By Dwayne Moore
I’ve been traveling in itinerant ministry since I was 10 years old. I’ve literally worked with hundreds of church praise bands over the years. Below is some common wisdom I’ve gained from the school of hard knocks. Every band and tech crew is different, and every one has different levels of musical and technical skills. The tips below will help you be successful whether you are meeting a band for the very first time or leading the same band you’ve led for years. These steps can work in any situation where you find yourself having to “throw a set together” with only one hour’s worth of rehearsal.
NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Please leave a comment and add any ideas and suggestions you have.
One week out
1. Send the songs, keys and arrangements to the band days in advance. Also send lyrics to the IMAG person in the order you plan to sing them.
2. Be early and set up yourself BEFORE rehearsal begins.
3. Make friends with the sound people. Sound check yourself before rehearsal if possible. Be sure the lead vocals will be significantly louder than the band. (To effectively lead, the leader must be clearly heard.)
4. Smile and be upbeat and positive with everyone as they arrive. Introduce yourself and say their first name back to them three times if you don’t know them.
5. Exude confidence and genuine humility from your very first encounter with each team member.
6. Know your music and the arrangements for each song and how you want to transition between the songs. Practice and be well-prepared before you come to rehearsal.
7. Pray together. Then talk briefly through arrangements, transitions and order of the songs.
8. Do sound checks with each instrument for their monitor mixes.
9. Play through a portion of one of the songs; then stop and check everyone’s monitor mix to be sure they are good.
10. Work each song individually (5-8 minutes per song).
>The first priority is playing the same correct chords where those chords are to be played.
>Once the chords are solid, then be sure everyone understands necessary stops and dynamics in the song as well as the overall arrangement.
>Try not to take more than 8 minutes per song. Keep the rehearsal moving! But do it with a smile on your face. Maintain a positive encouraging attitude at all times.
Note about singers: Unfortunately the band must take priority over singers during this one-hour rehearsal. It is difficult to work with the band and the singers at the same time. If you have other singers besides yourself who are leading, it’s best to try to meet with them before the band arrives. That way you can focus on them and their parts and sound.
11. Work transitions between songs, making sure everyone knows how to end one song and flow into the next one.
>Be sure whoever is starting the next song knows and will be ready.
>You will need to remind them at least 3 times before they actually have to do it in the service. Don’t assume they will remember on their own!
12. In the last few minutes you have together to rehearse, go back and play through songs or parts of songs that need extra attention. This is important to help solidify entrances, endings and arrangements.
13. Before dismissing remind them of why you are leading and what the overall purpose is–to glorify God and lead others in worship. Be sure they know you have confidence in them to pull off the set. And emphasize the importance of remembering what they are each supposed to do.
Before the service
Your work isn’t done just because you had a good rehearsal with the band. You must now LEAD your team across the finish line by staying focused all the way through the praise set.
14. Go over the lyrics with the IMAG person.
>Be sure they know exactly what you plan to do in what order. If you think you might repeat a chorus or add a spontaneous song, tell them that so they are as prepared as possible.
>Also check the words of the songs if you can. Wrong words and delayed and incorrect slides can distract and hinder the effectiveness of the service as much or more than poorly played songs from the band.
>Don’t neglect the lyrics, sound and other tech details!
15. Right before you start, look around and smile at the team to encourage them and keep them positive.
16. Do a few last-minute reminders to whomever will start key songs along with other vital reminders especially important to the success of the set.
During the service
17. During the actual set(s), stay focused not only on the people and the Lord, but also on your team as much as possible.
18. Give them hand or head or face signals when possible about upcoming stops or dynamics or transitions. When possible, subtly cue individual band members or singers a few seconds in advance about their solos or entrances.
19. Whatever else you do, be sure to stay positive and upbeat during the set. If (when) someone makes a mistake and doesn’t do what you talked about during rehearsal, just smile and keep on going. Don’t allow yourself and your band members or tech crew to get discouraged during the set.
20. Focus your attention and the bands’ primarily on the Lord and on the people you are leading. That is your first priority during that service. Time for rehearsing has past. Now is the time to lead those people in worship. You can critique things later. Now is the time to trust the Lord to meld everything together and bring to mind what everyone on the team should remember to do.