I know, it sounds so basic – and I’m sure most WorshipIdeas readers have mastered this important skill. However, for some unknown reason, many Creatives are absolutely allergic to preparation in any way, shape or form. You wouldn’t believe the shenanigans I’ve experienced at the hands of full-time, highly-paid megachurch worship leaders who should know better.
When I first became a music director at a small church plant, the previous lay worship leader threw together his praise set about a half hour before church and the band winged it. So when I arrived on the scene you can imagine the drama – why should the band rehearse when they never had to before? All growth has pains and the players who refused to come to a rehearsal dropped by the wayside and over time other more dedicated volunteers took their places.
In that church the basic concept of a mere rehearsal took time to establish. But rehearsals alone won’t be enough. You’ll need to…
Plan your praise set. In one megachurch where I’ve played, the worship leader can somehow turn an hour and a half rehearsal into a three hour ordeal because he’s still trying to decide the song order… during the rehearsal! Please get your song order nailed down in advance – not only does the band want to know the songs, but we also want to know the order of the songs. Having this finalized at rehearsal helps solidify it in my brain for Sunday.
As a talented worship leader you can make last minute changes on the fly, but this can cripple the lay insurance-salesman-by-day-and-praise-band-guitarist-on-Sundays. One keyboardist I know spent literally hours trying to pick out by ear (with no sheet music) an artsy extended piano intro for a popular worship song. During the rehearsal the worship leader flippantly decided he’d scrap that intro and the keyboardist nearly had a nervous breakdown. Imagine how he felt after wasting all that personal rehearsal time for nothing.
Plan your charts. As a paid worship director I felt my job, in part, was to resource and support volunteers. Practically, this meant I’d have their charts as correct and organized as possible. One megachurch I know of simply throws MP3s on Planning Center and tells their band to “figure them out.” That doesn’t sound much like a servant attitude on the leadership’s part, does it? How simple it would be to cough up a few bucks to purchase chord charts at PraiseCharts.com – I know Ryan Dahl has always tried to make sure their charts are as correct and true to original recordings as possible.
Inaccurate charts are simply a waste of time. When I sat down at home to practice the coming week’s songs at one megachurch I found their charts were completely wrong – wrong chords, wrong verse/chorus order, wrong everything. You can imagine the confusion at rehearsal. Another megachurch was using some horrible charts from one of those free worship websites – the type where all the chords are off. On top of that, the worship leader decided during rehearsal to change the key – so not only did the poor volunteers have to struggle with transposition, they were trying to transpose the wrong chords!
Plan your multitracks. One problem with the beautiful, elaborate modern worship productions we have today is that the average worship leader often has no concept of how to replicate that sound (hint: it takes lots of work. ) At one megachurch rehearsal the worship leader spent an hour on one song alone trying to figure out why it wasn’t “sounding like the recording.” Finally I convinced him it just wasn’t possible to reproduce the thick pads and pulsing synths without multitracks. He scrapped the song – and wasted both rehearsal time and the personal practice time of the volunteers.
At another praise band rehearsal the worship leader stopped right in the middle of the song. He turned around to single me out, looked me squarely in the eye and snorted in front of everybody “why doesn’t what you’re playing sound like the recording?”
Of course, my first thought was to punch him in the nose. However, I instead replied “Well, your keyboard here is over ten years old and simply can’t make those cool synth sounds. And even if it could, I wouldn’t be able to play all the different layers at once.” This praise band wasn’t on a click, so even if I had purchased the multitracks on my own, gone to the trouble of programming them and had them at rehearsal we still couldn’t have used them.
Running multitracks costs money and takes time. To get the exact sound of a recording you’ll need to invest in a laptop, software and an audio interface, plus there’s the usually high cost of each multitrack. You’ll need a keyboard player who is technically minded. You’ll have to be up and running with a click track and in-ears. In other words, you’ll have to do a lot of… preparation.
(But guess what – you don’t have to sound like the recording!)
Bottom Line: Being prepared and planning ahead will give you such an amazing boost to your music ministry that the resulting satisfaction should be impetus enough to help you overcome your planning procrastination.