As a guitarist would you always still play the bass notes denote in music if a bass player is present? For example chords like:

D/F#   D/C#   D/G

Would you just strum a D? Or would you always play the F#, C# and G too?

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Good thoughts! I like the idea of giving everyone prominence at different times which is a product of good arrangements and accommodating spirits, haha. You're right about the lack of time spent practicing. But I'd rather take what I can get than mention it too often. People should be motivated (and able) to give their time by their choice. Musical skills are secondary in the large scheme of things. in church. And it'd be great when we can identify key aspects of a song to sustain, a sort of goal-setting for each item on set. 

Coming back to the OP, I was thinking that voicings like D/C#, F/A, or 11th Chords are best played with the bass note included, when on rhythm guitar anyway. Otherwise it's quite a trick to try to avoid playing the usual root note which would clash with the bass if played instead when you play the normal voicing, if that makes sense. Adding a different bass note even more than an octave apart will take away from the clarity of the bass player's note. It's different for lead instruments which can pick two or three notes out of each chord to play.


Wulf Forrester-Barker said:

Learning covers is an important strand in musical education but playing what is on the original recording won't necessarily work - it can be thwarted by your inability to follow your line but also if other parts are missing or not played accurately. The two important things for successfully playing in a covers band (I've done that several times and recommend it as a way to develop your skills) are learning to negotiate a collection of parts which represent the song with the available musicians and putting in enough time for private practise and group rehearsal.

In a typical church setting, not only are you often working with a very different line-up to any recorded versions you have to hand but there is a real shortfall in time invested. Playing in a worship group is different to performing in a band but an extra sprinkle of time would probably help and don't forget to remind people to think about not only what key things someone needs to play to carry the song (for example, perhaps there is a distinctive riff, even if it ends up being played on a different instrument) but also what needs to be left out to allow space for each other (for example, back to this discussion, leaving some room at the bottom for the bassist).

Look to allow every one involved a chance to shine, which will go some way towards creating an environment of mutual respect where good relationships can thrive.

Wulf

I was thinking abut this thread this morning in the shower, and realised that since being back at our present church we've not had a single music/worship practice. I've put in practice at home to learn new songs so that the chord sequence isn't too unfamiliar, but we simply don't rehearse.

Whoa!! How many in your team? :) 

Toni said:

I was thinking abut this thread this morning in the shower, and realised that since being back at our present church we've not had a single music/worship practice. I've put in practice at home to learn new songs so that the chord sequence isn't too unfamiliar, but we simply don't rehearse.

keyboard & guitar, plus 2 that lead worship and one who sings backing vocals. Normally there wouldn't be more than 3 out front at a time. It would be more difficult if there were 10 out front. Though having said that, I mentioned recently playing at a celebration in Oxford, where we got the songs Friday evening and just had a 30min run through before people arrived that morning, and there were about 10 of us on stage for that. It wasn't super-tight, but there were no clangers or *obvious* mistakes.

Other people who grew up through the House Church movement in the 70s may recall meetings where people would just turn up with an instrument & play. So you might have a couple of guitars, possibly trumpet, violins, flute, maybe some drums and a bass, piano, tin whistle etc. Granted songs were simple, but you'd have no idea who might play beyond a small core of people.

Toni,

'I've put in practice at home to learn new songs so that the chord sequence isn't too unfamiliar, but we simply don't rehearse'.

Yippee, done it this way for years and it's only recently we've got together and had a run through of some songs but I would not call it rehearsing. Rehearsing a song in order to do it in a certain way would absolutely deflate me and take away all of the passion I have for worship.  

We once had seventeen people who led the worship with no practice at all.  I didn't know the majority of them and it still worked.  Mind you, I reckon our sound guy did us proud and kept the balance right.

Our practices aren't strictly regulated, Quite often there'll be no practice whatsoever for a service, or someone will be absent who'll just wing it on Sunday. The only problems I'd have with no practice is I like to get the keys songs are sung in just right, and clue everyone in on keychanges, intros and exits, etc, and well that leads to a lot of pre-planned stuff. Probably would have no problem doing well known songs with no practice. Those house churches must have been really great

Typically we just run through the music before the service. The aim is to arrive about 45 minutes early and that's generally more than ample to get set up, touch on the familiar songs and put a bit more time into things that are new. It does work reasonably well, means you are rehearsing the songs with the combination of players who will be at the service and keeps experienced musicians involved who would probably give up if they were also expected to turn up to weekly rehearsals on a separate evening.

However, it falls a long way short of the weekly 3 hour rehearsals I put in with my main band and, whereas that project is definitely helping me grow musically, I wouldn't say the church 'gig' particularly stretches my musical skills most of the time (and relies on personal practise for the things that are more tricky for me). Also, I do wonder if it inhibits less confident musicians from stepping in?

I can busk off a chord chart, switch between chord styles and make most of my flubbed notes sound like they were clever, intentional choices; I have the experience to deliver reasonably tasteful arrangements on the fly. Do we provide a setting to answer fundamental questions like the one being discussed here though?

Wulf

Gosh, I'm surprised!  I had no idea so many worship teams get by on so little group rehearsals.  Our team practices

every Monday evening (almost), and then we break down the set-up so the gym is free for use.  Saturday it is all

set-up again, then we do a run-through Sunday morning before the service.  The whole affair is quite time consuming

and a big commitment.  Of course not all of us are there all the time, people do take vacations and such...

But we do get along great and believe in giving our best to God.  I guess it is working, our service has grown

substantially over the years and we have grown as individuals as well.

Less is more, certainly when there is more going on elsewhere in the arrangement. Depending on the style, different pairs may be more appropriate (for example, various combinations of root and fifth for a rock feel or to allow someone else to define the harmony) but they can help a lot in making the whole ensemble sound better.

BTW, having played more electric guitar than bass at a run of recent services, I think my honest answer to this question should be "sometimes". I find myself using the D, G and B strings a lot for chords - mainly simple major / minor triads although there are some neat tricks which not only sound good but also make my job easier, such as playing what I'd normally call D/F# (F#, A, D across those strings) while the bassist hits a B, creating a Bm7 chord between us.

Wulf

Greg Newhouse said:

A new concept (to me, anyway) I've been working into my daily scale studies is drilling with the 3rd and 7th of each 7th chord in the scale. It turns out to be a 5th interval of the appropriate type (in modes of the major scale: diminished for dominant 7th chord, perfect everywhere else) The ear identifies the type of chord by mostly the third and seventh, so playing them while comping in a larger ensemble can clean up the sound, as I've heard, for example, in the playing of Lenny Breau. Of course I am rarely using these jazz comping concepts in most modern worship selections, but I employ them from time to time in my own solo arrangements. So far I've looked at several types of inversions without repeated voices (drop chords, Joe Pass), rootless chords, 3rd-7th interval (Lenny Breau), and melodic playing with thumbed octaves (Wes Montgomery). One of these days I'll have to take some lessons so I can learn to play electric guitar properly in modern worship without "showing off". ;)

I have often compared the complexity of worship music from the 70s-90s and even sometimes hymns to today and noticed the music was often of a much higher standard. But I guess there are a few reasons why we might simplify church music. In my opinion, the majority of modern pop and rock is simple too, and it has influenced modern worship. 

Greg Newhouse said:

One of the less beneficial side effects of modern worship music and this profusion of simple layers, to my estimation, is that playing only modern worship music equips one to play only modern worship music. There's little musical depth, for guitarists especially, to progress beyond a fairly simplistic proficiency. Is this intentional, or an unintended side effect of instrumental "humility"? That we won't be proud if we don't know any better? I'm sure there are strong opinions on this.

Strong opinions? Yes, I guess you could say that ;-)

In my experience, church bands are often largely made up of people who would be at church anyway even if they weren't in the band and who are also busy doing lots of other things outside the band. They might spend a fair amount of time worshipping with music outside of the "performances" but they might not spend that much time working on the details of the music and certainly a very low rehearsal / performing ratio compared the average gigging band.

Saving graces are that some of the team are probably seasoned musicians from other contexts and, well, the wonder of living under saving grace. However, given that a key task is leading and supporting a congregation who probably don't turn up to ANY rehearsals, it isn't surprising that the songs that stick tend to be relatively simple and not particularly musically challenging.

It would be fantastic to bring together worship music with commitment and creativity to produce much richer music although I recognise that this wouldn't necessarily be the best approach for leading the aforesaid congregation.

Wulf

Greg Newhouse said:

One of the less beneficial side effects of modern worship music and this profusion of simple layers, to my estimation, is that playing only modern worship music equips one to play only modern worship music. There's little musical depth, for guitarists especially, to progress beyond a fairly simplistic proficiency. Is this intentional, or an unintended side effect of instrumental "humility"? That we won't be proud if we don't know any better? I'm sure there are strong opinions on this.

I think one could also say that singing choral music tends to equip one to play only choral music.  Jazz, jazz.  If one is put in the position of playing in a worship band, one should work to learn how to best contribute in that situation.  Virtuoso playing by one individual can be distracting if the goal is to provide a musical ground for singing by untrained singers.

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