What about musical skill?

What about musical skill?

During a recent time of worship training in Portugal, I was asked for my opinion about worship team members' skill levels. I coach worship teams of different sizes and skill levels, and questions on this topic are asked in almost every worship clinic. Here are some simple principles that you can apply when your team members are not professional musicians.

Play to your ability.

It's important to assess and know the skill level of each instrumentalist and each vocalist. When a musician's skill level is at an intermediate (not advanced) level, you can tailor a song's arrangement so the musician can play it well.

Keep the song arrangements clean and simple.

I'd rather hear a simple arrangement done well than a worship band trying to imitate a professional touring band. Think about this: why are you trying to sound like another band? Be yourselves and allow God to flow through you with your unique sound.

Continue to develop musically.

I believe in musical auditions before someone becomes a part of a worship team. If someone has a desire to be a part of a team, the first things I look for during a musical audition are: can this personal actually sing, can this person feel/count beats (keep time), can this person harmonize (and yes, that's a must for me), at what level does this person play their instrument, is this person currently taking music lessons. If a potential musician doesn't have intermediate skills but they do have basic skills and potential, I will recommend (and sometimes provide) vocal or instrumental lessons to develop their skills.

When I was in school, I interned at a large church with a robust music program. I was impressed by the multiple worship teams and choirs for the church's multiple services. Each team and choir was at a different skill level, and each team member had the opportunity to develop their skills through music lessons that were provided (for a small fee) through the church. Not only did this church develop people spiritually, they developed the talents and gifts that God had given the musicians. As the musicians' skills and their spiritual lives developed, and their faithfulness and commitment was demonstrated, they were placed in positions of continually greater responsibility and opportunity.

Encourage each other.

Creative people reveal their hearts and passion through music, and this may make them feel vulnerable. If the only comments they hear are critical, a musician will disengage and often will quit. Encouraging each other as musicians is vital. I remember leading worship from the keys one Sunday when my son Rob was on the drums. We had hit a high spot in the worship set where the congregation was engaged, the song was building, and I sensed such a freedom in God occurring. Coming out of the song's bridge back into the chorus, Rob did a drum fill that was amazing and took the song to the next level musically. I turned and looked at him with the biggest smile on my face. The rest of the worship set was even better. After the service, I thanked him for playing with skill from his heart and for being boldly creative. He had added so much to the experience.

Encourage your team. It will inspire them.

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To None But God

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