I’ve heard from many churches that complain that their people aren’t playing together. The problem is that people are focusing only on themselves.
I used to play soccer. I’ll never forget what it was like to play and be focused only on what I was doing without being aware that there were open people in front of me or behind me that I could pass to. That’s how some musicians approach worship music. But if you want your worship music to win, you have to pay attention to what’s going on in the bigger picture.
I love this verse in 1 Corinthians 13, known as “The Love Chapter,” that says, “If I speak with the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” We all want love in our services. But if we only focus on ourselves, it’s not love. For some of you, the attitude of your music team is like clanging cymbals or gongs. If you play in a band and only focus on yourself, it has the potential to interfere with someone in the audience connecting with their Heavenly Father. This is the reason why we’re talking about this. You have people showing up who will be impacted for eternity. You want to eliminate as many obstacles as possible.
The biggest challenge for most church musicians is not playing their instrument, but listening to the rest of the band and knowing when to play or when not to play.
Again, our default is to focus only on our part, our role, and our instrument. But the magic happens when we can step back and think differently.
Worship Rocket teaches you to think differently as a worship leader…
To walk through this, we’re going to use an acronym called P.L.A.Y.
Producer. I’ve been in church music a long time, guys. I’ve discovered that the producer piece is probably the most important.
- The producer begins with the whole song and set journey in mind. Because the producer knows how to assemble songs and sets in a way that helps the whole team be cohesive.
- The producer has a vision for where the song and set need to take people, and how to engage them.
- Producers are musically aware of what’s current and what dynamics are. For many of us in church world, Sundays gets here fast every week. So by default, we end up playing the same songs. This is why we have to put a volunteer in the producer spot who’s able to look at songs you’ve been doing week after week. They are in charge of making sure you’re doing fresh and creative stuff. They’re also aware of dynamics. Dynamics are huge in music.
- The producer knows how to bring out the best in the band. They know how to keep pushing until you’re playing the song the way it needs to be played—until it sounds just right and is ready for Sunday.
You may say, “I don’t have a producer in my church. I have a drummer, a keyboard player, a bass player, and a guitar player. I have limited resources and limited volunteers.” Here’s what I believe: even with your current volunteer musicians, there’s probably at least one who gets the idea of knowing how to fit the pieces together. Pray. Search your volunteer crew and band to see if there’s someone who has the skills to be a producer. Or, find someone who wants to learn how to be a producer.
Listen To Songs. One of the best ways to learn how to approach music is to study the way other great producers put music together by listening to great recordings. This is the way I learn, and the way a lot of my friends learn. You listen to great recordings and make some notes. Do this with your team. Have an offsite as a group. Make observations and share what you discovered. Listen to some songs that move you. Get your music team together and say, “Guys and girls, let’s all bring two songs to the table. We’re going to have lunch together and listen. And we’re going to write down what we hear at the top of the song, verse one, chorus one, verse two, etc. Make notes and share your observations.” As you walk through this exercise as a music team, you’ll discover that you’re making similar observations. And you’ll be able to use those ideas in your rehearsal as you play together.
Listen To Each Other. Don’t just listen to songs. You also have to listen to each other.
- You can’t play together if you can’t hear each other. If you’re not using in-ear monitors, I encourage you to develop and utilize your monitoring system. Avioms, for example, are great. We have a sound console designated just for monitors. And we have an engineer who actually comes to rehearsal. We listen to each other until we’re absolutely sure that we can all hear all the pieces. If we’re not paying attention to our teammates, then we’re not sure what to do. Again, it’s not about us individually. It’s about bringing all of it together with a producer.
- Don’t be afraid to copy what’s already been recorded. Again, listen to songs that are great. Why are they great? Write it down. It’s an awesome way to learn.
- Don’t assume that just because you have an instrument, you have to play the whole song. I used to think this. A lot of you may think it, too. Just because you’re holding a guitar or standing behind a keyboard doesn’t mean you need to play the whole song. A less-is-more philosophy is better.
Affirm. There are things you can affirm in your team that will reinforce the idea of them playing together.
- Fewer instruments create more sonic space. If you go see a band like U2, it’s really three guys. There’s bass, drums, and guitar. The sound they put out with just three instruments is massive. The reason why is because every instrument has a sonic space in the spectrum of frequency. The fewer people you have, the bigger space each instrument can take up. In our worship services, many of us have too many people on stage. We have too many instruments playing at the same time. We want to affirm the idea of less-is-more to our team members so that we create more space and allow things to sound bigger and bolder in our church’s PA system.
- The most powerful statement you can make as a musician is not necessarily the notes you play, but the space you create. Sometimes the biggest statement you can make is to hang out and not play the verse right after the first chorus. Let the drums stop and just have bass guitar playing. Think about different, creative ways you can create space. Start with the idea that you don’t have to play the whole time. Remember, less is more. It’s not about the race: think about creating space. It’s not about you. It’s about approaching songs with the whole team in mind.
You First. In order to play well together, you need players that have servant attitudes.
- If a player’s default is not to serve the team offstage, it will show up in their need to be heard on stage. Because I see this “need-to-be-heard” attitude a lot, I’m even more passionate about putting servant-hearted volunteers at the top of my list for musicians and teammates that I want.
- Have a conversation with problem players and let them know your expectations for mutual service. I can’t stress this enough. People ask all the time, “Todd, we’ve got this guy. He’s habitually late. He doesn’t play together with the team. He’s always in conflict. What do I do?” You have to go to each other in love, have a talk, and set each other up for mutual success. Instead of talking about them, talk to them. Talk about the space you want them to create to build a powerful worship experience for the people who are coming to your church each week.
The Rocket Company has partnered with Todd Fields, lead worship pastor at North Point Community Church and head of Worship Circle, to create Worship Rocket, a revolutionary, step-by-step worship system that guides you on how to be the best leader you can possibly be.