If I've done it once, I've done it a million times. Come home from work, unload my belongings in the entryway, greet the kids screaming (in joy or crisis, whatever the lot that day), and seek out my sweet wife for a kiss and an update of the day's activities. And every few months she greets me with a particular smile and a most unique posture of the head, a gracious clue to her unobservant and completely clueless husband.
"Well, what do you think?!" she says spritely.
"Uh, think about what?" I inquire, trying to recall if a question had been asked.
"Don't you notice anything different?" she patiently hints. Now the paranoia sets in. I quickly scan the room, looking for anything out of place. Something new? Something moved? Something changed, somewhere, but I'm drawing a blank! My cornered mind can only strain out, "Uh...wha...did...you...um..."
She answers, but her smile fading, countenance disappointed, "My hair. I had my hair done today. Cut, cropped, curled and colored. Didn't you notice?"
So it is - some change is obvious, some not so much, and always in varying degrees among various people. But like a gracious wife who lends her husband a heads-up, I thought it appropriate to give ABEFC a heads-up on a noticeable change in the music ministry in the coming weeks. Very soon we will be introducing a new drum-set to the platform. Our current electronic set as been slowly failing and an inevitable replacement was looming. Instead of an identical replacement, our team determined that an acoustic drum-set would better facilitate the current needs and direction of the ministry.
Seems simple enough, if you understand what the change entails. But if you don't, for clarity sake here's a list of the major aspects of the Sunday morning experience that will not change, and likewise, aspects that will be different.
What Will Not Change
If there's one instrument that has become the whipping-boy of volume concern, it has to be the drums (thankfully, this is not the case at ABEFC). After all, it is very easy to play drums loudly and indiscriminately. This is why so many churches (like ours) start off with electronic drums. This technology allows the capability of volume control at the push of a button, but they also sacrifice some of the benefits of the "real thing" (which I will touch on later).
To remedy the inevitable noise problem, the acoustic drum-set that we are introducing at ABEFC will be enclosed in a "drum shield", a combo of plexiglass panels and acoustic baffles. This has the effect of drastically reducing the overall volume, thereby making the drums no more of a concern than any other amplified instrument represented on the platform.
This volume control is not just a theory. Besides myself, over the past six months a number of our ministry volunteers (sound techs, drummers and musicians) have contributed many, many hours to research and test the drums in our sanctuary space. Control has been the main goal, and I am confident that we have attained it. The same safe and reasonable volume levels that you are used to now will continue.
There are two types of churches: those who use drums and those who do not. We are the former. That transition has already taken place. Therefore, replacing an electronic drum-set with an acoustic set is not particularly that big of a difference (since the volume problem has already been addressed). It is also not the precursor to any other major change. But since associations and assumptions arise during any musical transition, let me speak plainly:
There will be no fog machines.
There will be no light-shows.
There will be no 10 minute drum solos in our future.
ABEFC uses a variety of instruments during our corporate worship times, drawing from ancient and modern hymns that stir our hearts and minds with sound theology and non-distracting musicality. That is our style, and it won't be changing.
The ministry of music exists as a God-given grace to the church for her edification and for His glory. The Scriptures are replete with the call to worship through singing and the making of music. The course of history has shown a wide variety of musical styles and instrumentation, each giving way to the next, from timbrels to chorals to organs to guitars. Yet through it all, the biblically faithful have always agreed on one point: singing is central. Our responsibility as stewards of music is to use this gift of God as a vehicle for truth-bearing singing. Drums, like any other instrument man has fashioned and utilized in the church, is best used as a tool for accompaniment in the corporate worship service. This too will not change.
What Will Be Different
The "look" will likely be the most notable difference from one drum-set to the next. After all, we are swapping out a low-profile bundle of wires and pads for a 5ft tall by 7ft wide box. It will be conspicuous, to say the least, if only but for a little while.
The perceptive among us will notice a change to the "feel" of these new drums. Acoustic instruments put off audible sound in relation to their size, while electronic instruments must be artificially amplified to be heard. For example, anyone who sits nearest the grand piano on Sunday morning will experience that instrument in a unique way, as opposed to someone at a distance from the same instrument, or perhaps someone listening to the piano through speakers in the foyer. The same will be true for our new drum-set. You may likely sense their presence in a way you did not experience with the former, electronic drum-set. I can assure you, though, this difference is not just volume. That, you will recall, will not change.
This change is most exciting to us as musicians, and will be most apparent to those who appreciate the nuances of acoustic instruments. Acoustic drums present many, many more options in regards to playing technique, sounds and presentation of drum accompaniment. In fact, the nature of the "real thing" gives drummers the opportunity to play less, not more. An acoustic drum-set responds better to the player and presents much more "flavor" and "color" than anything that could ever be imitated through a circuit board. As a result, I think over time you'll begin to notice these drums only continue to encourage the already sensitive, dynamic and tasteful playing from our drummers, and our music team as a whole. The greatest benefit of the new drums is, in fact, the drummers who man them.
So, we are moving from drums to drums, nothing more than that. Kind of like from one hairstyle to the next. After all, hair is hair, right? (On second thought, men -- add this to the list of things NOT to say to your wives!)