How much time does your musical team get together to practice? Our band currently has four members (two guitars, one keyboard, and one who plays light percussion and adds harmony background vocals), we all like to sing, and we lead the music on a monthly basis (one Sunday per month). In preparation for this monthly service, we try to get together about three times a month (taking one week off) for about one hour each week. This equates to about three hours of group practice for one hour of leading musical worship. To me this seems just about right because you can hear the songs really coming together by the end of the second or the third practice depending on the complexity.
Our band is made up of all seasoned musicians with a combined 100+ years of musical experience at our respective instruments so one might think that we don’t need much practice. But the thing is, each month we have new songs to learn so it’s important to get together to divide up who will be singing which parts, who will be driving the arrangement, what key signatures to use, how we will introduce the song, who will take solos and where (if at all), and most importantly to get the feel of the overall groove of the music.
When a band practices together to hone their craft, the result is a coherent musical offering that invites congregational participation and helps in the overall flow of the worship service. Group practice allows time for the bass guitarist and drummer to work together to build the groove of the song and for the guitars and keyboards to provide the body and melody of the music.
In addition to this week night practice time, we each practice solo at home and we listen to our monthly songs performed by the original recording artists on our individual MP3 players and email youtube versions of each song to one another. Finally, we meet together about a half hour before the worship service to check our balances and to run through that difficult part once more.
In the end, we know each other very well. We can interpret looks from one another during worship. We know each others signals when something isn’t quite right; maybe the tempo needs to be adjusted based on the congregation’s singing, or maybe one of us is singing off-pitch (usually me). We are not only a band – we are friends who support one another and pray for each other.
The bottom line is that bands need to spend time together because the worship life of the church improves when this happens.