The first time I realized the power of withholding the drums until just the right moment was in Phil Collins’ genius song “In The Air Tonight”. That’s when I “got it”. The following is a video of him playing this live in his Farewell Tour (I have this DVD – because Phil Collins is a musical hero to me). You know you love it! Is there anything cooler than when the drums kick in?
I hope the point is getting across. Let music build. Let it grow. Let it breathe. Leave space. Know when NOT to play. The musicians and bands that I’ve featured the last few days get it – it’s time the Church got it. I know some of you get this – but unfortunately, the majority of the Church (big “C”) doesn’t.
Do you have any other great examples? And yes, I know Mercy Me opened their Live DVD concert with their arrangement of “In the Air Tonight”. I loved it. You can watch that HERE.
Yesterday I expressed my personal opinions about music, dynamics and letting a song build. I said that the quickest way to spot an amateur player is to see him playing the whole song. A real musician knows when to not play.
One of my favorite bands is Coldplay. Today I thought I’d show you Coldplay playing “Fix You” (one of my favorite songs) Live from Tokyo. In this video, notice the bass comes in at 0:51, the guitar comes in very lightly at around 1:20 and drums come in with a driving electric guitar at about 2:44 (like yesterday almost 3 minutes into the song!) . You’ll notice the drummer often has his arms crossed or his hands in his lap – again a sign of a pro. Like yesterday, both bands also know when to drop out at the end. Enjoy!
I can’t embed it, but also check out the same song (“Fix You”) Live from Austin City Limits HERE.
Continuing with the theme of worship music (yes, I’m focusing on worship leaders for a bit), I’d like to talk about one of the most beautiful parts of music: dynamics. Dynamics are the ebb and flow/highs and lows of music.
As you know, I travel quite a bit and visit/work with a lot of churches. One of the most common problems with church praise bands (and also easiest to fix) is this issue of dynamics. Most church praise bands play too much. They play all the time (from beginning to end) – which is another way of saying they’re too busy – and they don’t let the music build. Like I said yesterday, music needs space – it needs to breathe.
If you’re a worship pastor that leads a band and you let your musicians play 100% all the time, you’re dropping the ball (you know I like to shoot straight). I mentioned that when I visit churches I often look for a laptop on stage. But one of the first things I look for is who is not playing. The difference between an amateur musician and a professional is knowing when not to play. It’s the whole “less is more” thing that I always preach.
Maybe this is something that your church band struggles with. Maybe you have a pianist that used to be “the band” and is used to playing the full 100% of the music. Now that a guitar, bass and drums are added in, she doesn’t know that her role must decrease and she must adjust the amount of action or busyness that she plays with in order to allow the other instruments to equal to 100%. This is what I call the 100% rule. You only have 100% to divide up – any one player can’t play like the 100% is up to him/her.
Let’s get practical: Often to make a point, I will go to the extreme. I used to do this with my camera operators and video directors all the time. When working with church bands, I will often ask players to “sit out” or restrain from playing for a LONG period of time – in order to get the point across.
One of the best songs I’ve used to teach this to countless people is “My Immortal” by Evanescence. I want you to watch this video twice. The first time just enjoy it and be moved by the song. The second time, look at it more technically.
As you’ll notice, the high-hat comes in at about 2:43 and the full band kicks in (hard) at about 3:07. If you missed that, the band doesn’t come in until 3 minutes into the song. This is a song and video that you can download from iTunes and play for your church band in order to drive this point home. The song is moving and powerful because of how long the rest of the band waits to come in. The song would be ruined if the band was playing the entire time (which again, is what happens with most church bands).
Take this lesson seriously. Learn and grow from it. Go to extremes with your band if you have to. Let the music build. Your congregation will thank you.