There are very few things that are better for a worship band than when musicians play on the same page and completely gel together. It’s what separates a great band from the rest.
Many of us have experienced those times when playing with others just feels effortless. It’s almost like a spiritual connection where your musical tendencies perfectly compliment each other.
Most of us have also experienced those times of frustration where we step on each other’s toes the entire set. It’s more of a spiritual test than anything.
So how can we serve others well by improving our band dynamics? Keep reading for 8 ways you and your worship team can build confidence and sound better on Sunday.
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds on stage. We get “in the zone” focusing so deeply on our own parts, or our new delay pedal, that we forget about the music happening around us. We’re all guilty of it. Many of us do it with good intentions. We simply want to perform well.
But here’s the key: you’ll personally sound better if your whole band sounds great, and that only happens by listening to them.
Developing an ear for context is a learned skill. At first it may take more intentionality to notice and play off of other’s details, but eventually it becomes second nature. This is especially true if you have played with the same people for awhile.
In Kari Jobe’s band, I rarely have to look at anyone to know where we are going when flowing. There are subtle cues in vocal inflections, drum fills, and other sonic dynamics that subconsciously alert each of us to what the others are feeling.
On the other hand, I have to play with 10 or more guitarists at The Belonging. Each of them has their own unique tendencies, or lack thereof, which changes how we play each week. I remember one moment playing with two other guitarists where the song dynamics came down and all three of us instantly resorted to volume swells. After that, I removed my volume pedal from my board and committed to other techniques for textural guitar parts.
With all of that said, let’s dig into some tips about how you can better work with your bandmates no matter the situation.
Develop a Good Monitor Mix
This is the first crucial step. If you can’t hear what your bandmates are doing then it’s going to be difficult to be tight no matter what.
(Not too long ago we did a 2 part post on dialing in mixes if you need some pointers)
Not everyone has access to professional in-ear setups where things are clearer, so keeping an eye on others can help. Watching a keyboardist’s right hand to see how busy they play (hopefully not too busy…) or where the other guitarist is on the neck can be helpful references.
Establish Rhythm and Lead Guitar Roles if Necessary
For most band situations, deciding who will take rhythm and who will take lead on each song will help significantly. This will hopefully prevent any awkward moments socially and musically.
If you want to decide roles for the whole set go for it, front of house will probably like you, but that’s not always fun for everyone. (I honestly love playing rhythm…)
I think a common misconception here is that if someone is playing “lead” then they can’t play chords and if they are playing “rhythm” then they can’t play melodies. The reality is that every song and band situation is different. Doubled rhythm guitars sound huge and sometimes doubled lead parts as well. It all depends on the context of the song, where in the song it’s happening, and if you are using tracks.
I will say that when in doubt, play big rhythm.
It’s much better to fill in the “meat” of the sonic space than to have the higher spectrum filled in. Vocals are carrying most of the melody and higher frequencies. Filling in the midrange with chords should be a guitarist’s default response and will make the energy fuller.
This all ties into this next broader point…
Know Who’s Taking the Lead Melodically
This applies to everyone on stage. I’m always trying to be aware of what melodies are happening at a given time. Playing clashing melodies is an easy way to sound chaotic. When writing guitar parts, I note what the vocals and keys are doing, and play around them or support them with complementary notes.
I am the only guitarist in Kari’s band, so I don’t have to worry about my leads clashing as much. However, when we had a violinist I had to make sure he was clear in my mix.
On a recent song we were workshopping, our keyboardist and I started playing two different melodies in the bridge. At first, we thought we were stepping on each others toes and one of us would have to change. However, after reviewing a recording we later found out they complimented each other well because it created a nice call and answer. Context is key.
The more rehearsed you come to church the less you will have to focus on what you are playing. This of course makes it much easier to pay attention to what the rest of the band is doing and what Holy Spirit is doing in the room.
Worship Online makes it incredibly easy, so there isn’t much of an excuse to not be prepared.
Watch the Leader
If you come from a rather structured church background, this may not apply as much, but if your leader tends to flow, watching their cues is very helpful.
Our drummers at The Belonging watch the leaders like a hawk – looking for any signal that may imply a change in direction. If you’re a leader reading this, it’s a great idea to establish what those cues exactly are so everyone’s on the same page.
Choosing Complimentary Gear
This one isn’t necessary by any means, but if I know certain guitarists are scheduled when I am, I may choose a guitar to compliment and stand apart from their sound.
For instance, if they tend to be pretty bright or chimey, I may bring my ES-355 which is pretty round and dark. A lot of guys at the church bring Strats so I pretty much never bring mine at this moment.
Locking With Drums
I believe a good lead player is a good rhythm player. If you can’t lock into a rhythm or make unique grooves, you won’t sound very solid.
I find that many guitarists tend to play pretty straight rather than rhythmically. A good tip is to pay attention to the kick drum like a bass player would. I like to make my strumming patterns follow what the drummer is doing. It’s almost second nature for me now. However, this does depend on the drummer. Austin Davis (Drummer for Kari Jobe & Worship Online Instructor) plays the chorus of What A Beautiful Name with more groove than the recording, so there’s more to lock into.
Always Serve Others
Christ sets the most important principle – serving. Always aim to compliment rather than stand out. Submit to other musicians and your leaders before putting your ego in the forefront. It’s all about helping people connect with God and that comes through working as a team.
What helps you and your worship team achieve strong band dynamics? Let us know in the comments below.
You may also be interested in these posts!
- How to Get the Most Out of Any Guitar
- 5 Tips to Find Your Unique Worship Sounds
- Episode 68 Succeeding in Spontaneous Worship
- How Bass and Drums Together
- Guitar Rig Rundown: Pedals & Gear