One of the keys to having a great rehearsal is preparing great worship charts. I have found that worship bands frequently go into rehearsals with haphazard charts. No one has taken the time to really think through all the details of the songs. Next-level leaders are prepared and a big part of that preparation is working on excellent charts.
There are two main forms of charts: a) the fully notated SAT chart and b) the words and chords only. I prefer the full written-out chart because it gives you more details. But whatever charts you use, ask yourself these seven questions to make sure the charts are clear and well-thought through.
1. What is the best tempo for this song? Have you notated it somewhere? Who counts off the song? Are you using a click track or metronome to quickly dial into the correct tempo?
2. What is the best key? Have you taken the time to make sure that this is the best key for the leader, congregation and band? Does this key flow well with the songs before and after it? Is this key too high or low for the congregation to sing with all their hearts? Have you double-checked all the chords?
3. What do you want the vocals to sing? When do you want the leader singing alone and when do the other singers sing? When does the song go into two- or three-part harmony? What singers are singing this week? What is the best way to utilize their strengths? Have you sung through all the parts and learnt them so you can help the singers sing their correct harmonies? Are all the words correct?
4. Is this the best musical form for this song? How do you want the introduction to go? How do you want to end the song? What is the best musical form for this song? How many times do you repeat each section? Do you have a reprise ready in case the song “takes off”? What is the recording you are basing this arrangement on?
5. What is the main musical feel? Is this a guitar- or keyboard-driven song? What is the drum groove? What rhythms do you want the bass player to play? What is the acoustic guitar, electric guitar and keyboard grooves? When does the band pause?
6. What instruments do you want or need for this arrangement? When do players sit out in this song? When does the full band come in? What synth, guitar or other instrumental sounds do you need? Is there a drum only section?
7. What are the key instrumental lead lines? Are the lead lines played by keys, guitar or both? Are they notated to help you remember? Have you asked the players to learn their parts before your rehearsal?
To do music at an excellent level, the leader or musical director needs to think through all the details. Confidence and excellence comes with preparation.
Question: What can you add to this list? What is working in your rehearsals? What charts do you use?
I wanted to include a Facebook response from my friend Blake Paul: Great post Mark. Obviously having played for you I realize the truth of what you say. Preparation is key. However, I wonder if this is also a question of goals for the worship team? Yes, we all want to lead worship that is inspiring, creative and full of the Holy Spirit.
I am wondering if we are missing a key ingredient in today’s worship music—that being improvisation and collaboration of musicians within the band which can allow for a greater expression of creativity. However, I hear many bands and teams would rather just play the song by exactly as the recording.
I agree we need to be prepared, but at what point do we allow our bands to collaborate, and encourage improvisation? I guess the real question then is, how does one do the preparation that you write about, and at the same time allow opportunity for our teams to put their imprint on the music rather than just play the song like it sounds like on the CD? Especially as it relates to creating great charts etc. …
FB Reply: Mark Cole: Great question, Blake. But the answer is harder to nail down. It really depends on the quality and creativity of your musicians and leader, the amount of time that you have to rehearse and what your ultimate goal is.
When I do original tunes of mine for the first time, I really listen to how the band and singers respond and what ideas they come up with. Then I’ll usually go home and rewrite the charts to reflect what worked and didn’t work.
I’m all for creativity with your musicians—but that is much easier if you have a set band of strong musicians that don’t rotate much…and if you have the time to really work the songs in rehearsal. If you’re just training musicians and the creativity level is still developing, then copying recording can be much more productive..
Notice in my article, I didn’t talk about copying the recording. Oftentimes I will listen to multiple versions of a song and incorporate a number of different ideas (including my own) into the final chart that I write. I hope this answer helps.
FB comment: Gary Sharpe: I couldn’t agree more on having great charts. I actually think it cuts rehearsal time in half. If you can combine great charts with pre-practice (personal practice before rehearsal), you are 80 percent of the way there.
Mark Cole: I totally agree!