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#ThursdayWorshipThoughts 10.11.18

Practice Vs. Rehearsal


In the classic 1937 film, We Shall Dance, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers introduced the world to a song written by brothers, George and Ira Gershwin. The song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” was performed by Fred and Ginger as they roller skated together and considered their vast differences. Among other supposed irreconcilable differences mentioned in the song, the most popular line says, “You like tomato and I like tomahto… let’s call the whole thing off!”

When we approach the Worship Team conversation of “Practice” vs. “Rehearsal”, it can feel a little like “tomato” vs. “tomahto”. It’s not. This conversation is really not a mere matter of word choice or pronunciation. “Practice” and “Rehearsal” are two completely different things!

Most Worship Teams that I have personally worked with have not spent a large amount of time considering the difference between practice and rehearsal. By default, they will fall into focusing on and utilizing one or the other.

A Worship Team that wrongly focuses on “Practice” will tend to be a bit chaotic and, ironically, often ultimately unprepared for Sunday morning. A Worship Team that wrongly focuses on “Practice” looks something like this:

The Worship Team comes together for their weekly practice and many members are seeing the song list for the first time. Perhaps many members are seeing a specific song (or two) for the first time. The entire time together consists of Worship Team members trying to figure out most of the songs, being stopped at multiple points throughout the song to be directed by the Worship Leader. Direction is decided and given on the spot (though the Worship Leader would surely not admit to that), notes are furiously jotted down (sometimes), but most of the note taking was fruitless, because what was being practiced and decided will ultimately be changed during the service.

A Worship Team that focuses on “Rehearsal”, on the other hand, is in for an extremely difficult situation unless the Worship Team members have practiced on their own prior to the rehearsal. It does not work to simply call a “Practice” a “Rehearsal” and think the name change will be effective. It won’t. There needs to be a function change. A Worship Team that correctly utilizes a “Rehearsal” looks something like this:

The Worship Leader gives Worship Team members adequate advanced notice of the entire set list, and gives them any pertinent arrangement notes (key, tempo, instrumentals, etc.) in advance. There is a clear understanding among the Worship Team that “Practice” is what you do on your own, and “Rehearsal” is what happens when the Worship Team comes together for their weekly gathering prior to Sunday morning. Thus, each member of the Worship Team comes to the rehearsal prepared because they have spent adequate time practicing on their own. At the start of the rehearsal, the Worship Leader talks through each song, answers any questions the Worship Team members may have generated from their practice time (although these could have been asked and answered in advance), and highlights key parts to make sure that each member is prepared for the rehearsal. Once the arrangements are clearly understood, the Worship Team plays through each song, stopping, or even looping certain problem areas to make sure that the team is working well together. After any kinks are worked out, the Worship Team rehearses each song exactly as it was practiced. There is no need to stop the song at any point. This is a rehearsal, and it should be played exactly as it will be played on Sunday morning.

So which is better? Practice or Rehearsal? There is a comical line in the song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” in which the characters played by Fred and Ginger come to an important realization. After laying out their obvious differences, they sing, “For we know we need each other, so we better call the calling off off!.” The same is true in the epic battle of “Practice” vs. “Rehearsal”. Both are important. Both have their place. Practice is what Worship Team members should be doing on their own (with the help of the Worship Leader). Rehearsal is what Worship Teams should be doing when they come together.

For a printable version of this article, click here.

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).

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