11 Ways to Improve Worship Rehearsals

Jedidiah Smith offers tips for efficient and effective rehearsals:

Dear Worship Leader,

Never underestimate the power of a good rehearsal. They go along way to improving the worship experience for your church and are vital in creating a healthy culture among your musicians. So don’t settle for poor or even mediocre rehearsals.

If your still not convinced that well run rehearsals are a big deal, here are a couple more reasons:

  • It shows a ton of respect for your volunteers time. I can’t stress this enough. To habitually run a bad rehearsal is to disrespect your time of people on your team. If you feel you run bad rehearsals you might be tempted to feel bad about it. Feeling bad about something is surprisingly unproductive. Resolve to improve and make progress little by little. The rest of this post will help.-It increases moral. Nothing is more discouraging than a rehearsal that feels like a waste.
  • It increases moral. Nothing is more discouraging than a rehearsal that feels like a waste.

Clear definitions are important, so before we can talk about ways of improving your rehearsals, let’s try to clearly define what makes a good rehearsal.

1. Questions are Answered

In a good rehearsal, musicians walk away more confident than when they walked in. Questions they brought with them during the rehearsal are answered. Maybe it’s questions about transitions between songs, the chord progression of the instrumental or how they are going to groove with the drummer.

Whatever the questions, it’s important that your team (and you) walk away from the rehearsal with more fewer question marks than when you first arrived. This means decisions will have to be made and you will be the one who will have to make them. This means that ideas will have to be clearly articulated and you will be the one articulating them.

2. Good music to talking ratio.

Playing music is fun. That’s why people join bands. If people walk away feeling like they spent more time playing music (fun) than they did anything else (not fun) they will look at that rehearsal as time well spent.

3. You and your band play music better together.

This is obvious but worth noting. Everyone should be able to point to the rehearsal and credit it for playing a song better, or nailing a transition.

So can we make our rehearsals better? Glad you asked. Here are 11 ways to improve your rehearsals.


Getting your musicians to play music quickly will snap your musicians (and you) in the right mind set for the rehearsal. This will set the tone for the rest of the rehearsal. If you waste time before the first song, there’s a good chance it will be harder to get your team to focus between the rest of the songs. The simple act of playing a song right away will send the message that you respect everyone’s time and that you really want to make the worship set a good experience for your church.


Don’t just start with the first song in the list. If you have to, practice the songs out of order and start with an easy one, a slow pitch that the band can hit out of the park. This will build your team’s confidence. Working on a hard song is psychologically easier to handle if you already have a song under your belt.


Once your team nails a song, pat them on the back…metaphorically speaking at least. If they played the song well, let them know. It’s possible for us musicians to play something well and still not feel good about it. Sometimes, just hearing the worship leader express satisfaction in how the song was played is enough to put everyone at ease.


This is incredibly powerful. The moment someone does something right or really cool, let them know. Sometimes just a quick, “dude, that was sweet” right before you sing the next lyric goes a long way to affirming your team and building their confidence.

Obviously it’s hard to communicate during a song. I like to make mental notes of what musicians are doing well. Once the song is done, I let them know specifically what it was they did I thought was so cool.

The more specific you can be, the better. Tell them where in the song it was, tell them specifically what they did, and let them know it was cool or exactly what the song needed.


You know your team. Get to know the song and try to predict what part of the song your team might have a hard time with. Is the transition into the bridge a little different? Is it clear what the instrumental progression will be? Predict what it might be and bring it up before you play the song. Set them up to play the song perfectly the first time through.


Have you ever heard dead air on the radio? It’s weird. It’s confusing because you don’t know how long it will last and all you really know is that someone at the radio station dropped the ball.

Do you know what most people do when they hear dead air on the radio? They turn to a different channel.

Don’t let that happen to your rehearsal. Once you’ve finished a song, start talking. Congratulate them, clarify a part of the song, tell a joke, do monitor mixes, something, just do or say something. Don’t give people a chance to tune out.

If you have to have dead air to think about something, let them know. Make that part of the plan. Simply say “That was good; give me just a moment to go over this in my head quick and wrap my mind around it.” That way it feels like it’s suppose to happen and nobody “turns the channel.”


As often as possible, try to engage the whole band not just an individual. It can be weird to spend too much time with two vocalists or one guitarists and have everyone else just sit there waiting for you to get done. This invites mischief.

Sometimes I’ll have vocalists stay for an extra 15 minutes after rehearsal to tighten up harmonies. I’ve had keyboardists arrive early so I can go over settings with them. There are ways to communicate what you need to without ignoring others on the team.


It’s hard to yell over a random drum fill. Don’t. Talk into the mic in between songs. That way, no one can ignore you.


This might seem counterintuitive, but for some of you this is exactly what you need to do.

Often times we like to collaborate to create buy-in from the whole team. Creating buy-in and giving people ownership are great goals; however, this might not be the way to accomplish that goal.

Put yourself in the shoes of your team. Nothing is more frustrating than listening and practicing a song leading up to rehearsal and then find out that the arrangement is going to be scrapped and made into something completely different. By doing this, you are punishing your team for doing any preparation on their own and creating a culture where no one shows up to rehearsal prepared.

If there is anytime between the rehearsal and the day of the service, it’s really hard to remember what you had decided during rehearsal. Instead of executing an interesting and unique arrangement of a song, you end up with a sloppy result and a stressed Sunday morning sound check.

Have a clear arrangement of the songs communicated to your team before the rehearsal. Planning Center Online makes this super easy. That way when you get to rehearsal, you can spend your time making it better rather than spending all your time deciding what you’re going to do.


Resolve to treat your teams time as precious and end on time. Train yourself to think about time this way: say your rehearsal is an hour and a half long and you have six people in your band. This means that your rehearsal isn’t just an hour and a half. It’s an hour and a half per person. That’s actually nine hours. Respect their time and end when you’re supposed to.


Much like starting off with an easy song gives your team a lot of confidence and builds momentum, ending on an easy song produces a sense of confidence in your team.

At the end of the day, there aren’t any hard and fast rules to creating the perfect rehearsal. We all have different context, different people, different churches and different ministries. What works for some of us won’t work for others.

Try a couple of these tips and see how it works. Experiment and try to create a rehearsal your team looks forward to.

Keep sharp,



Essential reading for worship leaders since 2002.


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