Know your place in the sonic spectrum. Look at any really good band. every instrument is there for a reason and each occupies its own space in the sound. Part of the problem for many teams is too many instruments basically playing the same thing. Just because there are 3 guitarists in the team doesn’t mean they all have to play at the same time. Worse still many musicians use their instrument to play a role that its not designed to do. So very often we have drums playing all the fills, basses playing like a lead guitarist, keyboard players cutting across bass parts or worse still covering or everything, electric guitar or orchestral instrument lines cutting across the melody and BV’s upstaging the lead vocal. So what is your instruments role?
Every instruments job is only to support the melody. In song based music where to be frank, most of an average audience or congregation can only pick out the melody or drums, every instrument needs to play there part to support the lead vocal. So wrap your grooves, chords and harmonies around the rhythm, volume, pitch and emphasis of the lead vocal line.
Lock into the groove. The rhythm instrument’s main role is provide a clear, solid and in time base for all the other parts to lock to. Randomly changing strumming patterns, drum grooves and fills and bass licks that don’t lock in to the consistent groove of the song can unease the congregation. Consistency can seem boring our job is to serve the song, the band, the congregation and the Lord through music that is easy to grasp
Very often the source of the groove is in beat 3. If you are having trouble finding the right groove, what is happing with the kick drum or even the rhythm of the melody line around beat 3? Are the inflections before, on or after that beat. Is everyone instrument picking up on that or even leaving space to bring out the accent of that groove?
The rule of One. If you are the only instrument, you cover everything bar the melody (unless its an instrument section), so chords, harmony groove etc. As you add more instruments you should play less to give each other a space for their part. So if there are 5 people in the band then you should play a fifth of the sound.
Enter and exit the music at the junctions. You don’t have to play all the time but when you do come in and out at distinct sections or junctions of the song e.g. verse, chorus, link etc rather than randomly drift in and out. This sounds tidy, planned and adds to the overall dynamic feel of the song.
Not playing is an option. Think ahead about which junctions or parts of the song your instrument will best lift it. It may be the whole song or just a small section. Let music breath and make a statement with your contribution, don’t just waffle on!
Mean what you play – Does your sound match up with the lyric and theme of the song? So when you play to the lyric “I’m desperate for you” do your music sound desperate or just bored?
Make the theme and the music match – Think about Blessed be You Name. Most bands just rock it up but but there’s some pretty sobering lyrics in there and a big, confident driven vibe my not always be the most helpful interpretation for the worshiper.
Cultivate feel – what is the sound of joy, reverence, intercession, freedom, repentance? Rather than playing licks, can you play emotions? Pick an emotion, does it sound high or low, long or short, loud, soft, clean, dirty, gentle or aggressive?