Leading The Band Just With Your Voice
At a recent worship leader meeting at my Church we went around the room and shared one thing that we wanted to develop in over the coming year as a worship leader. I was amazed that every female worship leader said the same thing... "I want to develop in leading the band musically". All our female leaders lead using their voice as their instrument rather than from a guitar/ piano. It can be a scary thing trying to lead a bunch of people very capable on their instruments and you maybe not knowing too much about what their instruments do. I thought to myself "I need to run a training night!" Here are some of the things we spoke about...
Make Practices a Democracy
Don't think that you need to come up with all the ideas as a leader. At practices ask the band their opinion on arrangements for songs, style and chords. Maybe send your team a YouTube link to the song you're practicing or if you want to change the style of a song take in a song as a reference track (Beyonce? Nirvana anyone?) A strong leader isn't someone with all the answers yelling musical instructions to their team. A good leader is a servant leader who listens to and serves their team.
Don’t worry about trying to get the fancy words into practices like "crescendo" or "arpeggio". Use basic language to get the sound/ feel that you want! Say things like "can we build up here?" "Can we make the song faster?" "Can we have less drums here?" Simples.
Pitch the songs so they are comfortable for you to sing but remember that a good pitch at home on your own singing to an mp3 might be different to belting a song out on a Sunday! Remember that guys sing an octave lower than girls so they might find some songs too low that girls lead and vice versa. Get a musician from your team/ another worship leader to advise you on song keys.
Think about how each instrument fits into the overall sound in a worship team. The bass guitar will have the lowest frequency. The piano covers a lot of the range and the electric guitar usually covers the top end. Here's a diagram to help you udnerstand. If too many of the instruments are playing in the same range it'll sound mushy and there won't be too much musical interest.
Be aware of particular clashes that can occur between instruments. If the kick drum and bass aren't playing to the same beat then it'll sound rhythmically messy. If the electric guitar and keys players are both solo-ing in the same range that'll sound unpleasent too. I always try and get one instrument to take a melodic lead in a song (play a riff, a catchy hook) then the other instruments can keep it simple and carry on setting the ryhthm of the song. We had a bit of fun at the training evening by getting the musicians to play to a song but all play different to how they should play (the electric guitar was just chugging in the same range as the piano, the drummer was doing something over the top using his toms, the bassist was playing a weird riff). It was fun trying to resolve the problems by just giving the musicians simple suggestions. Maybe try that with your team?
Give signals to your team in good time to let them know where you're taking the song. Often people who lead the band with their voice will use the drummer as their main point of contact in the faster songs then use the keys player during the quieter times. Try showing one finger (make sure it's an acceptable finger) to your drummer to signal verse 1. Make a "C" shape for a chorus. Stamp your foot for a build up. Bring your hand down for a drop down. A well timed signal can make the band feel assured that you know where you're taking the song.
If you have a default structure for your songs (verse, chorus, verse 2, chorus, chorus) then you won't have to be worrying about using signals all the time unless you want to deviate from that structure. I always try and have a default structure that my band will know for a song.
Have confidence that God wants you to lead a bunch of musicians even though you might not feel really musical yourself. Know that you've been asked to lead your band because you're the right person for the role. Don't feel intimidated, feel confident in who you are in God!
I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. Comment below!