Before you know it, Sunday is here.
Before you have time to recover from last weekend, it’s time to focus on the next service, the next project, the next rehearsal.
The question is, how do you develop interesting musical arrangements when you just don’t have the time?
Most of us don’t have time to rehearse multiple times a week AND work with the same team each weekend. We have a rotation of volunteer musicians.
I’m in the midst of this tension with you and I’ve tried a few things. Hopefully they inspire your creativity:
7 Tips For Developing Quality Arrangements
1. Become A Student Of Recordings
I may be getting too nerdy for my own good, but I study recordings like it’s my job (well, I guess it sort of is). The more I listen and study music, the better I get at developing arrangements quickly.
Not only do I listen to specific instruments, I try and get inside the producer’s mind with questions like this:
- What instruments are present?
- What is unique about this arrangement?
- How does the musical style serve the content of the lyrics?
- Drum style: busy or simple?
- Who’s playing the lead lick – keyboard, piano, electric guitar, glockenspiel?
- How are the bass and drums connecting?
- How are the song sections placed? (If you’re Hillsong: verse 1, pre-chorus 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus 2, bridge, chorus 7, bridge 19, pre-chorus 6, chorus 14, tag 39, verse 46, etc.)
2. Start Small & Build Slowly
I encourage young worship teams to always start small. In our zeal to be like Hillsong, we fill our stages with mediocre to poor talent and our music suffers.
Rather, start small and build slowly. It’s much easier to arrange with less. I’d rather have one guitar, bass, & drums than a flute, percussionist, harmonica, trumpet, tuba, out-of-tune violin worship team. For God’s sake, start small.
3. Be Intentional With Every Instrument
Preach intentionality. Every instrument needs to have a specific purpose. Allow no one to just throw sound out into the air. Determine who is doing rhythm, who is playing lead, and who is NOT playing (I know, crazy idea!). Teach your band to play their part with focused intentionality.
4. Arrange Across the EQ Spectrum
When I develop arrangements, I assign each instrument a place along the EQ spectrum. It makes for a more pleasing sound. For example:
- Bass & Kick drum – Low End
- Rhythm Electric, Keys – Mid range
- Acoustic Guitar, Lead Electric – Highs
Start thinking this way, if you don’t already. It’s not just your sound engineer’s responsibility. You’ll make his job easier if you do this well.
5. Bring Instruments In and Out
I’ve noticed that in a lot of church worship teams each band member plays the whole time. I think we can do better. Here are some suggestions:
- Do a full band intro
- Do a one instrument intro
- Drop the bass on verse 1
- Use only bass & drums on verse 1
- Do verse 1 full band and drop everyone out on first chorus
- Use loops and bring the drummer in and out
You get the idea. The goal is to add color to your music.
6. When In Doubt, Serve the Lyric
Sometimes we musicians can get carried away, spending too much time arranging something unpractical – something that doesn’t serve the worshiping congregation well. When in doubt, always serve the lyric. Serve the raised voice of your congregation.
You want what John Piper calls “undistracting excellence”. Not too complex so people watch and not so sloppy that people disengage. Find that happy medium where you serve people in their experience with God. Teach your team to be unselfish in their service of God’s people.
7. Have Your Team Come Prepared
The more prepared your team is, the more productive your rehearsal will be. I encourage my band to learn the arrangements just like the recording. Sometimes I’ll make changes, but I believe it’s a good discipline for musicians to listen and learn their part.
Question: What have you learned as an arranger of worship music? You can leave a comment by clicking here.