Category Archives: Learn a Song

Practice Time

Practice Time

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.

A Pastoral Use for Youtube

A Pastoral Use for Youtube

The following is an excerpt from a Pastor’s electronic newsletter to his congregation:

This Sunday our musicians will be introducing a new song by Chris Tomlin called “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”  This song is rich in content as well as musicality. Please preview and enjoy this song before Sunday by clicking here to watch it on Youtube.

This is an excellent idea and a practice that I wholeheartedly endorse.  I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve used youtube to learn a new song, so why not use this resource to help out the entire congregation in advance of a worship service that uses a new song?  Just go to search on the song’s title that you are trying to find then send the link to your congregation in your electronic newsletter.  It’s a wonderful use of today’s technology to help glorify God.

By the way, here’s the song that this particular congregation will be singing and it is indeed beautiful:

Thanks Pastor M for this idea and God’s Blessing on your birthday!

Free Chord Chart for “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”

Free Chord Chart for “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”

In my prior post, I had mentioned a new version of the hymn “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” arranged by Michael Schroeder.  The post also included a video of the piece.  Michael has offered a chord sheet of his arrangement to anyone interested.  You can get your free copy by either downloading the pdf file from my file download area, or by requesting a copy from me at my email address: “sjbrown58 at” and I would be happy to pass one off to you; courtesy of Michael Schroeder.  For a limited time, you can also visit Michael’s website for a copy as well (

If you missed the video, you can see it here:

Have a great “Holy Trinity” celebration this weekend and may God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit share the glory in all that you do.

Electric Guitar BLOG

Electric Guitar BLOG

If you’re serious about using an electric guitar in worship and want to learn some specific lead patterns to popular songs, then you owe it to yourself to check out this BLOG:

They also do a nice job of describing various rhythms for the acoustic guitar.

How I Learn a New Song

How I Learn a New Song

I chose music for our blended worship services about two months in advance.  If the song is new, there is a process that I follow to learn it.  Up until now, this was an unwritten process and I suppose most of it is intuitively obvious; but if this helps just one person reading this BLOG, then it will have been worthwhile.

Let’s assume that you have sheet music, at least a lead sheet.  I keep binders of new music that I obtain for free from web resources such as and  Over the years I’ve filled up over seven binders!

Here is the list of things that I do to learn a new song:

  1. It always helps to start with prayer.  Ask for God’s blessings, ask Him if it’s the right song to sing to him and express thanks for your musical gifts.
  2. Scan through the music and note the overall important stuff like the time signature, the tempo, the key and the chords.  Also, look at the flow of the song; how the verses, the chorus, the bridge, the CODA, etc. all fit together.
  3. The next thing that I need to do is to hear the melody.  If it’s simple enough I’ll play it on my guitar.  If not (and usually more than two sharps or flats throws me), then the first place I look to is youtube, because you can find most popular songs there for free.  If I can’t find it there, I’ll either buy it from ZUNE marketplace (similar to Itunes) or I’ll bring it to church and ask our keyboard player to play it for me.  As a side note, if I find the song on youtube, I will often forward a link to our Pastor, because he is fairly new to contemporary music and appreciates hearing the original before being asked to sing it in worship, and I think it helps him to evaluate the lyrics as well.
  4. Actually, purchasing an MP3 copy is the preferred route for me because I’ve been known to play it over, and over, and over.  On my way to work, at the gym while on the treadmill, while cutting my lawn, etc.  I listen to it repeatedly so that the rhythm, the groove, or the feel gets driven into my thick skull.
  5. Next, listening to the vocals and looking at the sheet music, I decide if the arrangement needs to be transposed.  Usually, if it does, it’s due to the vocals being too high.  If I’m singing the song as a solo, then I can reach a high E, but if it’s for the congregation then I need to be sure that the highest note is a C or Db or maybe a D at the highest (if its used sparingly).  The nice thing about’s music is that you can transpose the music there, right at their website, to your preferred key before printing it.  You can also listen to it there in an add-on called the “new song jukebox”, but only while the song is being featured and they tend to change after a week or so
  6. Next, I look at the chords to see if they are easy enough for the guitarists.  If not, I transpose the chords to a more playable key.  Even if the chords are OK, I will often transpose it to another key and have our second guitarist play it with different chord forms than I am, with a capo, so that we get a fuller sound together.
  7. Finally, I’m ready to practice the song.  I will often start by playing along with the original, but I quickly go to doing it alone.  If it’s a tricky rhythm, I’ll play along with either a metronome or a drum machine to help me to keep the timing.
  8. I will also usually play through it a few times before I sing while playing.  This is also a good time to start memorizing the lyrics, but if you listen to the music as much as I do, then you probably have them committed to memory anyway.
  9. I usually practice at least a half hour a day, every day, and the new song will be at least 10 minutes of this practice time.  If there’s a difficult part, just play that part over and over again.  I used to have a guitar teacher that put repeat symbols around difficult measures then followed it with a 100X.  It works.
  10. I try to get the song as perfect as I can on my own, then I practice it with the band that have also been looking at the sheet music and practicing themselves.
  11. Finally, I’ll look for places to embellish.  These are usually between chord transitions or at places where there is a rest in the lyrics.

By doing this up front home work, your new songs will be much easier to learn as a group.  In fact, usually one practice will do it.

I deliberately did not talk about how to choose new music in this post since I’ve covered that area in the past (just click on my “choosing songs” and “choosing music” categories for more information if needed).

Sing to the Lord a new song!  For some reason God tells us this fact a whopping nine times in scripture.

You Are

“You Are” by Mark Roach

One of my favorite songs to strum & sing is ”You Are” by Mark Roach.  It does a beautiful job of emphasizing the names and attributes of Jesus.  I will often use it as a pre-service piece to draw our attention towards Jesus, or I’ll play it during the Offering to draw attention to the lyric “you (Jesus) are the reason I make this offering.”


We have chosen this song as another pre-service piece for the upcoming Installation service of Pastor Timothy Ehlers at Messiah Lutheran Church (South Windsor, CT) on 3/8/2009.


If you are a guitarist, Mark Roach, has provided some wonderful resources on youtube.   I now play this song with a cut capo.  If you’ve never used one before, you might want to watch Marks’ instructional video followed by his instructions on how to use the cut capo on “You Are.”  Here are the videos:


How to use the cut capo:

How to play “You Are” with the cut capo:

The finished product:

Learn a Song – Bless the Lord

Bless the Lord by Laura Story

If you’re a guitar player (especially a beginner), videos like this one below can be very helpful:

If you are a member at “” you can grab a free lead sheet of this song and the MP3 as well.  They run these give-aways often.  They also include the story behind the song as well!  Its a great way to build up your library!  Here’s their link:

Consider joining today.  They require you to register with an email address.  It’s also a great place to download sheet music for very reasonable prices.