You’ve heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect!” And we all know there’s truth to that. But the WAY you practice actually makes a difference too; you have to make the effort to perfect your practice.
One of the first really impactful lessons I learned, after I had played guitar for years, was that of practicing things at a tempo that you could master without mistakes before you attempted to move up to original tempo. While I understood the concept, I never really thought about making sure I could play a passage without mistakes before I moved on. I got a reminder of this recently as I was teaching my daughter a melody on the piano. She didn’t want to try it at a slower tempo; she just wanted to power through and try to play something she hadn’t even learned at tempo, but it was full of stops and starts and mistakes because she hadn’t mastered it yet. When we slowed it down, she had time to think through each piece and didn’t fumble nearly as much. As we gradually increased the tempo, she kept getting better and better.
Learning a piece of music or a particular solo passage is one thing, getting it right every time is another, but practicing something once you’ve learned it should be yet another step in the process. Yes, at tempo, but also, I’d like to challenge you to practice like you’re going to perform. I learned for myself that if I don’t play through my sets for Sunday standing up, it’s going to introduce a new challenge when I show up for the rehearsal. The angles change between sitting and standing, your hand position changes, you introduce the weight of the guitar on your shoulders, the angle of your feet if you’re changing pedals – so many variables!
If you’ve read my column for a while, you know that I have a definition of a worship leader that includes two basic tenets: pointing people in the right direction, and limiting distractions. This second point is where practicing how you’re going to play comes in. There are so many variables, it can be a challenge to focus on what we’re there to do, which is lead people to worship God. So, as you prepare, practice everything – how you stand, where you place your feet, how you adjust your guitar strap. All these things add up to be potential distractions for you as you lead.
When you’ve prepared your fingers, hands, and mind, don’t forget to prepare your heart! I have always been a fan of my team coming in with songs learned and ready, but I’m also a huge fan of people who come in prepared to actually lead worship! I challenge my team to not just learn the songs, but also come to rehearsal with their hearts pointed in the right direction already. You don’t have to wait for the first notes of the song to start before you can put your heart in a posture of worship toward Jesus. And being fully prepared musically and spiritually to lead is what we’re supposed to be all about. Don’t neglect the heart prep as well as the physical prep!
Your assignment this week: practice the songs at home like you’re going to play them on Sunday, and see what happens!
Connect on social media and let me know if it worked for you!