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Arranging a small band at my church

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by LazyGecko, Jul 18, 2014.

  1. LazyGecko


    Nov 19, 2013
    So the young adults group at my church only has a guitarist/singer as far as worship music goes. I know of a couple of guys that would be interested in helping out (me on bass, my friend on drums, and this other guy I know on electric guitar). I would like to get a bit of a band going here but before I do, I would like to make sure we all know what we are doing. Do you guys have any thoughts or ideas for arranging songs for a group like this? I'll take any and all advice for what you guys think would be helpful.
  2. hobbes1


    Nov 3, 2006
    In my past experience playing at church, the band leader picked a variety of songs that he thought relevant to the coming sermon, picked the key (usually the original, recorded key), everyone got a copy of an mp3 or youtube link for the song as well as (often) a lead sheet. most of us prepped beforehand although there were some who showed up cold to learn the songs at rehearsal.
    What made this work well for us was a STRONG band leader who picked the songs and the key and got the lead sheets/sheet music for everyone. Good luck!
    MTFD24 likes this.
  3. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Style of music doesn't matter that much.
    What is fairly common is to ask all the members of the band to bring in songs they either know or would like to learn so you can start building a set list.
    I use a DropBox account and invite the band members so we have a place to share those things we need. A rehearsal schedule, a gig schedule, a song list, and some sort of music sheet for each song and, if possible, a recording of the song.
    The song list should come from the first exercise. Once everyone has given you their songs, get togehter and go over the proposed list to come up with a working list. Go through the songs and get a buy in from each member. If anyone finds it too difficult or really hates the song or for another reason, drop it from the list. We once dropped Jesus Just Left Chicago because we were playing the bible belt a lot and didn't want somebody getting upset about Jesus in a rock and roll song, regardless of the fact the lyrics are very pro Jesus.

    Build your music library from the list. Find recording you can download or at least a link to where the song can be found. It is important the entire band is learning the same arrangement in the samekey. Some people will need noted charts, some will want tabs, and some will be fine with lyrics and chord changes. Don't impose here, accomodate your band mates. Each of us has different ways of learning.

    All band members should use their own time to learn the songs on their own. Rehearsals are for putting the parts together and getting the band tight. You should also map out the vocals if there are any harmonies and have vocal only rehearsals accompanied by either a piano (best case) or an acoustic guitar. All other instrument should be left alone. Sit in a circle facing one another and work out the vocal arrangment. Then put it to music.

    Good luck to you.
    MTFD24 likes this.
  4. LazyGecko


    Nov 19, 2013
    Hey guys thanks a lot :)
  5. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    OK in addition to the good advice above here's some pointers...

    1 You are leading or assisting in the leading of worship and the songs are going to be picked on what 'works'. If you are wailing away and the congregation stop singing or are playing angry birds etc, it's not working. The songs have to bear some relation to a well known version, some bands copy note for note, sound for sound, this isnt needed but the congregation must be able to recognize the song.

    2 The rehearsal is to rehearse the songs together. The band leader should deal with anyone not familiar with at least some of the songs. I've been to rehearsals where half the time was spent listening to the CD we were mailed weeks before.

    3 We mentioned a band leader and there should be one. Ideally it's the worship leader but sometimes they are not musicians (they might operate a guitar...). Keys must be set by the band leader and in the worship leaders range. You (collectively)are not there to play open strings or easy keys. As mentioned the band leader sorts the charts. I use tab a lot to learn songs but IMHO it's useless for worship. Use chord charts and the band leader should run through some basic theory if needed.

    4 Worship bands recruit from a limited source and you are always going to get a mixed ability group, work around this. It's attitude that counts, if everyone is on time, sets up quickly, knows the songs and doesnt noodle between songs; even if you can barely play this is an improvement on most of what I have experienced.

    5 This is a pro gig, I dont want to get all religious but this is important. Be professional.

    6 Anyone who is in any kind of 'ministry' should live to Christian principles.
    MTFD24, Art Araya and hobbes1 like this.
  6. hobbes1


    Nov 3, 2006
    You are welcome. Of course, Gravedigger and I have each outlined the two classic ways bands work (or don't work :)
    Benevolent Dictatorship or Democracy. Bear in mind that in worship music, the Pastor/Priest/Preacher is often involved with the band leader in music selection. Having a band democracy may not work well, if that's the case.
  7. LazyGecko


    Nov 19, 2013
    Haha yeah since we haven't really gotten together as a group to figure this out I'm guessing right now the either me and/or the drummer might be band leaders since we have the most experience in bands and can figure stuff out on our own

    Edit: We also play more than one instrument so we are versatile too lol
  8. BrentD


    Jun 7, 2008
    Lansing, MI
    I don't mean to sound jerky but I'd make one person the leader. If the drummer wants to be a big help that's fine. But someone has to be the one who can put their foot down on some issues. No sense in getting band drama going in a worship setting.
    hobbes1 likes this.
  9. LazyGecko


    Nov 19, 2013
    The reason I said me and/or him is because we have nearly the exact same views on how to operate things in a band among other things. Sorry for the confusion.
  10. E_3


    Aug 12, 2013
    1. The band leader MUST get the music out on time to the rest of the band. MP3 or youtube link.
    2. Rehearsal is to rehearse not to hear the music for the first time
    MTFD24 likes this.
  11. DavidWann


    Jul 26, 2013
    This you need to remember. Often songs are picked to go with the message. There also may be times that the pastor likes a song but may want to change some of the words.
  12. praisebass


    Aug 20, 2009
    My input:

    Make sure every one has a pencil on the music stand

    Have the drummer and bass work out the groove before you get too far into working out the song

    Let everyone know the biggest sin is stepping on the vocals - NEVER step on the vocals

    People tend to overplay on general. Remind everyone they are not paid by the note

    100% rule - instrumentalist (except for the rhythm section - if you have 2 guitarist, they each get 50% of the sound. If you have 2 guitars and a keyboard, they each get 33%.

    All IMHO, YMMV & other disclaimers apply. However, these are just the lessons that I have learned and believe to be foundational.
  13. Work with the pastor - talk about the sermons and find songs that support the message and email everyone involved the charts and MP3 files every Monday morning so they're prepared for a midweek rehearsal before each Sunday service.

    PS: you all will probably need to learn about 5-6 New songs every week.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2014
  14. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Just a couple of thoughts - first would be to talk this over with the pastor, and with the rest of the group. Would you be playing regular Sunday morning worship, or at some sort of a young adults' meeting on a weeknight, or what? What's the church's approach on music in general? Would you need to get the pastor's/elders'/deacons'/whoever's approval of songs? Would the church provide practice space, and if so, when and under what conditions? Would you need adult supervision? Would someone need a key or an alarm code? Does the rest of the YA group WANT a worship band? Do they agree on what kind of music they would want? Would the pastor/leadership need to interview the other band members and approve them, or can they just jump in informally?

    One of the things I've realized in the few months I've been playing on a worship team is that it moves FAST. In a cover band, you take a couple of months, learn a repertoire of 40 tunes or so to start, get them tight, then go out and gig those 40 tunes and whatever more you add to the repertoire over time. In a church setting, it's different music every week, though eventually some songs circulate back around. Often you only get the music (or find out the topic you're picking tunes to match) a few days before you have to perform them. Of course, if you're not playing sunday worship, and if you don't need to coordinate with a sermon theme, you've got more flexibility - you could take a few weeks to practice and get a dozen or more tunes up to speed before you perform for the group, and probably just play four or five at a time.

    The rest of it is standard band management - set standards for rehearsal, distinguish rehearsal from practice, establish how decisions will get made, etc.
  15. kbakerde

    kbakerde Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2012
    Know this because it will greatly affect the approach to the band. If this is a regular Sunday or weeknight then you are doing what hrodbert is talking about. It's less songs, but it's every week something new, something different. Quickly learning songs is a must. The other huge factor is being very careful about the song selection for this kind of band. This is something my band has talked about and struggled with at times, that on Sunday morning we are to be professionals, however Sunday Morning is not a performance. It is not a show it is leading a congregation in worship and the songs should reflect that. This pushes a lot of even good Christian music into the cannot play pile. It needs to be songs the congregation can sing and find meaningful.

    However, if you are talking about playing a show Sat night once a monh for the teens on the weekend, then you are into much more of a standard cover band mentality. Actually, now that I say that, I kinda want to do that at my church sometime here. Hmmm.
  16. LazyGecko


    Nov 19, 2013
    Hey guys thanks for all the great info. Now as far as putting together songs from the ground up do you guys have any advice to offer? I noticed someone on here said that the bassist and drummer should put a groove together before the song which is interesting because my drummer friend and I always bounce ideas off of each other haha
  17. What ever way you structure all this remember that it has to be done again next week.
    1. Someone needs to pick out the songs.
    2. Those songs need to fit the service, i.e. in our case three up beat songs to start the service, then a prayer song - slow and quite - then an offering song little more tempo and then the closing song is fast and up beat to send them out into the World. That selecting process repeats itself every week. Our drummer keeps a database file on this so we do not have to re-invent a schedule of songs each week, i.e. twelve to fourteen weeks down the road we can use this song order again.
    3. Then the selections have to be given to the Audio Power Point person so the lyrics can be displayed.
    4. Someone needs to be in charge of getting all this information to the members prior to rehearsal.
    5. Then someone has to gather the sheet music and get the old music back into the folders.
    6. Then someone has to be the band leader. I prefer a dictatorship as I do not have time for a committee to decide all the above - over and over each week.
    7. Then there is practice one night during the week (Wednesday) and an hour and a half before the Sunday service.
    8. And let's not forget that someone has to be in charge of the sound equipment. Not just the bands', but, the whole sound system for the church.

    To pull it off everyone has a job to do. Mine is to know the music, be there on time and play the music the way the director wants it played. I then come back in sometime later and file the old music so it is ready for the next time we need that song.

    Good luck finding the people you can count on each week.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2014
  18. mtb777

    mtb777 Serving bottom for the Most High. Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2010
    Sunny South Florida
    All this stuff is really good and thoughtbprovoking. I'd start with 20 core songs that are popular with everybody and add 1 new song a week maximum. We just did a service a few weeks ago with. 3 new songs. 1 everybody knew very well. They sang like crazy. The next was very upbeat and nobody really knew it so there were lots of faces mouthing words staring at the monitors reading. The next was another really beautiful song by our singers favorite and we nailed it and it sounded great but it was a performance and no one participated really. They clapped along but didn't really even try to mouth the words and that was that. We finished the set with Revelation Song and everyone was singing their hearts out, eyes closed and arms raised. Four songs. Four results. Think about why you choose what you play and who you are playing it for, and to whom. See what your audience reacts to and what gets them going. You can slip in a performance song or you can take an easy song and make it your own and have fun with it and get everybody going and get them focused on God. Think about volumes too. Loud enough where they are not afraid to sing out, but not so loud they cannot hear themselves, not so quiet they are self conscience. Draw to God, not you. Play we'll enough that they don't think about what you are playing while playing your best for the song and for God.
    MTFD24 likes this.
  19. jefff100

    jefff100 Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2010
    Central NJ
    Some very solid advice above. As others have said, much will be dependant on what the goals of the band are.

    For me and the the band I am associated with, it all came together very informally. We never set out to "form a band". I started attending this church and they had one guy on guitar, a teenage girl on flute who was there about once a month and the church organist played keys for thier version of praise music. After a few weeks I got to chatting with the guitar player, we became friends and within a few months we had two of us on guitar. Little by little our band grew like that. Its been almost 10 years now, people come and go but thats the nature of things like this.

    Keep it light enought that you and all the rest are having a good time. I dont think too many of us are getting paid for these efforts (yes, I know some do), it should be enjoyable in any case. Music is the type of thing that if you dont enjoy it, you wont do it well, and then everyghing is downhill from there.
  20. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I am assuming that as a start up you are not backing a mass choir, maybe a single singer/guitarist. So in many cases you will not be able to reproduce the iconic version be it Nashville CCM or one of the unique styles of our various ethnic groups. Basically as a base position let the singer/songwriter type handle the chords and the electric guitarist should think like BB King. Play as a counter point and answering the vocal line. Depending upon the skill of the guitarist the bass may go beyond roots to a repetitively moving bass line or even a random walking bass line.

    Have you seen Victor Wooten's Groove Workshop where he describes how to get the audience to clap for a soloist? Do something similar in your verses, lay down a light accompaniment to bring the vocals up. On the chorus and bridge bring up the bands energy as the lyrical hook may be set in the audience on those repeats. Then there are the easy tricks like the band holding out during the first verse or the frontman/worship leader calling for vocals only during choruses

    I know I am a heretic on this issue but I think the well known version is more of an aid for the band so they can all practice to a YouTube video then it is for the audience. There may be some members who listen to religious music only and suggest songs to the church, but they tend to already be in church music ministries. Except for a few well known songs like Christmas carols or Amazing Grace, in their favorite artist version, most of the music selections will be heard for the first time by their home church choosing that song for the weekly services. And that home church version will become their iconic version unless they liked it so much that they will go buy a version of the song after the fact, It will be with repeated performances that the audience, most of whom will be weekly attendees, will pick up on the song. A song done in a popular musical style, liked by that local assembly is at first little bit easier to get into then a song heard while reading the words in an hymnal when only a small percentage of an audience can read music

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