All worship leaders want excellent worship teams made up of excellent musicians, but often we don’t define what excellence means for our players. So here are a few key aspects of musical excellence in worship musicians to help paint a picture for your teams.
Musically Excellent Musicians:
SHOW UP FULLY PREPARED
Excellent musicians show up to rehearsal knowing their music and the unique parts that they will play for each section of each song. They understand that “practice is personal, and rehearsal is relational”, so they put in the time at home to get their individual parts nailed down.
SERVE THE SONG
The best musicians serve the song. That means playing tastefully, simply and only when necessary. In other words, they play what the song needs, not what they want. They have enough musical maturity to realize that it’s not about them, but the sum of the parts. This means the parts that they play enhance the song rather than distract from it.
They have enough musical maturity to realize that it’s not about them, but the sum of the parts. This means the parts that they play enhance the song rather than distract from it.
Another way that excellent musicians reduce distractions is by minimizing their mistakes. Great musicians have internalized the songs, which means they rarely hit a wrong note. And in the rare instance that they do, they are extremely quick to recover. They never get completely thrown off, or have a “train wreck” moment. They can play off the bad note and cover it up as they slide into the correct one. This can only happen because they are extremely familiar with their instrument.
Excellent musicians are flexible. This means that they are constantly listening to the other players on the stage and adjusting what they’re playing to fit what is happening in the moment. Because they have full command of their instrument, they are able to easily “go with the flow” and never feel like they are out of control or unsure of what to do. They can quickly jump from a quiet dynamic to a loud one, or a simple part to a busy one.
Excellent musicians are constantly listening to the other players on the stage and adjusting what they’re playing to fit what is happening in the moment.
HAVE GREAT TONE
Whether it’s a vocalist, a guitarist or a drummer, excellent musicians have great tone. They have the right gear to bring about the right results. The lead vocalist has worked on their loud singing voice and their quite one. The background vocalists have worked on taming vibrato and blending well. The drummer has changed his heads, and brings great sounding cymbals. The electric guitar player has eliminated buzz, hums and hisses from his rig. The bassist keeps his strings fresh and knows the best place to mic his bass cabinet. Oh, and they all know where their knobs are supposed to be set! Great musicians have great tone.
TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
Great musicians take their role seriously. Whether they are getting paid or are volunteers, they show up on time, make sure their batteries are changed, their strings are fresh, and their instruments are in tune. They aren’t afraid to invest the money needed to upkeep their gear, or better yet, improve it.
SHARPEN THEIR SKILLS
Finally, excellent musicians continue to sharpen their skills. They constantly push themselves to grow. They practice with a metronome to improve their timing. They work on memorizing their music. They find new genres of music to learn, or new chord voicings to play. They expand their repertoire and aren’t afraid to seek knowledge from those further ahead of them. And of course, they’re not ashamed to practice the basics like scales and speed drills, because they know that a strong foundation leads to a strong player.
Those are some key elements of musically excellent worship team players.
Also see: Creating A Culture of Musical Excellence.
What would you add to this list? Leave a comment below, and let us know!
Feel free to send this article to your team members, or use it as a discussion tool before a rehearsal one day.
Musical Excellence should also include a basic knowledge of basic harmony and music theory. When you study music theory, you will find God’s fingerprints all over music!
This is so true! Thanks for sharing Randy!
I completely agree, Alex. Thanks for posting on the topic of excellence.
I would also add that there is a danger that we can idolise excellence to the point of pursuing perfection, which is unattainable.
Bren, Thanks for the comment! You are totally right! Often excellence can become an idol. Brenton, Justin and I actually talk about that in our recent podcast episode on “why should I make my ministry better”. I like Justin’s point that excellence isn’t just about production, or musicality, but also in our relationships and discipleship of others. Love it!
As a musician with over 40 years playing experience, and 5 years experience specifically on a worship team, the #1 problem I encountered was that the worship team leader would not provide the music early in the week, and some would not have a mid-week rehearsal. Getting the music for a dozen songs on Sunday, to learn within an hour before service (about 5 minutes per song) is a recipe for a very lame sounding worship team; no matter how experienced you are.
You are SO RIGHT!