Despite hours of rehearsal, unwavering commitment of volunteers, accurate charts, and passionate intentionality, it seems virtually impossible to coach a local church worship band to sound like an artist’s original recording of a worship song. If you find yourself wrestling with this reality, consideration of the following 10 tips may prove helpful to you and your team in the days ahead.
- Invest in Technology.
Often times, the difference between “close” and “nailing it” is sound design. Mobile apps, soft-synth libraries, samples, guitar cabinets, plug-ins, microphones, pre-amps and other similar resources can change your world overnight. Bear in mind that many of these solutions can evaporate your annual budget very quickly. So, plan carefully.
- Invest in Private Lessons for All Your Band Members.
You can own all of the latest/greatest gear on the planet and fall short of the goal if your people are not well-trained musicians.
- Prioritize and Plan a Worship Band Workshop.
Browse through your own album collection and read out the credits in the album liner notes for each album. Chances are, you’ll discover the following names time and again: John Hammond, Scott Williamson, Chris Knight, Steve Brewster, Dave Cleveland, Mark Baldwin, Tom Hemby, Mike Payne, Craig Nelson, Gary Lunn, Mark Hill, Jason Webb, Tim Akers, Jeff Roach, Blair Masters, and many others. Consider hosting any combination of these folks for a weekend worship band clinic. Your band will learn from some of the most accomplished Christian musicians in the world.
- Produce Your Own Album of Worship Cover Tunes.
The process of recording production will give you time outside of rehearsal and worship services to explore new sonic frontiers, woodshed challenging riffs, concentrate on playing in the pocket, and so much more. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this activity is that your band will get to listen to themselves, “Under the microscope.”
- Bring in an Outside Musical Director or Producer.
Every musical community runs the risk of becoming comfortable and complacent. It can be incredibly valuable to bring in an expert set of ears from outside your own sphere of influence for an occasional “boot camp” workshop.
- Train Your Band to Play with Stem Mixes.
Resource centers, like Band In Hand and Multitracks.com, provide affordable ways you can provide your people the opportunity to play along with the studio recordings from your favorite artists, labels, and publishers. Other more costly and comprehensive resources such as, Abelton Live, ProTools, Logic Audio, and Digital Performer are powerful solutions, as well.
- Train Your Band to Play with a Click and/or Loop Track.
Tempo and groove matter! Incorporation of click/loop will provide your band with increased likelihood of achieving and maintaining both.
- Take Your Band on a Field Trip.
Attend a major artist concert or professional recording session together. Watching the pros at work will stretch and educate your team.
- Stay Within the Capability of Your Team.
Choose a musical direction and production value for corporate worship that is not beyond their musical abilities. Just because an album is popular does not mean it should be replicated (or attempted) by every local church band in existence.
- Keep Your Perspective.
Bear in mind that many of the albums you’re emulating represent the cumulative total investment of multiple millions of dollars in planning, pre-production, instruments, recording technology, personnel, and facilities. There are likely many moments captured on an album that simply cannot be emulated with authenticity and sonic integrity in any live performance.
It is important to note that worship ministry is built upon the foundation of people. Overemphasis on style, production value, and execution often complicates or counteracts discipleship. Find a healthy sense of balance of creative expression and spiritual formation in your worship ministry.
Craig Adams, a recipient of multiple Dove Awards, has produced and/or participated in more than 3,500 recordings for artists, record labels, music publishers, tv/film, and radio over the past 35 years. In addition, his vast experience in music production, local church worship ministry, and musical direction for live events, along with his work at LifeWay Worship, gives him the talent, experience, and credibility to not only listen, but really hear, what each album delivers to the listeners.