Photo by Scott Pickering

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hamilton Concert Snare Drum Stand

There are times when I need to play a large tom-tom (such as a 16" floor tom) in my percussion setup. The legs usually do not extend enough to bring the drum to a comfortable height and the drum is too large for most snare drum stands.  It feels (and looks) a little odd to have the drum so low.  The Hamilton Concert Snare Drum Stand (KB275) solves this problem with a basket that accommodates drums with heads from 13 up to 18 inches.  Invest in this stand and you can finally get those large drums up to the correct playing height.   

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sleigh Bells Tutorial

Christmas is almost here!
Here I am rehearsing for the
Gateway Candlelight services
on December 20 and 21  
  Look closely on the trap table and you can see that the sleigh bells are ready to go. Just in case you want the quick refresher, here's my Sleigh Bells Tutorial

Monday, December 15, 2014

PercussionHowTo: Farfadiddle

Here's a short tutorial on a hybrid rudiment.  Percussionist Richard Farvour showed me this little lick last month in Indianapolis.  Learn and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014



You get that new pair of sticks that are matched and you try to be consistent with keeping them together with the cardboard sleeve or a rubber band but after a while...  

Here's a great little device that allows you to snap a matched pair together.  Check out the StickMan at

Monday, December 1, 2014

PercussionHowTo:Six Stroke Roll

Check out this short video tutorial on one of my favorite rudiments--the Six Stroke Roll

Monday, November 24, 2014

PASIC 2014

The 2014 version of the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) has come and gone. It is always inspiring to experience state-of-the-art performances and clinics.  Shawn Pelton's clinic, The Hybrid Drummer: Achieving Synergy between Acoustic and Digital Gear and Marimba Now from She-e Wu were among the highlights for me. The Thursday evening concert from Amadinda Percussion Group rates as one of the best percussion ensemble concerts I have ever experienced. The quartet is celebrating thirty years performing WITH THE SAME FOUR GUYS!

There was plenty of great gear and sheet music on display. 

  • The great folks with J.W. Pepper had copies of my books, Give Me A Groove and Give Me A Bucket for sale at the convention.  

  • When I dropped by the Grover Pro Percussion booth, I was happy to see that the Studio Pro Tambourine is now available with Phosphor Bronze jingles and a combination of Silver and Bronze--along with the German Silver which I currently use.

  • The Percussive Arts Society's website has a new look.  Check it out at and consider attending PASIC 2015 next November in San Antonio, TX.

Friday, October 31, 2014

All That Is Me (Worship Song)

Jonathan Malone, Anna Harris, and I composed this worship song recently.  It is a bare-bones demo.  If you have interest in playing, arranging, recording, etc., contact me at 800-272-2249 or

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Art of Not Playing

Read my magazine article, "The Art of Not Playing" in Worship Musician!    Page 37

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finger Cymbals

The finger cymbals have a different tone quality than the triangle.  Check out my short tutorial video for a couple of methods.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

GT Worship - Live Acoustic Sessions EP Promo

Check out this video from GT Worship. 

I dig how the percussionist is workin' that glock!  It's a nice touch to the song. The whole video sampler has such a good vibe.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stuff That Lives In My Mallet Case

Timpani sticks might stay on a shelf until I get a "kettle call" and the general bass drum mallet only goes into my case when Gran Cassa is on the menu.
There are some items that are used so frequently that they have made my mallet case their permanent residence.
Here is a baker's dozen of those occupants:
  • Concert snare sticks
  • Drumset sticks
  • Yarn marimba mallets (for suspended cymbal)
  • Brushes
  • Triangle beaters
  • Drum key
  • Pencil(s)
  • Glockenspiel mallets
  • Xylophone mallets
  • 1/2 inch wrench (for tuning congas, bongos, and timbales)
  • Staff paper
  • Notebook
  • Djembe tuning wrench

Monday, June 23, 2014

Setup Info in Worship Musician magazine

Head on over to page 50 in Worship Musician! and read my recent article, "Setup Strategy."
Lots of info about grouping instruments in an ergonomic and visually appealing setup

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shake Tambourine Accents

It is possible to catch the "weak subdivisions" on the shake tambourine. 
 Check out this short tutorial to learn the technique.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Which Backbeat Should I Play?

...2 or 4?

Doubling the snare drum back beat with a single strike on the tambourine is quite common and can give some variety to the groove. I usually choose one backbeat or the other; seldom do I play both 2 and 4. Less tedium and greater variety occurs when the snare drum is heard alone on one of the beats and the doubled sound on the other. Sometimes my choice is arbitrary but often I make a studied decision based on the lyrics of the song.

Listen to the phrasing of the lyrics and you will often find less vocal activity around either beat 2 or beat 4. Playing on that back beat allows the tambourine’s tone color to do its job without competing with the vocals.

Both lyric and tambourine get their space.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Shaker Savvy Article / Jan-Feb Worship Musician!

Hey...get some shaker tips from me by going to Worship Musician!  You can read online--just click below and head over to page 50 and you will find my article, "Shaker Savvy."     Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grover Studio Pro Tambourine

The Studio Pro Tambourine from Grover Pro Percussion has the same quality and attention to detail that goes into other great Grover products.   Here's a short video overview of the instrument.

More info at

Monday, March 3, 2014

Melodic Drumming

Your drumming brain will be stretched (along with your technique) after working on Raul Valdes book Melodic Drumming.  The recent release from Transition Music Center is full of exercises to stimulate  musicality and creativity as well as technical facility. Dozens and dozens of exercises incorporating melodically designed accented and unaccented notes are available to help with your fluidity around the set and serve as a catalyst to stimulate your creative juices.

More info at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Worship Training eBook and Articles

Praise Charts/Worship Training just made several articles and an eBook by Percussion For Worship editor-in-chief, Mark Shelton available as part of its course work.

Click on this link to get more info:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Shekere Like A Shaker

There are a number of ways to play the shekere.   Here's a short tutorial on playing the shekere with some shaker technique.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Sound of Sprinkles

One of Percussion For Worship's loyal followers sent me a link to a posting on his blog a while back.
John Homan allowed me to re-post it but you can click the link below and check out more of his writing.  

I am diggin' the sprinkles analogy!

Casa de Juanito-John Homan's Personal Blog: The Sound of Sprinkles:

Sitting in on congas with the jazz group Vibenation at the 2013 Elkhart Jazz Festival

There are things in this life that you keep forgetting easily, important things that you need to keep in mind. Its like how time and time again the Apostle Paul comes back to justification by faith to the church because they forget it so easily and legalism is such an easy trap to fall into.

I have a similar experience regarding being a percussionist. I have to make a real effort to not forget the value of playing sparingly, not always trying to fill the whole musical space available with sound. It's as if I went to some audio garage sale and came back with awesome bargains. There is just not that much room for all I have but I still try to stuff it in all the closets until all the available musical space is bursting with too much sound. This is especially true of playing with a band, but it also happens when I go out and play as part of a duet or trio. I have to remind myself that people like to hear things that don't always overwhelm them. All day long you can listen to music that is the equivalent of a pizza with everything, but then you don't even taste all of the subtle flavors in the cheese or the tomatoes and basil in the sauce.

The same with music, sometimes to hear just an acoustic guitar and conga drums or just a shaker is kind of a rare experience because so much of the music that we listen to is a wall of sound. Think of the difference between Coldplay's "Hurts Like Heaven" and Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" and you will get the idea.

Sometimes I have gotten down on myself in the past that I am not able to play more instruments at once, not able to produce the big sound that the kit drummer can, but then I remember that regardless of where I am at as a musician, there is nothing wrong with the addition of simple rhythms, they are accessible to more people, and they don't distract from the other instruments in the band. Even before I started playing myself I always loved those small accents, like triangles, shakers and bongos when I heard them in music around me.

When I first started playing percussion, my music leader told me that I was the sprinkles on the cake. I wasn't the frosting or the cake itself, I was something that added a nice touch to what was already good on it's own. This saying comes back to me over and over. I'm there to support others and not to promote myself. It's a hard lesson, but it's worth learning over and over.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Playing My iPhone In Worship Service

The sample pad would not come to life.  I had been asked to play a "electronic toms/909" part on a song.  Using an old-school sample on the electronic pad was going to be the answer but the machine had a problem.  As the rehearsal moved along, I suddenly thought about an app on my phone that might do the trick.  I plugged my earphones into my iPhone 5C and brought up the iKaossilator app from Korg.   It took several minutes of experimenting before I settled on the SynToms2 patch.  The electric 80's tom sounds really fit the bill for the song and I tapped my way through two services that Saturday using my iPhone.  Back at home later that night, I decided that using my iPad would give me a bigger striking target than the phone so the iPad became a part of my set up on Sunday.

The iKaossilator app has lots of sounds and is relatively inexpensive (compared to the self-contained Kaossilator).   If you use this app on the phone or iPad, make sure to turn on both "Airplane Mode" and the "Do Not Disturb" features so that you will not send any text tones or calendar reminder tones over the P.A. system.

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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Two-tone Drumstick

When you find yourself in that musical moment that requires the sharp attack of a drumstick bead or shaft AND a less pointed sound (soft mallet) but no time for a stick /mallet change, this simple modification can help you deliver both timbres.

Take any drumstick and wrap some "Cushion Tape" (like 3M Nexcare Absolute Waterproof or Dr. Scholl's Moleskin) around the lower shoulder / upper shaft area of the stick. (App. 3 inches of tape)

That's it!  Give this treatment to a couple of sticks and you can easily play that suspended cymbal roll and move instantly to using the bead on the snare drum--or the butt end on the cowbell. 

You can even generate a decent suspended cymbal roll with one stick.

I keep a "doctored pair" in my mallet case.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Setup Of The Month December

Here's the setup that was used this past weekend at the Plymouth Park United Methodist Church (Irving, TX) performance of the Benjamin Harlan cantata, A Candlelight Christmas.

I played percussion along with my college-age drumming daughter, Anna.   We played all the timpani parts (quite a bit) on the Handsonic 15...and the conductor was quite happy with the "digital kettles."   Notice my electronic tuner on the trap table to boost my confidence in the timpani pitches.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sleigh Bells--Just In Time

December is here and it is my solemn duty to repost my sleighbells tutorial video.

If you are a percussionist---Don't leave your home without the sleighbells for the next 24 days!