6 Practical Tips for More Productive Rehearsals
Every worship leader knows the difficulty of managing a team of volunteer musicians. Anytime you have a group of people together, the team dynamics play a big part. Everyone has their own personality, their own musical tastes, their own pet peeves, priorities, and habits. It helps to be as prepared as possible and to communicate clear expectations in order to make worship band practices a bit more ordered. Based on some of my own leadership experiences, here are 6 practical tips for making band rehearsals more productive.
1. Clarify Setup and Start Times
One common tension we have all experienced is when certain musicians require extra time for setup and others do not. When playing electric guitar, I know that I usually spend a good 10-15 minutes setting up my amp, running cables, getting right pedal settings, and then evening out the volume levels between different settings. Of course it can be incredibly annoying and unproductive if this were going on during the first 10 minutes of practice, especially to a vocalist who simply had to show up and sing.
It is helpful to communicate clear expectations when it comes to people’s time and schedules. Most church volunteers are sacrificing time with their spouses and kids in order to volunteer, so it is important to honor their time by starting on time and ending on time. If my band were to practice from 7:00 to 8:30, I would let my electric guitarist and anyone else who needs time to setup know that they need to arrive between 6:30 and 6:45 in order to be ready to begin playing at 7:00. And then those vocalists and keyboard players who can step right in at 7:00 won’t feel the tension of wasted time standing around waiting.
2. Meet Early with Your Audio Engineer
As the leader, sound and preparation is your responsibility, not your audio engineer’s. Meet with your sound tech at least 30 minutes before your practice begins to get everything turned on, check any microphones and instruments that you have access to, and set monitor levels. Then, as people arrive and set up, the engineer has only a few pieces to mix in and any potential troubleshooting has already been taken care of.
3. Know Your Arrangements
Rehearsal is not the time for you as a worship leader to be hashing out how you want the song to be played. This goes back to respecting your volunteers’ time. Part of your job is to plan these details, so do it in the office. My personal practice is to write out the arrangement directly on the music as I’m preparing it. It will usually look something like this, (but written vertically down the page):
Intro – V1 – V2 – PC – C (small) – V3 – PC – Cx2 (med) – Bx6 (1-2 all drop out, 3-4 build toms, 5-6 straight big build) – Cx2 (end on G – pad transition)
For the sake of space, these notes are actually quite limited. I would also add where I’d like for each instrument to come in or drop out and any particular notes on how I’d like them to play. Not only does this save time in practice, but it ensures that your team can have something accurate to follow along with and practice at home.
4. Ensure Your Music is Correct
This goes along with knowing your arrangements. It may seem pretty obvious, but this becomes a problem all too frequently in rehearsals. Ensure that your music is actually written and arranged the way you want it. Make sure it is printed in the right key with the right chords and transitions; it is a waste of time to edit or transpose music in the middle of practice. If you planned on altering any lyrics, make sure they have been changed both in the music and media before rehearsal.
5. Reign in the “Droolers”
By “Droolers” you know what I mean. “Droolers” are those people who drool all over their instrument during any possible downtime. They continue playing for a few seconds after you’ve called the band to stop; they fiddle and play lightly over you while you’re trying to speak and give direction; they take a lot of personal creative license with how their part is being played that suites their own particular flavor.
These people are often incredible musicians and artists, but as a leader it is your job to keep them focused. While some of your other band members might just find them a little annoying, the more important factor is that they waste time. It might be uncomfortable for some leaders, but giving attention to musical behavior and directing these people with how you’d like a specific part played will decrease tension, increase time and productivity, and make rehearsal more pleasant for everyone else.
6. Lead with Confidence and Boldness
You are the worship leader! You are the creative leader, the lead musician, and the decision maker. I’m not saying that it’s all about you, but you are the one hired to give creative direction and make decisions. Sure it’s okay to ask for input from your team when you might need it, but have the confidence and boldness to lead and guide your team in the direction that God has led you in your planning.
Learn to receive feedback graciously, but also to handle pushback with firmness. There are times for reconsidering creative direction, and other people do have great ideas; but during the one rehearsal you have before Sunday morning usually isn’t the best time to make major changes or rearrange items, which, again, take time and planning. If you are blessed with a creative musician who always has input on how something should be played, invite them into your planning sessions in the office; but have confidence in your own plans and the boldness to say “no, I feel like we should continue with the original direction” during practice.
I hope these tips will help you experience more productive worship band rehearsals
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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