4 Goals for a Dynamic Band Practice
A band that plays well together not only affects the unity and flow of the team on the stage, but it also affects the off-stage relationships.
If you don’t currently have a band, check out my post: Seven Tips for Leading Worship without a Band.
There have been seasons in my time as a worship leader where band practices have been difficult to have consistently. Mostly due to the busyness of life. Although I know it’s a sacrifice both for me and my team members schedules, I always see the reward of it. As much as you are able to, seek to have band practices as a regular part of your team schedule.
Here are the four things I’m wanting to happen in my band practices:
1. Build Relationship.
Having the time with just the band, away from the rest of the team, automatically gives opportunity for deepening friendships among the musicians. This may not happen right away, but often times friendships begin to flourish and you’ll begin to see this positively affect the rest of your team.
2. Facilitate Honest Discussion.
I want my band practices to be a time where we can all share openly. Sometimes I will open the practice with a time of discussion. I might guide it or just leave the floor open to whatever naturally comes up in conversation. I may ask specific people’s opinions about the band, ways we can grow, etc. It is a time when the band can ask questions and really listen to each other’s opinions. Some personalities aren’t comfortable sharing an opinion while the whole team is gathered, but when you draw opinions out of people by directly asking for them in a less intimidating context, it gets easier for those people to share. I like to think of my band members sharing their opinions like the oil and lube job that keeps my team flowing without any squeaky wheels or rust forming. The opportunities for offense and internal frustration are minimized as each person shares his or her opinion and we prefer one another in love.
3. Develop Musical Excellence.
There are so many options for ways you can grow together musically with your band. Here are a few of my favorites:
Listen to and analyze a song together. Ask your drummer what he hears. Ask your guitarist. This will spark new ideas and get your band thinking.
Learn a new song. Playing a song exactly the way it is arranged on a CD can be a great exercise to push your team in excellence. It’s a lot easier if you ask your band to learn the parts before they come to practice. If not, plan on spending the entire practice, or maybe even a few practices, learning the parts, depending on the skill level of your musicians.
Play spontaneously. Spend twenty or thirty minutes playing spontaneously. If your band has never done this, it might be a challenge. Start playing a progression on the piano and tell them to flow and feel their way in. Maybe you give some direction during this time. Maybe you assign your electric guitarist to come up with a melody over your progression.
Arrange a song. You and your band figure out the best structure for the song. It might include an intro, verse, chorus, musical vamp, bridge, outro, etc.
Close your eyes and listen. Challenge your entire band to close their eyes, assign one person to begin playing a progression and have the rest of the band flow and join in using only what they’re hearing as the guide.
Review basic theory. You don’t want to be too exhaustive in this context, but reviewing some basics is always helpful.
Worship Leaders: At your next practice, challenge your band to close their eyes as you begin playing a spontaneous chord progression. Have the band flow and join in with no eye contact, but based on what they're hearing. Click To Tweet
4. Write and Create Together.
I desire for my practice times to be more than purely technical or focused solely on arranging songs. I want my musicians to be flowing in the gifts that they have, so I try to include a time of spontaneous creativity where we’re writing together. I may ask my team to start playing a chord progression in the key of C for a couple of minutes while asking my keyboard player to come up with a melody. Once the keys player has established a musical idea, I might ask the electric player to add a second section or a counter-melody to complement the progression. My drummer starts playing and we’re having a little impromptu writing time. The band is playing something spontaneous and we have no idea where it’s going to go. That’s the fun of it. I might come to practice prepared with some lyrics, or I may try to write the lyrics as I’m inspired by the music. I’m always on the lookout for these spontaneous times and try to create space for them on a regular basis. These have been some of the most amazing times in our practices. My band feels involved in the process of writing the song. It was fresh and creative on the spot.
Sometimes I’m able to accomplish all four objectives. Sometimes I end up doing none of them. The goal is to find the flow of your practices and see what works well for you.
What are your goals for band practice? How do you make those happen? I would love to read your comments below.
Huge thanks to my friend Jordan Vanderplate for letting me use this photo of Oksøy Lighthouse, Flekkerøy Norway. Check out more of his work here.