Normally when I write out a post I try to have it be organized. I have a pretty standard outline that I follow on this blog. But today, instead of one big topic, I’m gonna throw out a few random thoughts about worship leading written in a stream of consciousness. After writing this post mostly I found myself talking about words and lyrics, but there is also a bit about community and active participation. Here goes:
Let’s be honest about two things:
1. Church bands tend to “overplay” and step over each other on a regular basis
2. Church bands are often a hodge podge of who’s available instead of who is needed.
What I’m going to suggest will hopefully unmuddy the waters sonically speaking and give structure to arranging and picking your church’s band for a worship service.
When I put a band together for a Sunday or Wednesday I first look at who is available. It’s all well and good to want a thick analog synth sound on a song but if all your keyboard players are on vacation, you’ll need to rethink your plans. Once I know who is available, I start to fill roles based on my “5 point band”. I admit that I don’t always do it consciously, because I’m so used to doing it. But it’s always there in the background of my mind. So here are the 5 points that I look for to put a band together. I’m going to write them in order of importance.
For someone out there, this is going to be a mind blowing, revolutionary thought. So by all means, feel free to sit down for a moment and catch your breath.
For the rest of you, who hopefully get the playful spirit in which I wrote the above sentence, this is a valid conversation for us to have.
In some church traditions, this is a pointless conversation with an obvious answer: of course not. But for many evangelical churches, the question I posed would mean a complete paradigm shift. The worship leader is ALWAYS the person singing. Whether they sing on their own, or if they are also the piano player, guitarist, or even bass player, the worship leader always sings. I’m going to propose that maybe this thinking is why your church’s music ministry is struggling.
Proverbs 29:18 tells us that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” In Mark 6:34 Jesus has compassion on the people because “they are like sheep without a shepherd.” Ephesians 4:11 tells us that it was God “who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,” and I feel safe in saying that worship leaders fall somewhere in their too. I could give more examples but the point is that the Bible teaches that godly leadership is a great thing but a lack of leadership is a very bad thing.
I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.
This week we’ll talk about setting up your electric rig for the first time or upgrading it to something better, specifically amplifiers. This is part 2 of a 4 part series. Part 1 can be found HERE. Part 3 can be found HERE. Part 4 can be found HERE.
The Most Important Thing
As I said in the last post, I believe the amplifier is the most important part of the guitar rig. I didn’t always think so, I used to think that the most important thing was to get the right guitar. This thinking stemmed from years of acoustic guitar playing where the guitar is everything in getting a good sound. For years I barely gave the amplifier a second thought beyond how loud it could get. Then one day I was in a guitar shop trying out a reverb pedal when it struck me that this pedal will never sound as good in my rig because my amp wasn’t as good. It wasn’t a bad amp, but it just wasn’t able to compete. So I sold some gear and bought a very good mid-priced amp, and switched my long term gear savings plan from a high end guitar to a high end amplifier which I hope to get in a few years. Since that time I have not regretted that decision. A great amp can make so/so guitars and effects sound much better, while a great guitar will be hamstrung by a low quality amp.
Ever tried to learn a song and thought “this is way too high or way too low for me to sing?” Or “there are way too many chord changes for me” or something like that?
Change The Key
I’m always surprised how many worship leaders feel locked into the “original key” or the charts they got from another worship leader or Internet site.
I’m a baritone, the worship leaders at the church I grew up in were all tenors. The chords I got from them and that make up the base of my chord files are all for their range.
All songs have keys. The Majority of church songs are in G, D, E, or C. A song may be written in Bb for a singer with a high range (Phil Wickham) but most of us would need to drop it down to something singable. Also, women and men have different ranges. If you have chords from a guy worship leader and you’re a lady, you may find that a lot of the “standards” don’t work with your voice, that’s ok, just find the key that works for you. I’ve found that a lot of the songs in G that are two high for me work well in F.
Change The Chords
A lot of the older hymns or Christmas carols were written for pianos or organs with chords and chord changes that don’t work well for guitars or guitar music. Don’t be afraid to figure out what works for you and your band.
When we planted Calvary:Arlington we only had two guitar players to start. But our chords and arrangements were often for full bands from our sending church. So for a few of the songs I had to go in and change the chords and arrangements to work for something different, and as we’ve established a fuller band we’ve had to change other songs from simpler arrangements to ones that work for a larger group.
It Won’t Happen Overnight
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Getting your songs set up to work for you and your band will take time but it’s worth it in the long run. As for Christmas songs, I’m about to go start working on them in the summer so I’m not scrambling come the holidays.
The main thing is not to get locked into what worked for someone else. Be Biblical. Be Authentic. Be yourself
The Finding Your Place series was written on my other blog. I’m reposting it here over the next few months. It was one of the main impetus for me starting this blog and I felt it’s content would be worthwhile here.
If you read it before I’m sorry, but I think it’s a helpful series and hopefully useful to those who read it.