Avoiding common mistakes when leading worship

Posted by Musicademy  ·  4 visitor comments

Many churches now use a worship leader in their services. What are the common pitfalls that can lessen their effectiveness, and how do you avoid them?

1. Including too many new songs in the set – your congregation is there to worship – most will find it difficult to do so if they spend most of the time learning your latest masterpieces
Vary your set list to include a variety of older, recently introduced and brand new songs and be ready to make changes on the fly if you sense your congregation is becoming weary.

2. Pitching the songs too high – remember that a comfortable range for a woman is about five semitones lower than a man.
Change the key down to avoid going above top D particularly if you are playing in a small church situation.

 3. Clunky moving from song to song. Playing a song once its underway is fairly straightforward so make sure you concentrate on rehearsing how to start and end a song. Practising a seamless flow from one song to the next is worthwhile and focus on. It will help if both are in the same key with a similar groove and if you are using music, make sure the sheets are side by side on your music stand.

 4. Poor band dynamics – conflicting rhythms, one instrument speeding up/slowing down, vocalists overwhelming the sound with too many ad libs or vibrato. Exercise leadership in directing your singers clearly and if necessary get them some vocals training. Get them to listen to each others' parts and possibly film or record a service to help with some constructive criticism.

 5. Lack of leadership – without clear guidance from the worship leader its difficult for the band to know what they are meant to do, let alone the congregation. Give a good clear brief in practice and use vocal cues and body language to communicate during the set.

6. Overly complex vocals – congregations get easily confused when the lead vocalist slips into harmonies, trills and ad libs. Simple clear melody is always the easiest to follow. Leave the harmonies for the backing vocalists.

7. Poor phrasing and blending by vocalists. Make sure that all your singers are phrasing each "musical sentence" in the same way. It can help to have one backing vocalist leading the others so that everyone finishes their words at the same time. In the studio, singers are often asked not to finish the last consonant in a line so that the ending doesn't sound jagged.

8. Wrong keys or wrong capo positions. Make sure all the band are playing in the same key. Issue your set list in advance with instructions for keys. And if you change your mind, make sure that everyone knows.

9. Tuning – are all your instruments in tune and are they staying in tune throughout the set? Even the right notes out of tune sound far worse than the wrong notes in tune so buy yourself a decent tuner like the Boss TU2 – cheap tuners can be so frustrating.

10. Lack of rhythm and togetherness by the band – this can be caused by many things including poor musicianship and lack of overall direction. Try to generate a sense of team where everyone plays their part to contribute to the whole without any one musician standing out. Also ensure that you have the relevant instruments in your foldback – i.e. the kick drum and other instruments responsible for rhythm.

11. Winging it – either the result of poor preparation or trying something new out on the spot. Be sure you can accomplish what you have in mind. Are you trying to sing a song without the lyrics in front of you and you've forgotten the words? Does your AV guy have the words for the congregation or do they have to remember them too? Do you and the rest of the band know all the chords you need?

12. Technical problems. The sound gremlins can happen to the best of us but try to get there early, set up methodically and make sure your technicians are well trained in the system they are using.

13. Problems with pitch – you're starting a new song and you've suddenly realised you've started on completely the wrong note. Try to identify the problem songs in advance and quietly play the note you need to hit on your instrument. Hold the note in your head while playing the intro and then hit it with confidence. Alternatively ask one of the other (confident) vocalists to lead on that song

14. Over emphasis on the melody line. Make sure your backing vocalists and single melody instruments are playing harmonies. The lead vocalist and congregation are all on the melody line – create some contrast.

15. Worship crash – often caused by trying something complicated that hasn't been practised enough. Never try anything complicated until you, the band and the congregation are really familiar with the song.

16. Starting the song in the wrong tempo. Either invest in an in ear click or sing the song through in your head first so that you can pace the tempo properly. Generally the chorus is the fastest part of the song.

17. Audio visual failure – this happened to Matt Redman one time, so he just shifted his set list to songs with simple lyrics and gave spoken vocal cues to the congregation at junction points in the song.

Have you got some more classic mistakes and suggested solutions?

 

Written by Musicademy who specialise in resourcing church based musicians. Their acclaimed range of worship tuition DVDs cover guitar, bass, drums, keys, vocals and orchestral instruments at levels from beginner to advanced player. You can find out more at the Musicademy website or view their range of Musicademy training DVDs.

21st May

May 21st, 2012 - Posted & Written by Musicademy

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Philip Hill

Philip Hill

Posts: 1

I find that a common mistake is a lack of liturgical progression. For example, a liturgical shape might be to begin with a song that declares the glory of God and calls us to worship, moving to songs that invite us to repent and renew faith, then songs of celebrating God's grace and then songs that include an intercessory element. Before the sermon a song celebrating the Word of God is good and afterwards a song that expresses a response to the message or in sending us out into the world as God's servants..

Tuesday, 22nd May 2012 at 12:11PM

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Shirley Pounder

Shirley Pounder

Posts: 1

This list is one of the best, most simple and useful set of helps/hints I have ever seen in one place!! And Ive been on plenty of 'Worship Workshops' in my time. Thank you guys, now all I need to do is get a copy and issue it to the rest of our Worship team xxx

Wednesday, 23rd May 2012 at 8:13PM

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Geoffrey Waghorn

Geoffrey Waghorn

Posts: 1

It is unfortunate that this item's title makes the common error of confusing music with worship. Music supports worship but there is infinitely more to worship than music alone.

Monday, 28th May 2012 at 11:30AM

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Graham Dunn

Graham Dunn

Posts: 1

I agree Geoffrey, I think Philip Hill also makes a good point. Worship leading is significantly more than being a musical director. I endorse Philip's comments regarding liturgical shape, even if formal liturgy has been abandoned in a church we should still strive to encourage the congregation on an enriching journey of worship that includes elements of, confession, penitence, affirmation of faith, intercessions, reading God's word, preaching, personal response.... etc. Unfortunately many churches confuse leading singing/music with leading worship when in reality it is only an element of leading worship.

Monday, 28th May 2012 at 11:59AM

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