Nov 02, 2007
A lot of fine books and articles have been written on how to be an effective worship leader. Many seminars are available that address the spiritual and practical aspects of leading worship, but if you are a brand new worship leader or a nominal musician you may find that getting your team to reproduce your vision isn't covered in the books and seminars. You may find it frustrating because you don't know how to communicate what's in your head into terms the musicians can understand. Knowing the language is essential in any type of communication and knowing the language of the musician, performer or technician is no exception. Becoming a “chief musician” means that you have a grasp of all things musical so that you can easily communicate with your team. Becoming a chief musician doesn't mean you'll be an musical expert, but that you know enough to be an efficient team leader.
It takes experience to learn the various ins and outs of the world of music, and so I've come up with a few “off the wall” ideas that will help you learn to communicate, guide,instruct and have fun. In fact, no matter what your skill level is, there's probably something here that will benefit you.
Play the drums. There's nothing worse than a musician without rhythm. Whether you use drums in your church or not, gaining a solid sense of rhythm is the best thing you can do for yourself musically. Take a few drum lessons. Learn the names of the drums. Learn the names of the different rhythm patterns. The more you know about drumming the easier it will be for you to communicate all things “rhythm” to your whole band. And please, use a metronome.
Run the board. If you're blessed with the opportunity to have a Sunday off and if you're double blessed with a sound technician who's not territorial, have the tech give you a hands on crash course in running the sound board. Tell him you want to understand what he goes through every Sunday morning and you'll have an ally for life.
Be a roadie. If you know someone in a local band (or even if you don't) volunteer to help them load in, set up and load out. You'll learn a lot about equipment, road jargon, performing and probably a few things you'd rather not know, but, who knows, you might even discover your next bass player.
Read reviews. Nobody knows how to communicate musical things better than a music critic. Find a library or bookstore with a coffee shop and peruse the reviews of the available music magazines. Look for reviews that focus on the music rather than the social life of the band. Don't limit yourself to a certain genre. I used to take an afternoon to sit in the library and read Christianity Today and then Rolling Stone. Weird, I know.
Discover jazz. My first jazz listening experience was not a pleasant one. I had stumbled on “free” jazz and I thought I would never understand it. Please, start somewhere a little more accessible. An appreciation of jazz can help you hear things you've never heard before. It'll also help you navigate those pesky Tommy Walker songs. If you play an instrument, start with recordings by artists who also play that instrument. The book Jazz For Dummies is a good place to start as is Ken Burn's Jazz documentary.
Genre hop. Try listening to a genre of music that you may not be familiar with. Live with it for awhile.
Instrument hop. The next time you go to one of those church music seminars, instead of going to all the worship leader sessions (like you always do), go to a session for an instrument that you know little about. A few drum sessions would be good if you're taking drum lessons like I mentioned above. If you're a multi-instrumentalist, go learn something about lighting.
I hope that these suggestions are not only useful, but that they get you thinking about other things that you can do to shore up your musical knowledge base. A “chief musician” is always learning.