Musical Skills

Add some flavor

Add some flavor.

I was talking to a drummer the other night about worship drumming. The post below contains some different thoughts that may help you as a worship team.

The drummer is not the focus of worship. The drummer is the musical foundation of the band, yes, but what the drummer does should not detract from the point of worship, which is to worship. The goal of the worship drummer is to support the band by providing a steady tempo, add a level of flavor, but not detract from the singing which is the purpose of the worship team.  It's not about the drummer. Overbearing fills during lyrical moments detract from worship. Thoughtful fills during musical transitions add depth to the song.

We have the opportunity to create dynamic lead lines, poignant harmonies, and a rich sound, but the pause, the breath, the rest, makes everything else important.

Great percussionists of all genres know that the most important note that a drummer plays is a rest because it adds flavor and contrast to the song.

The rest/pause makes the notes prominent. In the case of a worship drummer, adding a rest removes you from the picture in that brief moment and makes everything else that just happened around you more important, which when it's a Godly lyric, emphasizes the attention being placed on God. So, as a team, when you're in a bridge and have a full band pause, the focus will be fully on what you're singing.

Worship music isn't about any one instrument being more important than what we're saying and expressing to God as a corporate body.

Just some thoughts.

Creating a dynamic set list

One of the questions that I’m asked during worship clinics is, “How do we create dynamic set lists that meet our desire to bless God and to help people engage in worshiping Him?”

Here are some simple steps that will help you as you create a set list for your next service.

Step 1

Ask yourself what is the Holy Spirit prompting you to sing.

Is there a theme?

Or, is there a primary song? What song do you sense is the pivotal song for the service, a song that you feel compelled to sing?

Step 2

Ask yourself what songs would flow well with the primary song or with the theme.

Look at those songs and listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting in your spirit to determine if you should add that song to the set.

Step 3

Look at the songs’ words when you’re creating the set, and ensure that there’s a flow where the songs’ words build on each other. If you’re two songs into the set, fully focused on God, you don’t want to start another song that’s a call to worship—one that encourages people to worship—you’re already worshiping at that point. Don’t take a step backward.

Step 4

Keep the song keys related to encourage a musical flow. Transitioning from a song in Bb to a song in E can be a little bumpy, not impossible, but not smooth.

When changing keys, try to move upward. In other words, if you’re in the key of D, doing the next song in the key of E or G or A would work, but going from the key of D to the key of C has the potential of feeling like you’re losing momentum musically.

Also, if some of the songs are in the same key, can you move smoothly from one to another without stopping one and starting another one?

Step 5

Be creative in your song arrangements.

Be creative musically. You’re not obligated to sing a song exactly as it was recorded.

What can your musicians handle musically?

What would make the song sound fresh?

Be creative in choosing what parts of the song to sing. You may want to start on a chorus of one song, go into the bridge, then move through the song. You aren’t obligated to sing all of the verses, the chorus, and the bridge of every song.

Finally, follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit when you’re creating the set, and follow His prompting while you’re leading. You’ll create a dynamic set that blesses God and engages the people.

Don't disconnect

Don’t disconnect.

When you lead worship, you are worshiping God yourself, but you’re on the platform or in front of the people to lead them in worshiping God.

Effective leadership requires engagement. The congregation needs to see that you are engaging with them, you’re looking at them and visually connecting with them. So keep your eyes open when you’re leading worship.

When your eyes are closed while you lead, you’re conveying that you’re worshiping privately, but being a worship leader means that you lead.

Think about a presenter at a seminar, a team leader who is speaking in a business meeting, a sport’s team coach, or a cheerleader. They would lose their engagement effectiveness if they had their eyes closed while speaking or cheering in front of you. You would easily become distracted and disengaged.

Worship team vocalists have told me that they are uncomfortable singing songs to God while looking at the congregation. My suggestion is to make eye contact with the congregation, then look up toward the ceiling. Visually connect again with the people, then look upward again, but keep your eyes open. In corporate worship, you have the opportunity to engage and encourage, to demonstrate and to lead.

Be the leader of that opportunity. Don’t disconnect.

Surviving a musical train wreck

How do you survive a musical train wreck?

So what do you do when you crash and burn musically while leading worship? You’ve experienced it—that time when someone wasn’t watching and the intro started like a train wreck, or the lead vocal missed her entrance, or she was off by half of a beat through verse one. It’s happened to all of us, to the best prepared set, to the most competent musicians.

We’re human; we make mistakes. So what should we do when that happens?

Smile. Own it. Start over if you need to or fix it as you go. But seriously, don’t let it bother you or destroy your confidence or ruin the opportunity to worship God.

Talk about it briefly as a team after the service so it doesn’t undermine confidence. Laugh together. Determine to work through that musical minefield at the next rehearsal. Then pray together, and remind each other why you do this.

You lead worship to glorify God, not to entertain people.

Make it tight Part 2

I was talking to a group of musicians today about what they do to create a tight sound in a worship band. Here are some of the points that they made.

  • Share a vision for the song and its purpose.

Communicate: talk about why you’re doing the song and what you will be doing with the song. Everyone has to be on the same page as to where you’re headed with the song and what is its place in the service. Without the same vision, you’ll sound like you’re doing your own thing.

  • Listen to each other. Someone is driving the bus for the song; listen to the driver. Flow.

  • There’s no place for a diva in a team. Period.

  • Listen to the song and look at the words. What does that song need?

Is it a contemplative song that focuses on God?  If it is, then avoid over-processing or over-arranging it. Strip the music down to the essentials and then add color: a simple kick, a soft acoustic guitar, a string pad on the keys or something soft and simple, a guitar line that harmonizes with the lead line. Be creative, but respect the purpose of the song.

Is it an up-tempo, big, joyful song that boasts about what God has done? Then go big on the intro, choose a solid bass line that mimics the kick, maybe a busier strum pattern for the guitar, and your keys should find a rhythm pattern that supports the song.

  • It’s easier to have a tight sound when the musicians are talented and skilled. But if the musicians are just learning, find simple but powerful licks, and harmonies and lead lines that can be taught to them that they can execute successfully.

  • Practice at home.

Pre-rehearsal practice is vital. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how many years you’ve been playing, if you don’t practice, you won’t be attuned to the nuances of the song.

In your personal practice time, you’ll find licks and phrases that you can bring to rehearsal. Be prepared for rehearsal.

If you’re spending your rehearsal time learning the song, you can’t create a cohesive structure for your song, and you can’t tighten your sound.

What do you do as a worship team to create a tight sound?

Make it tight

Make it tight

I'm asked often in worship clinics how to create a tight sound in a worship band. There are musical choices that you can make for your arrangements, such as focusing on what’s best for the style of the song instead of your own personal style preference in playing, and determining who should play what and when.

But a tight sound first starts with your relationship with God and with the band. Who you are and how you connect with and treat others impacts the team’s sound and flow.

You don’t have the luxury of being a diva in a worship band. That’s not what worship of God is about. It’s about you submitting yourself to serving God and working in unity with others to glorify God.

So, tighten up your relationship with God. Spend time getting to know Him by reading your Bible. Get to know Him in your personal worship time. Be devoted to listening for the prompting of His Holy Spirit in every area of your life.

Then tighten up your relationships in the worship team. Forgive. Love. Accept. Listen. And let the music flow out of that place where you trust each other.

What will glorify God? Simple answer: unity in the team that overflows into unity in the music, with the goal of proclaiming who God is and what He’s done.

Where are you on your journey in this?

Pull back on the vocals for a second

Pull back on the vocals for a second

It’s so easy to over-sing. I’ve been in the middle of a worship set where the congregation is immersed in worship and God’s presence is tangible. As a vocalist, I’ve often felt the need to express how overwhelmed I am by belting out the song full voice with nothing held back. After all, I’m overwhelmed so my voice should reflect that, right?

If I over-sing, my throat will hurt, my vocal tone will deteriorate, and the AV tech will be jumping up and down, trying to get my attention so I will pull my mic away from my mouth. Who benefits if I hurt my voice and lose my tone and control?  No one.

I’m a vocal leader, and I should use my voice to create a warm vocal sound that invites others to sing with me. Most importantly, I want to give God my best.

You already know that you can control your voice. When you’re doing your sound check or trying a new song, you move your vocal chords to see how you want to handle that note on that word of the song. You know how to push a little more air from your diaphragm, you know how to sing in a chest voice or a head voice. (And if you don’t, finding a good vocal coach is a great idea.)

So if you know how to control your voice, avoid the temptation to over-sing when you are overcome by emotion or the presence of God or even poor sound equipment. Sing correctly, protect your voice, give the people and God your best.

I’m reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 14:32, “and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” ASV 

If that applies to people who speak under God’s inspiration, how much more should we be able to manage and control our own vocal chords, particularly since we are (or should be) trained vocalists as worship leaders.

Just a thought.