As a music director, session player, and clinician, I’m often asked to speak about my personal technique for learning, preparing, and rehearsing new music, as well as my approach to team rehearsals. However, above the technical delivery of your musicianship, I believe that your commitment to be your very best for your team and for the Lord is the primary component of an excellent offering week in and week out. Quite simply, it’s the commitment to develop a culture of momentum within your life and the life of your team. So where does a maximum impact rehearsal begin? With you! These 5 steps to a maximum impact rehearsal will allow me to pull back the curtain.
1. Develop a Winning Attitude
For years, I have told teams, “Nothing can stop the person with a good attitude, yet nothing can help the person with a bad attitude, other than an adjustment of attitude.” As such, be encouraged to develop a healthy picture of yourself as a needed contributor to the team, whether you’re a worship leader, vocalist, musician, tech, stage manager, or display operator. Come to church/rehearsal/team night with a plan to win, preparation to win, and an expectation to win. What does that mean? Each week, come to church prepared, ready to serve the team, your pastor, and the congregation, and expect that the presence of God in your midst will touch lives. Furthermore, be intentional. Refuse to be the singer or musician that robotically goes through the motions in your service to the Lord. Stay fresh, stay creative, stay teachable, and prepare in a way that allows you to pay attention to what the Spirit of God is doing in the meeting.
2. Be the Best “You” Possible
Be a person who cares about adding the most value to your team by being the best you can be, first in heart & attitude, then in giftedness. When the right person is in the right place, everyone benefits. As such, cultivate a solid foundation in every area of your life so that you bring your best to the team each week.
3. Getting Practical
A mindset shift I teach teams is that if at all possible, rehearsal should be approached as rehearsal, not practice. The implication is that as individuals, we should take time to listen and review the source arrangement, build keyboard patches, guitar tone, etc. before arriving to rehearsal with the team. Doing so maximizes the efficiency and execution of rehearsal so that our preparation creates room for focus and spontaneity in the meeting.
Therefore, whether it’s for a weekend service at church, a gig, or a studio session, I use the following five steps in my approach to learning new music. This time-tested and effective rehearsal template has been extremely beneficial to my teams and me, and I trust you’ll benefit from it, too.
A) LISTEN to the source without focusing on “your” part. Listen to the band, the rhythm, the other instruments, and the vocals. You can’t listen enough. Don’t jump the gun and get distracted with figuring out what you’ll play on the song. Also, don’t assume that you “know” song without listening thoroughly.
B) STUDY with a chart. The chart is the roadmap for the arrangement. Take notes on your music and learn the arrangement inside and out, paying attention to:
· Dynamics, Accents, and Syncopation
· Rests and Tacets
· Time Signature(s)
· Song arrangement / Road map
· Solos and Unison Lines
· Modulations & Vocal Melody
· Chord structure / Chord Qualities (the “sound” of a triad; the “sound” of a major 7th)
· Overall style / musical genre of the composition
C) PLAY along with the source. Don’t do your own thing for the sake of “creativity” and individuality. This is especially important if you’re covering a well-known song. Study your instrument. Work on your tone. Listen to specific parts. Represent the song well. Do your very best. If you’re having trouble with a particular section of the song, slow down. Take time to master each section to the best of your ability.
D) PRACTICE effectively and stay on task. Don’t get lost in your own world of rehearsal and escape the essence of the song.
E) LISTEN again with the chart in-hand. Be honest with yourself and assess your progress. How’s your learning going? Are you having trouble with anything in particular? If so, ask for help. Duke Ellington said, “The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.”
4. General Tips for Musicians of All Levels
At the end of the day, know the music. I like to memorize everything, because I firmly believe that preparation allows for greater spontaneity (especially if the band leader or worship leader wants to deviate from the recorded arrangement). Expand your musical palette by learning styles of music that you haven’t yet played, and update your technical skills. By and large, your greatest contribution to the team is having the heart and attitude of a team player. So be teachable! Ask yourself, “How does my contribution accelerate the overall goal of those with whom I serve?” Interestingly, the best (most skilled) musicians I’ve worked with are actually the most flexible and humble on stage.
5. Create and Maintain Value for the Anointing of God’s Presence
Perhaps the most important component of rehearsal has nothing to do with music. Having done all to prepare (and prepare and prepare), set your gifting aside and depend on the Presence of God to move upon you in the meeting. Focus on your gifting, your “calling,” and the details can actually complicate matters. Understand that you don’t ever have to stir-up the anointing. In fact, you will get frustrated trying to do what you feel compelled to do if it’s being done in your own strength. Most importantly, develop your own personal history with God (intimacy with Him) outside the context of ministry.
Get a healthy picture of who you are and the significance you bring to your team. Have a winning attitude that is built upon a desire to magnify Jesus in your midst and contributes to the overall goal of the team. Practice, prepare, learn, and remain teachable. Keep and guard your heart. Keep His Presence a priority in your life.
You’re a key part of the unshakeable Kingdom of God.