Whoa! That's one super handsome bald guy.

I remember the conversation rather vividly – my worship pastor, bandmate and pal, Todd Wright (yes – *THE* Todd Wright), pulled me aside to have a chat about my role in the praise team we were serving at the time. It was one of those discussions that smack you right in the gut – you know the feeling I’m talking about.

Sparing you a lengthy discussion about the church and this particular team, I’ll just mention I had been serving as the team’s full-time drummer after the previous guy left the church temporarily. But this chat was about me transitioning over to a percussion setup, and handing the responsibilities of drumming over to the other dude.

I wasn’t happy about this – at all. Hindsight is an interesting thing. Looking back, I was more upset about surrendering my sticks to something I felt was insignificant to the overall mix. Percussion seemed so – well, dinky.

The funny thing is – I couldn’t have been more wrong, and that’s the point of this post. I really think more young drummers need to spend time honing their skills on the kit by setting their sticks aside and taking up a little percussion alongside their praise team.

What? Playing percussion can help your drumming?

To a less seasoned player and, admittedly, a rather immature guy, I scoffed at the very notion, even though I suspect Todd knew all along this would be the case. But here’s what happened when I made the transition to a percussion rig:

  • I played less. A lot less, in fact. Percussion alongside a drummer, in most cases, is all about layering and playing complimentary to the groove the drums are setting up. I was focused on adding to his parts – not driving the tune.
  • I had the freedom to really study the mix. How do drums and percussion really sit amidst guitars, piano, keys and the like? What prominence should my percussion have in the mix? I was more freely able to analyze how all the pieces of our praise team fit together.
  • I really refined my tempo. Since I wasn’t responsible for driving the songs, I could focus on locking into the parts our drummer was laying down. As a young drummer, this time proved crucial as I developed into a more well-rounded player.
  • Playing percussion checked my ego. This was probably the biggest benefit, and one that really transformed me as a musician and worship leader. By taking the loudest instrument on stage away from me, I really had to judge who I was and why I was playing in the first place. It was seriously a humbling experience.

If you’re a worship pastor with a young drummer sitting in your rotation, one of the best things you can do for them would be to put a tambourine, some shakers and a djembe in their lap. Have them spend some time crafting auxiliary percussion parts around another drummer. I know that, for me, it expanded my skill set, refined my overall drumming and kept my heart healthy.

And I probably don’t say this enough, but Todd, you were right.

Justin Romack is a husband and father in the Bryan / College Station area, where he serves as a drummer and percussionist at Grace Bible Church. He spends most of his time working with brands and businesses to develop digital community and communications, laughing with his family, serving with his bandmates, and rapping and tapping on just about any surface he can get his hands or fingers on. You can connect with Justin through is blog, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.



  1. johnnydrummer

    I can agree with one caveat. NO ONE should be given a hand drum to play who doesn’t know the basics of how to play it. There’s NOTHING. Worse than someone flailing away at a djembe who doesn’t know how to get the proper bass, tone and slap strokes, and simply apes the drumset part.

  2. Boogie Wynne

    This is very true. The thing that helped my “kit” playing more than anything else (in 20+ years of playing) was the 5+ plus years that I played hand percussion full time. When I had the opportunity to go back to a kit, my entire perspective had changed and my playing had improved dramatically. Now, I miss the hand percussion more that I missed the kit.

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