Playing in a church band is a fantastic way to further your relationship with your faith through music. Here are 10 essential tips for playing in a church band:
1. Do Your Own Worship Before Playing
It’s important to keep in mind that when playing in a church band, your role is to effectively lead the congregation into worship. As a result, it’s generally advised to do your own prayer & worship at home prior to the service. Doing your own worship at home has two key advantages:
- You’ll be filled up when you play: If you go on stage already having done your worship, you’ll have a lot to give back to the congregation.
- You’ll stay focused: When playing in a church band, you’ll have to pay considerable attention to the worship leader. If you find yourself getting distracted by the worship itself, you might start missing cues or making mistakes.
2. Brush Up On Your Theory
It’s especially important to have a decent understanding of music theory. Almost all church bands use some form of notation and you may be required to read traditional sheet music. In addition, you might be asked to transpose a song on the spot to better-suit a vocalist. Whilst music theory might seem daunting to a complete beginner, most of the concepts aren’t overly-complicated. For a church band, I’d recommend learning the following:
- Notation: Learning how to read sheet music, if not a necessity, will still present a significant advantage. It’s also worth finding out what form of notation your church uses before you start brushing up.
- Keys: Learn how keys work as well as how to identify which key you’re playing in. In addition, it’s worth learning the relative major/minor of each key.
- Circle of fifths: Learning the circle of fifths will make it much easier to transpose songs on the spot.
- Rhythm: I’d recommend learning the difference between simple and compound time as well as techniques such as syncopation.
Here’s a fantastic hour-long music theory crash course from Ross the Music and Guitar Teacher on YouTube:
3. Be Well-Rehearsed
As you’ll most-likely find yourself playing different songs each week, it’s vital to be as well-rehearsed as possible. Here are a few tips on staying well-rehearsed:
- Learn & rehearse the material in your own time: Keep in mind that rehearsal is for tightening up pre-learned material, not for learning material from scratch. If you feel like you don’t have time to practice, you’ll have to make time. This might mean getting up an hour early during the week or sacrificing that Friday night with friends.
- Turn up to rehearsal on time: Whilst turning up 10 minutes late might not seem like a huge deal, it lose you four entire rehearsal’s worth of time over the course of a year. In addition, it’s also disrespectful to the other band members.
- Provide and receive constructive criticism: If you receive constructive criticism, it’s important not to take it personally. Instead, see it as an opportunity to better-utilize your skills to get the most out of the song. In addition, don’t be afraid to provide constructive criticism to others.
If you’d like a few more pointers on effective rehearsal, check out our article ‘20 Band Practice Tips That Actually Work‘.
4. Keep It Simple
Keep in mind that your role as a church musician is to lead the congregation into worship by accompianing and enhancing the song’s lyrics. In other words, it’s not the time or place to demonstrate the full range of your instrumental abilities. Always keep the arrangement itself at the very forefront of your mind.
5. Learn The Worship Leader’s Cues
Worship leaders are notorious for making changes to the arrangement mid-song. These can include repeating or skipping a section, changing key or shifting dynamic. Upon joining the band, I’d recommend asking the worship leader if they have any cues they use. In addition, make sure you keep your full attention on the worship leader whilst you’re playing.
6. Play To A Click
As you’ll be accompanying the entire congregation, it’s essential to keep in time. If your church band doesn’t already play to a click track, it might be worth considering. In some cases, it might only be the drummer who listens to the click track in order to keep the rest of the band in time. If you’re going to be using a click track, you’ll need a set of in-ear monitors so the congregation won’t have to hear it. The best-value monitors I’ve found are the Sennheiser IE 40 PRO Monitors on Amazon.
7. Adjust Your Monitor Mix
Remember that your monitor mix is your monitor mix. The entire purpose of the monitor mix is to make sure you have a good on-stage sound. If you want any levels adjusting in your monitors, don’t be afraid to ask the sound engineer. They’ll be more than happy to help you achieve an on-stage sound that works for you.
8. Ensure Your Tone Sits Well In The Mix
Whilst you might be able to get a killer tone from your amplifier at home, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll translate well in a band setting. When setting a tone, it’s important to find something that sits well in the overall mix. Here are a couple of pointers on achieving a tone that sits well in the mix:
- Prioritize the vocals: The vocals are the most important aspect of worship music. Make sure you carve out space for the vocals when setting your tone.
- Go easy on the effects: Whilst certain effects can work wonderfully in a church band, I’d advocate going for less rather than more. Try not to use effects unless they add a significant amount to the arrangement.
9. Attenuate The Drums
Churches generally aren’t the most sound-friendly buildings around. In addition, an overly-loud church band can draw away from the worship itself. The easiest fix for both of these issues is to simply attenuate the drums. In a church setting, the best bet is to look into obtaining a drum shield such as this one. A drum shield is essentially an acrylic screen that’s placed around the drummer in order to attenuate the sound. On the whole, a drum shield will be much more effective than drum mutes as they won’t affect how the drummer sounds or plays.
10. Create Ambience
Ambient sound can be a great attribute to worship music. Here are a couple of pointers on creating ambience:
- Use sus2 chords: Sus2 chords and other not clusters can add a brilliant sense of ambience to an arrangement.
- Use an E-Bow: An E-Bow is an electric guitar accessory that imitates the sound of a bow. It can add a wonderful sense of ambience and color to an arrangement and serve as a fantastic accompaniment to the vocals.
- Can Christians listen to secular music?: It depends. Whilst the bible does not deem genre or the purpose of music ungodly, the content of the lyrics must be considered.
- What is Christian rock?: Christian rock is an all-encompassing form of rock music that specifically focuses on Christian themes.