Here are some tips on playing economically, musically and skillfully.
- Choose economical parts to play. Using the 100 percent rule as a guide, learn to play less as other instruments are added to the band. Sometimes go high, sometimes low … whatever is needed to advance the song. Develop a signature riff. Well-constructed parts are the starting point for a great sounding band.
- Make use of dynamics. Listen to each other. Don’t play if the music doesn’t call for it (what a concept!). Verses can be softer than choruses to create interest and diversity within a song. A song’s power in worship is diminished when everyone plays full-blast, all the time. Like a good novel, think of a song as having a beginning, middle and end; decide which parts and instrumentation will be layered in and out to create an ebb and flow within the song.
- Make sure that everyone plays the same chord progression. A well-organized chord chart is essential for each player, displaying chords with corresponding rhythmic movements.
- Make sure everyone pays attention to the fine details in each song. Solidify each rhythmic highlight, whole-note, dynamic rise and fall, and tempo change. Make sure everyone is accenting at the same place, at the same time.
- Stay in tune. Make sure the band is in tune. Check that the keyboards are in correct concert pitch (A-440). They sometimes can be slightly off if a keyboard player is not careful while scanning through patches and changing parameters. Guitar and bass players need to continually check their tuning (silently, please!).
- Make sure everyone can hear themselves in the monitors, and can hear and see each other on stage. Good monitoring and proper sight-lines between band members is essential for communication.
- Use a click. A click/metronome (for the drummer alone, or in the headphones of the band) is helpful to ensure that the predetermined tempo is followed. Tempos that feel right in rehearsal may feel either too slow or too fast during performance—stick to what you decide beforehand! The drummer usually operates the click, so allow for enough time to adjust tempos between songs.
- Be generous—give musical space for others to fill. Don’t be selfish; give opportunity for everyone in the band to shine. The most important thing is to prefer each other in love (Romans 12:10), and for the collective, disciplined efforts of each player to focus on the betterment of the whole.
- Play in time. Don’t rush the beat, which is the most common trait of a novice player on the team. Be careful, when necessary, to lay back the beat in a musical fashion. Practice with a click. Make sure everyone hears plenty of hi-hat from the drummer, especially the singers (who may not be able to hear the click).
- Pay attention to tone. Tone for each player is subjective, but it can be agreed that each instrument must be warm and full sounding—without the annoying hiss of white-noise or rumble of 60-cycle electrical hum. A good tone originates from well-crafted instruments and amplifiers; high-quality cabling; good, quiet effects; proper microphone techniques; and direct input devices. Don’t expect to sound like your favorite rock star simply because you buy the same gear. “Bone Tone”—the individuality that comes from your unique touch—can be a good thing! Get help from a musician who’s tone you prefer to help you create a desirable sound.
These tips will get you started, but the consistent pursuit of excellence will keep you stretching for greater levels of excellence. Recording your band during rehearsal is very helpful; it will tell the truth! Your team will benefit from your hard work, your church will too. But the most important thing is that we become a great worship band for the glory of God!