One of the first skills that you need to have to help lead and play for congregational worship is practice. Yep, I’m calling practice a skill. Think about it – no one was ever born with the ability to play all of the right notes at the right times. The first time that you played chopsticks or smoke on the water, it probably took you 20 tried to get it right. To do anything musical, you have to know how to practice.
I’m going to argue that practice and rehearsal are different things, and in fact, I’m going to be writing about rehearsal next week (as it requires a different set of skills!). Growing in the ability to practice well will apply to pretty much anyone who plays any kind of music but there good things for any worship leader and worship team member to remind themselves of.
Practically, there are a few times I can offer for practising.
- Set aside time every day (or time in every week) to practice. Guaranteed you’ll find something you’d rather do or something more important, and unless you’ve disciplined yourself to practice, it just won’t happen. Practice takes consistency.
- Use a metronome when you practice. If you’re a guitarist, make sure you’re in tune. Tuning and tempo are two of the most basic things that you can lock in when you’re practicing, make sure they’re right.
- If you’re stuck in your musical growth, go get some wisdom from someone who is better than you. That can come in the form of a great recording that you emulate, new challenging sheet music that stretches you, a book on theory which will grow your knowledge and understanding of music, or lessons from someone face to face who can point out the good and bad in your playing and give you some next steps.
- Practice until you get things right, and then keep practicing. Playing something the right way until you can’t play it wrong anymore.
If you’re a musician, most of those won’t surprise you – you’re probably heard them all before and still don’t always do them. Practice is hard because it is almost always done alone. It requires mental energy and commitment, time and patience – things that most people don’t have excess of. Practice also requires the willingness to admit you’re wrong and the desire to get better. Practice is something that doesn’t always get easier as you get older – most of us will get narrower in the things we do in life as we get older so we can spend more time doing the things we’re good at and less time being wrong. Good practice requires you to lay down your pride and take steps to improve your mistakes and learn something new.
I’ve found that as I’ve practiced more and become better at singing, playing, writing and leading, I’ve become more tempted to not practice anymore and just rely on what I already know. In some ways that’s good – my practice has paid off and I’m now at the level where it doesn’t take me two hours to learn a song anymore. I still, however, need to continue to push myself to learn new things and remind myself that I’m not done learning. We’re never done learning our craft and instrument and we could all use more practice. It’s a great starting point as we build the foundations of what it takes to be a great worship leader and worship team member.
I like what you say about practice requiring discipline, commitment, and time alone with the music.