Have you ever heard a worship band that was so tight that all you heard was one united sound; the individual instruments were balanced in their sound levels, their rhythms, and their tones?
Maybe you’ve heard a band that is painful to listen to where the keys are played in a classical style, the bassist is doing jazz runs, the two guitarists either are fighting in their strum patterns or they both want to be lead players and are competing for notice, and the drummer can’t keep a steady tempo. The sound isn’t tight, which means that you may be so distracted by the individual instruments that you can’t focus on worshiping God.
So what do we do to turn the second example into the first example? How can we create a unified sound?
Many of the worship teams that I work with have musicians with mid-level musical skills. They have some experience in playing in a group, but they need additional direction on what to play or how to play it. Other worship teams have musicians who have a professional level of skill and experience that makes working with them easy. They know how to intuitively add to a song’s arrangement. Professional level musicians know their instruments well, but they also know the importance of the following action.
We need to listen to each other.
I recently helped a team to rebuild their audio settings. As the guitarists started to play a song together so we could adjust levels, one of the team members pointed out that the guitarists’ strum patterns didn’t complement each other; the strum patterns actually seemed to fight each other. Each guitarist had their own personal interpretation of what they should be doing during that song, but they weren’t listening and adjusting to each other. Also, they hadn’t talked about the musical direction of the song.
When you play a rhythm pattern, it should complement what the other band members are doing; it shouldn’t duplicate or oppose what they’re doing. Listening to the rhythm pattern of the other musicians is vital. What you hear will either inspire you to change what you’re doing or to take a moment to talk about what the song needs from each of you.
Also, the tone of your instrument should complement the other instruments’ tones; not duplicate them or create musical tension. Your tone should add to the group sound and fit in with the style of the song. A gritty voice on your guitar may work on an uptempo song but it may be too distracting on a slower, contemplative song. Listening and experimenting will help you to find the best tone.
We also need to listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting as we lead worship.
You may want to increase your dynamics and rhythm as you’re playing, but first, ask yourself what you sense in your spirit. Are you determining the flow of a song’s arrangement or are you listening for the gentle prompting of the Spirit who would like to lead you as you lead worship?
The more comfortable you are in allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt your spirit, the easier it will be to flow with Him as He gently instructs you on what to play and when to play it. The Holy Spirit knows what will bless our heavenly Father, so why not listen to Him?
We don’t just listen with our physical ears to each other; we each need to listen with our spirit to the One who wants to direct us in giving worship to God our Father.
It all starts with listening.