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5 Ways to Help Your Team Memorize Songs

When you hear the word “memorize,” you probably have one of two reactions.

  1. I can’t do that.
  2. Not a chance.

There’s something about memorizing that is scary to us, but I don’t think it has to be.

We all know there is something good about it, right?

  • It helps us be more present in the moment.
  • It serves congregational worship by having a more prepared team.
  • It helps your rehearsals go smoother (if people practice).
  • It helps move the music from a math equation to art.
  • It’s a powerful tool for maturing your musicians.
  • As worship musicians, it helps us engage in worship more.
  • It also means we don’t have to kill as many trees or purchase a handful of expensive iPads.

Win-win, right?

I am on a quest to obliterate the music stand from our worship teams. We’re fully there at one campus, and almost there at our second. For many worship leaders that I talk to, this is a scary transition.

You can’t just announce this and expect it right away. The musical accuracy would most definitely suffer. You might have a revolt.

That’s why you need a transition plan.

Five Steps for Transitioning Your Team to Memorize

As we approached this transition, here’s the process I took:

1. Cast Vision—Before we made this a regular thing, I cast vision for it months in advance. I said, “Here’s where we’re going,” and I gave people reasons why. I even opened the floor up for questions. My goal here was to start a conversation rather than a mandate. I wanted to feel people’s hesitation and coach them through the transition.

2. Set Your Team Up for Success—Make sure your team has what they need weeks in advance: chord charts, mp3s and lead sheets are great. You can’t expect fully memorized music if you are a last minute planner. I do my best to stay six weeks ahead of the game with song lists (I’m a bit behind right now) and keep Planning Center updated with mp3s, youtube links and chord charts.

3. Start Small—Before you require a completely memorized worship set, start with just memorizing one song one week. Then, advance to two. You see where I’m going with this. Start small and build little by little. For us, a worship set isn’t usually more than four or five songs, so it’s not as daunting as people think.

4. Be Patient—Some of your team members won’t have much trouble with this. Particularly those who already have perfectionist tendencies. They want to know the music inside and out. Others are busier and don’t have as much discretionary time to invest in personal practice. Be patient with them, remind them during the week, and keep encouraging them that they can do it!

5. Lead by Example—You’d think this could go without saying, but I’ve seen some leaders demand what they don’t apply. You’ve got to lead by example. Memorize your lyrics. Know your chords. Be confident with your arrangements and transitions way before rehearsal. Your team will follow you if they respect your musicality and commitment to excellence.

Let’s have a conversation. Where are you on this “memorization” bandwagon?

Does your team memorize their music?

Do you print and file paper chord charts?

Do you have iPads running OnSong or Music Stand