This week we’re on to rehearsal. Rehearsal is distinctly different from practice (last week’s basic) in that it’s done with other people. I’m going to go at this from two different sides – one being what rehearsal looks like for the leader, the other being for the player.
Rehearsal is one of the most important things we do in the worship leading process, and I think most worship leaders would agree that you can never get enough of it. Part of the challenge of leading congregational worship is that it happens every week. Most musical groups outside of the church either don’t perform together every week, and if they do they usually are professionals who can spend many hours rehearsing. Usually worship teams get between one and four hours to prepare for any given worship set. Because of that, we need to make the most out of our time. Here are a few tips that have helped me to rehearse well as I’ve led and played as a band member.
- Always be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. If you show up late (outside of extenuating circumstances) you’ll subtly telling people that their time isn’t as valuable to you and that they can also show up late if they want. Greet people by name and ask them how they’re doing when they arrive. Show your musicians that you really appreciate the time they’re giving to serve your church. Thank them as they leave, even if it’s been a hard rehearsal.
- Have your songs prepared. There’s nothing worse as a player than showing up to rehearsal and waiting 15 minutes for the leader to photocopy charts. Some leaders send charts out ahead of time or use services like Planning Centre Online to give their players a chance to practice before rehearsal. It’s a simple thing simply needs to be done right. The same applies to having arrangements roughly thought through or recordings of new songs available to listen to – simple things you can do ahead of time that save time and help people learn songs better.
- Communicate. As the leader you should know how to tell each member of the band and singers how to do things differently. This starts by telling people what they’ve done well. Tell them when something sounds great, when they played a part consistently or right. Leading a band takes a lot of time to learn, but there are some great resources out there for helping you know how to arrange and put instruments together well – your job as a leader is to help it all come together as one. Don’t settle for the kick drum and bass not lining up, acoustic and piano sitting on top of each other or singers singing things in a choral style when it’s not called for – talk to your them. Affirm them and challenge them, let them know they’re appreciated and give them something to work towards. We’re dealing with people so it’ll always be different and it’ll always be hard work, but it’s so worth doing well.
- Be prepared. If rehearsal starts at 7:00 PM, be set up and ready to play at 7:00 PM. If you’ve got lots of gear, that means showing up 15 or 20 minutes early. If the leader has sent out charts and recordings, make sure you listen through them and practice anything that could give you difficulty before the rehearsal. Be ready to play and rehearse when rehearsal starts, don’t spend your time setting up and learning things you should have learned while practicing.
- See yourself as part of the whole. Music, as with sports, tends to draw the ego out of all of us, especially if we’re still younger and inexperienced players. One of the hardest things to teach and learn is that more notes are not better than fewer notes. To be a good player you need to play the right notes at the right times to best serve the music. Remember that in congregational worship it’s more about singing and engaging with the truth of who God is and what He’s done together than it is about people listening to how awesome the song/band/arrangement/player is. It seems simple enough, but I don’t think any of us ever fully get there. I’ll be writing a more in-depth blog about this idea later.
- Communicate. Don’t let sloppy mistakes pass you by, ask to run parts again. The leader has to hold the whole together so they won’t always be listening to every little thing that’s happening. If you need to run over a part again with the band and you’ve got time, ask if you can do it. Communicate to the others on the team when they do something well, and leave most of the constructive criticism of others to the leader unless you’ve been asked to help others along.
I could keep writing tips and ideas for a long time (and probably give you some great anecdotes of when this stuff has gone both well and poorly in my life…), but I’ll leave it there for you to consider. Remember, if you want good rehearsals be prepared, understand the song and communicate. Cheers!