Sometimes, the music gets in the way of worship. Sometimes, the best thing a band can do for the worship experience is to stop what they’re doing – either partially, or completely.
In my last two decades as a worship leader, I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing musicians. They are professional, capable, and have a lot to offer to any moment that something special is needed.
And executing a song? They nail it – the pushes, the rises, the falls, the musical elements – like masters.
I also have many peers who are simultaneously worship leaders and producers. They know how to build a song, sonically, from the ground up. They can arrange and paint that same song in many different ways, and can shift styles like most of us change clothes.
But the music can get in the way of the worship. A professional musician can miss reading the moment. And worse yet, a worship leader can fall into executing the songs instead of leading the worship.
The vocals in a worship band are an instrument, and when played well, musically, and in intentional connection with the rest of the music the band is making – can lift the worship experience in a local church to some beautiful heights. Here are 10 Best Practices for Worship Vocalists I’ve gleaned from many effective leaders, arrangers, and producers over the years that will help take the vocal instruments in your band to the next level.
These best practices are in no particular order, and are not meant to be exhaustive, but all of them are a bit of a “constellation” of good listening and heart habits that work together. They also don’t all focus on singing, as worship has to do with both heart and skill expressed in a band environment.
The Fraction Principle is, perhaps, the most important band-arranging principle any musician, worship leader, or arranger can implement immediately to make their music start sounding 100% better.
I first heard about The Fraction Principle from my master arranger/co-writing buddy, Bruce Ellis. He spoke in terms of the “Layering Principle” (which includes The Fraction Principle, plus other ideas on building a band’s sound from the ground up).
Then I heard Brian Doerksen, well-known worship leader and songwriter, speak of a similar idea he called The Fraction Principle.
Whatever you want to call it, this is THE game changing idea for worship leaders arranging bands, and musicians attempting to make beautiful music.
Like many of my fellow worship leaders, my mentors are quite diverse. From John Wimber, to Robert Webber, to N.T. Wright, to Jeremy Begbie, to many of today’s worship leaders, all have encouraged me to both celebrate, and examine, the finer details of worship leadership. It was Socrates who said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe, with many of my peers, that “unexamined worship is not worth leading.” Scary quotes, like the one below from Robert Webber, makes me want to pull out a magnifying glass and do some hard analysis.
In this quote below, Robert Webber, famed ancient-future worship influencer, makes a bold statement about contemporary worship. If it’s still true, we have some intentional work to do.
Many continue to ask me about this post, below, so this week I’m reposting it. Forward it to your bandmates if it it helps. For me, the principles here continue to be validated by my ongoing experience observing great musicians at work.
The night was seamless. On the stage were 4 of Nashville’s most respected songwriters, and an acoustic house band made up of musicians in their 20s or 30s.
They were doing an intimate concert for television. From the first note played it was clear – all musicians on the stage were fantastic in their own right. It was also clear that not one audible mistake was going to occur over the course of 15-20 songs. I was in awe, watching their hands, their eyes, their gestures.
They barely looked at their chord charts – and you couldn’t even tell they were working hard. But it was what I learned next that astounded me more.