The Worship Band Leader – What they SHOULD be doing!

  • Written By 
  • Shalon Palmer
  • Oct 4th, 2017

Worship Band Leader

The band leader is quite possibly the most critical piece of any worship band. (Musically speaking of course). Some call this person the band leader, music leader, music leader, MD, etc., but what exactly do they do? And more importantly, what SHOULD they be doing?

You may know the band leader as the person up on stage calling out chords (or telling jokes…) in a talk back mic, but this role actually goes much farther than what they just do on stage.

If you’re thinking about adding the position of band leader to your team, or you just want to start really getting the most out of the position, then this post is for you. Then lastly, I’m going to share the skills that I believe actually make a great band leader.

Let’s look at some of the most important things that EVERY band leader should be doing.

1. Take the weight of the band off of the Worship Leader’s shoulders

This is the number one job of a worship band leader. In the case where there is no band leader, the job of leading the band falls on the worship leader. Including a band leader, simply moves that “burden” from the worship leader, to the band leader. This is so that the worship leader can focus on leading the congregation and not the band.

I started with this point, because most of my next points can fall under this idea of taking the lead with the band, so the worship leader doesn’t have to.

2. Be that one person that everyone can rely on to answer any music or band related questions

The first job of the band leader is to be that one person that everyone can rely on to answer all music related questions. This doesn’t just include during rehearsal. This includes the days, weeks, or even months leading up to rehearsal. Again, much of the reason for this is to take that burden from the worship leader.

This is for the confidence of the band to know that they have one source to get good up to date info without any confusion as to who knows what or etc. The band leader is keeping everyone on the same page with clear communication. Let me be clear, it’s important for the band leader to still communicate with the worship leader, because the worship leader is still very much in charge.

This way, the band leader can be confident he/she is communicating things that the worship leader has endorsed. This most definitely includes rehearsal times and even scheduling musicians.

3. Technical/band related communication

Another important role of the band leader is to have someone that everyone can communicate all technical and band related things to – someone that isn’t the worship leader. It’s important that the worship leader is separate from much of the hustle and bustle of rehearsals and preparation.

Many worship teams that I’ve been a part of, spend the first half of rehearsal with the band on stage rehearsing, and the vocalists in a separate room having vocal rehearsal. This allows for the band to get much of the technical stuff like setup, sound check, or any last minute music questions out of the way before the vocalists join rehearsal.

This is also a great way for the vocalists to practice and nail down their parts together before joining the band. This is where I will highly recommend using vocal tutorials from Worship Online. This way, everyone shows up knowing exactly what to sing and these vocal rehearsals go by like a breeze.

4. On stage/live communication.

Finally, another huge role of the worship band leader is while playing live. (Notice how we’re on point 4 and we’re just now talking about actually playing live. This further shows that most of the band leaders job happens before a set.)

In most cases, the band leader has a talk back microphone (a microphone that is only heard in the ears of the band and not in the house speakers). You can consider the band leader the glue holding everything together in the live setting.

He/she has the role of calling out chords if there is any confusion, and also giving any other needed direction. It’s important that the band leader gives clear and consistent instruction leaving plenty of time for the musicians to adapt. Calling out chords or sections at the last second isn’t very helpful and can actually be pretty frustrating.

5. Following the Worship Leader

When playing live, the music leaders main job is to follow the worship leader. If a worship leader decides to repeat a chorus or a bridge, break down and go soft, or any the hundred of spontaneous things a worship leader can do, the band leader is there to make sure it happens. All the worship leader has to do is give a cue to the band leader. From there, the band leader can guide everyone and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Nothing is worse as a worship leader than when you genuinely feel the Holy Spirit leading the song somewhere, but when you go to take it there, your band is in “arrangement autopilot.” This is where a band leader can be extremely beneficial and help guide the band where the worship leader is trying to take them. He/she can cay things like “build,” “go back to the bridge,” “tag that last line,” “just the drums,” really anything.

Some worship bands I’m a part of have a lot of spontaneity involved, and the worship leader has been known to start singing a song that’s not in the set. This is where a good music leader is able to keep everyone glued together by calling out sections and chords.

I’ve even seen pastors come up and start singing random songs and ask for the band to join in on. Never fear, the band leader is here.

I will also mention that if you are running tracks from a computer, usually the band leader is in charge of firing those off. That way they can make adjustments or kill the tracks if something goes wrong.

The band leader is a very important role that has a TON of responsibility. That includes not only knowing their own parts, but having an understanding of everyone else in the band’s parts as well. This way he or she can make correction when needed.

I mentioned this before, but it’s too important not to mention again – the role of band leader falls under the role of the worship leader. The worship leader is always in charge. Anything the worship leader wants or says, is to be executed by the band leader.

So it’s important that the band leader and worship leader communicate thoroughly beforehand so that the worship leader never has the “trump” the band leader. This way, the worship leader can just show up and only think about leading vocals and the congregation.

What makes a great band leader?

  1. The ability to be aware is the most important skill a band leader can developer. You have to be aware of what everyone is playing, where the worship leader is going, and even when a pastor or speaker begins to come up on stage.
  2. Preparedness. A great band leader is overly prepared. He/she knows the ins and outs of the set, everyone’s parts, time limits, the musician roster, etc. (As a side note, preparedness is something that doesn’t take real skill. It just takes dedication. So you have no excuse to not show up prepared.)
  3. A great attitude. Your attitude and demeanor are going to set the standard for everyone else. If you are stressed and unsure, everyone else will be. Be positive.
  4. It’s important that a music leader is very well rounded in his/her musical knowledge and abilities. Knowing multiple instruments is very beneficial, as well as having a great ear to be able to quickly discern when and where something is off.
  5. How well someone can follow is going to show how well they can lead. A band leader must be humble, servant hearted, and take correction well. They understand their position under the worship leader and pastor.
  6. Finally, having technical abilities is a plus. You’re always going to be dealing with music gear and sound equipment, so being able to help setup or troubleshoot problems can go a long way.

A leader is always working to better themselves and develop their skills. The more your team can look to you for solutions, the more they will respect your leadership. If you are lacking in one of these areas I mentioned above, I challenge you to work hard.

If you’re not using Worship Online in your organization, I highly recommend it. As a band leader, it has made my job extremely hassle and stress free. There is just something about everyone in the band showing up knowing exactly what to play/sing.

And they’re not playing basic boring parts. Everyone is playing creative parts exactly how it is on the album – parts that compliment each other and enhance our sound. Go start your free trial now, and see for yourself what I’m talking about!

Every ship needs a captain, and likewise does every band need a leader. In any organization, where there is a lot of moving parts, there needs to be one person everyone can look to keep things moving and organized.

What are some important roles or skill sets that a band leader must have at your church?

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