By Greg Jones
Whenever I begin leading worship for a new team or acquire new musicians, I lay out expectations in a packet that I give them. The following is a layout of those expectations. I hope this will be a helpful guide for other worship leaders.
Practice with the MP3, using it as a guide to supplement the chord chart in order to determine dynamics, accents, groove, song structure and most time signature lines.
Rehearsals are not practices. Please give your fellow team mates the courtesy of practicing on your own time so that rehearsals will run as smooth as possible. Please come prepared! Take notes on the charts if necessary.
As another courtesy, if you need to set up your instrument, please do so BEFORE the start of rehearsal.
General Worship Team Expectations:
Punctuality, preparation and a humble attitude, coupled with a passion for excellence. Humility is having the boldness to stare our weaknesses in the eye without flinching. If we couple that with passion for God, people and music, then such humility will fuel us to want to grow so that we do this tomorrow better than we did it yesterday. We ARE performers but GOD is the audience so give Him nothing less than your best as your act of worship! This act also teaches the congregation to do likewise with our very lives, not simply with tunes.
Attitude produces altitude so humility and passion trump even your singing/playing skills as long as you have the basic fundamentals down.
You will have to be able to learn the music on a week to week basis.
It is at the worship leader’s discretion to give allowances for chronically late attendance and missed rehearsals if a reasonable excuse is given. Examples might be because you are serving/attending traditional service, a small group, helping out another church, or child-care issues.
Know when you’re the ‘elephant’ and when another instrument is. Stay out of the way of the way of the ‘elephant’ when it’s not you. When in doubt, less is more.
Our vision is served by our mission. Our mission is partially served by the music, its style(s) chosen based upon the vision and mission. We are to serve the style of the song. Classical singing contemporary music or throwing hair band 80’s guitar riffs and tones into Amazing Grace is not going to serve the song even if it is done with great skill and talent.
• Sing in tune
• Sing in a contemporary style
o Moderate vibrato
o Contemporary vowel enunciations
o Watch those diphthongs and trip thongs. Example: “Praise” should not be sung as “Pray – eese!”
• Blend with the other vocalists
• Facial and physical expressions communicate more than our words so communicate the passion you have outwardly. YOU are all worship leaders!
• Tight tempos
• A sense of dynamics
• Know where the song is going. The rest of the team cues off of you when moving through the song structure from verses to choruses, etc. so it is important that you know the song structures. Whether that means you use the charts, keep notes or memorize, that is up to you.
• Tastefulness. Don’t hold back on those flashy chops (if you have them in your arsenal), but try not to overplay either. Don’t worry, I won’t micromanage here ☺.
• Play for the style. Throwing blues licks into God of Wonders is probably not going to work ☺.
• Acoustic guitarists
o It is generally a fact that you will only be heard during softer parts of songs. Don’t take it personally.
o Learn to use a capo when appropriate.
• Electric guitarists
o Tailor your tones for the style.
o Listen to recordings of contemporary music for tonal cues (Lincoln Brewster, Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Redman, etc…). From the secular side, Eric Johnson, John Mayer, U2’s the Edge and even Slash have produced tones that can work very well within the genre. Things to stay away from? Excessive use of chorus and other modulation effects, pointy pink guitars, and probably little use (if any) of wah wahs.
• If you are a skilled soloist, I encourage you to give those skills to God as your act of worship. Just try to be tasteful and make sure it fits the song or style. Always demonstrate such skills with humility, performing for God and not for people. Let your attitude of humility inspire people to ask, “Who are they playing for?” and your excellence inspire them to ask “Why is their audience (God) so important that they give Him their all with such passion?” Just as light appears brighter when in the presence of darkness, humility shines brighter when in the presence of skill.
• Hit the right notes. While every musician has this challenge, it is probably most important to the band for you to be on top of this since your instrument so strongly defines the harmonic structure.
• Sense of rhythm/groove. The bass is a sort of bridge between the pitch instruments and rhythm instruments. Learn to play the grooves for each song and ‘in the pocket’.
• Know when to NOT play.
o Usually dynamics are the driving force. Play more when the song is big and less when it is small.
• I’m sorry that in contemporary, the guitarist’s get to hog so many of the fun songs. Just remember that the last will be first! ☺
• Use patches/sounds that are appropriate for the song and styles. In contemporary, these are common patches/sounds:
• Try thinking like an orchestra. You don’t always have to play chords. Sometimes playing single note melodies, fills and counterpoint is just the ticket to put a song over the top!
Greg has over ten years of experience serving as a contemporary worship leader at various churches in the Dayton, Ohio area. He is currently a worship leader seeking new worship leader opportunities. Greg is also an adjunct professor of guitar at Cedarville University. He has recorded three albums, The Science of Music (with his former band The Collaboration Element), String Theory, an instrumental guitar oriented rock album and Manifest Destiny, an instrumental piano album.
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