Photo by Scott Pickering

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Set Up for Dara Maclean Event

Playing percussion when there is no drum set has its challenges.  You "drive the boat" a bunch of the time.  Here's a glance at a recent set up for a concert with Dara Maclean (and friends).  The instrumentation was two acoustic guitars, one electric guitar, string bass, violin, and percussion (ME!).

The cajon was my "go-to" for most of the night but I also used snare drum w/brushes some of the time to hold the groove together.   You can see my trusty metronome was right on the  near corner of the trap table. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sleigh Bells Tutorial

Okay--it's December and you know what that means.  Percussionists should not leave home without the sleigh bells.   You just don't know when someone will ask.   Be ready with this the techniques from this short tutorial!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jingle Shake

The Aluminum Jingle Shake from Meinl can you a tight shaker sound along with a nice hint of tambourine.

Rotate the octagonal tube so that the discs are sounding or take out the tambourine tone by moving the tube so that the jingles are resting (inaudibly) on top.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PASIC 2013

The Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC 2013) recently took place in Indianapolis, Indiana.   What an inspiring event--thousands of percussionists, an exhibit hall with amazing gear, concerts, clinics, and a great vibe!

I checked out the new Studio Pro tambourine at the Grover Pro Percussion booth at PASIC 2013. YES!!!  German silver jingles in a wooden shell give this instrument a mighty sound.  I am looking forward to adding the Studio Pro to my tambourine arsenal.

For more info:

At PASIC 2013, the Interactive Drumming Committee sponsored the Rhythm Lounge.  This late-night drum circle allowed participants to play "lower-volume" percussion in a group improv setting.  I had a fun time hosting the Thursday night Rhythm Lounge.

For information on joining the Percussive Arts Society:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Creating A Percussion Part (Part 2)

Here's my second installment in response to John Homan's recent email (Sept. 9 post):

Transitions between major sections (chorus, verse, bridge, instrumental breaks), key changes, tempo changes, style changes…
  • Will playing during the transition help make the transition more solid and secure or muddy the water?
There may be a variety of timbres available on one instrument that I am considering.
  • Which timbre(s) best suit this music?
What about the rhythmic “hits?”

Should I 
  • play the hits only    or 
  • play time through the hits    or 
  • play time and accent the hits    or
  • steer clear and avoid cluttering?
Logistics affect decisions
  • Can I change instruments and make the transition smoothly?
  • Where is the musically logical point to make the instrument change?
Okay…I have to end with a very right brain yet very appropriate question?
  • What sounds and feels good to play in this song?
      It just might work.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Marcus and Joni Show / Daystar

It has been great fun this week playing percussion for the program, Marcus & Joni on the Daystar Network.  There is a 10:00 a.m. rehearsal for about an hour and then BOOM--the show goes live!   Joni Lamb and the Daystar Singers and Band sound great.  Here is a shot of me before rehearsal and an overhead view of my percussion set up.

For showtimes go to

Monday, September 30, 2013

Creating A Percussion Part

Here's my first installment in response to John Homan's recent email (Sept. 9 post):  

Creating A Percussion Part      
If you find yourself composing a part from scratch, here are some questions that will aid the process.
When I discern the style of the music, I begin to think about the instruments that are common to that style  (while not limiting my thinking to only those instruments). 
  • Should I try to use only instruments that are common to that style?
  • Is this a situation where I am free to think outside the box? Will I be allowed to try some sounds not usually associated with this particular style?
If there is also a drum set player: 
  • Are the patterns coming from the drum set fairly standard patterns for that style or is the drummer trying something original? 
  • What instruments on the drum set are being played?  
  • What instruments,rhythms, and frequencies will complement the drum set part?
  • Where is the drummer playing a fill?  Where is the musically logical place for the percussion part to drop out before the fill? Where do I reenter after the fill?
  • Does the drum set ever drop out?  Would this be a good spot to add percussion or enter a bit later to give another element of interest?
If there is no drum set player (just lil’ ol’ me playing percussion):
  • Should my patterns be more standard or does the situation call for originality?
  • Do I need to play time throughout or are there sections where I can play “color” ...or drop out?
  • Are there highs, lows, or mid frequencies that are not being covered by the other instruments of the rhythm section?  Should I try to cover that area?
I am also listening to how the other instruments of the ensemble and the overall arrangement and orchestration.   
  • Where are the climaxes?  Are there breakdowns?
  • What percussion instruments, rhythms, and frequencies will complement the texture of the ensemble as a whole?
  • Are some fills at the ends of phrases being played by an instrument other that the drum set (bass, keyboard)?  Where are my exit and reentry points or do I play through the fill?
  • Do I really need to play in every section of the song?
  • Am I playing too much?
  • Could this song possibly work without percussion?
  • Does the music call for “groove percussion” or “coloristic percussion” or both?
  • Is my part interesting and enhancing without being distracting?
Stay tuned for Part 2

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Song Of Truth (Worship Song)

Here's a lyrics video for a song written by Jonathan Malone and me.  ...just guitar and voice (demo version)

There's no percussion (unless you want to remix).  Enjoy and worship!  God is the ultimate truth.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Drummer Cafe

Bart Elliott has been the driving force of  Drummer Cafe since the late nineties.   Bart and I were both freelance musicians in the Dallas area--until his decision to split the Metroplex and head to Nashville.

Since moving to the land of MY birth (Tennessee), Bart has been pumping out news, reviews, lessons, and other bits of percussive info on his multi-layered home on the internet.   Website does not seem adequate to describe Mr. Elliott's drum-iverse.   

There is also a new TV feature on Drummer Cafe hosted by Bart.  

Head on over and check it out at


Monday, September 16, 2013

Carolina Christian Hand Drummers & Percussionists

As a former resident of North Carolina (graduate work at East Carolina University and three years in the NC Visiting Artist program), I am happy to find out about the Carolina Christian Hand Drummers and Percussionists Facebook page!

Check it out at

Monday, September 9, 2013

What should I play?

John Homan (a faithful Percussion For Worship reader) sent me an email recently that described a rehearsal in which he pondered that big percussionist question--

What should I play?

Check out these excerpts from Mr. Homan's missive:

Hi Mark,

     Tuesday night at music practice we worked on a new song.  We were taking a Don Moen-type praise and worship song and making it really rock. It was starting from scratch. Once the drummer had determined how he was going to handle the skeleton of the beat, I tried to find where I would fit in. It was a very fast song, the drummer was doing a 2-4 rock beat--mainly playing 4 on the floor kick drum, snare on 2 and 4, and a straight high hat beat.
     I tried different things to add to this, but found it kind of problematic. I could add a cutting shaker to support the driving beat, I could add a rock cowbell on the chorus, I could add djembe beats to add more of a tom-tom/tribal sound since the drummer wasn't getting time to add much more to the that side of the mix, or I could just hang back and add a cymbal swell here and there, and find other little sprinkles to add here and there on the hand drums and other similar things.
     I asked the leader if he was looking for something particular from the percussion side and explained to him what options I saw and he agreed that it wasn't simple and I would just have to feel my way around it to see what sounded good. It's nice to have that freedom and that trust and a leader who lets me figure some things out. I'm fine with this and will figure it out.  I know I'm not the only church percussionist out there with these issues.
      What are some good guidelines when you have a song like this? What are some ways to determine when you are doing too much  or when you can almost trade beat for beat with the drummer? I'd like to hear your wisdom on this situation too.
John's email brought to my mind some writing that I have done on this topic.   I plan to post some of that writing in the weeks ahead, but let me give others a chance to contribute some opinions on this topic.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cajon/Djembe Article #3

Read the last article in my series on Cajon/Djembe in Worship Musician.  Click the link below and go to page 50 to read the article.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gateway Summer Musical

The Gateway summer musical, The Show starts a weekend run this Friday, August 16, 2013.  Performance schedule is available at .  Get there early for the preshow, Star Struck--I am playing percussion for this eight minute bit of slapstick / physical comedy.  Check out this backstage photo of my rather intense percussion set up!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Boss DB-90 Metronome

Practicing the Bb melodic minor scale was more fun this morning.  I powered up my recently acquired Boss DB-90 Dr. Beat and began to play my scale exercises.   A techno groove from the DB-90 accompanied me as my mallets danced along the rosewood bars.   This metronome is a far cry from my tick-tock, pendulum-swinging tempo keeper from my college days and way ahead of my DB-66 from the last decade of the last century.  Every percussionist NEEDS a metronome and this one is packed with features including drum patterns that can be manipulated, subdivisions of the beat, storage of tempi in a playlist--and more.  I am diggin' the DB-90.   A bit on the pricey side--but worth it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Remix with Beatlab

Percussionist John Homan (an early Percussion For Worship devotee--here's a photo of part of his church setup) recently used Beatlab to concoct a short ambient "mashup."  John took some fragments of my handpan composition, "As The Night Sky Sings," and used sounds from Beatlab to make a remix version. 

Percussionists might want to check out John's work and learn about the Beatlab capabilities.  It might just spark your creativity!!/matrices/308309

This link takes you to a recording of the original recording which John sampled:

Just in case you are looking for some material to use for remixing on Beatlab, here's a link to an original song by me and Jonathan Malone.  Just guitar and vocal--recorded using click so it should be a good candidate for remixing.  Let me know if you use it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cajon and Djembe Article / Worship Musician

May/June issue of Worship Musician contains second article on cajon and djembe.
Click this link to read "Cajon & Djembe: Paradiddles, Permutations, & Patterns" by Mark Shelton

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cajon & Djembe Article

The current issue of Worship Musician contains an article in my series on Cajon & Djembe
Read the article online by clicking the link below:

Monday, April 29, 2013

New Video Tutorials at Worship Training

There is a new batch of percussion tutorial videos from my Percussion How To series available for viewing at 
Praise Charts / Worship Training

View samples at:

There are a total of 58 videos available
Check out this one!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gateway Worship The First 10 Years


What God has done in the early years of Gateway Church can be heard in the worship songs of the first ten years. Gateway Worship The First 10 Years is a compilation and reflection of what God has done at Gateway and a reminder that He has incredible things in store for our future as we keep giving Him everything in worship. With song titles including "O The Blood" and "Revelation Song,"  The First 10 Years is an album that will take you into the heart of worship and connect you with the vision that began as Gateway Church

...and you can hear a few different percussionists including yours truly, Mark Shelton.

Download the album at iTunes

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Meinl Foot Tambourine

Yes, this thing works!   The Foot Tambourine from Meinl Percussion slips right onto your hoof and allows you to jingle along while your hands are otherwise occupied with a djembe, cowbell, or donut.

The four pairs of jingles produce a good volume and the overall construction seems pretty substantial--for a price of about 12 bucks!   I dig it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shaker Shuffle

This simple technique makes playing a shuffle / swing feel MUCH easier!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Working Toward Excellence

Working Toward Excellence identifies eight values for achieving excellence in work and life:
Hunger, Effort, Process, Quality, Consistency, Leadership, Time, and Perseverance

AND the book is written by a percussionist!

Paul Buyer is Director of Percussion at Clemson University and knows a thing or two (or eight) about achieving excellence.  

A fairly quick read at around 100 pages, Working Toward Excellence is packed with inspiring stories from business, sports, and the arts along with techniques for raising your standards and reaching your potential.

For more info:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Forever Yours from Gateway Worship

The drumming skills of six percussionists are part of the recent Gateway Worship "live" recording.
Released back in the fall of 2012, Forever Yours includes Josh Alltop and Chad Whiteley sharing drum set duties and percussionists, James Larza and Caleb Jobe.  Since I was in attendance at the event, I can also report that David Moore and Cody Carnes join in on the "big toms action" in "Be Lifted Higher."  Check out some great songs and some mighty fine percussion from my colleagues with Gateway Worship.