I have observed bands with great musicians fall short when it comes to playing as one cohesive unit. Virtuosos tend to overplay. I have also observed and been part of bands that did not have extraordinary musicianship but sounded amazing and tight. What’s the key? There are several, so read on and we’ll analyze each dynamic that contributes to making your band sound like the band on the recording.
COMMUNICATION & CONSISTENCY
For starters, it’s important to understand the various symbiotic musical relationships in a rhythm section: specifically drums/bass and keys/electric guitars. (See Frequency Spectrum Graph) The kick drum and the bass guitar almost always exist in the same frequency spectrum and if not coordinated, can play parts that conflict with one another. Drummers and bass players have to have a conversation about kick drum patterns on the various sections of a song. Once the pattern is established, then they must be consistent and play the part the same way EVERY time that song shows up on the set list. To achieve this consistency might require making a simple notation on your chart to refresh your memory months or years down the line. As the MD of my worship band, I often facilitate this conversation during our rehearsal.
The other important relationship is between the keyboard player and the electric guitar player. As with drums and bass, the keyboard and guitar live in the same sonic space and need much coordination and communication to avoid musical conflict. I frequently watch and listen to what the guitar is playing and in what range to inform my part. For instance, if the guitar is playing power chords lower on the neck, I’m probably going to look for a higher part to stay out of his way. When he goes high on the neck for the chorus, I’m going lower. Also, keyboard players should take note not to play low octaves with the left hand when there is a bass player on the team.
In addition to range, I also try to be thoughtful about my keyboard sound. If the guitars are playing a more rhythmic or arpaggiated part, I may elect to use a pad or whole notes on a B3 organ patch – less rhythmic than a piano part, but still contributing to a full sound. Once you get your arms around the concept of arranging your part by listening to everyone else’s parts, then you can look for opportunities to arrange a part together. Sometimes it can be effective to play the melodic hook of an intro together – either doubling in unison or harmony. A great example of this is the guitar solo in the Paul Baloche song, Hosanna (Praise Is Rising), where the piano and the guitar play four bars together and then the solo continues with just the guitar. It’s effective and dramatic, but the communication is key.
THE PIE RULE
Picture a pie. The size of your piece of pie (part) is determined by the number of other musicians on the team. The more players, the less each of them should play. I play a lot more notes when it’s only me! Exercise discipline as your team grows. Talk about the pie rule with other team members when it starts to sound too cluttered and busy.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AVAILABLE RESOURCES
With resources like Planning Center Online and LifeWay Worship, musicians and singers have everything they need to show up to rehearsal prepared. I encourage our musicians to study their individual parts, including the tone of their instrument, and make an effort to show up ready to play it like the recording. This eliminates any on-the-spot arranging, since the arrangement was worked out by professionals in a recording studio.
Finally, remember to have fun and smile! It really does make a difference to the people in the pews …
For over 25 years, Chris has been at the top of his field in the Music Industry, most recently serving as Sr. Director of A&R;/Artist Development for Integrity Music, Inc. With more than 15 RIAA certified Gold & Platinum records, 4 Grammy winning projects, and multiple Dove Award and Stellar Award projects to his credit, Chris has a proven track record for discovering and developing talent and inspiring the creative process. Recorded or produced songs like SHOUT TO THE LORD, OPEN THE EYES OF MY HEART, ABOVE ALL, TRADING MY SORROWS, REDEEMER SAVIOR FRIEND, MY NAME IS VICTORY, among others. Recorded and marketed Award Winning projects such as SHOUT TO THE LORD, REVIVAL AT BROWNSVILLE, GOTTA HAVE GOSPEL, SONGS4WORSHIP, LIVE FROM A DEEPER LEVEL (w/ Israel Houghton), and THE POWER OF ONE (w/ Israel Houghton). Chris currently runs his own production and consulting company, iNov8, iNc., and continues to write, produce, and play music.