Hello Amazing CLife Worship Team!
I hope you are having an amazing week! Thank you for all you do to help people connect in worship on Sundays at CLife!
I feel we are entering a new season as a church, I'm truly excited and also at times a little nervous! I felt God gave me as my word for this year to "Trust The Process". Many times I would love things to happen in my timing, yet I know God is working, and some things take longer than others, yet I believe 100% God is moving so I'm trusting the process!!
This past month, Sunday Worship has been great! Thank you for your willingness to go deeper, not only musically, but also spiritually! All of you play an important part on the CLife WT.
Beside encouragement, I wanted to give you a couple practical updates that we are working on to help us as a team simplify musically and our processes, but also to help us improve our knowledge of songs.
You have probably already seen this, we are incorporating in every song, a basic map of the song, giving a clear direction of how we "usually play the song". For example: INTRO-V1-C-C2. This will help for us as a team to follow the leader better and also play the song with more confidence. As always, we want to be open to be led by the Spirit, yet this will help us to have an easier map to follow.
As you know, many worship songs, are recorded in
keys that might sound great on the CD, yet they are harder for us normal humans
to sing! We have asked the worship leaders, before introducing new songs, to
standardize a couple keys: one for Female Leaders & one Male Leaders. This
will hopefully make it simpler to learn & memorize the chords, and also the
Planning Center has been a great tool for us, we
continue to utilize the tools that it offers. Starting with the new songs, we
are adding basic video tutorials for instruments such as DRUMS, BASS, EG,
ACOUSTIC, PIANO. This will hopefully make it easier for us to learn our parts
and also be more prepared for practice. Please check it out!
We are also adding Vocal recordings of parts that our amazing vocalists can practice for the songs in our Database. This will make it easier to practice the song and harmonies in the specific key that we will be playing.
Finally, please mark your calendar: We are excited to have an All-Worship Team gathering on Sunday evening, April 29th. Aimee Dickenson will be opening her amazing home and farm to us for a time of fellowship, worship, gathering, & also bull fighting! You will be receiving an evite from us soon!
Love you guys, please do not hesitate to contact me! Praying for you often, and so thankful for you!
This last Sunday was quite strange for us at Vail Christian Church. Everything was set to go as normal. We were all really excited for this Sunday as we were introducing our new Pastor of Discipleship and his family to the congregation. Setup and rehearsal went pretty seamless. Then, in a matter of moments, multiple things that would normally make a worship leader, pastor, and congregant go crazy happened.
Now normally when we start service at Vail Christian Church we begin with a song. During the intro of that song or just before I tend to greet everyone and then ask them to join us in singing. So what happens as soon as I greet the congregation? Sidebar: First you should know that for the last ten years Vail Christian Church has met at a high school in south east Tucson. We use the school’s lighting system. We have been able to move lights around and program the board via a 3.5″ disk drive (yes, the board is that old). The system is nothing crazy. It is just a handful of spot lights and some lighting gels for ambience.
End sidebar. So we start the first song and before I am able to sing the first verse, BOOM, the lights go out. I had no clue what was going on. All I know is that as the band and I were playing the song, and that our Lead Pastor, along with 4 volunteers, were hovering around the board trying to figure out what was going on. And so we ended up playing the song in the dark. To be honest, it was weird playing an upbeat song with no lights. I could somewhat make out the congregation because of the light coming off of our projectors, but I had no way of interacting with them like I normal do. And so the first song ends and our Lead Pastor jumps up on stage to let the congregation, including myself, know what was going on. Afterwards, we decided to keep going regardless of if we were going to be able to fix the problem.
And that brings me to my question: What do you do in this situation? I know some leaders that would freak out if this happened causing all the music to stop. I know some musicians that would not be able to play without seeing their instruments or chord charts. But sometimes, even when you cannot see 100%, even when you cannot tell what is going on, the Spirit has more of an opportunity to move amongst a group. And that is what happened for us. Just before I started the second song, I told the congregation that we would just keep going, that we do not need lights to sing praise, that we do not need lights to worship God.
So we played the next song again completely in the dark. It could have been awkward. It could have been horrible. But in reality, it was perfect. It was perfect because it showed what our congregation is up for. Our congregation is up for anything that happens in our service. The lights could go out. Or a projector could stop working (oh by the way…that also happened during the third song). My guitar could go out or the sound board could get unplugged (happened too many times). All these things could be so distracting that no one would be able to enter into a time of worship. But it’s encouraging to know that when I let go of all the things that could prevent our church from worshipping, the people are focused on God all the more. There is so much truth in that statement. As a worship leaders we focus so much on creating spaces for people to enter into worship. We put so much emphasis on our ability to do this, when in this situation my ability meant nothing. This taught me to step aside more and just let the service be. It taught me that when the lights go out or the sound board stops working… (in an Ellen Degeneres fish voice) “just keep singing.”
Ron Nord is the Worship Leader at Vail Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona. He has a Bachelor of Music from San Diego State University and a Master of Arts in Theology from Palmer Theological Seminary. As a leader Ron seeks to use music as a discipleship tool and a platform for writing and speaking.
All worship leaders want excellent worship teams made up of excellent musicians, but often we don’t define what excellence means for our players. So here are a few key aspects of musical excellence in worship musicians to help paint a picture for your teams.
Musically Excellent Musicians:
SHOW UP FULLY PREPARED
Excellent musicians show up to rehearsal knowing their music and the unique parts that they will play for each section of each song. They understand that “practice is personal, and rehearsal is relational”, so they put in the time at home to get their individual parts nailed down.
SERVE THE SONG
The best musicians serve the song. That means playing tastefully, simply and only when necessary. In other words, they play what the song needs, not what they want. They have enough musical maturity to realize that it’s not about them, but the sum of the parts. This means the parts that they play enhance the song rather than distract from it.
Another way that excellent musicians reduce distractions is by minimizing their mistakes. Great musicians have internalized the songs, which means they rarely hit a wrong note. And in the rare instance that they do, they are extremely quick to recover. They never get completely thrown off, or have a “train wreck” moment. They can play off the bad note and cover it up as they slide into the correct one. This can only happen because they are extremely familiar with their instrument.
Excellent musicians are flexible. This means that they are constantly listening to the other players on the stage and adjusting what they’re playing to fit what is happening in the moment. Because they have full command of their instrument, they are able to easily “go with the flow” and never feel like they are out of control or unsure of what to do. They can quickly jump from a quiet dynamic to a loud one, or a simple part to a busy one.
HAVE GREAT TONE
Whether it’s a vocalist, a guitarist or a drummer, excellent musicians have great tone. They have the right gear to bring about the right results. The lead vocalist has worked on their loud singing voice and their quite one. The background vocalists have worked on taming vibrato and blending well. The drummer has changed his heads, and brings great sounding cymbals. The electric guitar player has eliminated buzz, hums and hisses from his rig. The bassist keeps his strings fresh and knows the best place to mic his bass cabinet. Oh, and they all know where their knobs are supposed to be set! Great musicians have great tone.
TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
Great musicians take their role seriously. Whether they are getting paid or are volunteers, they show up on time, make sure their batteries are changed, their strings are fresh, and their instruments are in tune. They aren’t afraid to invest the money needed to upkeep their gear, or better yet, improve it.
SHARPEN THEIR SKILLS
Finally, excellent musicians continue to sharpen their skills. They constantly push themselves to grow. They practice with a metronome to improve their timing. They work on memorizing their music. They find new genres of music to learn, or new chord voicings to play. They expand their repertoire and aren’t afraid to seek knowledge from those further ahead of them. And of course, they’re not ashamed to practice the basics like scales and speed drills, because they know that a strong foundation leads to a strong player.
Those are some key elements of musically excellent worship team players.
Alex Enfiedjian is a worship leader, songwriter, producer, author and podcaster. He founded Worship Leader Training to pursue his passion of helping worship leaders excel in their craft and calling! Alex is married to his lovely wife Liliya and together they have two little girls. They currently live and serve in beautiful Lake Tahoe, CA. Follow him at worshipleadertraining.com or on Twitter @alexonhe.
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Rehearsal Saturday, check.
Sound check Sunday morning, check.
Personal monitor mixes dialed in, check.
Everything seems to be in order.
Then the service starts.
Something happens between sound check and rehearsals that throws off personal mixes and floor wedge mixes. Folks on stage try to smile and be welcoming while simultaneously glaring at the team behind the board. “What changed?!?” their body language says.
Techs have checked gain stages, aux levels, group levels and everything is in order. The techs behind the desk shrug their shoulders and motion to belt packs, “Nothing changed here, what did you change!?!” they try to communicate.
What changed between rehearsal and performance? Generally, it comes down to one thing. Adrenaline.
Let’s rewind back to rehearsals. Everyone plays a little riff (usually independent of the rest of the band) so techs can set gain levels. Then performers make their personal monitor mixes. Generally in rehearsal, songs are stopped, started, restarted, transitioned, transposed… and the list goes on. The performers may not be overly confident in the songs or the transposed key and everyone is feeling out their role in the song.
Jump to sound check Sunday morning. Confidence is higher, but everyone is tired and might not have had enough coffee. In very tragic cases, they have not had coffee at all. This translates into hesitant playing and singing. Maybe they concentrate on the chord chart more while brains wake up and riffs are remembered. You likely practice songs that gave you trouble in the last rehearsal and jump quickly through the transitions. Performers are playing from their heads and not their hearts.
After a brief pause it’s time for service to start. A few new elements (besides caffeine) enter the mix. Confidence. Adrenaline. Giving your all for the King. And immediately, every person on stage is playing or singing a few decibels (or more) louder than they were 30 minutes ago. Personal and house mixes have changed instantaneously.
With this in mind, how would we run rehearsals differently? Here are some tips to get to mix levels that need minimal adjustments when going “live”.
Worship Leaders: Consider starting with songs and choruses that everyone knows. Let the team warm up and get comfortable with the song. Select one with a strong chorus and building bridge that explodes back into the chorus. “The Stand” by Hillsong is a fantastic song with great dynamics and has the added benefit of preparing hearts. Don’t be afraid to use the same song week after week. You are looking for comfort, confidence in playing, and dynamic levels.
When the team is confident, they will be making their monitor mix according to confident volume levels. When it comes time to play live, they don’t have to make sweeping changes.
Another important note here. If you have a personal monitor system like Livemix or one of the others that allow you to save a mix, do so now. And coach the team on not changing their mix too much the rest of rehearsal. Your live performance will be closer to the “comfortable song” mix than mixes made during the stop/start/transpose/change part of rehearsals.
Church Techs: Make some notes on where musicians are hitting the meters when playing the comfortable songs. From week to week you will start to know and sense when a musician will have issues with their live mix. Keep good communication with the team to let them know you need more from them if they are holding back.
If you have the ability to save mixes, doing so during the comfortable song is a good idea. Recalling this at the start of sound check will get you closer to performance levels.
Make sure each musician knows where they can save their mixes so they can recall it the next time they play. Provide some time in rehearsal just after the “confident song” for saving and walk them through it if needed.
Worship Team: If possible, save your mixes right before you leave the Sunday morning stage. The ability to recall your performance mix will save time the next time you rehearse.
Try to keep in mind what things can and will affect the mix. Things like playing a different bass than what you rehearsed with, switching from a single coil to humbucker pickups, singing after jumping around on stage, fresh acoustic guitar strings, all have an effect on your mix one way or another.
Most of the time, between sound check and service time, nothing will change on the technical side. However, the effect of adrenaline is often overlooked. Be aware of what it feels like, sounds like, and looks like to perform with confidence and ensure you are making your personal monitor mixes accordingly.
I know that rehearsals in of themselves can seem redundant, but a rehearsal can also mean the difference between a service or event conveying a flawless, impactful message to being burdened by small to big mistakes. There are many reasons rehearsals are a necessity, to where in this article I will offer four reasons why they are important and a few ways to make them particularly effective.
Rehearsals can verify that everyone is on the same page. They can ensure that all participants have the items, content and/or material needed to make the event happen. If one started an event without rehearsal, for example, let’s say a video was called for during a certain part of the service/event, and the video was never given to the video production team, this could cause for an unnecessary distraction and disconnection of participation for the people attending the event.
It is also a great idea to rehearse to make sure that all needed positions of the production are covered. Whether it is the stage manager or an additional camera position, a rehearsal can show holes in the levels of staffing for a particular event.
The first and most important thing to achieve to be ready for a rehearsal is to have a plan.
Timing of when content should play or when talent or people should come out is another benefit to holding a rehearsal. It will help smooth out any potential herky-jerky transitions during an event, whereby during a rehearsal it has the opportunity to come across seamless and well put together. Rehearsals, as it pertains to timing, will also give you a gauge how long an event will run. This is helpful for allowing attendees, talent and the producer to know when to expect the event to be over. Knowing the time an event is slated to end in a rented space can sometimes be a requirement and rehearsals can help you reach a desired time.
Finally, as it concerns a band during a worship service, a rehearsal will accomplish a few things. For a band, rehearsal will allow the musicians and singers to be able to get a desired monitor/in-ear mix. It also allows for the band to make sure everyone knows what they are playing and work out the transitions from one song to another. Rehearsal for worship will also allow for the team to figure out stage spacing and verify that all instruments and microphones are patched correctly. This can also be referred to as a sound check.
Now that we know why rehearsals are helpful and necessary, now let’s talk about a few ways to make them effective and quick.
Be prepared: The first and most important thing to achieve to be ready for a rehearsal is to have a plan. Make sure that you know what main items need to be accomplished during the service. Be sure that you have all content and items that are required for the event, delivered to the locations they are required to be, before rehearsal begins and in enough to time have them loaded in and tested before the rehearsal.
Be Timely: Make sure rehearsals are direct and with a purpose. The whole team needs to be working in order and focused on how transitions take place and making note of any changes that may be happening. Take note of times, so directions can be given to the talent or speakers as to when they should be in a certain place at a certain time.
Be On the Same Page: This can be achieved by having a point person, commonly know as a service coordinator or producer. This person is tasked to be responsible for giving directions to the entire team. Work towards having a time where all team members necessary for the event can meet and the coordinator or producer can deliver what the service looks like from top to bottom and then questions can be asked by team members that need more clarity.
As we can see, rehearsing for a service can aid in creating a service that is smooth and comes across as polished to the congregation.
I was awakened early this morning by the sound of footsteps running through the dark. I am the lighter sleeper between us so I expect that any footsteps that I hear will end at my side of the bed. This morning was no exception.
My wife and I had recently commented that our four-year-old, had never come to get into bed with us. All of our children have had seasons where they left the comfort of their own beds for ours because they were sick, scared, or just lonely and awake. Staring into a dark room was never fun as a child so I have immediate compassion when I hear the sound of those hurried footsteps, often accompanied by the ever-increasing moan of a child’s voice. It sounds like a small train racing through our house.
We had wise advice many years ago when asking more-seasoned parents if this was a good habit for children to get into. At the time their children were all teenagers. Their reminder has been our motto during what has become an all too fleeting season of parenthood: “it’s sweet and it doesn’t last forever; enjoy it.” So we do, especially now that we have a king-size bed to accommodate. With the number of children we have, there have been some overlapping seasons of “runners in the dark” where by morning our bed looked like we were running an inn in Bethlehem. Those days of queen and full-size beds taught me the ninja-like skill of sleeping vertically on the side of the mattress with one arm on the floor and the other clinging to the headboard.
But our youngest child has had so many older siblings, who have become surrogate parents on the second floor that he had not come to us the way the other six had. The journey to our bedroom is into the upstairs hall; down the steps toward the front door (with open window panes on either side that look toward a dark street); toward the back of the house where a remarkably creepy sliding glass door (with a broken seal that allows moisture between the panes, revealing a “fractured” view of the barely-lit backyard); through the dimly lit family room; into the rear addition toward a pitch dark room that is our bedroom (I often hear a pause at the doorway of our room, accompanied by heavy breathing, as small terrified eyes adjust to the pitched-black darkness that is our bedroom). This morning marks the fourth time in a week that our smallest sprinter has made the “run through the dark.”
He has been very sick for the past week. Pneumonia has brought upon him high fevers and a persistent cough accompanied by aches and pains. He has also gotten old enough that some things “freak him out” now (his words). The worst things often reside in his closet. The last few trips to our room have been because of bad dreams and things that move in the dark. I sometimes wonder how bad the dream must seem to a four-year-old in order to compel him to make that long run in the dark (right through the “moving things”) to get into bed with his parents. I don’t have to wonder long when I see and hear him slip into that comfortable place between us. The sound is as sweet as my dim perception of the sight. After I lift him into bed while asking him what is wrong, I place him between us, as what had been a frantic run becomes peaceful sleep in seconds. His eyes close; his breathing settles; his body goes limp; and sleep overcomes him like a gentle wave of peace.
And now I am wide-awake and the connotations are so strong to my worship-leading psyche that it triggers a reflex. This is what worship should be!
When we know who is waiting for us at the end of the run, we can endure the run. Fear is irrational and tends to paralyze. Eyes fixed on darkness make peace nearly impossible. Eyes fixed on a loving Father give strength and courage to run. Worship gives us a tangible sense of the peace and rest that awaits us with Him that makes the journey bearable. Life can be much like a run through the dark. There are many points along the way that seem at best uncertain, and at worst, all too certain. The Bible calls this journey a race. The gospel of Jesus Christ has revealed the only way that leads to the Father’s rest. In him and him alone, there is joy and peace at the end of the run! Every week is a part of the race of life for the worshipers that gather in our services. Every week is a reminder of who waits for us at the end of the long, arduous run. Even more, every week is a reminder of the One who has gone before us, and now runs with us.
Worship reminds us of the prize!
…let us run the race with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus… (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Scott Connell is a professor of music and worship at Boyce College/SBTS in Louisville, KY. He has served the church for over twenty years as a worship pastor, church planter, and senior pastor. He plans to graduate in May with his Ph.D. in Christian Worship. He and his wife Mary have seven children.