Recording for Worship

How can recording help your worship ministry? It’s not a top priority, but if your worship ministry is under control and well managed, recording can speed up the learning curve for your musicians and enhance the worship experience of your church.

Is your ministry managed and under control? By this, I mean: does everyone know their job and can perform it on autopilot? Does your band and praise and tech team show up on time for rehearsals and Sunday morning without being pestered? Does your band know the bulk of your worship material so rehearsal doesn’t take too long? Are you in a steady routine of selecting music and planning your services? If your foundation is this solid, then you can try getting fancy.

At my last ministry I was able to do little recording because there simply wasn’t time. In a small church with no support staff I did almost everything myself: picking the music, charting, copying, EasyWorship programming, scheduling and leading the music.

Now, at a large church like Brookwood, there are many people filling many roles on the worship team. And after a year of steady guidance by worship pastor Steve Smith, the ministry is running like clockwork – which gives us time to take things up a notch by recording. Here’s what we’re doing:

1. Recording demo CDs for the choir. After we’ve selected the praise choir music for the next few months, I’ll take the original recordings and play the alto, tenor and bass parts on top of it using a piano sound. I’m using Cakewalk’s Sonar recording software, importing the original recording from the CD into Sonar and playing the parts with a piano setting. After securing permission from publishers we make CDs for the tenors, basses, altos and sopranos, giving each group their own CD with their part highlighted by the piano. This has helped incredibly to speed up the learning process. We considered having vocalists come in and record their parts, but it’s as effective and much faster for me to just record their parts on the keyboard. Watch the YouTube video above of one of our recent choir recording sessions.

2. Recording band rehearsals. NewSpring Church records their band rehearsals and burns a CD for everyone. At Monday night’s rehearsal, they’ll practice a song until they get it perfect, record the song, then move on to the next song. At the end of rehearsal they’ll burn a CD and give it to each band member so they can listen and practice all week.

3. Recording original songs and arrangements. Have you written a song or created a contemporary hymn arrangement? It’s imperative to get those ideas recorded. Last week at a worship conference a worship leader approached me and wanted to send me some of his hymn arrangements. I told him to email me some MP3s but he told me all he had were charts. A chart with no audio won’t do me or any other publisher any good (or your praise band, for that matter.) People learn best by hearing the music, and any publisher I know that still accepts material won’t be bothered to look at only a lead sheet.

4. Sweeten the mix. What makes a recording sound professional? One big element are the bells and whistles thrown in – called “sweetening” – things like synth pads, leads, drum loops and orchestration. Watch the video of my HymnCharts arrangements of “He Hideth My Soul.” You’ll hear drum loops, shakers, synth strings and a bubbling synth sound sweetening the band and choir.

Advanced live sweetening like this can only be done if your entire band uses in-ear monitors and a click track – topics I’ll address in an upcoming article. If you can pull this off your music will be so good your congregation’s mind will be blown, and you’ll approach professionalism that rivals major touring acts.

You’ll also hear on the “He Hideth” video a technique we’ve recently been experimenting with: sweetening the choir. Our sound guys pull their hair out when we have our praise choir sing (once or twice a month) because it’s so difficult to mic a large group on our stage. So, we pull a few voices for each part from the choir and record a few of our songs for upcoming Sundays on a weeknight. Adam Fisher (our guitarist and staff worship gearhead) will mix these recorded guide vocals into our live worship giving the sound guys a core sound to use as well as feeding vocals back to the choir through the monitors. These guide vocals also help Adam get a better mix as he prepares the audio for the Brookwood website.

Bottom Line: Use recording techniques to take your ministry to the next level.

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