How To Communicate With Your Drummer

I’ve realized one of the most important parts of being a worship leader is being able to provide accurate and helpful direction to each member of my team.

As I trained my ear to pick up on the nuances of worship music, I often sensed that something was off with myself or with another player, but I didn’t always have the right words to express what was going on and pinpoint where it could be improved. It often caused a lot of frustration and wasted time because figuring out the problem turned into a guessing game. 

I don’t want that to happen to you. 

So I joined my friend Jon Manna from in the Youtube Creator Space in Toronto to break down some of the lingo that you may need to improve communication between you and your drummer so you can nail the arrangement of all of your songs. 

Beat or Pattern

Reading drum notation, the beat and pattern are what you would play. In different sections of each song, that pattern or beat would change. Patterns in a given song can change and usually at the chorus into something more complex.

As worship leaders, we need to be familiar with a songs various patterns. If we hear our drummer playing the wrong pattern–like if they’re playing your kick on the wrong beats or playing sixteenth notes when they should just be playing eighth notes–we can identify that and then communicate to our drummers, "Hey, I think you're playing the wrong pattern here in this verse. Let's fix that.”

Pocket and Feel

As a drummer, you want to always play in the “pocket”. Every song has it and it’s kind of like the center where everything is harmonized and moving together; no one is speeding up or lagging behind. 

If you can find the pocket then the song will “feel” just right; nothing will be out of harmony and everyone will be moving forward at the same pace. 

Your drumming will change depending on the feel you’re aiming for. Jon gave an example of two feels: shuffle and hip hop or straight and boxy. 

The rhythm is somewhat unexpected and feels a little off-beat. You can hear Jon almost skipping along the drums. 

  • Straight

The rhythm is more uniform and more predictable (hopefully in a good way).

For a deep dive into how these two concepts affect songs, check out these two articles:

Pocket, What Does It Mean?

Push, Drag And Center: What Is Playing In The Pocket Anyway?

Driving and Relaxed

These two terms refer to the speed at which the drummer plays. 

  • Driving 

    When you’re driving, you need to keep the song moving. In order to keep it moving, and will often hear, “you're off click a bit or so you have to drive and push it.”

  • Relaxed

    When you're relaxed, you’re almost playing just behind the click because the tendency would be to speed it up. Generally, you feel like it has to go faster, but it doesn't, and so you pull it back a bit.

Four on the Floor

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Four on the Floor refers to the pattern that you're playing with your kick or your bass drum and, literally, on every quarter note you would be giving that solid four on the floor.


There are various levels that a drummer can play at. Usually a drummer will play full when building from the bridge back to the chorus.

They may play a pattern on the high hat, open hats, and then jump onto the ride and crash on the ride in order to give it the full sound, full volume and really drive the song.


Building means steadily layering on more sounds as you move towards a big crescendo. 

For example, as you build towards a chorus in a bridge, you'd start fairly quiet on the ride–maybe add some cymbal accents or high hat. Then you’d add the kick on two and four and then add some toms and then start building on the snare with your kick on the ride as well, as you lead back into the chorus. 

You’ll know when you nail a build. The whole room will feel it. 


Washy means using mallets on the cymbals to add warmth to the music. Picture a soft glowing sound that builds and emanates from the cymbals. 


Like I said, drummers play at different levels. I tell my drummer to play delicately when the pastor is ending his message or someone is leading prayer. 

It means I want my drummer to bring their drumming way down. They can still drum a full beat and use their sticks, but soften their touch as if they’re drumming on fine china. 

Trash Can Ending and Ritardando

  • Trash Can 

    The tempo is steady and straight until the last hit when you simply start crashing out.

  • Ritardando

    A decrease in tempo; an ending that begins to slow down before leading up to your big ending.

Knowing the proper terms for each member is important because you can’t be an accurate and helpful leader if you don’t know what you’re talking about. This is not only an efficient way to lead, but personal way to as well because it lets your team know that you’ve put in the time to study their craft.

To continue growing as a worship leader on a technical and personal level, check out and enroll in Worship Leader School. You’ll have access to a course library of proven training, a community of worship pastors and my undivided attention during office hours. 

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