Worship Band Needs Improvement

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Joe LeGrand, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. Joe LeGrand

    Joe LeGrand

    Mar 21, 2017
    I have been playing in my church worship band for about a year and the leader continues to send out these set list (charts) last minute sometime right before the service. No time to review songs that I may not be familiar with, run through the chord changes, overall groove or Bass riffs within the song. It has become so frustrating that I am considering leaving the group.

    Does anyone else have this problem and how do you deal with it? We have had our share of services where we sounded terrible*&**&$#@#@

    Also, we have reversal right before the service - the leader has been saying we are going to start a mid week rehearsal for a year now but it never happens. What sort of rehearsal do the rest of you have?

    Psalm 33:3 tells us to "play skillfully" to the Lord. I am very frustrated with sloppy, last minute leadership I am seeing. Little effort to improve, learn from mistakes, prepare, etc.

    Thanks in advance for your input.


    Fellow Bassist Worshiping the Lord
  2. pablotries


    Feb 2, 2018
    Costa Rica
    I had a very similar situation a couple years ago and I ended up leaving the band because leaving every performance to chance was making me too anxious. Most of us were good enough to get it to sound ok but there was always the occasional weird bar or misunderstanding when changing to another section which made me uncomfortable.
    In your position I'd ask for a list mid-week and if possible a rehearsal even the day before if mid-week is too hard to coordinate.

    Good luck!
    Joe LeGrand likes this.
  3. brocket


    Sep 12, 2017
    Coastal NC
    We do rehearsal right before the service. It isn't the best, but it works. Having a midweek rehearsal doubles the (what I'm assuming for you is also) volunteer commitment, and our worship leader is mindful of not asking too much of volunteers.

    How does the congregation respond? I need to constantly remind myself that riffs and groove don't matter if the congregation isn't being lead. What's fun and fulfilling for me might be distracting to the congregation. What's sloppy and messy to me might not even be noticed by the congregation. There is technical skill, but there is also the skill of being aware of the worship team and congregation dynamic and playing in a way that helps lead the congregation in worship. If a singer is pitchy, I'll play sustained roots to help the melodic foundation. If the drummer or guitar player is a little off, I'll do eighth or quarter notes to get everyone back on the same page. If it's a song I'm totally clueless on, maybe that song doesn't need bass... Maybe that's the skill you can find satisfaction in bringing to the band?

    How have you approached the worship leader(s) about this? Can you shoot them a text on a Tuesday and ask for the songs for the next Sunday? Maybe your contribution to the team isn't just playing, it's also stepping up and helping your leader run the team in a better way?

    I went from playing multiple services with a paid worship team at a huge church to playing at a much smaller church, so I can sympathize with most of what you're frustrated with.

    Hang in there! Or don't- that also an entirely valid option!
  4. eddie16


    Jan 11, 2005
    KC, MO
    I agree with the others here. I would have a chat with the worship leader about how they think it's going. If there's anything that they feel is lacking, you could suggest that having more time to rehearse (at home individually or mid-week as a team) would be helpful. If he thinks everything is going great, you could ask him to speak with some people in the congregation about it, or you could as well. If everyone thinks it going well, it's going to be hard to drive a significant change, and maybe you're already providing an atmosphere of worship despite how it sounds on stage.

    That said, we have a couple different worship leaders, and one of them holds an optional Saturday rehearsal. Most of our musicians are young with no kids, and enjoy the chance to improve and fellowship together, with no added burden for those with other obligations. We do get our songs by Wednesday at the latest, which has been a good amount of time for most of us to rehearse and home and be ready for early Sunday rehearsal.

    On the weeks I don't play, or the days before we get the set list, I try to practice old songs (we have some standards we come back to often), which could possibly help your team as individuals, even if the worship leader doesn't change anything (unless you guys do new songs every week).

    It's always a tough balance with church musicians, playing skillfully as you mentioned, while dealing with volunteers as well as a church staff who aren't able to focus on just one aspect of the service. But it's a great way to serve the body, as long as the frustrations don't burn you out.
    Joe LeGrand likes this.
  5. Joe LeGrand

    Joe LeGrand

    Mar 21, 2017

    Thank you for the response - some great ideas - yes I have approached the worship leader 1-on-1 and as a group. He acknowledges and promises improvement but it doesn't happen. IMO there is NO excuse for not getting the set list out until the nite before or sometimes minutes before the service. Yes, we are all skilled musicians and can pull it off most of the time. However, he is a paid worship leader - the rest of us are volunteers. Lacking planning, preparation and communications puts undo stress on the team. We are worship The King and it bugs me to play sloppy.

    As far as the congregation response - you are spot on - many times they really flow with a bad performance but too many times they are complaining. We don't often play the same songs and play all contemporary - that makes it tougher on everyone, including the congregation. As a musician, poor performance by the band is a bad reflection on me. I am prayerfully considering moving on. It's a small church so it will probably mean finding another church to attend.
  6. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player

    Mar 14, 2011
    We use Planning Center. Chord charts and arrangements sent out at least 3 days in advance. We have a rotating list of musicians so this also allows scheduling, confirmations and blackout dates. It's a great system IMHO.
    Sav'nBass, SwitchGear, joebar and 3 others like this.
  7. EarnestTBass


    Feb 3, 2015
    We have a midweek rehearsal. One week prior to rehearsal everyone receives slash charts and audio files. Recordings are edited and pitch corrected, if applicable. PlanningCenter is great. When WLs do their work in advance, so can I. Band is expected to show up ready to rehearse and work on fine details.

    Also-important- the worship leaders are given the full support of elders. Consider asking your WL if there is there some way you can assist with duties and improve processes.
    Joe LeGrand and Jhengsman like this.
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Unfortunately some people just aren't up to the job. What the WL is doing, besides anything else, is fundamentally just being inconsiderate. There's a comfort level in knowing what will be expected of you ahead of time. That's true whether you're a volunteer or paid. Is there a reason why the WL procrastinates? Is there someone above that person that can address the issue?

    I was in a similar situation, the MD would wait until Saturday night to send out what he had decided to play for Sunday morning even though I'd ask for the info several times. It was clearly a setup so I made sure it backfired on him. I'd come home from a late gig and get to work on the music, figure it out and document it so I could nail it a few hours later. He on the other hand had no consistency to his playing so he'd be the one messing up while everyone else was on point.

    Since that tactic failed the next one was to ask me (in front of the entire band at rehearsal) to bring a small amp in and then tell me that the pastor wanted to know why I brought an amp in. I asked him what he told the pastor, he said he told him he didn't know. So that was another nice character trait.

    If you can't fix the problem, a decision would need to be made as far as what you're willing to put up with. I get paid so I tend to try to stay under the radar, considering what I have to lose if I get tired of putting up with totally unnecessary nonsense. Things could be simple... but then people are involved. If someone is trying to get a rise out of me by being trifling, it won't work.
    Joe LeGrand likes this.
  9. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Because of the hours of commuting time to get to a central location mid week it is pretty much the choir made of mostly retired local folks and a leader who does receive a staff stipend who can make it. In any case the teaching elder needs to finalize his probable subject before he gets with the WL to choose the songs he wants to fit with it. For the rest of us since the the number of songs has been crunched down I might see a new song a month tops and it would probably be introduced by just using the chorus or the bridge. And most of the time the chord progression would match the song in the set proceeding it. Meanwhile we have a list a few more songs that we have been sent to prepare for a possible future use. So those have seen some practice before the Wednesday or Thursday email comes in saying be ready with it come Sunday.

    In the past we were comfortable enough to fake it with a chord chart and hearing the head played and were able to jump in if some brother or sister got up and suggest a song. Of course modern technology has made it possible for one of the two keys players to search for a chord progression and to start calling out the numbers of the changes. Now I understand that won't do for a recording or the big productions which broadcast their services but being able to improvise and play off the cuff is a skill in itself and some congregations want that ability from their church then a studio ready performance.
    Joe LeGrand likes this.
  10. Your WL is doing nothing to help the ministry doing business like that. You can only do so much in the time allotted, but you can do your best, strive for excellence. It is hard not to be somewhat prideful in what you do (play bass) but just keep in mind you are playing for an audience of 1, focus on that. If you have already talked with the WL 1 on 1 and as a group, then I am afraid it will not get better. If this burden is too great, that may be the Lord telling you it's time to move on. Pray about it, be aware of the signs, trust in the Lord. God bless, brother!
    Joe LeGrand likes this.
  11. Lack of recognition of the problem should be considered your sign to move along. It is pretty clear it is a conscious decision.
  12. Dan Knowlton

    Dan Knowlton Sometimes you're the dog, sometimes the tree Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2000
    Palm Coast, FL
    We have a mid-week rehearsal and a short run-through at 8 AM on Sunday. We get the music 10-12 days before we play, although there have been times we switched songs in right before the service. I have to admit, most of the other team members are better musicians than I am - it is the best band I have ever played in. Not to badmouth myself too badly, I frequently sub at other churches and get handed music at the last minute then - and I have no problem with sight-reading the music and pretty much nailing it.

    That being said, "making a joyful noise" should not be ruined by not being able to rehearse.

    Sav'nBass likes this.
  13. FWIW, we rehearse on Tuesday nights. Most of the time we don't get the music until Monday via PCO. But it's a whole different ball of wax being a rehearsal versus going live right away.
  14. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Sounds like the situation I was in a few years ago. The WL was very disorganized and would drop song changes, arrangement changes, key changes on us during the immediate pre-service rehearsal or even during the service. He was also a mediocre piano player and had no clue how to play with other instruments. None of us are pros, so it really detracted from the performance and therefore the service as a whole. I got frustrated enough that I stepped down rather than play in church with a bad attitude. That WL was replaced a year or so later and I rejoined the group. It's a totally different process now.

    We do a Wednesday evening rehearsal with whoever can make it. We never have a drummer which doesn't help, but it is what it is. The WL gives us charts of everything we are going to do that week with arrangements clearly spelled out. New songs are played through in a couple of rehearsals before we play them in service. We then still do a final run through right before the service to get everyone on board who couldn't make it Wednesday.
  15. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    I am asked to play a few times a month by a church; the pastors are also very accomplished musicians.
    We rehearse one hour before the service stone cold.
    It always sounds great but that is probably due to the fact that usually everyone in the team is a seasoned player.
    It bugged me at first that I had to ask for the music ahead of time, but I realized that they have confidence in my ability to perform on the spot.
    Starflyer59 likes this.
  16. I finally played at our church (I work most weekends) and this is how it went down:
    ~10 days before 1st service a long set list (~8 songs) went onto Planning Center.
    Tuesday (6 days out) got the final set list and order (1 song to open, announcements,3 songs, sermon, 1 song to close)
    Saturday 3PM all meeting at the church (sounds guys, tech, worship team).
    Practice songs individually until fairly polished (starts, stops, builds, etc), 5 minute break, then full set run-through.
    Service at 6:30PM.
    Sunday morning all arrive at 8am, do a 2nd full run-through, make a couple tweaks, then service at 9am.
    2nd Sunday morning service at 11am, then it's a wrap.
    Went super smooth, no big issues. Only song that took work was Kings Kaleidoscope version of In Christ Alone.
    Was a blast!
  17. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    When I was getting married, we had a very talented singer friend. The band at the reception (a jazz combo, no singer) was going to play "It Had to Be You" for our first dance. The day before the wedding, I had the sudden brainstorm that rather than dance to an instrumental version, we could have my friend sing it, and called him up to ask. There was a long pause on the other end of the line, then he said, "I am REALLY flattered that you think I can learn a song on twenty-four hours' notice... but I can't."

    This is basically what your worship leader is doing... day in and day out. Making decisions at the last minute and counting on everyone else to be able to turn on a dime and make it work somehow. It may be flattering, in a way, and maybe you're managing to pull it off, but it's not right.

    We've had the same issue in our church. There's no music minister, the pastor writes his sermon and then picks songs to go with the theme - which meant that the musicians wouldn't know until, usually, Thursday evening what they would be playing that Sunday. We also had our rehearsal the morning of the service, and if I had a busy Friday and Saturday, that might be the first time I ran through any of it. Finally, a couple of months ago, I got him to start looking ahead and now he sends out the song list the prior Thursday (about 10 days ahead of the service), which is a huge improvement. I've started announcing open-house jam sessions at my place Thursday nights to try to get some sort of informal practice happening ahead of time, but so far there have been no takers.
    arca_tern likes this.
  18. Honestly, I understand not wanting to stretch volunteers too far (I work full time at a church...) But not practicing and sending stuff out late like that is (1) just plain lazy and (2) absolutely doing a disservice to the role and to the congregation.
  19. To tag on...

    We get the set list finalized about 10 days out. You are expected to know your part and have it down for Wednesday rehearsal (we do an entire dress rehearsal, message and all) then arrive 3 hours (for Saturday service) before service to run songs once, do a soft run through (songs and transitions) then arrive an hour and a half early (on Sunday) to play songs on Sunday.

    Personal practice time = ~2 hours.
    Wednesday rehearsal = 2.5 hours.
    Saturday commitment = 4 hours.
    Sunday commitment = 4 hours.

    12.5 hours of volunteer commitment per week. That's band and sound. If that's the culture you set and volunteers know the expectations...they'll do it.

    If you're moving from where you're currently at to this...don't do it all at once. You'll destroy the team. Pick one piece to shift for the next few months. Then another...then another...etc.
  20. Been playing at church for many years, sometimes with regular practices and sometimes not. My current church gig is with someone I have been playing with on and off for about 30 years. This bandmate is most used to playing as a solo artist and therefore pays little attention to the mechanics of group coordination; ie, starting and ending cues.

    We generally have a practice session a few days before we play, but my bandmate frequently makes mistakes that are easily covered up when he plays solo. These mistakes are noticeable in a group format and I think it makes us look less professional than we should. More practice mght improve this issue, but I think this is a mind-set thing.

    Sorry I can't offer any new suggestions to the OP that have not already been mentioned; volunteer gigs always present a whole host of issues that are often tough to resolve.

    Thump on,


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