Praise Team Worship Music
Why is a Quality Performance Important?
Before I begin, I ask you not to confuse a quality performance with a stage show. I don’t believe a stage performance belongs in a worship setting. However, I do believe in quality performed worship.
I’m constantly communicating with my church committee about the importance of quality. During a recent conversation, one of my pastors asked why quality was so important to me. This article answers that question in the context of a Christian contemporary music service. It’s crucial that we offer nothing less than our best for each service.
When people attend a performance — any performance — anything that distracts takes away from the experience. Too loud, too soft, bad vocals, poorly tuned guitars are just a small portion of distractions that will distract a congregation from worship. Many subscribe to the thought that a praise team with a perfect heart supersedes excellence. I agree, I would rather have a dedicated musician than a great musician still hung over from the night before or who lacks a heart for God.
However, Psalm 33:3 says to “sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings.” The latter part of that verse instructs us to play skillfully. I take that to heart.
Within a church setting, anything that causes someone to pause will distract from worship. Imagine you’re listening to your favorite song on the radio, and throughout the song the DJ talks over the song. It completely takes away from the emotional moment the song was designed to create. If done frequently enough, most of the listening audience will go elsewhere. Songs are painstakingly produced to create an experience. To ignore the dynamics and structure of the song diminishes the impact. Contrary to many of my fellow music directors, skills that replicate or improve a recorded song are subconsciously expected from the listening congregation. A copy is ALWAYS compared to the original.
This is no different in a service. Any distractions cause the congregation to move focus away from worship.
People have their favorite Christian songs. When the team misses sections, poorly execute transitions, play over each other, play incorrect parts, etc., we cause the congregation to divert their attention to the praise team and no longer the song. With so many churches turning contemporary and seeking skilled musicians, vocalists, and tech personnel, finding such skilled individuals without paying for them is becoming increasingly difficult.
It is very hard work to become a quality musician. I have worked with too many musicians throughout my years who NEVER practice because they don’t value the importance of the skill set required. I guarantee you, if two bands side-by-side performed the same song — one playing with the basics and simply reading the chord charts, and a band that practiced, mastered the essential sound effects, and listened to all the guitar over-dubs on the original recording — the difference would be day and night, and the congregation would openly express their appreciation.
Revelation 3:16 states, “…I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
What’s Your Purpose: Mediocre is Not an Option
Mediocrity is not an option for God. As I noted earlier, I would rather have a praise team with a perfect heart, superseding excellence. However, I want them always working to improve. They should strive to make the experience better for the congregation, in honor of the God who gives us our time and talents.
Come to Practice Prepared — and Practiced!
When a band becomes skilled and comfortable with a song, they can elevate the song to the next level of excellence. Listen to any Hillsong recording if you want to experience next level playing.
As musicians, learn the parts verbatim. It is better to know the parts exactly and deviate into something original than to substitute the original parts with repetitive/predictable rhythms with what often results in a sub-standard performance. Learning parts verbatim will force you to learn essential and advanced techniques, creating a more skilled musician.
Bass Players: learn the bass lines! Consider tools offered by tablature websites or MultiTracks.com, which provide the actual bass line used in the recording with all other instruments turned down. Don’t just play the melody line of the guitar player or follow the notes from the guitar or piano chords. It’s a lazy approach and makes a difference to the congregation and the groove of the band.
Drummers: learn all the breaks, document the tempo. The drums will make or break the band if not prepared. Figure out a way to implement a click track into the in-ear monitors or as a flashing light cue from a programmable metronome for consistency.
Keyboard Players: learn the critical parts. Songs like “Cry Out To Jesus” or “10,000 Reasons” have very simple but critical piano introductions and section. There are times where improvisation is essential: learn when to improvise and when to replicate! Expand to learn synthesizers. Not all songs are played with a piano sound. Learn how to create sounds which complement the songs. Sometimes it is about a very simplistic string sound or sound effect which adds dimension to the performance of a song.
Guitarists: listen to all the guitar parts in the songs, don’t just play the chords. I’ve observed too many guitarists who apply all 8th or 16 note strums to every song. That’s not musicianship; that’s the creation of monotony! Try removing one side of your ear buds when practicing and listen to the guitar parts in the left side, then do the same with the other. Often guitar parts are recorded in stereo, so you will hear separate and very different parts from left to right. If two guitars are playing the same parts, the frequencies run over each other. This causes a muddy, non-distinctive sound. Learn how to play those other parts, and communicate in advance with all other guitarist so parts are not duplicated, but coordinated!
Additionally, know your equipment. Understand the use and integration of effects! If you don’t know, ask! YouTube is a great source for all musicians. You will discover your favorite guitarist’s rig and often their settings. Additionally, check out our library of Free Lessons for Praise Teams.
Vocalists and musicians: SMILE and enjoy yourself on Sundays. I once wrote an article about stage fright. It is caused by uncertainty. The less prepared you are by Sunday morning, the less relaxed you will be. The congregation senses the difference!
Keep a notebook and maintain your notes. It’s easy to forget the intricate parts of a song when you haven’t played it in several weeks (or months).
Most praise teams have multiple players available for each position. If you don’t have the time to practice and perfect the songs, don’t volunteer for that week. Skip a week to work on the upcoming songs. Not having the time to practice is not an excuse.
Music is similar to Christianity; you are either all in or all out. You should enjoy yourself and have fun playing. However, the music of a praise team is an outreach, not a Sunday hobby. You are part of the body of Christ, and you are representing Him to those attending a service. Are you doing your best to attract the neighborhood so they may discover Jesus Christ, or is it just a hobby? The eternity and souls of others are at stake. Put on the armor of Jesus Christ, play skillfully and never settle for mediocrity!