6. Great charts
One of the keys to improving your worship band and your rehearsals is to give your group great charts. The majority of worship bands charts fall into one of two camps. The majority of bands use a lyric sheet with the chords on top. Personally, I prefer a full Rhythm/SAT vocal chart with all the written notes, solo cues, repeats with proper first and second endings, D.S. and Coda.
If you are doing a lyric-chord style chart, it is important to double-check the chords and make sure they are all correct. Chord charts downloaded from the internet often have mistakes. I would also put in the overall form of the songs (i.e. Intro, V1, C, V2, C, Bridge, C, C, ending) and chords for the intro, instrumental sections and the ending (outro).
The more information that you have on your chart, the less time you have to spend in the rehearsal explaining the music to the band.
I have been a professional chart writer and musical arranger for most of my life, so I am quite fussy about my charts. I normally spend four or six hours on each new SAT/Rhythm chart and make it as perfect as I can. I put in written musical cues for the leader, back-vocals, drums, bass, guitars and keys. Then after the first rehearsal with that chart, I will go home and revise anything that didn’t work in the rehearsal.
Here’s a sample of one of my charts.
It is also important to note that some bands just ‘play by ear’. I grew up in this environment. The lead player usually just plays the songs, everyone listens and picks up the music on their own. I think that to be a well-rounded musician, you should be able to do all three: improvise off a chord chart, read written notes and ‘play by ear’.
There are a number of different styles of vocals that are popular. The current trend is to have the main leader (usually a guy) with one back vocal (usually a girl) throwing in some occasional 2 part harmony. This style is a little more impromptu and usually gives either singer lots of room to do what they think sounds best for the song. This also works best when practice time is limited and the background singer is good at picking out their own part.
Another favourite style is to put the male leader on the melody with the top note around a D and then stack two other parts above that (TSA). The harmonies are usually reserved for the chorus and the bridge if it is appropriate. This style usually works well with one girl singing the tenor part and another singing the alto part above that. This puts all the singers in their strongest vocal ranges.
Another popular style is to have a large group of vocalists (from six singers to a full choir) and to have the traditional soprano on the melody with two parts below (SAT). You can hear examples of this from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and also the worship team and choir led by Israel Houghton at Lakewood Church in Houston.
Of course, you can add a bass part (SATB) or change the vocals around so it’s the guys on melody with the ladies singing parts above (TSA: as per example 2) or sandwich the melody between two harmonies (ATB), where a guy sings the melody with an alto part above and a bass or baritone part below the melody. Or, if you don’t have any guys, you could just do 3 part ladies (SAA). Or you could all just sing the melody.
I won’t attempt to give a vocal arranging course at this point, but I will say that the vocals are the most important part of any worship band. It has been my observation that many groups do not spend enough time working on their vocals.
When I work with vocal sections, I make sure that everyone is singing the proper rhythms for the song, is breathing at the best places, memorizes the music, learns to enunciate properly, knows what the harmonies are for the different sections of the song and learns to blend properly. Another important element is vibrato, or the lack of vibrato. The modern worship vocal sound is normally without vibrato (or with very little).
The other areas of consideration are mic technique, great stage presence and worship. I never want the singers, or any of the band for that matter, just singing songs. I want them to get past the music to singing to the Creator. I want them to be worshippers and worship leaders, not just singers.
I also look for singers who worship God whether they are on the stage or off the stage. If people only ‘worship’ on the stage, then something is not quite right. That usually indicates that they are performing more than they are worshipping.
Question: What style are you using in your worship band? What is working for you?
In Part 3 I will talk about the Worship Band Rhythm Section: instrumentation, tempo, musical feel, layering, dynamics, stage layout and stage presence.
Here’s the link to Part 1.
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