Musicians from Mars, Vocalists from Venus
There is a book that was first released during my childhood called, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. I never read the book. I think I was 12 when it was first released. While I am sure it was a great book, my hunch is that it was written with a simple premise in mind: men and women are different. Men and women act differently, have different tendencies, and even speak different languages (in a sense). Their differences are so great that it’s almost like they come from two different planets.
I think that idea is helpful. I also think it could be helpful to us as Worship Leaders. Though, to be clear, I am not talking here about the difference between men and women. I am talking about the difference between Musicians and Vocalists. Musicians are from Mars, Vocalists are from Venus.
For years I operated as a Worship Leader who did not quite understand this dynamic. I could sense it in my gut, but I didn’t have the clarity to actually name it, and to act accordingly.
Practically speaking, I would conduct Worship Team rehearsals with both species (Musicians and Vocalists) on the stage. I assumed this was what everybody did. In fact, it probably was what everybody did. But it was a source of constant frustration.
At certain points of the rehearsal, I would stop to talk with the electric guitarist about a certain part. The Vocalists must have heard me speaking in another language, perhaps Musicianese, and they assumed it was a great time to start talking with one another… in their mother tongue of Vocalish… into the microphones. Not cool.
Of course, at other points of the rehearsal, I would stop to talk with the Vocalists about a particular word or phrase or harmony idea. The Musicians must have heard me speaking in Vocalish, and took it as an opportunity to work on their musical chops. While I was trying to speak with the Vocalists, I would hear the electric guitar solo, the opening drum roll, a piano scale, and the bridge chord progression for the acoustic guitar… all being played… at the same time… through the system. Not cool.
Why did this happen? I believe that it primarily happened because Musicians are from Mars, Vocalists are from Venus.
Yes, I could demand everyone’s attention and lecture about how rude it is for the Vocalists to talk amongst themselves while I am helping the Musicians, or for the Musicians to play the instrument at their fingertips while I am talking with the Vocalists. But honestly, I am going to have the same conversation in 10 minutes… and next week… and the week after that.
There is a better way! After years of trying to figure out how to most effectively navigate through the dynamic differences of Musicians and Vocalists, I realized that it was best to just split them up.
I asked one of my best Vocalists if they would be willing to lead the Vocalists through the songs for the first 45 minutes of our rehearsal in another room at the church. During that first 45 minutes of rehearsal, they would listen to the songs together, work on harmonies, learn the words, and speak all of the Vocalish that their hearts desired. Meanwhile, I was in the sanctuary working with the Musicians. During that same first 45 minutes of rehearsal, we would work through the songs, talk through parts and progressions, and speak to one another in Musicianese without alienating our Vocal counterparts.
After that first 45 minutes, we would come together for a 15 minute devotional / prayer time, and then spend 30 minutes rehearsing the songs with Musicians and Vocalists on stage as if it were Sunday morning. This strategy worked so well, you could say it was out of this world!
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).