Practical ideas for working with a novice worship band
Even without huge experience and musicality there are numerous things you can do to help your band work better together. Here are just a few practical tips you can try.
Simplicity. Any band can vastly improve purely by playing the simple things well and avoiding songs or styles that are too complex for them to pull off convincingly. This means honing skills as basic as finishing the song at the same tempo it started, regular tuning and being more aware of the other instruments than just their own part.
Many bands sound bad because they play like five individuals playing their own version rather than a single unit working together. If that’s your team then they need to understand groove. Groove is about each instrument finding its place in the underlying rhythm of the song and sticking to it. So this means guitar strumming patterns fitting with the accents in the rhythm of the melody line and staying completely consistent, drums holding the same groove for the duration of the song and not free styling when consistency seems boring, bass locking to that kick drum pattern and thinking like a rhythm instrument and not a frustrated lead guitarist, orchestral instruments not playing the melody -cause that’s what the lead vocal is for. Same goes for classical pianists. If they play too many parts just get them to use their right hand only. If the whole sound is too busy maybe get some to sit out for song but don’t skimp on practice and jamming. Express songs loudly, quietly, even take turns following each other through spontaneous dynamic changes.
Listening, watching and intuiting are overlooked skills too. In this kind of setting most of a musician’s concentration should be in listening to integrate their parts with the other instruments, watching the worship leader for dynamic changes, readjusting and changing the song/style/volume to help lead the congregation and of course grabbing moments to focus on the Lord yourself. With all that to think about you’ll probably only have a small amount of headspace for your own part, so play parts well below your ability threshold and focus on becoming a team player.
Think about stage positioning too. Why do most worship teams set up like a rock band where the drummer can only see the back of the worship leaders head? So experiment with positions where they can all see each others faces to aid communication. Semi circles work well as does placing the drums side on facing centre.
Try to get your team to play sounds that reflect the meaning in the lyrics, not just their favourite style. Take Blessed Be Your Name for example. It’s very easy to just to play it with a big anthemic rock groove every time, but does that sound reflect best the meaning in the words? Maybe read the lyrics aloud, how does that make your players want to respond? Do they want to shout, laugh, cry, intercede or be silent? Can they reflect that in the way they play? They don’t have to be musical geniuses to do that either. Just think about dynamics, sensitivity, listening and simplicity.