How I Teach Dynamics in Music to Church Praise Bands

Continuing with the theme of worship music (yes, I’m focusing on worship leaders for a bit), I’d like…

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.