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Archive for the ‘Worship Band’ Category

The bands I work with probably get tired of hearing me say it – but I’m not sure it can be said enough: “Less is more.” Having the musicians/singers be picky about when they play/sing does a lot for the dynamics of a song. But it also does something on a spiritual level. It allows other members’ gifts to shine through. It allows everyone the opportunity to practice the “prefer others more than yourself” attitude (an essential attitude for any collection of worshipers).

From Greg Atkinson:

If you’re  a worship pastor that leads a band and you let your musicians play 100% all the time, you’re dropping the ball (you know I like to shoot straight). I mentioned that when I visit churches I often look for a laptop on stage. But one of the first things I look for is who is not playing. The difference between an amateur musician and a professional is knowing when not to play. It’s the whole “less is more” thing that I always preach.

Maybe this is something that your church band struggles with. Maybe you have a pianist that used to be “the band” and is used to playing the full 100% of the music. Now that a guitar, bass and drums are added in, she doesn’t know that her role must decrease and she must adjust the amount of action or busyness that she plays with in order to allow the other instruments to equal to 100%. This is what I call the 100% rule. You only have 100% to divide up – any one player can’t play like the 100% is up to him/her.

Let’s get practical: Often to make a point, I will go to the extreme. I used to do this with my camera operators and video directors all the time. When working with church bands, I will often ask players to “sit out” or restrain from playing for a LONG period of time – in order to get the point across.

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Audio Mix Pyramid

From Technologies for Worship Magazine:
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Look at the Mix Pyramid. Notice that the top or focal point of the pyramid is the lead vocal. The lead vocal or soloist must always be on top and be able to be understood by someone who does not already know the words to the song. Just under the lead vocals come the backing vocals or choir. They are the first layer of support, and they too need to be audible as a distinct musical element that helps convey the message of the song.

Beneath the vocals come the instruments that provide fill and color. These add musical interest and highlights, and in fact may be the most prominent portions of the mix when the vocalists are not singing. Instruments might include Lead Guitar, Synthesizer, Brass, and/or Percussion. These instruments will often lead between vocal lines or during instrumental breaks and may need a bit of help from the Mix Musician to make sure their parts are heard when needed.

The primary bed of chords that form the harmonies under the lead parts of the music are often laid down by instruments such as rhythm guitar, piano and/or electronic keyboards. These instruments should be audible but never dominant in the mix.

Lastly low frequency instruments add foundation and weight to the music. These include drums, bass guitar, organ pedals, and the low end of electronic keyboard instruments. While almost never dominant in the mix, if they are not given their proper place and balance in the mix, the music will sound thin and will lack much of its grandeur.

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5. Lead guitars, sax, flute, and other instruments should not play the melody, but learn to play complementary parts in the pockets (between the vocal parts).

Read Tune Ups 1 2 3 4

I think there are also exceptions to this rule. I know there are times when I’ve had a lead solo instrument double the melody with the vocals, and it has added impact to the song. But I don’t suggest doing this more than 1 time during a set of worship songs. When you overuse this, it can sound amatureish. If you do have a solo instrument doubling the melody a lot, have them stop, and this should give your band a more professional sound instantly.

Some other solo instruments that sound good with a Worship Band:

  • cello
  • trumpet
  • clarinet
  • oboe
  • mandolin
  • hammer dulcimer
  • accordion
  • vibraphone

Learning to play complimentary parts in the pockets takes many years of musicianship to be able to do it on the fly. “In the pocket” in this sense means “between vocal parts.” The best example is on “turn-arounds” or the section of instrument music that takes you from the end of a chorus back into the beginning of a verse. Another “pocket” would be at the end of a vocal phrase, during the rests before they come back in.

Of course, if you’re going to add a solo instrument, and they can’t improvise, or even if they can, someone is going to have to write a part for every song. There is one resource that I have been consistently satisfied with when finding orchestrations for Worship Band songs. G3 music not only has creative arrangements of popular worship songs and hymns, but they also have great sounding horn parts that accent the song. G3 also allows you to subscribe to their service, or just buy single songs “a-la-cart” from the website. Having a solo instrument play the orchestration of their part from a song would be a good example of how to play in a Worship Band.

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sponcom

From ASBO Jesus.

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Read parts 1 2 3

4. No one should ever play the melody line. (This is for the vocal team).

The obvious exception is during an instrumental section of a song. But if a vocalist is singing, an instrument can probably think of something better to play than doubling the melody being sung. Some ideas of what solo instruments (flute, violin, trumpet, etc.) can play instead:

  • a harmony at the interval of a 3rd, 4th, or 5th
  • an echo of the melody (“call and response” style)
  • follow the chord changes on sustained notes
  • play a counter-melody (something subtle that doesn’t take away from the melody)
  • when in doubt – lay out!

The rule to not play the melody also applies to keyboard instruments, unless the song is brand new and needs the support. Generaly, doubling the melody can be avoided by the keyboard. The keyboardist can think of their part as a separate accompaniment to the song and not like four-part hymn playing that doubles the melody and it’s rhythm.

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Parts 1 and 2

3. In keyboard driven worship the guitar players need to listen and play a complementary part and not the same rhythm. (This also applies to a multiple guitar scene).

When the keyboard is the driving instrument in a Worship Band (or just on a song), the guitar players need to do something different rhythmically. If the keyboard is playing steady eighth notes, the guitar should play whole notes, or half notes, or a lead part with a varied rhythm. If the keyboard is playing dense chords, the guitar should play a lighter voicing or even a single note figure. If the keyboard is playing sustained chords, the guitar should play a rhythm using open chords or a palm-muted power chord part. As always, there are exceptions to this rule – there are times when you would want all the instruments to line up rhythmically to create impact or buildup at a high point within a song. You probably don’t want every instrument playing the same rhythm the whole time in a song.

A note about frequency range: The guitars and keyboards tend to occupy the same frequency range. The guitar occupies the middle frequencies of the keyboard. Keyboardists can stay above middle C and be fine most of the time. If the guitar boosts it’s mid frequency this will help distinguish itself from the keyboard.

When you’ve got 2 guitars in the band, it’s good to break up their rhythmic approach and chordal voicing as well. If one guitar is playing open chords and strumming, the other guitar can:

  • capo and play different voicing of the chords
  • play palm-muted power chords in a higher voicing
  • play an arpeggio of the same open chord or a varied voicing
  • lay out (a novel concept)
  • play a counter melody using single notes

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Nancy Beach has a post about a colleague that believed they needed to ask a Worship Band member to step down in order to take the team to the “next level.” I’ve been there.

To start, there are 2 main things I look for when selecting new Worship Band members. First there needs to be a heart attitude of worship, and a desire to be a servant. Second there needs to be clear gifting in the area they desire to serve in. Both of these things are necessary. Sometimes we invite someone into the Band when only one of these qualities is developed, and use the opportunity to move them along where they are lacking. Sometimes it isn’t immediately obvious that they have what it takes in both these areas. When you’re not sure, you have to go slow. Ask them to come to rehearsals, but not to lead on Sundays. For vocalists, ask them to sing in the choir for a few months before singing on a mic up front. See how that rubs them. Their reaction (and whether they even stick around) will clue you into where their heart is.

But what about someone who is not up to par in the musical/technical side. Here are my suggestions in handling that:

1. Let them know the expectations. Tell them you expect a degree of excellence in the presentation of music, and this requires practice apart from band rehearsal. Bottom line – a musical mistake equals a potential distraction in people connecting with God in worship.

2. Be specific. If it is a stylistic problem, tell them how you want it. If it is a technique problem, give helpful suggestions how to improve. Offer to help via lessons outside rehearsal. You can’t just tell them it’s not good enough and not provide a chance to correct it and grow.

3. Put the burden on them. Let them know that unless they get help and improve, we don’t have a place for you to serve here

4. Offer another venue for them to continue to serve and improve in. There are usually other places that need musical leadership: children’s church, youth band, small groups, prison ministry, etc. Let them serve somewhere else.

In the end, a band is only as good as it’s worst player. If efforts are made to improve and nothing is working, you have to cut the cord. Tell them, “We love you, but God has not gifted you to serve in this area. We know He has somewhere else for you to serve here.”

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