Tuesday, September 19, 2006

LEADING WORSHIP: putting an arrangement together

It's been a while since I wrote about leading worship - so I thought this might be helpful.

I think that arranging a song is one of the most exciting things about leading worship (apart from actually getting to see people express their hearts to God!) The reason is, that you can take a song that people have heard a hundred times before, and breath new life into it, just by the way you play it. It's also one of the most daunting things too - because where do you begin?

Here are some thoughts that might help you get started on the road of creativity again....

When I choose a song, I play it over a few times by myself. I'm trying to find hooky rifs that I can play on the piano that might freshen it up a little, and I'm looking for a 'feel' or 'vibe' that might suit it. Then I take it to the band and say very roughly what I'm looking for - sometimes, I just don't know until we start to play it together.

As a band, we play it through a couple of times, and each time through, I'll be telling the guys individually what I'm liking (maybe the bass player has hit on a great line, or I love what the drummer is doing in a certain place), and we build from there. Once we've got the general idea, we start thinking about 'shape' - in other words, the layout of the song as we are going to play it - where we are putting the verses, where we'll sing choruses, and how many etc... and we write down a rough guide, or 'road map' down the side of the chord sheet so that we don't forget. It also means that we can start thinking through 'light and shade', the dynamics of how we are going to play, and then write it in on our road map too... (it's amazing how many things you forget unless you write them down :)

Some things to watch out for are, be careful not to overplay - it can sound pretty messy if everyone plays everything from the beginning to the end of a song. Maybe you could come in at different parts of the song (the bass coming in on the pre chorus for example, with the hi-hat during the chorus, and then full drums in verse 2) - or, if it's a really big song, everyone coming in at the beginning, and then cutting right back for the first verse. There are so many ways to do things. My advice is to listen to songs you really love, and try and think about how they have been recorded - where do instruments play, how do they play, when do they drop out... The other thing - especially in leading worship - is to remember that the arrangement must serve the song - if it's too creative, the congregation might just miss the reason why you've put all the work in - they might get totally distracted by the band, and forget that it's all about reconnection with God.

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