I’ve spent the last few weeks talking about the relationship between the worship band and the church techs that run sound. More specifically, I’ve focused on the responsibilities of the band leader verses the soundboard operator. This week I want to shift gears a bit and speak to the band members. To reiterate my primary view I’ll say this up front, this is a team performance. Every person involved with the creation of an atmosphere conducive to worship is a crucial member of the team. That said, let’s walk through some steps on how you, the worship member, can avoid being a punk.
Step 1: Sound Check at Normal Volume
For the guitar and bass players, this typically means having your instrument up to full and your amp and/or pedals at the desired volume. The punk tends to sound check a little lower than normal volume so that he/she can crank it up during performance. For the vocalists this means singing into your mic at singing volume. The punk stands at the mic while the band is tuning or jamming a bit and saying, “Test, test. I can’t hear myself over them. Test, test.” The best sound check happens when everyone is putting out their normal volume level, then the sound techs can level things out more efficiently.
Step 2: Don’t Play until it’s Time
We’re all guilty of this one, except maybe vocalists. In order to make rehearsal and sound check run smoothly you should arrive early, warm up for a few minutes, and then be waiting silently until the band leader starts barking orders (as they do). Here’s what the punk does: Rehearsal starts at 6pm. At 6:05 the punk is still showing off the fact that he mastered the solo to Stairway, which is going to take another 5 minutes. Of course rehearsal runs late, not everything was addressed with sound, and someone else is to blame.
Step 3: Buy a Tuner
So this one is more for the guitar and bass players. If you have horn players, then this applies there as well. Go buy a tuner and tune up prior to rehearsal or sound check. This can be as simple as one of the fantastic clip-on tuners available today. The punk either assumes he possesses perfect pitch and can tune by ear, or gets a reference E from another musician, then proceeds to tune relatively and can never quite get that G string quite right. This all takes time, which can be precious.
Step 4: Play what You Practice
Your band leader controls the arrangement. Rehearsal is your last chance to present your ideas for a different transition, lead part, or drum fill. Some band leaders may be ok making last minute changes during sound check, but in my opinion it’s too late. The punk will get inspiration during performance and throw off the rest of the band members. The extreme punk will present an idea, be declined, and then do it anyway.
Obviously, these steps are subject to the band leaders desires. Whatever rule set is put into place in order to create a more efficient and flowing pre-performance environment, those rules should be put forward far in advance. You can’t expect people to adhere to a standard if they have not been told the standard.
Now it’s your turn! What do you think are the qualities of a good band member? How can a band leader best set standards in order that all understand their roles and responsibilities?