I was in a rehearsal recently with a world class artist, helping them get ready for their tour of over 100 dates in Europe, Asia, and the US. It struck me that one of the reasons we can put such a great show together is because this artist is only doing 13 songs, and we have 6 weeks to rehearse.
For years I’ve heard people say (myself included) what a shame it is that worship teams aren’t better, more professional, or making the most of their talents. But I believe one of the reasons for this is most worship teams try to learn too many songs in a short amount of time.
With this artist I’m working with, we just spent the last two days on only one song – getting it tight, finding the right tones, working on the presentation, making sure harmonies are right, etc. Then, when all the songs are worked out this way, we’ll rehearse them over and over again, and then they’ll do the same show night after night all around the world.
As a worship leader, you don’t have the luxury to spend two days on each song. I know you all want to be better, and you want to use the gifts God has given you, glorifying Him to the best of your ability. So here is my recommendation, whether I’m working with worship teams and/or world class artists:
DO LESS SONGS!
You don’t have to learn 100 songs in a year. When you learn so much music in a short amount of time, often you’re just glad to get through it without many mistakes. I don’t think that’s the way to play worship music. That’s not the way to play any music! But if I’m playing a song regularly, I can constantly tweak and make the song better.
I work on a Christmas tour with NewSong each year, and because of their busy schedule, we don’t have much time to rehearse. What we’ve learned over time is to review the old stuff from the previous year and then learn 1 or 2 new songs for the new tour. This is a world class show! And it’s partly because we’re not trying to learn 15 new songs every year for the tour.
The other reason to not work on so many songs is because your congregation likes to repeat meaningful worship moments. I like going to church and hearing certain songs again that I’ve sung before. I don’t always need new stuff – I enjoy doing the songs I know and love. In fact, I imagine a lot of praise teams and church choirs do some of their best work at Christmastime because many of the songs are the same each year.
So, find your “voice” – your style for your congregation and worship team. Find a core group of songs that really work and that people love. Spend a lot of time in preparation…make them great! Make worship moments out of them. Make them special…
Then, once you’ve got the core songs, start adding other songs that you think might work well for your team and congregation. And if one of those turns out to be an outstanding worship moment, too, then it becomes part of the core.
Ever wonder why Paul Baloche, Chris Tomlin, Lincoln Brewster, (insert name here), all sound so great? They do the same songs every night – but in different locations. And it’s inspiring!