Want to help your worship team sound more professional? Then it’s time to start arranging and playing in “parts”. Churches are filled with extremely talented musicians, but very few of those musicians have any experience playing in the context of a band, so a lot of worship teams just stand on the stage and play chords together. Music is meant to be so much more than just playing the chords on your chord charts! In this episode Brenton Collyer and I tackle what it means to play in parts and give some practical tips to help you begin creating more beautiful music arrangements for your church!
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Music can be so much more than just playing the chords on the chord chart! – Tweet That!
Playing in parts means you’re playing something different and complimentary to what the other instruments are playing. – Tweet That!
The more musicians on the stage, the less each one will need to play. – Tweet That!
Good musicians figure out a specific part to play for each section of the song, and then they always play it the same. – Tweet That!
If everyone is playing a simple complimentary part, when you put those parts together it creates a cohesive, beautiful, well crafted whole. – Tweet That!
Just because you have the ability to play something complicated doesn’t mean you should. – Tweet That!
Serve the song! Play what the song needs, not what you want. – Tweet That!
Often the simplest part is the best part. – Tweet That!
Before you play something, make sure it needs to be there, and if it does, put your heart and soul into it. – Tweet That!
The difference between a player, and a professional is the professional knows how to listen! – Tweet That!
Alex Enfiedjian 00:11 Hello, and welcome back to the worship team podcast. My name is Alex Enfiedjian. And I’m your host today. If it’s your first time ever listening, we wanted to say welcome and thank you for tuning in. Our podcast exists to help you as a worship leader or worship team member, be the best that you can possibly be that you might better bless your local church, we really want to strengthen the local church across the globe. And it’s been cool seeing people tune in from literally all over the world. Philippines, Russia, Canada. That’s kind of another part of the world, right? Anyway, welcome. We are glad you’re here. Today is episode six. And today we are talking about something near and dear to my heart, which is playing in parts, arranging a song, learning how to play as part of a team, and really becoming more professional in our musicianship, the reason this is near and dear to my heart is because a lot of musicians in church don’t have this mindset of playing in parts, because they are either hobby musicians, or they, you know, took classical lessons growing up, and now they’re thrown into a band context. And it’s, it’s kind of a different situation. And the only real way to learn how to play in parts is either to grow up playing in bands all your life, or to be someone who does musical recording. And you’re literally building a song track by track layer by layer, piece by piece, understanding how all the pieces fit together to create a cohesive whole. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about, and hopefully teaching some of you today is how to play in parts, and really sound like a professional band. I’m going to be having this discussion with my good friend Brenton Collier, just because he’s a good guy to be around. Now this podcast is slightly longer than our normal episodes. And I decided to keep it as one episode because I want to make it easy for you to share. Like if you’re a worship leader, and you want to share this material, I didn’t want you to have to send two links to your team. I just wanted to keep it all in one place. So that’s why it’s a little longer. But I think it’ll be worth your time. So enjoy this great discussion with Brenton Collier, my good friend and fellow worship leader. Everybody, I am here with Brenton Collier, my good friend and fellow worship leader. He’s at Calvary Monterey. And I thought it’d be great to have him on the episode today because he’s wise and it’s way more enjoyable when he’s around. So yeah. So we’re going to be talking about playing in parts really understanding how to arrange songs as a band. And before we talk about that, I thought it would be wise for us to kind of define what we mean when we say playing in parts in the context of a band or I mean, even in an orchestra or any sort of musical ensemble, what does it mean to play in part, so I came up with this definition and Brenton you can pick it apart or tell me what you would destroy it. So playing in parts is this playing in parts is assigning specific roles, melodies, and rhythms to each instrument that interact to create a beautiful and cohesive whole? I’m gonna say one more time though. Playing in parts is assigning specific roles, melodies and rhythms to each instrument that interact with each other to create a beautiful and cohesive whole.
Brenton Collyer 03:52 So which sounds perfect that that kind of encapsulates all of the different components? I think, and I think if some of that doesn’t quite make sense, the more we talk about it, that’ll begin to make sense a little bit more. But I think he got it all in there.
Alex Enfiedjian 04:06 That sounds really good. Okay, cool. Cuz I think a lot of churches, like if you walked into, you know, the average medium to small church in America, you would probably show up and see a bunch of people on stage playing the same chords with the same rhythms and very little thought to arranging the songs and assigning specific parts.
Brenton Collyer 04:26 Do you think that comes from, you know, the fact that most churches use like a chord chart style? You know, where it’s just the chord and then it’s just up to speculation how you play that chord, what you do with it?
Alex Enfiedjian 04:39 I think that’s exactly the reason. It’s like, we give everybody a chord chart and they play the chords, right? It’s not their fault. They’re just doing what is on the piece of paper there. But after this podcast, you have no excuse, right? Yeah, because really, music can be so much more than playing the chords on the chord chart. I think playing chords on the chord chart is what you do. When you’re playing in your bedroom, or it’s when you’re leading by yourself, and it’s just you and your acoustic guitar or just you in the piano, and in that case, you do need to play the chords, you need to cover the entire Sonic spectrum, you need to be the rhythm, the melody, the harmony, all of it, you need to be everything. But when it’s in the context of a band, you should not play the chords, or maybe, well, everybody should not play the chords, you need to cut back what you’re playing, and make space for the other instruments. And not just cut back, but also actually, like play something different and complimentary to what the other instruments are playing. And I think that’s what we’re talking about. When we say we’re playing in parts, it’s really it’s playing something different and complimentary to what the other instruments are playing. And we can talk specifics in a bit.
Brenton Collyer 05:53 Yeah, and I think that’s the difference between just hearing sounds that sound good, you know, and hearing a song, you know, hearing music, and, you know, we want to honor the Lord by by, you know, playing skillfully. And, and, you know, although someone in your church family might not know, oh, they’re playing parts, they’ll be able to enjoy, you know, kind of what you’re doing. So,
Alex Enfiedjian 06:21 yeah, they’ll feel the beauty of the music, the way that it’s been arranged, yeah, instead of just hearing everyone play G, D minor, C, right. So when we think about music, and a song and breaking it up into parts, one way I’ve heard it described is as a pie. And this guy that I recently heard on a podcast named Dave Dolphin, describes the song as a pie, or the the music, the sonic happenings as a whole pie. And then you cut that pie up, and you give a slice to each band member. And so the more instruments and the more members in the band, the smaller slice of the pie they get. So meaning the more people on the stage, the less each person will have to play. Yeah. Or at least maybe not, the less they’ll have to play but the simpler their heart will have to be and the more conscious they’ll need to be of the other people. Yeah, totally. And and the pie never gets bigger. It just you just have to cut the pieces smaller, the more people you add to it. So yeah, thanks for that analogy, Dave Dolphin. And sweet name, by the way. Oh, yeah. Super cool. I love that name. So if you listen to any album, you’re going to hear like multiple tracks. And each instrument is playing something specific. Maybe it’s a specific drum beat, or a specific baseline or a specific keyboard part. There might be like a tambourine that comes in on the bridge, and all music all good music is arranged in multiple layers, with multiple parts working together to create a cohesive whole. Yeah. And I think we want that in our music ministry, too. And so we have to move beyond just playing the chords on the chord chart and start playing parts. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And it’s going to make your music more interesting, more intricate, more moving more powerful, and really more beautiful. And I think, you know, last time we talked, Brenton, we talked a lot about like God being creative and excellent. And we want to represent him. And in that, in this sense, God is a God of creativity. And we want to mirror him well, by being creative with how we arrange our songs. So
Brenton Collyer 08:37 yeah, absolutely. And I think for worship leaders and worship musicians, honestly, it’s, it’s more fun, it’s more enjoyable to be able to play songs that are just really cohesive and arranged well. And I think anyone that enjoys music, if they’re willing to begin thinking in parts and working on parts, they’re just naturally going to enjoy playing together like this more, they’re just coming and pounding out the first thing that they think of, you know, so it can really, it’s really going to be a lot of fun. I think this is new for you.
Alex Enfiedjian 09:10 Yeah. And it takes it takes more work, then just showing up and playing the chords, but the payoff is like, way better. Oh, yeah. For you and for your church, because people have to listen to you, by the way. So okay, the first step to really beginning to play in parts is to start thinking in parts. So think in part, so instead of saying, Okay, I know the chords for the bridge, the chords for the bridge are G, D, E minor, C, you got to scratch that kind of thinking from your mind, and you need to start saying, my part for the bridge is this riff up on the neck of these frets, and I turn the overdrive pedal on for this part of the bridge. That’s what I do for the bridge and I do it every time. So in other words, you figure out a specific part that you play for Each section of the song, and you always play the same. Yeah. So you have a specific part for each section section of the song, you always play the same. For example, if you’re a piano player on the first verse, I play this progression of notes on the piano. Notice I didn’t say anything about chords, I play this little riff, okay, in the chorus, I always play whole notes with a note with the note change on each chord change. On the second verse, I play this repeated pattern up high on the keys. And on the final chorus, I change the patch on the keyboard to the Oregon sound, and I play something else. So you’ve you’ve assigned, you’re not thinking about the song or the chord you’re thinking about, this is what I play. In each section of the song, these specific lines, melodies, rhythms, you’ve assigned each section of the song, something specific.
Brenton Collyer 10:54 Yeah, and even just hearing you describe that Alex, like, I just imagine that song just being so much more rich and so much more just enjoyable and pleasant. And, and, you know, for both the player and the listener, and you know, there are a lot of songs that have the same four chord chord progression, not just for the bridge, but sometimes even the whole entire song is the same four chords over and over again. So imagine as a keyboard player just playing those triads, right in the middle register of your keyboard just over and over and over. There might be a time that’s the right part for that song. But it could also be about the most boring thing you could play for that song. Yeah,
Alex Enfiedjian 11:37 like, yeah, I’m just imagining the piano player playing pounding the chords. Yeah, the entire five minute song. It’s like, yeah, kill me. Yeah, you know. So I think thinking in parts means assigning a specific thing that you do to each section. Yeah, the song
Brenton Collyer 11:54 that’s huge. Each section, not the whole song, but each section of the song, right.
Alex Enfiedjian 11:58 And obviously, all the parts that each band member is playing need to work in conjunction with the other instruments to, you know, not just sound cool by themselves, because and this takes for planning by the leader. Because like, if the keyboard part that you come up with is really Jazzy, and then the drummer comes up with the part that’s all rock beat, right? You know, so that’s why you need a leader to like, give direction and like, Hey, this is what the song should sound like. And this is where we’re going. So I’m going to assign the parts to you guys as needed.
Brenton Collyer 12:27 Yeah. So a little word on that. If you’re a worship team, musician, and you’ve taken some time to work out a part for a specific section of a specific song, you get to rehearsal, five other people join you, your worship leaders there, you get to that bridge, you play your part, you nail it, but your worship leader, who’s listening to everyone all collectively says, Hey, man, you know what, that didn’t sound quite right. It was a little bit too, you know, a high and a high frequency or something, hey, don’t get your feelings for you know, it’s okay, that’s gonna happen. You know, it’s it’s up to the worship leader or the the band arranger, or the music director, to be listening to everyone. So you’ve got to work on your parts, but also, you know, be willing to change them be willing to let them go to.
Alex Enfiedjian 13:12 Yeah, and I think that’s a really good point, because you need to think of your worship leader as a producer, like he’s producing the song, or she’s producing the song, and they have something specific in mind that they’re trying to accomplish. And what you’re doing might not be adding to the whole. So if they tell you, hey, play something different, don’t get your feelings hurt, just trust that their vision for the song is going to be awesome. And you get to play a part in that vision. And and that’s an encouragement to worship leaders. Like if you’re not thinking that way, time to start thinking that way. Right? You got to start thinking of yourself as a producer of a live band. Yeah. And putting the parts together.
Brenton Collyer 13:47 Can I throw in something here? Yeah, total, here’s a little exercise for you. If you’re a worship leader, something that I really enjoy doing because I enjoy producing music and recording music is good, a good pair of headphones, you know, where you can really some good high quality headphones, pick an album you really like it could be a pretty simple instrumentation album or something with a lot going on. And just listen carefully through the whole song, listen to how many guitars there are and how many different parts those guitars are playing and what different effects are on those guitars. And I think when we listen to music, we enjoy it just hits us and we enjoy it. But if you really listen with the producers ear, you’ll begin to hear all of these wonderful textures and layers. And that really, for me, at least sparks creativity and inspiration that I take to my band rehearsals and and it’s just a lot of fun, you know, and enjoying music and a little bit of a more specific way. So
Alex Enfiedjian 14:41 yeah, that’s super good at we’re going to talk about learning to listen in a second. And so thank you for bringing that up. The last thing I think we need to talk about as far as thinking in parts, and this is this is what you’re saying is like if you learn to understand and listen, you’ll understand about thinking in parts. And one thing that you guys need to think about is, how does my instrument help build the song? Like, the songs usually start and grow and climax at some point? Yeah. And so you have to think about your instrument and say, how does what I’m playing, help build the song throughout, you know, maybe you need to add a new instrument at this section, or a new sound at this section, or a harmony comes in at this section, or change your part a little bit as the song progresses, because each new texture and each new layer, and each new part builds the song and hopefully takes it to a crescendo or a climax. And so you need to ask yourself, how does my instrument add to this section of the song? And to the song as a whole? Like, does this part of the song even need me because sometimes, honestly, Brenton, sometimes the best thing a player can do is not play. Yeah. So that when you come in later, it really makes the song Take off. Oh, absolutely. I
Brenton Collyer 16:09 like to tell my band like, Hey, we don’t want to, you know, we don’t want to play that card too many times, so to speak, or we don’t want to throw down all our cards right away, so to speak, you know, you want to save some pieces to bring in so that when that time comes, it’s really impactful, really meaningful.
Alex Enfiedjian 16:26 Yeah. And I the way that I say to my band is Hey, don’t give it away too soon. Yeah, like, don’t we don’t need to build that quickly. We don’t need to add that part quite yet. It needs to come in on the last course, because it’s going to take us there, you know, yeah. So you had brought up listening. And I, the next way that people can grow in understanding their parts is learning to listen,
Brenton Collyer 16:49 so I went against your rule and gave it away too soon.
Alex Enfiedjian 16:52 So now it’s all good. Learn to listen. So a really, really good if you’re like, if this is all new to you, and you’re like, hey, I’ve always just been a chord Strummer. Well, a really great way to learn how to build a song and how to play parts is to listen. So like Brenton said, Go get your favorite song, and put on a really good set of headphones and start to listen as closely as possible and analyze all the different things. You’re hearing all the different parts, all the different melodies, what instruments are being played, the sounds that they’re using, and start asking questions like, why does that chorus lift right there? Did a tambourine come in? did an electric guitar come in? If it did, what is it playing? Why is that out? chorus so catchy? Did a keyboard part come in? Is it playing? What’s it playing? What kind of melody? Is it playing? Just start asking questions like, why does this part of the song, you know, make me feel the way that I feel? And then you’ll start to analyze what the instruments are doing to make you feel that way? Yeah, like, wait, why did the verses feel so mellow, which instruments dropped out who’s not playing right here. So start analyzing these things. And soon you’ll learn really what makes current music work?
Brenton Collyer 18:08 Yeah, and this is kind of a two fold exercise, I think because this, you can do this as a worship leader, just to really hone your listening skills and kind of inspire your creativity towards parts. But I also do this just when I’m preparing, especially a new song to bring to our team. And I’ll take the map of the song, you know, verse verse chorus on and I’ll make little notes for each section, you know, drums, bass, acoustic in verse one, chorus, one, add electric guitar, you know, hollow chorus, down chorus or whatever, I’ll go through the whole map and make some notes. So that I’m right, rightly instructing my team as we’re working through this song. And it’s not all spur the moment. It’s like, Hey, I like this arrangement. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. So I’m gonna see how this can kind of translate. So that would be a good you know, thing to do just as a wish. Do you do that?
Alex Enfiedjian 19:00 I do. I tell my band when members when to come in and kind of what to play. I don’t give super specific instructions. Although sometimes I’ll say play the melody line on the piano exactly as recorded in the album. Or if I come up with my own, I’ll record it for them ahead of time so that they can learn that part. Yeah, because I don’t want them to just have to guess
Brenton Collyer 19:20 yeah. What about a song that has like 15 instruments and your band has five?
Alex Enfiedjian 19:25 Yeah, you got to pick the best, most key parts, right? Like so. If you’re listening to heal songs version of Oceans or whatever, and there’s like 50 different tracks, probably 100 tracks going on. Yeah, each playing something different, subtle. You have to pick the key ones that are the most moving and that the people in the congregation are going to be used to hearing and you just need to pick that guitar line. And that piano line.
Brenton Collyer 19:52 Yeah, in in the General Dynamics of the song always translate. You know, the general it’s big here. It’s soft. Hear I mean, you can limit that whatever your team looks like, I think
Alex Enfiedjian 20:03 Yeah, and you can also mix it up like next Sunday, I’m doing a version of Ocean’s that’s nothing like the album. But we’ve come up with parts and everyone’s been assigned, like, this is what you play here. This is what you play here. This is the keyboard part. And we’re gonna play it and hopefully it’s great. And if it’s not, then it’s my fault. But at least we’re trying to play in parts. But I think what Brenton saying is really helpful. One another great way to learn how to play in parts, is to learn it just like the album, like learn the part as recorded. And then you’ll figure out Oh, that that’s how an electric guitar is supposed to be played? Yeah. Oh, that line works there. You know, because it’s not stepping on the vocal melody. Yeah.
Brenton Collyer 20:42 Yeah, it’s that’s so good. I mean, these are professional industry, leading producers and studio musicians who are crafting these parts for these recordings. I would listen, you know? Yeah. It’s, it’s worth at least learning that part. Whether it works in your context or not? Well, you got to try to find out, but you may as well start there.
Alex Enfiedjian 21:03 Yeah. And as you start listening and learning to like specific parts, you’ll start to learn what works and what doesn’t work. And then you can create your own. But you need to have you need to start listening and learning, kind of from the from the best in the industry. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don’t I don’t record my songs, and play my songs the way that the album’s do most of the time. But it’s if you’re new to recording and parts and thinking in parts, then start there and go from there. Okay, so the next thing about playing in parts is to know your role, know your role. So like, for example, if you’re a bass player, your role is to keep the foundation be in the low frequency range, you don’t need to be playing up on the high nodes, pianos, you know, in the context of a band, you should stay out of the baseline. electric guitars shouldn’t be strumming like an acoustic guitar, keyboard pad player should not be playing the keys like a classical piano, you have to know what your instrument role is in the hole. And state stick in that. Because in the context of a band, you need to take your slice of the pie, and, and not step into other people’s roles and frequency frequency ranges.
Brenton Collyer 22:27 Yeah, and I think you might get to this in a moment. But you know, a role generally, for a base stays consistent generally for the drum stays consistent, and so on. But different songs call for different things. And I like to think of a song as either being electric guitar driven, acoustic guitar driven, piano driven, or kind of rhythm driven, so drums and bass. And, and so if there’s, if it’s acoustic, guitar driven, you know, they’re playing the whole full chord, the rhythm of the chord, when everyone drops out, they stay in and carry the song. But then the very next song, the piano may be the instrument that drives the song. So you know, they’re playing a little bit more full, right? And, and I like to really make that distinction when I’m leading with my team. And even I’ll tell my sound guy, this is an electric guitar driven song, we want this heart We want this president, but the very next song is, you know, we do a song that’s very rhythm driven. And so the drums there, you know, a whole verse goes by, it’s just drums and bass. And maybe like, one strum on the guitar really carries the song. So know your role, as it is in general, but also know your role as it pertains to that specific song, I think,
Alex Enfiedjian 23:44 yeah. And even know your role for certain parts of song. Yeah, because there are songs where I’ll be like this, this verse is like, you know, drums and bass, you’re the star of this moment, like, Tom, you know, Tom beat groove and a bait, they’re like a straight eighth note, baseline, you’re the star of that moment, you know, and then it might get down later in the song. And it’s like, we we break it down to a soft chorus. And the piano is the star of that moment. Yeah. Right. So you need to know your role in the context of, of your instrument of the context of a specific song. And then even in the context of like, specific parts of songs, like who’s the star of each moment. And something I want to say specifically to piano players, because most piano players who learned classically will kind of play everything because they’re the only instrument right? They’re playing this classical piece. They’re playing the rhythm, the bass, the melody, even the harmonies, yeah. But when you start playing in a band, for those of you who are classically trained on the piano, you need to dramatically and drastically simplify. So like you remember the pie analogy. So when there’s a bass player and a kick drum in the band, the low end rhythm is totally taken care of. So you can practically just sit on your left hand. Yeah. And honestly, you don’t really need it. Except for maybe occasionally playing some whole note. octaves like to outline the chord changes. Yeah. Or to add some extra emphasis or something. Yeah. And even in modern music, especially if you listen to the piano are the keys, it’s, it’s taken on a totally different function. It’s now more about the it plays, the catchy riffs, it plays the hooks, it plays the the simple melody lines that you remember later on either that or the electric guitar, but it’s now the piano instead of being the whole instrument, the whole band, it’s taken on a very narrow role, but an important role of playing the lead parts. Yeah. So if you’re a piano player, start thinking that way. That’s good. Okay, Brandon, I’d love for you to talk about playing complimentary rhythms. You did a workshop at your church recently, and you did a really great job describing how, you know multiple instruments should not all be playing the same rhythm at the same time. So can you kind of just tell us about playing complementary rhythms?
Brenton Collyer 26:11 Sure. Yeah. So you know, say there’s a song that’s in for four. And it’s 120 BPM, you know, real standard. And the song starts off nice and upbeat. And the kick drum is just going for on the floor, you know, boom, boom, boom, boom, 1234. You know, and he’s doing that and really, really setting the tone for the song perhaps the bass is doing that also. would be pretty common. But think about as a guitar player, perhaps, you know, acoustic guitar, you wouldn’t want to also go if the first chord is an a, you know, ay, ay, ay, ay ay. and then an electric guitar, a, hey, hey, and then the piano, you know what I mean? That’s just gonna get, you know, you’re just gonna want to, like he said, shoot me now, you know, it’s gonna it’s too much, it’s overwhelming, it might be the foundation of the song, but it doesn’t have to be reinforced and re reinforced. And so, you know, a good exercise would be would be to play Okay, if the kick in the bass guitar, or playing quarter notes, perhaps as a an electric guitar player, you just play whole note. So one strum per chord, perhaps you’ve got some delays and reverb, that’s going to really ring that cord out over the duration of the entire measure, as an acoustic guitar player, a lot of people right now, kind of like in the acoustic guitar almost to a shaker, you know, it’s just got that underlying rhythmic. So they might be strumming. Instead of, you know, a, they’re just doing a strum pattern. So it’s, it’s filling in even doing some eighth notes in between there. As a piano player, you know, you’re not gonna want to just pound pound, you know, perhaps you’re doing something with some movement, you know, it’s not just a whole note, or just quarter notes, but it’s some type of riff, that’s, that’s, yeah, floating over the rhythm. So it’s a little bit hard to describe without hearing it. But hopefully, you get the idea. And what I, what I try to instruct My team is, you know, hey, think about not just the part you’re playing and where you’re playing, but the rhythm in which you’re playing, you know, you might start on whole notes, and then kick it into quarter notes for the chorus, you know, and that’s where thinking through each section is important as well, but, but you know, take the rhythm, find what’s best, try different things. Don’t be afraid to experiment and listen to your worship leader. If he wants you to do something different. She wants you to do something different. If you are the worship leader, think about this. Think about the rhythm. It’s not enough just to hit the right chord. You also want to play with the right rhythm and feel. Yeah, and
Alex Enfiedjian 28:46 with each other. Yeah. And if it like Brent said, if everyone’s playing quarter notes, it’s lame. And it’s or if everyone’s playing eighth notes, like that’s cluttered and crazy. Yeah. So you assign, okay, the bass and the drums are going to play eighth notes done on on, on on on an electric guitar is just going to strum the dream. And let it ring. And what that does is those complimentary rhythms are creating space for each other. Yeah, they’re and that’s really important in music is creating that space. Yeah. So So Brent did a great job explaining just start thinking about it that way, especially if you’re the worship leader, and you’re in charge of arranging stuff. So let me kind of just go back and say, start thinking in parts. start learning to listen, know your role, play complimentary rhythms. And then the next thing about playing in parts that hopefully will be helpful to you is start using repeatable patterns. So play in repeatable patterns. Science has proven that our brains like music with patterns that repeat throughout. Yeah, there’s a study on it. It’s really interesting. So and that to me, yes, repeatable patterns are key to making music that people like. And if you listen to most popular music, you know, top 40 pop radio, you’ll notice that like everything is a really basic pattern. So like the kick is just like the kick and snare be like 1231234. And if there’s a variation, it’ll be like really small, and then it’ll go back to the main pattern. And as the song goes along, to build the the song and intensity, they just add to that basic pattern, they don’t like change it drastically, like some weird, you know, totally different kick pattern for the chorus, they just slept, they might add a second kick to the right, so you keep the pattern the same, but you kind of add to it subtly, as the song grows in intensity, better didn’t create like a whole new pattern. So they just add extra hits or extra nodes to the existing pattern. Or maybe they’ll play the same pattern. Like if it’s a guitar part, they’ll keep the pattern the same. But as the song builds in intensity, they’ll play it up an octave higher.
Brenton Collyer 31:13 Do you ever kind of experienced some tension with that creatively, like you want to do something different, as an arranger, but you feel like it would forsake kind of your goal of leading your church and worship?
Alex Enfiedjian 31:28 No, I actually love repeatable patterns, like I would much rather have a simple, memorable, repeatable pattern piano line that is playing over the chords, then try to do some weird, crazy, Jazzy, I mean, I know you like jazz, but sorry, yeah. But I’d rather keep it simple. Because the non musical folk in your church, they just need to like be able to feel the music and understand where it’s going. But really, you know, simple and repeatable. And honestly, like, if it’s a piano line, it only needs to be two or three or four notes. And they kind of it’s a hook. And you need to think of it as like a repeatable pattern. That is a hook. So for example, Mighty to save has that piano line data, or its electric guitar line data, dada, dada, dada, dada, dada, dada. Dada. Dada, is literally it’s three notes over and over. And then the chords are changing underneath it. Yeah. So if you’re a piano player, or an electric guitar player, you want to find a pattern that uses three or four notes. That’s repeatable. It doesn’t have to be as simple as that example. But that can fit over the chord progressions underneath it, because there’s something about that, that rhythm in that groove that it creates that makes you just kind of enter into that moment.
Brenton Collyer 32:56 Yeah. So can I throw in something? Yeah, totally. And if you at your church, I know a lot of modern worship music is very electric guitar driven, it’s actually moving a little bit away from now, it seems now some of its going back to acoustic guitar, a lot of its moving towards keys and sent stuff. But something that you could try if, if you don’t have a terribly experienced lead electric guitar player, that’s just nailing these parts, is having the piano you know, you mentioned mighty to save the piano line, does this, have the piano do the electric guitar part or if you’ve got a keys player, perhaps they could have some type of a synth stone, you know, on their keyboard, and have them do the electric guitar line. I’m an electric guitar player. I love electric guitar. I love worship, electric guitar. But, you know, sometimes I get a little burned out on it. And I want to hear something else. And so a lot of times I’ll, I’ll give my parts of the keys player say, Hey, could you play that line? And that can really freshen up the song sometimes I think,
Alex Enfiedjian 33:57 yeah, we don’t typically have an electric guitar player at our church on Sundays. At this point in our growth as a team, we don’t have an experienced one that I feel comfortable, you know, putting up there. So the piano player does play all of those, those lines that you remember, for example, like mighty to save data, or data. You know, I think 1000 at a time I fell inside out inside out. Thank you. So I, my piano players play those lines for me. And see how simple those lines are, but how catchy they are. And they work over the chords. That’s what I’m talking about when I say repeatable patterns are powerful. So start thinking about your parts in that way. Yeah, that’s great. I don’t feel like I did a great job explaining it but just start listening to modern music and know exactly what I’m talking about. Okay. So the next thing about playing in parts is to keep it simple. Keep it simple, because if everyone is playing a simple complimentary part, when you put those simple parts together, then it makes a beautiful, cohesive and intricate, well crafted hole. Yeah. But if everyone is playing like random, chaotic, not simple parts, then it leads to this ugly chaotic hole. Yeah. So keep it simple. And something I tell my team often is just because you have the ability to play something complicated, doesn’t mean you should Yeah, right. Just because you can play something doesn’t mean you should play. Yeah. So you really need to, like this is so important. Play what the song needs, not what you want. Oh, sorry. I know that’s gonna hurt some feelings there. But play with the song needs, not what you want. Like another way to say is to serve the song. You’ve heard that serve the song. What is the song need? You don’t need something elaborate. You don’t need to do crazy drumbeat. You don’t need to play all over the keyboard. Sometimes, like the simplest part is the best part. Yeah, often.
Brenton Collyer 36:12 Yeah. Oh, yeah. And, you know, I actually have a couple of thoughts on this, which, which you may mentioned, but I think as this is especially difficult for skilled musicians, and, and especially for those who are like a keys player, a stringed instrument player, like a violin, or a cello, maybe a lead electric player, who typically doesn’t hold down the chords, and they’re more playing riffs, playing lines, leading lines and things. What I’ve discovered happens for some for some people, and they don’t even realize it’s really happening, especially if you’ve got good monitors. As you’re just playing the song, and you’re feeling it and you’re just loving it, the band can become your personal backtrack. And suddenly, you were just playing what’s in your heart, and you’re just jamming in in your ears. It sounds awesome. And you get caught up in this moment, where, you know, it’s like, it does sound good, but it’s not necessarily it’s not serving the song, and it could really be distracting. And so I’ve actually told guys, like, Hey, I’m sensing this is happening. You’re just hearing, you know, you’ve got everyone else kind of mixed a little bit lower. You got a good groove, a good rhythm, and you’re just shredding over it. And but that’s not what we need. Yeah,
Alex Enfiedjian 37:26 it’s not helping the song be what the song is called to be. Yeah. You know, so it really is about serving the song and not your ego or your desire just to play. Yeah, it’s like, man, I want to serve this song, I want to serve my church, and simplicity. Because when you put all the simple parts together, it’s a creative and cohesive whole, you have to learn to be okay with how your part fits into the hole, and what you’re contributing to the hole, not what you’re playing. But what are you contributing to the hole. And that’s what you need to start thinking about. So an example of this is, so I lived in Russia for two years, and I met and married my wife there. And so we watched some Russian TV. And last week, we were watching the Russian version of the voice. And this is
Brenton Collyer 38:14 like in every country. Yeah.
Alex Enfiedjian 38:17 It’s called goalless. Oh, yes. good singers. They have great singers. Very Yeah. And so I was watching for one song, the string section. I mean, these are like the best string players in Russia, probably that they hired. And they’re sitting there for the whole song. They’re playing one note, while on the one count of each bar. Well, so 123412 like, that’s all played for the whole song. And you know what? It made the song awesome. Yeah, like, because they were playing what the song was, what the song needed, right? It didn’t need any more than that. But it also didn’t need any less than that. Yeah. And that’s, that’s the exact part that the song needed. And so that’s exactly what they played. So again, simpler guys is better play what the song needs, not what you want.
Brenton Collyer 39:12 Or think of it this way, don’t be afraid. If your part is boring. Yes, I’ve been here. You know, maybe at the beginning of this conversation, we said, think of a part for every section of every song, you know, you may have begun to get overwhelmed. Like I’ve got to come up with these masterful lines that are sometimes the part is you strum one chord. You know, sometimes, like you were describing with the strings, sometimes the part is a simple strum pattern. Sometimes the part is a simple, you know, drum groove. And what I have to remember is when someone’s worshiping God, enjoying the music we’re leading, no one has got your guitar on solo with some headphones, just listening to you and thinking, Man, he’s playing a really boring Part, you know, but you are, you know, if you in your monitor, you probably got yourself turned up the loudest and, and you’re thinking man, this part is just so simple just so but you know if it’s what’s right for the song, and more often than not, it is just you got to sacrifice that just do it don’t just enjoy all that brain space that’s freed up by playing the most basic thing worship God, you know, join your team and enjoy it.
Alex Enfiedjian 40:27 That’s super good. And so be bored is and the kind of a way that I put it to my team is to make each note count or make each hit count like your drummer, like, make sure it needs to be there. Yeah, and if it does play like you mean it? Oh, yeah, no, like play put your heart and soul into that note, at that point in the song. Yeah. But if it doesn’t need to be there, don’t play.
Brenton Collyer 40:51 I know Eric Clapton is notorious for that concept. He said that many times just in his guitar playing so well. Great minds think alike. Yeah, there you go. You and Eric.
Alex Enfiedjian 41:01 So and moving, moving into a similar subject, then, of not being afraid to play boring stuff or not being afraid to not play. That’s the next point. It’s okay to not play what it’s okay. Because if you play like we talked about in the beginning, if you play your insert for the whole song, it’s boring. And you’re actually robbing your instrument of its special moment to shine. Yeah, right. Instead of adding something special to the song when it comes in, it’s actually taking away from the whole song because you’ve just been strumming and droning on roll whole time. Because, like, if you listen to some albums, there, there will be an electric guitar that comes in on the last chorus. Yeah, and all it does is it strums these huge hole notes. Yeah, right. When that last chorus comes in, you’re wondering, dang, why does that cause lift so much? Yeah, it because it’s because that guy sat out for the whole song. And then he came in when it needed to come in. I was like, Oh, man. Yeah, but so but he was patient to not play when he didn’t need to be Yeah, right. So David, Santa Steven, who actually kind of inspired me to start this podcast. He’s a great blogger and a great podcaster. If you don’t know his stuff, like you need to get on it just Google for beyond Sunday podcast. He’s amazing. He wrote an article recently. And he said, a great musician is always more aware of other musicians, then himself, well, his only place is within the pocket of what the rest of the band is creating. He listens more than he plays, he adds only when it contributes to the feel of it. Thank you, David, Santa Steven, that article is amazing. Everybody should go to his blog, as of January 2015. And check it out. I can’t remember what it’s called. But something about something all great musicians do. But that that article talks a lot about what we’re talking about here. So and
Brenton Collyer 42:57 that’s really the difference between a player in a real strong kind of professional level player, you know, you know, lots people can play. Not a lot of people can listen and wait. And you know, and that really makes the difference. I think, yeah,
Alex Enfiedjian 43:13 a lot of people can play and not a lot of people know, when they should play. Yeah. Or what to play. Like, yeah, like, they’re listening to the context of the whole song. And they’re saying, Do I need to be in here? No, I should come in here. And they know what to play at that moment. Yeah. And that’s your right. That’s what makes a good musician, versus a mediocre musician. Yeah. So okay, that was a lot of content. And I don’t want to keep everybody here too long. There’s not really anything else we want to cover. But I do want to just kind of go through the main points again, one is start thinking in part, okay, just start thinking in a new paradigm. Two is start learning to listen, go and listen to your favorite bands, favorite albums, and just pick apart and analyze what they’re doing, and why each section of the song feels the way it does. The third thing is know your role, know what your instrument is capable of doing and what it should be doing. And don’t try to do what other instruments are made to do. Play complementary rhythms, so that you’re not all doing the same thing, thinking repeatable patterns, because they’re powerful, and catchy. And they help add layers and textures, to your music. And then keep it simple. Don’t be too busy. Because there’s a lot of you make sure your slices of the pie is small, and then be okay with not playing. The only other thing I would really add is just like, give it space, let the song breathe. Yeah. And just enjoy the music. Let the song be what it’s called to be have a vision for it. And if your worship leader doesn’t have a vision for it, ask them and maybe they can start thinking about that. So any concluding thoughts, my friend,
Brenton Collyer 44:57 man, all of that is so good and I’m just excited for the worship leaders of worship musicians who are going to listen to this podcast and take this and start implementing it. I mean, it’s just it will make an immediate difference in your team. And so this is great. Thanks for doing this, Alex.
Alex Enfiedjian 45:13 Yeah, thanks for being with me. Alright, everybody. Thank you. And we will talk to you soon. All right, so super helpful and practical stuff there for you and your team. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with people you think it might be useful to whether that’s your team members, maybe it’s your worship leader, maybe it’s the worship leader down the road, just share this content so that more churches can be blessed by it. And we would love for you to leave a five star review for us on iTunes, it would take you about 35 seconds to do that. That would be super helpful for us to get the content into more people’s ears and minds and hearts. And also if you want to connect with us on Twitter, it’s at worship team pod at worship team pod pod. All right. Well, God bless you this week as you lead worship and lead your church to focus and fix their hearts and minds on Christ and sing to him loudly and gladly and boldly. God bless you and we will be back with another episodes.
Three years later…this is super helpful!! Thanks for your good thoughts.
-Jake, worship director at Free Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, CA
Thanks Jake! God bless you! I checked out your site. Looks like a really great church! Blessings on you as you lead God’s people to love Him more deeply! -alex