Thursday, April 24, 2008

fitting into the band - part 4 - Moving as a band

So far I've talked about making sure you're playing something that adds to the songs and making sure you're playing in your own space so the band sounds like one band. The final step to making music that's bigger than the individuals is to move as a band. What I mean by that is when the song starts building dynamically, everyone needs to build together, there can't be one person trying to force it or one person lagging behind.

If you've been playing with the same people on worship team for a while, consider yourself lucky! Cohesiveness will naturally come with time and you won't have to worry about it. I attend a Sunday night church which frees up my Sunday mornings to play around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. It's fun getting to meet new musicians all the time, but playing with new people and having rehearsals that are little more than a quick run-through before the service means cohesion is something I have to be purposeful about.

There are some tricks to playing together that will be helpful if you're playing with new people a lot, and hopefully still be helpful to make an already cohesive band even tighter:

1) Memorize your music - I recommend that for a number of reasons but especially when you're trying to gel. I find when I'm reading a chord chart or really thinking about what I have to play I end up in my own little bubble. If I know what I'm playing I can get into it musically but also spend more time listening to the other musicians - which is key for moving together.

2) Close your eyes - Some producers will have bands practice in the dark to help them tighten up. When you lose a sense (like sight) your brain heightens your other senses and it makes it easier to listen. Turning off the lights in the sanctuary might be a little extreme but you can always close your eyes during parts of rehearsal to practice really listening. Drums are probably the most important thing we electric players will need to listen to. If you're playing something fast listen for the high-hat or ryde cymbal to get the eighth note rhythm. If the song is going to build form the drums, listen for it!

3) Make eye contact with the other musicians - Especially during rehearsal when you're putting the songs together (when you're eyes aren't closed from #2). It might feel uncomfortable if you're not used to it (or if the other person doesn't know why you're staring at them!!) but it will really help you lock in.

4) Watch the worship leader - Close your eyes or look at the other musicians through out the song but keep an eye on the worship leader, especially at a point where they could change something. It's the worship leaders job to feel the spirit and read the congregation, they need to be confident that they can add a chorus, go back to the bridge, etc and everyone will be with them. Sometimes they'll just call out what they're going to do, but often it's a non-verbal. Pay attention to what your particular worship leader's non-verbals are or if they don't seem to have any ask them what they are or ask them to make some up! When I led worship I had different ways of stomping or hand motions. Some leaders give "a look," whatever it is, make sure you're on the same page and watching.

There you have it, that's all I know :) I know there are others out there with more to add, so feel free to comment! The good news is figuring out when to play and what to play can be done from home. It's best to figure all that out before you get to rehearsal so you can concentrate on playing tightly or tweaking your part when you get there - not figuring the whole thing out at rehearsal. It might seem like a lot of information if you're not used to thinking about all this. Don't worry, after a while it will feel natural and you'll be able to adapt on the fly to make the band sound the best in can. The most important thing is that you keep making music and keep thinking about how you're fitting into each song.

Part 1 - making a song
Part 2 - knowing when and when not to play
Part 3 - knowing our role
Part 4 - Moving as a band

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