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Chris Fane's Student Ministry News

A youth ministry blog consisting of a collection of articles and notes related to
student / youth ministry. Gathered by Chris Fane of egadideas.com

How To Start A Youth Band - (Part Three) Playing As A Band - Listening

Click here for Part 1: Making Of The Band
Click here for Part 2: How To Run A Rehearsal

Many times I see worship teams that are made up of very talented musicians that just don’t understand the essence of playing together. Each individual is a great player apart from the band, but when they try to play as a group they just can’t make it happen. This can kill a worship experience and make it a loathsome experience for the musicians as well. In this article I will talk about some important factors for people learning to play as a group.

Who is leading?
I often ask this question of bands who have no clear direction. Often they will just scratch their heads and look at me as if I just asked an irrelevant question. Even worse is when they point to the guy playing bass in the corner.

Without a leader, bands will compete for control
A leader should drive where the song is heading. They should make decisions about style, phrasing, arrangement, dynamics, and flow. Other members of the band should depend on the leader to guide them together to where these decisions lead. Without an effective leader, there is no cohesion to the group and the worshippers are left with a very confused path to God.

Who is following?
I said earlier that you need an effective leader. A leader with no followers is not a leader at all. The purpose of the followers is to go where the leader is going. I say this, even though is seems like the most basic of ideas about leadership, but let me drive the point home. When I ask what the most important part of playing in a band is, I usually get many responses from learning your part to developing a spirit of worship. Let me be clear. When playing in a band, the most important thing you should do is listen. Each member of the group has to listen to the other members of the group to play together, else there is this nice cacophony that is referred to in the Bible as resounding brass. Followers have to listen to follow.

I once heard a band that hadn’t practiced listening to each other very much. This was a priceless moment. The guitarist and lead singer stylized the song into a swing feel (this is where two eighth notes sound like three tripolets with the first two tied together). The other member of the band were playing the song straight. None of the rhythms worked together. All of this happened because the leader was leading in a way that the others didn’t hear. Listening is the most important aspect of playing with others.

So how do you practice listening? It’s not easy, or at least as easy as you might think.

1. Talk about what you are going to do before playing, especially with young players.

2. Give listening examples of what you are thinking. Bring in a CD that sounds similar to what you are going for.

3. Play a game. This is a game I use for timing. Have each person sit in a circle and close their eyes. The leader will start by clapping four beats to establish the tempo, the next person and those following will then clap one beat each around the circle. This is easier with faster tempos, but try a really slow tempo and see what happens. If they can do it somewhat together, start using rhythms in the beats. This locks in your timing better than any other tools I have seen.

4. Get focused. I always try to start each rehearsal with a short devotion. This is a great time to get everyone focused on the same thing from the beginning and it helps everyone know why they are there.

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