Tips for a Great Rehearsal
As with so many leadership realities, the effectiveness of a Worship Team rehearsal begins and ends with the Worship Leader. Yes, it is up to the individual Worship Team members to be practicing on their own and preparing themselves leading up to the rehearsal, but the vision for that practice time, the essential information and materials required to make that practice time effective, and the clearly communicated expectations for both practice and rehearsal all come from the Worship Leader. Leadership is not for the faint-hearted.
The first step to a great rehearsal is clear and timely communication from the Worship Leader. There are myriad ways to do this, but the point is not so much about how the information is communicated. The point, then, is about what information is being communicated, and when. Worship Team members need to know what songs they will be playing (a set list), the arrangement, chord progression, key, and tempo for each song (song sheets), what day and time they are expected be at rehearsal, and any other expectations the Worship Leader may have. Additionally, it can be helpful for the Worship Leader to provide reference tracks if there is a specific version of the song that they are trying to emulate. This can be as simple as a Spotify or YouTube link to the version of the song they want to emulate, or possibly an iPhone recording of the Worship Leader playing a lead rhythm instrument and singing the correct arrangement at the correct tempo. Communicating a monthly or quarterly overview is really helpful, but I would really encourage Worship Leaders to communicate with their team at the beginning of each week, as well.
As the Worship Leader, set clear time expectations for the rehearsal. I like to communicate with the team when I expect them to be set up and ready to begin playing music. I will say something like, “Please be set up and ready to make music by 7pm”. I will also let them know when we will absolutely be finished with the rehearsal. Typically, for me, I think a 90 minute rehearsal is perfect, so I’ll let the team know that they can expect to be finished no later than 8:30pm. One very practical way to love one another is to respect each other’s time. Worship Team member, be on time and ready to play when expected. Worship Leader, do not let the rehearsal go longer than communicated.
As the Worship Leader, communicate a clear rehearsal schedule. Let the Worship Team know how you intend to spend the 90 (or whatever amount of) minutes together. If there is going to be a break at some point, let them know that in advance. Worship Team members will be far more productive when they have a clear understanding of what is happening, and when. Ideally, I like to separate the musicians and the vocalists for the first 45 minutes of rehearsal. I like for the vocalists to be working together through the lyrics and harmony parts in a separate room, while the musicians are on the stage working through the music. Then we spend 15 minutes together doing a quick devotional (or a #ThursdayWorshipThought) and close that time in prayer. The final 30 minutes is then spent on going right through the set list just like it will be performed during the service. Of course, there is no one right way to do it, this is just my preference. However you decide to do it, clearly communicate how you intend to spend your precious time together.
Check your bad attitude at the door. I know, I know, church is supposed to be a place where you can just be real with one another, right!? Yes, it is. But Worship Team Rehearsal is not really the time or the place for a bad attitude. Like it or not, you really do have a task to accomplish. A bad attitude is not only deflating to the people around you, but it is also highly contagious. A little leaven leavens the whole lump (see Galatians 5:9). Thankfully, a good attitude is also contagious. Be the person you would want to hang out with.
Start with a song that you all know really well. You really want to start the rehearsal on the right foot! Don’t spend the first 30 minutes hammering through a song that you barely know together. Start each rehearsal with a song that you all know really well (there should be at least one of those on the set list). Start the rehearsal with some positive momentum! By starting with a song that you all know really well, you can focus more on your monitor settings. Stop after that first song to resolve any monitor issues, then begin to work through the rest of the songs, which will likely require more attention.
Use a metronome. If you are blessed as a Worship Team to use In Ear Monitors, then you should be running a metronome all of the time (during rehearsal and the service)! However, even if you use floor wedges as a Worship Team, you should use a metronome during rehearsal. There is simply no better tool for helping musicians learn how to play well together.
Schedule an extra Sound Man. Many should-have-been productive Worship Team rehearsals have been sidetracked by only having one Sound Man -or a Sound Man who didn’t show up! One super practical fix is to schedule an extra Sound Man. Personally, I prefer to have one Sound Man and one “Stage Hand” at each rehearsal. With this model, the Sound Man can stay in the Sound Booth, while the Stage Hand runs back and forth from the Sound Booth to the Stage to physically fix any issues that may arise -and we all know what kinds of issues can and will arise! With the Sound Man firmly established in the Sound Booth, the rehearsal can continue to move forward even while the Stage Hand is troubleshooting a problem with the keyboard not being plugged in to the correct channel.
Encourage one another. Far too many of our comments during a typical rehearsal are focused on what went wrong. Of course we want to fix these trouble spots, but don’t forget to highlight what went right, also! Encourage one another! Give a high five! Allow yourselves to actually enjoy being together. Each member of the Worship Team is bringing their own unique personality and skillful musicianship to the group. Together you are worshiping the LORD through music -which He created, by the way! It’s a pretty awesome gig!
End with an optional jam session. Even though rehearsal has a definite ending time, that doesn’t mean you have to be finished. The typical church Worship Team has a LOT of collective creative energy. While this reality may not be overly conducive to an effective rehearsal, it can be positively channeled elsewhere. Once rehearsal is officially over (at the predetermined and clearly communicated time), thank everyone for their investment of time and energy and let them know that rehearsal is over… but since everyone is there, and all of the equipment is set up… you may as well have a jam session! Invite anyone who is willing and able to stay and play through a few songs just for fun. This can be a great opportunity to have fun together, build camaraderie and chemistry as a Worship Team, and to just let those creative juices flow. Plus, this approach gives you ample opportunity during rehearsal to unleash epic one-liner zingers like, “Hey Jimi Hendrix, why don’t you save that solo for the jam session…”
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).