Joe Volk is a disciplined drummer that currently tours with Bethel Music and is on the live album, “We Will Not Be Shaken“. His passion for the church as well as pursuit for excellence in his craft speaks volumes to worshippers all over the world. Read below as Joe shares his story and outlines his principles for pursuing excellence in worship.
I always had a natural rhythm inside of me.
I was drawn to the drums early on. My dad pastored a church and I would sit next to the drums for years, secretly wanting to be called up to play. I would sit and study the way the drummer played, the way he stroked the drums, and the fills that he would use. After years of waiting, he moved away and when I was 12, the worship leader let me start playing because I was pretty much the only option. I spent the next several years just getting by without seriously excelling, but not failing either.
I hadn’t yet discovered what it felt like to bring excellence to the stage.
After years of trial and error, I now understand that it is important to bring our best to the Lord each time we are onstage leading others to sing about Him and to Him. Of course, God loves anything and everything we bring. How could He not? We’re His children and He’ll love us, no matter what.
When I was a kid and my dad asked me to clean the garage or to mow the lawn, I wanted to do my best for him. I would take the extra time to do the edges cleanly because I knew that he appreciated excellence. Likewise, the Lord will always love us, but it brings Him great pleasure when we walk in excellence. And I believe that bringing excellence to the stage helps others in the room as well. People get distracted when mistakes happen.
Once I started focusing on my instrument things changed.
Through practicing daily, I found a fresh love and joy in playing and worshiping. I have found that really knowing what I’m playing has helped me not only during songs, but also when we go into prophetic and spontaneous territory. So I’d like to give a few simple pointers to encourage you to bring a higher level of excellence to your worship teams.
Knowing your instrument makes it easier to be creative and tasteful when you’re improvising.
Practice, practice, practice!
If you really want to take things to the next level, start practicing alone in your own time. This is where you will see the most improvement. Start by setting a feasible goal, maybe 30 minutes a day. If you’re a drummer, do some rudiments and play through the songs in your upcoming set. If you play guitar/bass/keys, do some scales, dial in your tone, and practice songs. If you’re a singer, do vocal warmups and review your lyrics.
Practicing daily actually caused me to find a new love and joy in worship. This is why I think that practicing has more power than we might realize. It empowers us both in our organized sets but shows up the most in our off the grid, prophetic moments.
Have a 2-3 hour rehearsal with your team and really solidify your songs. It helps to have an MD (music director) and/or worship leader who can be the main point person to tell band members what they need to do if it’s not coming together.
Get Through the Wall You Will Likely Hit
So you’ve been practicing consistently and you can tell you’re making huge gains – then you hit that practice wall where you feel uninspired and bored. Call your friends who play your instrument and see what they’ve been working on. Search new practice drills on YouTube, log into WorshipU and watch an instructional video or join the discussion boards. Find a song that would challenge you and learn how to play it.
Learn Different Genres
Something I find really challenging is jazz drumming. Now, I appreciate jazz but it’s not what I would instinctively listen to all the time. But I’ve found it helpful to learn how to play different genres that I’m not so familiar with. You may also discover that doing this brings fresh, new ideas to the genre you already play.
Finally, have fun!
Music isn’t supposed to be stressful or boring. It’s all about having fun and enjoying what you’re privileged to do. Think about it: week after week, we get to lead people into God’s presence! I can guarantee you that leading people when you have full confidence on your instrument is way more satisfying and less stressful than if you hadn’t practiced all week or are just winging it.
I hope you find this encouraging and that you’re inspired and ready to give it your all this weekend!
What else inspires you to practice when you have hit your wall? Please share in the comments below.