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Playing Together

Tue, 01 Jul 2008 - 9:32 AM CST

The worship band is a great asset to any youth ministry. Every band is different. Each is made up of its own musicians with different levels of talent, skill and many other variables. No matter where your team is, you can always grow and become better musicians and a better band.

Before I go further, let me say that it is not about sounding exactly like the band on the CD. What matters is how you take care of the gifts God has given you. The experienced musician should put in just as much time as the beginner, both to improve and show God how thankful you are for the gift that He has given.

So how do we play together? Below you will find three ideas that will help your team "tighten" up. There are many ways, but these I find help the fastest.

1. Find the Pocket

What is the pocket? The pocket is everyone playing together both on and off the beat. By learning to play "in the pocket" your team will tighten up and your beats will be solid and create a greater punch; which is what we all want - a nice punch to our sound.

Here is a simple pocket exercise: First, tell the team a simple chord progression (G, D, Em, C). Second, have the drummer play a simple kick, snare, hi-hat beat pattern. Then have the bass enter following the kick drum pattern then add each instrument; Rhythm Guitars (acoustic and electrics) and Keyboards should follow the hi-hat, Lead Electric and Piano are normally used as fillers but for this exercise, should fall on the down beat (1 or the beat that everyone is changing on). Concentrate on changing chords at the same time and playing together rhythmically. As the team finds the "pocket", change the tempo (fast and slow) and change the drum beat patterns.

2. Listen Before Your Play

"1, 2, 3, 4!" Listen! This is a very simple exercise. Have the team sit down with paper and pen in hand. Have everyone listen to the song you are about to practice and write down what they hear their instrument playing. This doesn't mean everyone will be able to play what they hear or that you have to follow the recording exactly (because every worship team has an individual flare), but this will give you a starting place.

3. Less is More

Believe it or not, simple is best when it comes to any band. That doesn't mean there will not be crazy solos and drum fills but for the most part "less is more". Listen to almost any CD and you will find that there is room to breathe. Each instrument has a part and the song has a progression. Most upbeat intros will consist of the full band while some keep a simple groove.

The first verse often uses the drums, bass and keys or acoustic guitar with the occasional lead line. Pre-Choruses build into the full band in the chorus. But don't forget to save some for the Bridge and then your last chorus. If you cannot make out any instrument or one instrument isn't heard, the instruments are probably washing each other out. It's a bummer to have practiced hard for no one to hear the cool lick except the one playing it.

Some of the most common offenders are busy drummers, two electric guitars both playing lead or rhythm at the same time, bass players not playing with the kick patterns, and everyone playing at the same time without previously working out parts.

There is something to be said about practice. Practice is not playing what you know but working on what you need to know. The beauty of practice is to work out the kinks, learn the parts, communicate and have fun. The more you truly practice, not just play songs, the easier playing old and new songs will become. As you feel the band tighten up and start playing more as one, start experimenting with new arrangements and grooves. Over time, practicing together, combined with leading worship together, will unite the band and you will begin to feel each others' styles and know how to move together. It takes time, but it's worth it. Keep pushing and working hard, not for man but so that God may be honored by the talents He has given you.

rock hard, worship harder

~brad bichsel~

Please feel free to contact me to talk more about worship and worship leading.

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