You’ve worked a hard day and would love to just get home for a hot meal and some R&R. You’re feeling tired and it seems the day should be winding down but there is still one more important meeting to attend: the weekly praise team rehearsal.
Most praise teams are staffed with volunteers who have busy lives. Although our primary objective should be preparing our teams so that we can lead effectively, getting our volunteers through rehearsal in a reasonable time frame is an added bonus.
Every rehearsal is different but there are certainly some steps we can take as leaders to honor the time of our devoted praise team members. By being prepared you can have a more effective, productive rehearsal which will potentially take less of your team’s time while still preparing them to lead with excellence and confidence.
1. Be prepared as the leader
This may sound obvious but I’ve seen plenty of rehearsals (and sadly, led a few myself) where the leader is scattered and not quite sure what they want. I’ve blogged about this one point in great detail on my site (see “7 Simple Ways to Prepare for Rehearsals“) but the general point is that you’ve prepared your music and arrangements beforehand. You should be confident in how the song goes and how to lead it. You should have already anticipated and planned your intros, endings, and transitions. (see also Custom Chord Charts in PlanningCenterOnline for tips on how to customize band, vocal, and arrangement cues).
2. Pre-mix your monitors and line check your inputs
This point requires some teamwork with your sound crew. Whether you use floor wedge monitors or in-ear monitors it’s advantageous to premix your monitors in advance of rehearsal. After working with various singers and musicians most sound techs can learn what these members prefer to have in their mixes. Digital consoles can help tremendously in recalling saved snapshots of monitor mixes, EQ settings, and other channel strip features. Also try to have your sound crew do a pre-rehearsal line check to confirm all the mics and inputs are plugged in properly and ready to go.
3. Start on time even if people are running late
It seems someone is always running late to rehearsals. Rather than stand around and wait for them to arrive start working on songs immediately. If the tardy person is a key player of the rhythm section start out with vocals only. Pick a chorus and sing it without the band and make sure you can hear and the parts are in place.
4. Prioritize your rehearsal flow
If your instrumentation varies and some people are not required, prioritize the rehearsal schedule so that people aren’t standing around. For example, if you have 2 songs with brass and 4 songs without, do the songs with brass first so your horn players can leave when they are done. If you are doing a special with a solo vocalist and band, save that for last so that the rest of your background vocals who aren’t singing can be dismissed early.
5. Don’t get stuck
When you hit a problem area don’t allow yourself to get stuck on it forever. If you hit a snag and have a hard time moving on you should either a) table it and work on this more at the end or b) have a backup song in it’s place and resume rehearsal on that song a different week.
Nothing is worse than having your vocalists standing around for 30 minutes while you work through a band part, or vice versa. If the vocals are really struggling, move on after a few minutes so that your band stays engaged. You could let the musicians leave at the end of rehearsal and keep the vocals a few extra minutes.
The same works for the band. Let’s say you can’t get a certain drum hit or transition with the band, but the vocals have their parts down – table that song for the end of rehearsal, let your vocals leave, and come back to it with the band only.
6. Send out chord charts and music files in advance
As leaders we should be establishing our setlists well enough in advance so that our team members can listen to the music and practice at home. 24 hours is not sufficient. (I’m preaching to myself now!). If you use something such as PlanningCenterOnline it is very easy to create your setlist with uploaded chord charts and .mp3 files. (Note: ripping .mp3 and burning CDs or sending these to your team members is a violation of copyrights and should not be done unless you have secured proper licensing, such as CCLI’s “Rehearsal License“).
7. Make it clear what arrangement of a song you will be doing
One issue of frustration we often encounter is confusion over a song’s arrangement. It’s common to upload a .mp3 file of the Hillsong United arrangement only to find out that the worship leader is doing this song with a different groove or instrumentation. If you plan on leading a different arrangement than the version of the audio file that you send your band members, let them know. Finally, and most importantly, try to record your special arrangement so that it’s available for future use. Some musicians will spend HOURS practicing at home to sound just like the record and will be disappointed when you tell them you’re not doing it that way.
8. Create a culture of preparation
Create a culture within your team that stresses that practice and rehearsal are not the same thing. Practice is what we should be doing individually. Listen to the songs and be able to play your part. Listen for the harmonies and find your vocal part. Get familiar with the melodies and rhythms. Rehearsal is what we do together. It should flow fairly easily if everyone has practiced. By creating a culture of preparation your team will learn to be prepared before rehearsal.
9. Be open to interpretation and team ideas, but have a definitive leader
Let’s face it, musicians are subjective and opinionated. One of the biggest time-killers in a rehearsal is when every band member tries to show their ideas and interpretation of a song. Although leaders should be open and receptive to creative input from their team, there should be a clear leader and a person who ultimately makes the final call.
If we are fully prepared as leaders and create a culture of preparation your rehearsal times can be shortened dramatically. What would you do with the saved time? Let your team get home to their families earlier? Have a devotion? Or, just enjoy some extra time to just worship with your team with songs that aren’t even on your setlist.
Either way, your team will be encouraged and will respect your leadership more if you lead with confidence and show them that you’re prepared and value their time.