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50 tips series - Communications skills for worship teams

By Andy | August 5, 2009

In the last set of tips we looked at some ideas to help you play together better. Musical communication skills are really just an extension of those. How many times have you seen a band (worship band or otherwise) staring at their own shoes or or just completely lost in their own part when they play? A band is a team and like any great team they need to be concerned with the whole effort and not just their own role… A great worship band constantly communicates, listens and re-adjusts. To each other, to the congregation and to the Lord.

1. Use eyes and body language - don’t worry about complex signals for chrous, verse, bridge etc. So much dynamic change can be communicated simply by eye and body movements. think about how you would direct the sound to get bigger or smaller, start, stop or change direction just in body movements.

2. Instrument dynamics to communicate changes - the same thing can be reinforced by how you play too. As an exercise play around a song or chord sequence and get the other musicians to match your intensity and changes just by following the dynamics of your instrument. You’ll soon find out who doesn’t listen.

3. Try to communicate changes well ahead of a junction - if you are taking a song in a direction that’s not part of the obvious form e.g. a double verse or quiet chorus, communicate that change WELL ahead of that junction point. maybe 3-4 bars ahead is good to help everyone clue in.

4. Practice getting to know each others signals - The more you play together and get to know each
other the easier it becomes to ‘read’ your movements and commuication becomes very natural. So don’t spend loads of time talking through complex arrangements, practice learning to lead and follow on your instrument, on the fly. This is particulalry relevant to larger churches with muliple worship leaders, musicians and a rota system.

5. Communicate changes verbally – if you can’t sing it, say it. Lastly there’s absolutely nothing wrong calling out changes so the congregation can hear. You don’t have to be a great singer to be a great worship leader, but you do have to be skillful at helping people to follow you so if you can’t sing, there’s nothing wrong with cueing them with “verse 1″ or say the words to the beginning of the next section. Obviously it can get fatiguing if its all the time but remember we are making community worship music… not a live album (unless you are actually making a live album, in which case you should be better rehearsed!).

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