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Role-specific

Guitars - working with the sound engineer

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here

Working with the sound engineer as a guitarist

As a guitarist, especially if playing electric guitar, a good relationship is needed with who ever is operating the sound desk. The congregation will only hear good tone if both the player and the engineer are working together! Often as electric guitarists we like to have our amplifiers turned up fairly loud, for several reasons (some amps sound better if loud, amp is able to be heard/used as a monitor), however for a sound engineer this can potentially cause problems. They have responsibility for mixing the whole band, and they need to be able to place your guitar in that mix - if your amp is too loud then it may end up being too prominent compared to the other instruments. Being told to turn our amps down can often be frustrating for us as guitarists, but we need to honour our sound engineers and respect the fact that they have been given responsibility for the mix due to their gifting, and we should always be willing to listen to what their preference would be for our sound. Sometimes this stretches beyond just volume adjustments, you may be asked to take some of the high end out of your amp, or similar EQ tweaks - again we need to respect the sound engineer and his/her role and responsibility.

Controlling the amp

If you are repeatedly having problems with the volume of your amp (as I said, some amps just sound better when they’re loud so you may want to keep it that way, OR you may have turned it down, but it's still too loud!) there are some things you can do to help besides just turning it down.

You might consider putting the amp in a different room, or underneath the stage if you have that sort of space. Or if those options aren’t possible, trying facing your amp away from the congregation - either against the back wall, or in front of you so the speakers face you. Another option would be to invest in some perspex screens (similar to the drum screens often used in churches, but smaller!) to place in front of the amplifier. All of these options should help to reduce to stage volume, and allow the sound engineer to achieve a better, more controllable mix.

Hearing yourself play

Of course, if you do move your amplifier away from you at all, you may not be able to hear it as well, if at all. This will mean you will need to rely on your sound engineer to feed you some of your guitar through your monitors (I would recommend in-ear-monitors!). Again, trust your engineer to do the job that they have been given to the best of their ability, and build a good relationship with them. Help them with understanding what you need from them, and be open to understanding what they need from you.

Getting your tone right

One final thing to add is that you may need to spend some time working with your sound engineer on EQ-ing your guitar on the desk. The electric guitar is very versatile and can change sounds several times even in one song, so work hard with your engineer to find an EQ setting that sounds as good as possible. I find it usually works best if you start at a flat EQ, and start to tweak the high end if necessary, maybe removing some of the low end too. This allows the guitar to sit nicely in the mix, whilst cutting through if needed during a higher lead line. EQ can take time, and may need a lot of tweaking, but do take the time to work on it together, it’s well worth it - If you have a really top engineer then they may even edit the EQ as the song goes along!

A few tips for everyone

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

  • Commit to your walk with Jesus

Invest in your own journey with Christ - pray, get stuck into the word, and worship in your own time - endurance in our walk with the Lord comes from our joy in the gospel - desire it, chase it! When you are not taking part in the worship team, make sure you are still worshipping as intensely as you would when you are up front - be real

 

  • Aim high and practice

We want to do our best for God’s glory - so take time to work at your instrument

Please understand our heart in this - this isn’t because the best worship is when the music is at it's best, but because we believe that God has given us our gifts and we should want to use them to the best of our ability - without becoming complacent.

 

  • Time-keeping

Arrive on time to rehearsals - even if you don't have a lot to set up, there are always things you can do to help the rest of the band - get music out, help setting up microphones etc.

 

  • Music and kit

Make sure you have all the music you need for rehearsal before the day if possible. If you use an iPad or tablet then make sure you have the set list ready for practice.

 

  • New songs

Take the time to really learn any new songs that will be taught during the sung worship time. It means that on the day you will just need to put all your parts together instead of wasting valuable time learning notes.

Guitar - bass

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

As a bass guitarist, your role in the band is to work with the drummer and provide a good rhythmic grounding to help the rest of the band stay in time and help the congregation understand the rhythm.

Lock in with the bass drum

This means listening to what your drummer is doing with his bass drum pedal (if you are using in ear monitor mixes it’s worth asking for the bass drum to be quite loud in them) and aiming to be playing in a similar (either simpler or more complex) pattern, rhythmically.

It’s helpful to tell the drummer in advance that this is what you’re planning to do - this will hopefully encourage them to be consistent in their bass drumming!

Keep it simple!

What sounds good at home can be quite confusing and muddy when you’re playing along with a band! It’s best to keep your playing simple, focussing on keeping a consistent rhythm that complements the feel of the song.

Be consistent

Pick a rhythmic pattern to use for consistently for each section of the song. For instance, for each verse use the same rhythmic pattern, changing to something different for the chorus.

You might choose to use a slightly busier pattern during the chorus to help build, or drop right back during the bridge.

When you’re enjoying playing and you get to an E chord, the temptation to give that lowest string a lovely good twang and really feel the shake of the church building is strong. Although that feels great when you’re the one playing, any notes that are particularly loud or soft will sound out of character to the congregation.

Listen with a critical ear

Listen critically to what you’re playing and how it fits with what’s happening around you. How does your pattern fit with the vocals (they’re a key part of the song)? Does what you’re playing reinforce the rhythm of the melody? Sometimes this can mean leaving some beats as gaps to help create a sense of rhythm.

Similarly, keep an ear out for what other instruments are doing. If the guitar or the drums are playing a busy pattern, help their rhythms stand out by dropping back slightly. If the keyboard is playing bassier notes, try and complement them by playing more lightly.

Drums/Percussion

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Your role as a drummer or percussionist should always be to provide a steady backbeat that keeps the band and congregation in time, helping them to express their praise and worship and get closer to God. Worship should be corporate, inclusive and intimate.  As a drummer your approach to playing the song will need to reflect these.

Keep it simple and consistent

Keep your focus on complementing the rest of the band, providing a steady consistent beat. Fills are great at appropriate times in a song to add extra interest, but make sure to play within your ability and land on the beat. That’s your job! The focus should not be on you - our focus of worship is always God so we have to be sensitive to the fact there is a danger that in our playing, we can become a distraction to people’s worship. Worship should be about the groove rather than what drum fills you use on a particular song, about a steady beat that fits well rather than calling attention to ourselves.

Practice is key

Develop your skills at home - Rudiments!, playing to a click track to help with keeping time, playing to different time signatures, adding texture and dynamics which means knowing when to use light and shade and not playing everything at one volume. Try adding other percussion to your kit to develop a vocabulary of sounds you can worship with.

Heart

Drumming is not about the drums! These are just the tools that you use to express your worship and the joy that God has placed on your heart. Your playing should always be a response from your heart and to bring this sense of joy through your playing. Developing a ‘heart to drum’ - Psalm 33 encourages us to play skillfully although this word is translated from the Hebrew ‘Sakal’ which as well as developing the technical skill and vocabulary also means; to play with a heart open to God’s spirit, with wisdom, understanding, obedience, consideration, sensitivity, patience, passion and authority!

Listen to the rest of the band

Don’t overplay.  Familiarise yourself with the music and words before your band rehearsal and  work out your drum part and how you should respond differently through the verse, chorus and bridge section. Spend time with the sound engineer before you start playing and discuss what you need in your monitor mix. You are one of several musicians in the band and you might want to hear certain instruments and the vocal lead louder than other parts. If you are playing behind a drum screen this balance of sound is even more important so also check the worship leader and other band members can also hear you in their mix.

Use a range of sticks, hot rods and brushes to add texture to your feel and play. Always spend time working on the arrangement - space, silence, tone, feel, will always add richness to your playing. Know the tempo of the song. Even if you don’t play to a click you will often be required to click the band in.

 

Make the bass player your best friend

Drums and bass go hand in hand, after all you’re both members of the rhythm section and you need to play as one unit - this is key to the feel and dynamic of the sound you create as a band. There are as many drummer jokes as there are bass player jokes so learn to play together and spend time talking about your parts and how they compliment each other in a particular song. You need the bass player close to you and most often positioned on the side of the kit you have positioned your hi-hat, so you’re automatically looking at them when you’re playing a beat on the hats.

Resources & links:

www.psalmdrummers.org  A network of Christian Drummers

www.musicademy.co.uk  Extensive resources for training the worship team

Book - A heart to Drum - Available on Amazon - Values and authority for playing drums in worship, written by Terl Bryant, founder of Psalm Drummers

 

Guitars - acoustic and electric

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Rhythm (or acoustic) guitar

Rhythm guitarists are there to add just that - rhythm! The guitar is a brilliant instrument that combines melody, rhythm and percussion all in one, and as a rhythm guitarist you will be providing all three of these things. Your role is generally to support the rest of the band, often not being too prominent, but adding texture to the overall sound.

Provide rhythm

Largely a rhythm guitar will play chords and play a simple rhythm which complements the dynamic of the song: if it’s a more reflective song, keep it simple and play less (maybe pick through the chords rather than strum). If it’s a more up tempo song, feel free to go for a stronger rhythm. Just remember you’re there to support what the other band members are doing, try not to overpower them.

Be prepared!

If you are leading worship from the guitar, chances are you will be playing rhythm guitar. You need to be confident in your strumming, playing with conviction and making sure that the strumming pattern is appropriate for the rhythm of the song.

Make sure you familiarise yourself with each song and the change-overs between them, so that you can be ready for what song is coming next and put a capo on if need be. It is important that a rhythm guitar is ready to come in with the right rhythm at the right moment! If there’s a break between songs, get your capo and music ready before sitting down, not in a hurry before playing.

Make a difference

Generally, the guitar will play throughout the song. However, if a song starts off more reflectively, try coming in when the drums do. This helps reinforce the rhythm that the drums are setting and can really add to the overall sound once the band kicks in. As with all the instruments, the key is to listen to what the rest of the band are playing, and play sensitively to what is going on around you. Feel free to drop out if you feel it would benefit the overall sound - there’s nothing wrong with not playing!

 

Lead (or electric) guitar

The role of the electric guitar is usually two-fold:

1. To support the band by filling out the sound, often helping to drive the bigger sections of songs.

2. To add hooks and melodic lines which cut through the mix, often in the form of intros or tags.

Know your instrument

The electric guitar is a very versatile instrument, not only tonally due to the various different effects often used, but also due to its range in pitch. Often times as an electric guitarist you will be swapping between different registers, whether lower in pitch playing power chords or playing higher up the neck with lead lines. This means that we need to be comfortable with playing in various different positions on the neck - learning which notes/scales are where on the fretboard can be incredibly useful.

Listen well

As with every instrument, in order to know what is suitable for the situation we need to be listening to what the other band members are playing. Work with the rest of the band to add variety to the song - if it’s a small band you’re playing with, perhaps help to fill out the sound by playing more chords lower down the neck (or using a capo where necessary), picking some arpeggios where appropriate. If you’re playing with a larger band then it might not be necessary to play full chords as the sound from the rest of the band will already be fairly full - try smaller/different inversions of chords higher up the neck to compliment what the rest of the band are doing. And as always, there’s nothing wrong with sometimes dropping out completely and playing nothing, certain situations may benefit from being very stripped back!

Your pedal board

In a church setting, lots of electric guitarists use various different effects pedals. Before you get into this, try and start by sourcing a good guitar, and a good amp - that’s where good tone starts! The main 3 effects you should focus on are: reverb, delay, and distortion. A variety of combinations of these 3 types of effect should cover most bases. Different guitarists prefer different amounts of each effect, so find what suits you best. Personally I find that a fairly heavy amount of reverb helps my guitar to sit back nicely in the mix without being overpowering, and a fairly long, high-mix, delay allows me to create interesting rhythms and fills out my sound when playing lead lines - experiment with this and find your sound. As for distortion, again find what suits your playing style best. For me having a bit of drive always on helps to bring warmth to my tone - distortion doesn’t always have to be super crunchy! If you are using a lot of distortion in certain big sections (which I do), I find keeping the “tone knob” of the pedal fairly low will keep the distortion nice and warm sounding, allowing your guitar to sit nicely in the mix, rather than sounding too harsh and in-your-face. But as I said, personal preference is a big thing here - maybe start off with 3 pedals and experiment until you find a sound, or several sets of settings that suit how you play! Also I would definitely invest in a tuner pedal, there's nothing worse than not being able to tune up! It’s also worth noting that generally the order that you link up your effects should go something like this:

Guitar > Tuner > Distortion(s) > Delay(s) > Reverb(s) > Amp.

 

See also 'Guitars - working with the sound engineer'. 

Piano or keyboard

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Lead solo piano (without lead singers)

If you’re the only instrument in the band, your role is to provide accompaniment to keep people in time, but also importantly to lead the congregation into the verses/chorus, so planning what to play for your intro and between sections is key - these are the times when the congregation will be looking for a clear indication that they are supposed to start singing.

Your intro may need to include some of the melody to ensure people are reminded of the song they’re singing. If it’s not a well known song then using the first line or two or the verse can be a useful reminder!

In this situation, playing the tune on the piano would be appropriate. Giving a good strong lead with particular emphasis on your right hand is critical for the congregation to be able to hear the tune and sing it.

Alongside the tune, play something simple and rhythmic with conviction. The key is for the congregation to be able to sing the tune - the rest of what you play should complement the melody without clashing in rhythm or harmony.

Lead solo piano (with lead singer)

If you have a singer, the vocalist has the responsibility to lead in the vocal in at the right time and sing the tune - make sure they know this is their job! In this case your intro does not necessarily need to be as obvious as when there is no lead singer. You should still be clear, but the congregation will take their cue primarily from the vocal timing and pitch.

In this case, it is better not to play the tune if your singer is confident and their voice carries. Doubling up the melody is not necessary and the opportunity to provide an interesting harmony from the piano is calling!

Your accompaniment should be simple and chord based, keeping time and pitch without distracting from the melody.

Lead piano with band

In this case you are part of a band but you are in charge. People will be looking to you to provide a lead that the other instruments can follow.

Your responsibility is similar to that of a solo piano, but it is important to make sure what you are playing complements the other instruments in the band, for instance if you have a bass guitar you will need to avoid play too many bass notes.

A good start for this is to use a piano sound and play chords rhythmically and fairly strongly. For quieter sections, if the guitar and drums are holding the rhythm, you might be able to switch to a pad or string sound, but be careful not to leave the band rudderless!

Be aware of any orchestral instruments or lead guitar parts and ease off the higher end of the keyboard if need be.

Support Piano/Keyboard

In this case you are part of a band and somebody else (probably rhythm guitar) is taking the leading role. You have more freedom to play different parts, and not play all the time. Other instruments are leading the congregation, so your role is to add to the music without distracting from the melody being sung.

The range of notes a piano will cover are similar to the electric guitar, so whatever you play needs to complement the electric guitar part. For example, if the guitar is playing a high part, avoid playing a high part on the piano at the same time, they are likely to clash.

At times the piano may still want to play chords to help drive the song, at others the piano may want to add a high harmony, and at others there is an opportunity to use different sounds. These could be strings/pad/hammond organ. When using other sounds, it is still important that these do not clash with other instruments - an electric piano may sound similar to an electric guitar, or a pad/organ sound will cover the same sounds an organ will add.

Melody instrument

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

As a melody instrument, your primary role is to add interest and variety to what the rest of the band are playing. You’ve got the power to add texture with strong, lower, harmony or build the feel of a song with a higher harmony.

It should go without saying that making sure you get an opportunity to tune is key!

Make every note count

If you’re playing as part of a worship band, you’ll be competing with the guitarists and keyboard player. The key in this situation is to make use of the old adage and “play smarter, not harder”. Take advantage of the gaps between sung phrases to add in a harmony that complements the feel of the song or offer to help the clarity of the song’s introduction by adding in the melody during an instrumental section.

If a song is new to the congregation, or your band doesn’t have a singer, playing the melody can be helpful. If you have strong singers and a full band, then the melody is likely to get lost in the mix.

Enjoy harmonising

Harmonising can be daunting; the idea of playing something that’s not the melody and not even written down is nerve wracking for many orchestral players.

A key tip top reduce the worry is that it’s fine to dip in and out with a harmony, you don’t have to play all the way throughout the song. Have a look through the song and identify any harmonies that jump out at you, listening to a recorded version of the song if you need inspiration. Check that they fit the words - a strong harmony soaring above the melody would be best suited to the climax of the verse or chorus.

If you’re unsure where to start with a harmony, look at the piano sheet music - usually it’s possible to pick out a melodic line under the main tune using the harmonic notes that are written for the piano and passing notes between them. Get a copy of the music and try it along to YouTube!

Lead and backing vocals

Katy Kennedy

You can download the PDF of this resource here.

Lead vocalist

 

Your role as lead vocalist is to lead the church congregation in the melody of each of the songs being played.

 

It is important that you can be heard so that anyone who doesn't know the song is able to hear and pick up the tune.  We want everyone to be able to participate in the sung worship and your lead is particularly important for this

 

  • Know the tune

Although you may not be able to learn all the lyrics of a song, it is important to be completely sure of the melody and as many of the lyrics as you can. If the song is new, listen to a recording of the song before you meet up to practice with your band to become familiar with it. You cannot hope to teach the church a song you don't know well yourself.

 

  • Know the words

Learning lyrics from memory can be really helpful - it will enable you to have a full understanding of what the song is about, and where it is going. Knowing the lyrics will stop you staring at the words during the sung worship time, and enable you to feel more relaxed, and give a confident lead. Worrying about words can hinder your own worship, try to learn as much as you can. It will give you freedom to let go and just enjoy singing your praises.

 

Backing vocals

 

Your role as a backing vocalist is to enhance the sung worship by adding texture and harmony to the music, to enhance the lyrics at appropriate places.

 

  • Add harmony

Singing in harmony can create a beautiful sound and emphasise what you are singing.

If you are not confident in harmonising then begin by learning the melody of the song and the flow of the tune. Try adding some different notes, such as a third below the melody, during the chorus. Listen hard and if it clashes then try moving up or down a tone/semitone. If you can rehearse separately from the rest of the band then take the opportunity to- it is much easier to try things out and hear each other when it is just you and a pianist. You don't need to sing harmony throughout, you can use it to enhance parts of the song.

 

  • Singing into the microphone

One of the most important things to remember as a backing vocalist is that your role is not to sing into the microphone throughout the song. Yes of course you can sing all through but try and stand back from the microphone when you are not providing specific texture to the song. Harmony is most effective when it is not heard all the way through a song.