Music isn’t just a part of worship for today’s generations – it is the primary act of worship. Whereas classic worship services break up songs with other worship tools, such as responsive readings, prayers, etc., successful alternative worship services produce music sets similar to that of a concert, with one song leading directly into another for a sustained period. Although those raised in the church may resist this practice at first, worship sets are the more indigenous and natural practices of the culture.
The choir and choir-like music are hallmarks of a classic worship service. Many churches launch contemporary and alternative services with a worship band that performs (leads) target-appropriate music in a distinctively choir-like fashion. Under the leadership of these well-intentioned and good-hearted worship teams, many alternative services find it difficult to gain traction in reaching those beyond the church walls.
The difference between a choir and a band is maximizing versus minimizing. In general, a choir maximizes the vocals so that the majority of the voices sing the majority of the notes in beautiful harmonies with the occasional solo. In addition, the piano/keyboard/organ plays most of the notes. A band, however, minimizes both vocals and instruments. In general, a lead singer carries the melody and is backed up by two or three other vocalists who only sing when it “adds” something to mix (perhaps a measure or two here, an echo or “Ahhhs” there). In addition, no one instrument “carries” the whole, but it is only played when it can add to the mix. This is easier heard than explained, and so I recommend listening to a track or two by Newsboys, Switchfoot, or Tait (for instance, see the video at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOTcr9wKC-o and compare that with a cut from a Maranatha Praise CD at this one: http://youtube.com/watch?v=CYBLCV1nqHE). (NOTE, if either link is “dead” please let us know immediately and we’ll identify other examples … YouTube is a bit fickle about performed music online!)
Notice that in the first example, there is one main vocalist and the others rarely add harmonies. In the second example, every vocalist is singing in three or four part harmony … in other words, the second example could rightly be called a trio or quartet.
The difference between those two videos and those two styles is the key reason classically trained worship staff and/or worship or choir leaders find it difficult to make the transition to alternative worship – indeed, in over a decade of consulting, we’ve only come across one classically trained music leader who was able to make the switch and put together an effective worship band. In other words, your choir director isn’t the exception. Hire a worship leader who understands, embraces, and models the practices of a worship band.
Question: What are some of your favorite examples of a worship band done well? Share links to the top few in the Comments section below.