Smooth and effective rehearsals begin with preparation by the leader before the rehearsal. How many times have I talked with frustrated worship leaders not getting enough¬†accomplished at rehearsals, only to find out that they had not done the things necessary ahead of time to ensure a productive rehearsal? Here are a few tips to smooth out and make the best use of your musicians’ time.

Know what you want to accomplish before rehearsal.
As a leader spend time mapping out the rehearsal, creating a set list that includes all material you need to rehearse for the upcoming weekend. Be sure to also include a couple of songs that are in the future schedule. Working on all new material is frustrating for the musicians. Start with something they are confident in before you get into songs you really have to break down and work out tediously. If your folks act tired and cranky, you probably have gone past their threshold of pain. Just insert something fun and familiar, and you’ll see new life in the rehearsal.

Organize your charts ahead of time.
When your group comes in, have all the music for rehearsal in order on the stands. Make sure the charts whether true rhythm charts with notations for performance or lyric sheets with the chords above, are readable and laid out in the song form you will be using. Charts out of order, with mistakes, or poorly copied can waste hours of valuable time. You will accomplish much more musically with your group when you as a leader are organized.

How long should rehearsals be?
The amount of time needed for rehearsal varies with the skill level of your musicians and singers. The fastest way to accomplish musical goals is to hire a few professional musicians, especially in the rhythm section. They will pick up ideas fast and will push your volunteers to a new musical level. When you are working with pros it is even more critical that you have your act together before the rehearsal so as to not waste your budget dollars on disorganization. These musicians are on the clock and every minute counts.

Working with volunteer musicians usually takes longer to accomplish your musical goals but is rewarding in building the value of your congregations musical community. I find that two hours is adequate for most groups. If you go longer, attention spans begin to wane and less is accomplished. The first hour is when you will get the most done. If you have a lot of material to learn, plan a retreat or weekend workshop for your players/singers with some other elements built in for community building. Saturday morning rehearsals have worked well for us. We do this twice a year.

Get recordings of the music you are rehearsing into the musician’s hands before rehearsal.
If you plan ahead you can have your musicians listening to the music that’s coming up weeks before. If they have been living with the grooves, lead lines, melody lines etc. they will be much more comfortable when these songs are introduced in rehearsal. We use e-mail to distribute MP3s, vocal arrangements, and info to all our musicians. It saves a lot of rehearsal time.

Remember to keep rehearsals fun and encouraging. 
People are beat up on all day in the work place. Make your rehearsal a time of spiritual rejuvenation and musical accomplishment. There’s nothing like that feeling when every one has worked hard on a song and it finally clicks in.

It all begins with good preparation before the rehearsal. If you as a leader don’t do that, no one will. Now, go have a great rehearsal. God is worthy of our very best.

Carlton Dillard joined the staff of Riverbend Church as Associate Pastor of Music and Creative Arts in 1989. He is known across the country for his innovative use of all styles of music in the church setting. He is in much demand as a conference speaker and clinician and is also proficient as a singer, songwriter, arranger and producer with many songs and arrangements currently being used by churches across the US.

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