Tools of the Trade
Imagine that I told you some guy built my house without using a tape measure. Would you believe me? I hope not. Either that is not a true story, or my house is VERY noticeable.
A good builder would never attempt to build something of significance, like a house, without having some standard form and tool for measuring. As ridiculous as it sounds for one man to build a house without a tape measure (and it does!), now imagine a whole crew of builders working on that same house without relying on the standard, accurate, and agreed-upon measurement of a tape measure. We all know that this scenario would not end well. With everyone just “eyeballing” it, the house would be a mess!
Now imagine that I told you some worship team led worship music without using a metronome. Would you believe me? Yes. You probably would.
For some unknown reason we have been fooled into believing that a metronome is something that only “beginners” or “crazy, old piano teachers” use. No! That is not true! It may surprise you to know that professional musicians use a metronome pretty much all of the time!
A metronome is used when writing a song so as to make sure all of the expressions fit into the same basic time parameters. Without it, verses, choruses, bridges, and interludes may develop their own individual feel and be disjointed when they come together as one song. One of the first things that I do when writing a song is to decide what BPM (Beats Per Minute) best fits the melody or chord progression that I am working with. While I may make adjustments to the overall BPM as I continue to write, the metronome is an important part of the process.
A metronome is used when practicing a song! I like to make sure that the entire worship team knows what BPM we will be using for each song. This can be accomplished by simply including the tempo information on the song sheet. Knowing the BPM is nearly as important as knowing the key for each song! I always try to practice in the right key and with the correct tempo. If everyone on the worship team is doing this during their own private, personal practice time, the song will really come together when we rehearse as a team!
A metronome is used when recording a song! Every time that I set up a recording session, I first enter the BPM of the song. In fact, I often do this even before I enter the key for the song (although that part is important, as well). During the recording process, musicians do not always record at the same time. Often, days (or even weeks) will go by between recording one instrument and then another. The only way to hold the song together is with a metronome (often called a “Click Track” in the recording world) that each individual musician listens to while they are recording their part. Since each musician is using the same standard, accurate, and agreed-upon measurement, each individual part will fit perfectly into the whole.
A metronome can even be used when playing live! Personally, I prefer this! (Nearly every professional touring musician prefers this, as well.) While using a metronome for playing live is not always possible in a church setting, a few small adjustments can get you on the road to better timing, for sure. Consistent personal practice with a metronome will increase the overall feel and timing of each musician, even if it is not used live. Plugging a metronome into the system and letting it come through the floor monitors during worship team rehearsal is a simple way to improve the overall feel and timing of the worship team as a group. Of course, if your worship team uses IEM (In Ear Monitors), you can have the metronome running during rehearsal and during the service without it becoming a distraction to the congregation.
The metronome is one of the simplest, most helpful, most important, and often most underutilized tools of the trade for musicians. A builder would never attempt to build a house without a tape measure in their tool belt, and musicians should never attempt to build a musical worship set without the consistent use of a metronome.
Artwork provided by my good friend, Brooke Gehman, an authentic and wonderful man of God, devoted follower of Christ, and an amazing husband and father. Brooke is a gifted Worship Leader, an incredible artist, and a Potter by trade (check out his website).