I just started as volunteer worship leader, every other Sunday morning and evening. I have a great team of people. However, I have a few minor issues that I need a bit of advice regarding.....
1) Two guitars - I play guitar, and I have an additional guitarist. I pull the music in two keys, and layer it with capos. The other guitarist has trouble following my rhythm. I've tried to suggest just picking, or filler-strums, but when we actually go live during the worship set, he forgets. The same thing with his vocals...he says he knows harmonies, but then starts singing the lead vocal during the service. Super nice person....love having an extra guitar especially without drums, but I want to use the extra guitar effectively.... any ideas...solutions, tips, etc etc etc
2) No Drums! - Going to try using a click track this week....what is the best way to incorporate this? We have a limited sound system and limit capabilities.
3) Distractions - We have a VERY short amount of time to practice on Sunday mornings. I love feedback, and ideas and people pointing out my mistakes, but what are some creative ways to keep people on track? Formats for practice...any ideas? tips?
4) Criticism - I realized the other day that I have problems with accepting criticism from some of my team, especially when I KNOW that I know more haha..... I've been playing guitar for a long time, and been singing longer than that..... I usually just brush it off and keep an open mind... but sometimes I want to be like, well, if you don't like it, then why don't YOU lead. I spend a lot of time during the week pulling music, checking keys, practicing, and I'm just a volunteer.
My advice would be to keep it simple. You should probably INSIST on playing the rhythm (drums) parts on your guitar while the second guitar plays fills/picks/arpeggios. Same goes for vocals.. he should sing harmonies. Remember that that does not mean he has to sing the entire song.. adding harmonies here and there sounds very nice. You are right on in thinking that two guitars and/or vocals fighting with each other doesn't sound good. What other instruments/vocals do you have going on?
For vocals - Me, another female singing harmonies (does awesome! no complaints here) and the male vocal/additional guitar
Additional instruments - piano, keyboard, bass, 2 guitars - Love my piano, keyboard and bass player...makes my life a little easier having people who know their stuff! =)
What about Worship Band in the Hand? Did you see see that thread?
Um. IMO 2 rhythm guitarists is always going to be difficult unless you are comfy playing in parallel with each other, basically doing the same stuff or true counterparts.
Is one of you acoustic & one electric? You already have a fullish band (piano & keyboard at the same time??!) and I'd be inclined to question the value of another guitarist playing picking and filler strums.
However I also get the impression that the band is lacking rhythmic drive from the way you highlight the lack of drums. Now a powerful guitarist can really drive a band (the Rolling Stones are basically driven by Keith Richards - the drums are just part of the backing). Is it possible that you are struggling to drive the band with your rhythm playing (especially if you're trying to sing lead and lead too) and that he is both aware of it, and unable to drive the band himself because he'll cut across what you are doing? You may need to consider whether your other player can bring something to the music that you cannot, in terms of rhythmic input, and if they have more to offer, maybe you could step back your guitar playing instead? That's a question, rather than a statement.
Sympathy for the un-appreciated preparation. Know that feeling.
Click tracks - personally I could not imagine ever wishing to have one forced on me. Songs are fluid, subject to variation at any given meeting according to mood and spirit, and replicating CDs is undesirable to me. Rubato is such a healing word ;-)
Practices - are you trying to replicate CDs? If so, Sunday morning is probably not the time to rehearse stuff, because there will never be enough time, and if there is then the band will be tired afterward. For your limited rehearsal time I would focus very specifically on intros, outros and covering a couple of verses and a chorus of each song. Just do it once, pick up any big mistakes, do a second time if necessary and move on. Say how it is going to be for the arrangement that morning and save negotiating variations/interesting changes to a mid-week evening practice.
Toni - Thanks for your response. Much appreciated! You have given me stuff to consider!
I am confident in my rhythmic ability - however, I've gotten a bit of flack from the 2nd guitarist that I change the speed of the song. I am confident that I am a better rhythmic guitarist than he is - I've been playing in bands for several years, and I've played without a drummer several times in these bands. But I thought using a click track might boost his confidence in me, or at least make things a bit more fluid or at the very least, stop the criticism. Ultimately, I would like to rely on his guitar playing more so that I can step back a bit. I think that is my goal. Having played in bands, I know gel-ing as musicians takes time, especially when there are different styles coming together, so maybe we both just need to be confident in each others abilities.
I'm hoping to add a mid-week practice soon. I personally have conflicts that keep me from having a mid-week practice, so we usually have a refresher Sunday morning, and then and more comprehensive practice Sunday evening. But I like your suggestion on practicing intros, outros etc.
Thanks again for your input - much appreciated.
Hi Emily - I wouldn't bet on your other guitarist realizing that you're better than him. That's just so unlikely on many different levels. But you know what? I'm certain that you do change the speed of the songs. Everyone does, even drummers. That's not the problem. The problem is that he's not following you and feeling your beat. Or vice versa. Who's really driving things?
When my current team started, I was one of 2-3 guitar players. Then we added piano, then bass. And singers. It was a complete mess trying to tie all that together...until God brought us a drummer. The cool thing about drums is that you don't even have to think about staying on the beat. It's a tactile thing that your body feels.
But alas, you don't have one. I have absolutely been there. There are a couple of ways to deal with this:
1) Use click tracks. I hate click tracks, but if our drummer(s) end up being out a lot or leaving, I may have to get into this. I loathe the thought and can barely find a metronome useful in my own practices. But it would beat no beat.
2) Get monitors and make sure the instrumentalists can hear each other very well. Make one of you dominant - which ever one is the best driver. Like Tony said, Keith drives the Stones. It may be that you need to drive the beat and perhaps even simplify your playing so that the beat is more clear. When I do find myself drummer-less, I end up doing a very chunk-a-chunk rhythm to keep us all together. We even turn up my feed so I'm louder and people can rely on that.
We even tried having one of our musical members drive the beat with tamborines or shakers and it never worked because he was either incapable of keeping a beat, or incapable of flexing with the rest of us. We never could make that work.
Some people do rhythm metronomically, while others feel an ebb and flow in tempo that is subtle -- not unstable, but is rounder on the edges. Even if they are basically good musicians, they can drive each other crazy. Perhaps he click track, being an "outside source", can help you find unity (I'm one of those slippy-sliders, so I hate click tracks, but they have their benefits, and one is that they force you to play together).
Becoming a leader can involve the painful process of letting go of musical ideas you favor, and of the frustration of seeing what you worked on in practice go up in smoke under the pressure of "service time." It is a natural thing for people to revert to earlier-learned behavior (strumming instead of picking, for instance) when under pressure. We hardly even realize it's happening.
Right now I'm working with a team with life schedules that prohibit any weekday practice together, so I take them separately and unite them in forty-five zippy minutes on Sunday. Scary stuff, sometimes -- I understand what you're experiencing, especially if you've been in a band, perhaps with generous regular rehearsal times.
I will "amen" Toni's great advice, and Stevo's. This is hard for me to say; but I grew up on classical music, which is not played metronomically, but by rhythmic feel. Until some very famous person decides that music doesn't need to be all that precise, and we can all relax, us "squishy feely" folks are just going to have to push on right through those cadences, if we want to have drummers for friends (and even rhythm guitarists). There could be worse problems in life!
The Lord bless you in all your endeavors.
First of all, well done for taking this position on! It's wonderful that you recognise that you have a great team of people. I did wonder how well you all knew each other though and whether some of the issues might fade away with a little more (not sure what to call it) 'fellowship'? I mean, if you were able to spend a little non-practice orientated time together, getting to know eachother and maybe talk about what you all understand about worship etc? Just a thought. Could you invite them all over for a meal sometime?
I lead a team which usually comprises 2 guitars (one rhythm, one electric), one bass, drums and another singer. (3 of us sing.) Fortuantely, I don't play an instrument. It's not that fortunate, but I appreciate the fact that my hands are free ;-) I NEVER use a pianist and only rarely a keyboard player, because guitars and keys/piano often try to do the same job. Only when the keyboard player is experienced with playing with guitars would I consider it. Your bass player should be your main rhythm-keeper, I think.
Are your team all able to see each other and you easily? Have you devised a way to communicate with the band when you are wanting to do something during worship? Can you hear each other well?
Perhaps you aren't using your Sunday nights effectively enough? I think that your Sunday night practice ought to be a time when you spend at least a little time experimenting, with no other agenda. Jamming. Doing this pays lots of dividends in terms of trust and confidence within a team. It's a good time for the vocalists to play around with harmonies etc too.
Sunday nights would be the time for constuctive criticism too. If it were me, and the team did a lot of criticising, I would explain that Sunday NIGHT, not Sunday morning, was the time for this. That way, you have all week to consider whether the criticism had any foundation, to pray carefully about it, calm down and, if necessary, make any changes which might be necessary. But then, on Sunday morning, you'd expect the team to keep their criticisms to themselves and just follow your lead. By the way, I know that it can sometimes be difficult for a female worship leader to assume leadership over a male guitarist. This has the potential for difficulty, so pray, pray, pray and then you might need to be gently, but firmly, assertive. This is part of being a leader. And praying for the members of your team is a big part of being a Worship (or any other) Leader.
I wouldn't touch a click track with a barge pole. The main use for them is to train drummers ;-)
It's a good point about the others leading. How about if you break into two teams, you leading one team one week and then others could have the chance to lead another team another week? Giving others the chance to test leadership gifts is a very good thing to do, don't you think?
Personally, I never liked Sunday morning practise, as it NEVER gives you enough time to sort out people and their parts in the team. That really should and can be done another evening or morning in the week or weekend. Then a quick run through just to make sure everyones awake lol.
Even Sunday evening after it all, just sitting them down to hear the services recording of the worship. If you don't already record it, please try it and get the team to work through the sound and parts the way the congregation hears it.
Again, sometimes less is more - try just not having two guitars, either him or you; and that can give you both a challenge in being servants.
I guess you have tried to advertise for a drummer or someone who does percusion. A percussionist can more your worship into new areas and ideas too.
Or yeah, vision, vision and of course your visions and each persons vision. It's good to find out if you are there for the God reason and not just a good reason. Did God ask you to be up there or are you just doing it because no one else was available; and you are ment to be doing another very important thing ( thats the "being really honest with yourself" time). Is all good.
We had one guy who volunteered for the job, because no one else wanted the hassle and critisism etc, but his love was for youth instead. Both worship and the youth groups suffered til he started being honest with himself and the Pastor.
Everyone else has given very good advice. Lots of friendly help here.
I have a question for you...How many songs are you guys doing? Not on a week-to-week basis, but how many songs do you have total?
I've seen situations where songs/worship teams never really gel because they're always doing something different each week. There's always a new song to learn, which can lead to frustration. Since you don't have a lot of practice time, it might be beneficial to pick 15-25 songs to use for the quarter. That way you become more familiar with each other as a band, and you're consistently practicing the same material, looking for ways to have variety within the song (picking/strumming/harmonies).
Maybe you're already doing this, or maybe this advice isn't really needed. Either way, I thought it might be applicable in your case.
God Bless the volunteers!
The advice here has been tremendous. Really taking it to heart and can't wait to implement some of the ideas. I am working creating a song base right now for the quarter - I do the morning worship every other Sunday and then the Sundays I don't do morning worship, I do the evening worship. So what I've been doing is whatever songs I do on Sunday evening, I use for the morning worship the next Sunday, except I add 2 more songs ( we only do 3-4 on Sunday nights, but 5-6 on Sunday morning) So that has been something that has been helpful and kept me from reinventing the wheel every Sunday.
Blessings and thankful for the awesome advice.