From my perspective as a jazz trumpet/piano player. I think too much emphasis is being put on improv as some sort of "unknown" variable that could possibly come in and "upset" the balance of an established structure.
If anyone is familiar with Jazz/Big Bands, etc. you know how improv is incorporated into the whole. It's but one part, one section, and is usually VERY STRUCTURED and planned.
Of course, the actual notes being played by the improv soloist aren't necessarily pre-planned, but the rest of the band is playing a pre-determined chord progression and the band leader has certain signals that bring the band back to the "hook" of the song (or to a certain place in the sheet music).
I used to participate in multiple concerts in a short period of time where I'd take improv solos. The band continued doing what they do, and everybody always stayed together and landed on the same "page" musically.
Now all that being said, we can glean from that world for the worship world. Improv is just another arrow in our quiver, another tool in our tool box, so to speak.
Good idea: having the band lay down structure for soloists (one at a time, or in a structured combo) to improv over.
Bad idea: having the whole band improv at the same time.
Now, I think where Melanie is coming from really is more about a stylistic approach (even though style doesn't drive what she's talking about). There is such a thing as spontaneous worship (improv) music that can be just as excellent as totally pre-planned worship music. This "free" worship is driven by a strong leader(s) who actually directs the band vocally, with hand signals, or even in subtle musical cues the band is familiar with.
The goal in that pursuit though, would be for the band to spend a lot of time flowing together and working on being on the same page. Obviously, from a preference standpoint, people who don't enjoy not knowing what's coming will be uncomfortable with a more spontaneous approach.
Most of these "prophetic" worship experiences are driven by prayer/scripture reading and contain a whole lot of repetition. I truly believe there is a time and place for this sort of worship music.
A few posts back there was a comment about not being able to worship while working tech. I totally disagree. You might not be able to "worship" with singing at that moment, but the fact that you are working tech to help create an atmosphere of worship as an act of service to the congregation IS worship. It's loving God and loving your neighbor. Worship is so much more than joining in on a song.
I have to say I find this fascinating. I haven't finished reading yet but I'm really interested in this topic and will be looking at all the links. Thx for all the input
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Here is an entirely "prophetic" spontaneous song from our set last week.
Let the LEvites arise, awaken our hearts to gather before your throne to worship 24/7 with intercession, praise with singing, and music. AWAKEN the levitcal callings in this hour. God resurrected the Tabernacle of David...........
Guitar Lessons of Sarasota
This is actually my first thread I am posting on. I have been involved with a 24 hr prayer room in Lancaster Pa (where I am from). I have worked with a lot of teams and one of the things we do with prophetic or improvised worship as it was said above is called Harp and Bowl worship. This is a way for you to have structure in worship but be able to go with the Holy Spirit. It also is a way for you vocalist to have structure. They will be able to follow the leader for when they go into a chorus or verses. Sometimes the choruses are totally improvised and most of the time its coming from your spirit. Other times we are actually playing from actual songs or at least parts of them.
Intercession is intimacy, partnership and agreement with God. Intercessory prayer is an exchange of romance where God speaks to us and it moves our hearts. When we speak back to God, His heart is moved. God desires to establish or deepen this romantic relationship with us. He desires intimacy with us. The power to engage in night and day prayer is found in having a heart that enjoys God. Encountering God’s beauty and desire for us is where we most enjoy our primary reward, which is God Himself.
Prophetic worship is designed to facilitate united group participation in worship so that we might receive the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to reach the highest experience of corporate worship, including ministry times for healing and deliverance.
Worship with the Word:
Worship with the Word involves agreeing with God's heart as we sing biblical truths of who God is and what He promises to do. This helps us to gain deeper revelation, knowledge and understanding about a specific Biblical passage or theme of Scripture. The worship team focuses on one specific passage or theme by singing through key verses from that passage or about that theme. This causes the Word to come alive to us.
Devotional Worship Prayer:
Devotional worship provides an anointed atmosphere for meditation on scripture and for lingering in the presence of God. During this format, the worship songs and music style are devotional in focus so that we may
“sit at the feet of Jesus” as Mary of Bethany did.
Another thing we do is we have a "talk back" mics. A talk back is a mic that is only hooked into aviam which are personal monitor systems. This enables the worship leader to be able to talk to the entire team and give direction. It doesn't go to the entire house mix.
Hope this helps a little
If it works for you and the band and the people are blessed by it then go for it. Maybe you could have seperate services to denote that that would happen, or try it out about once a month and see what the congregation likes more. If there are simple choruses most everyone can catch on.
I pray while playing. I have come to understand that I connect with God the best through the Holy Spirit's presence while I am in a state of musical prayer. I am at my most vulnerable and my most spiritual open to all God has to show me. I pray other times as well, but praying over song is my deepest connection to Him.
With saying that.... Using music in any worship setting requires that we ask this question: "Does it glorify God?"... Music in worship should serve no other purpose but that. I am a jazz/funk player. Improv is awesome, but would I be distracted from God? Would my purpose for presenting my offering to God be lessened because I was concentrating on the changes or solo exchanges more than keeping myself focused on Him? I choose to hold jazz concerts and keep worship events separate. This way I can place cool arrangements of faith based jazz if I choose but not feel as if I am suppose to be directing my focus only to God at that particular moment. A concert can glorify Him still yet allow some flexibility in programing where a worship service is a dedicated moment.
My 2 cents...
Every way of man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts. Proverbs 21:2
I don't see much REAL improv coming from the major groups. By REAL improv I don't mean extending the song by another chorus or two. I mean full on, unrehearsed "I'm not sure how we are gonna get back into the song" stuff. I have participated in it several times, and man is it just fun stuff. The first time we did "This Little Light of Mine" for kicks, I was like "How do we play this?" The response was "It's in A." Alrighty then...
Love it! "It's in A." We just had this moment yesterday. Hilarious.
I think when improvised becomes complicated or clever it starts to distract - there's a fine line.
I like this kind of thing:
Beautiful, simple but anointed.
Or stuff by John Belt.
Wow, improvisational worship! I thought I was in a small minority interested in exploring this concept!
I haven't read all the posts in this thread, but what I have read seems to assume that improvisation is limited to instrumental. I think of improvisational worship as also including simply improvising the song structure (which is problematic when syncing multimedia) as well as improvising vocal/lyric parts as well.
The greatest impediments that I've seen with improvisational worship (and these have kept me from doing it) are:
- The musicians on my worship teams generally haven't had the skill to pull-it off
- The congregation and leadership generally finds it so foreign that they either don't know how to worship during it or they don't support it. When leadership doesn't understand it and the worship team is complaining about having to learn how to improv, that often kills the effort.
As a result, I unfortunately don't do it beyond solo instrumental improv (usually underneath someone speaking/praying) or during altar calls. I also improvise song structure a little (mostly repeating a chorus or returning to a bridge or verse) but have to keep that sort of thing limited.
Years ago, we had professional and professional-quality players on the team. Improv was standard. We often filled a couple of hours with nothing but praise and worship and never got to the preaching. The pastor was also worship leader, so it was his call. What did vocalists do during that time? Well, their voice is their instrument, so they improvised, as well.
It wasn't just a concert or a show, and it wasn't just the band having fun. Ministry went on during that time, words were interspersed between songs, people in the congregation even began songs that the band picked up on. We had a period of about two or three years where creativity was pretty incredible. One summer, we picked up a guy who played trombone and mandolin.
One of the downsides to improv in worship is that not everyone in the congregation is into it. My wife just checks out when the music goes on too long. What is too long? Three minutes? Twenty minutes? Ninety? A friend of ours simply tolerates the praise and worship, longing for it to end to get to the "real" point of church. The primary objective that the band needs to keep in mind is that they are leading people in worship of the eternal God of everything. The methods can vary widely.
Despite us, and through us, God moves.