateway Worship.   About three minutes into the song, many instruments (guitars, bass, keys) play a melody in octaves.  After a couple of statements of that melody, I bring in the glockenspiel to give the passage that sparkling punch that the bells can deliver.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Shake Tambourine's Old Testament Cousin

King David and his companions were obviously excited about 
bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.  In the 
procession, a number of instruments are being played 
according to Scripture:
"And David and all the house of Israel played before the 
LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on 
harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, 
and on cymbals."                               2 Samuel 6:5 KJV
My research indicates that the band for this event may have
included a distant relative to the shake tambourine.
Some versions of the Bible use the word, castanets instead
of cornets (as the above KJV).
"This word (castanet) is incorrectly translated “cornets” in 
the King James Version.  The castanet was probably about 
the same instrument as the Egyptian sistrum…a loop-shaped 
metal frame through which were passed loose rods at the 
ends of which were rings.  The instrument was held by a 
long handle and was rattled during songs and dances." 
Fortune, A.W. "Castanets,"  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
edited by James Orr.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: by William D. Eerdmans 
Publishing, 1939
The sistrum seems to be a Biblical percussion instrument
with a sound and playing technique that resembles the shake

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Which Backbeat To Play?

...2 or 4?

Doubling the snare drum back beat with a single strike on the tambourine is quite common and can give some variety to the groove. I usually choose one backbeat or the other; seldom do I play both 2 and 4. Less tedium and greater variety occurs when the snare drum is heard alone on one of the beats and the doubled sound on the other. Sometimes my choice is arbitrary but often I make a studied decision based on the lyrics of the song.

Listen to the phrasing of the lyrics and you will often find less vocal activity around either beat 2 or beat 4. Playing on that back beat allows the tambourine’s tone color to do its job without competing with the vocals.

Both lyric and tambourine get their space.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Percussion How To Series

My video series, Percussion How To is on the web.   Check out these short video tutorials at either or .

Here's a sample:

Monday, January 9, 2012

January Set Up of the Month

Percussion For Worship featured an interview with Len Barnett (percussionist with Daystar Television) back in November 2011.
Check out the arrangement of gear for his work on Celebration.

I want to jump into the photo and start improvising!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Alt Rock Cajon

This Alt Rock Groove for cajon was inspired by the drum set version found on Carl Albrecht's DVD Drum Grooves for Worship.
See Posting December 13, 2011

The notes in parentheses are ghosted (played very lightly).  
Bottom space in cajon staff is the bass tone (center) and top space is the slap tone (corner).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Percussion For Worship Tribe

It's exciting to see how many page views that Percussion For Worship has received since the launch in 2010.   It is my desire that this blog brings you information and inspiration for your ministry (whether you are a percussionist, worship leader, producer, songwriter, or just interested in percussion).

How about your ideas?  What do you want to see in upcoming posts?  Do you want to be a guest writer?  How about sending in a photo of your set up? 

Please send your suggestions to me at or post in the comments section on the blog.

Be a part of the Percussion For Worship tribe !