What Do They Want From Us? - A Bit Ranty

Discussion in 'Worship Service Players' started by 79Blackie, May 23, 2017.

  1. 79Blackie

    79Blackie TDPRI Member

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    To be clear, I didn’t audition to join my worship band. I asked for a shot and was put on the next week. They did need an electric guitar player. I play almost every Sunday and have a ball, so my attitude and abilities appear to be adequate.

    Being interested in the subject, I have researched the audition process, using the internet. Almost all of the documents have the following similar language:

    “…….. Unless otherwise posted, you are expected to learn your parts exactly like the MP3, giving special attention to the tonal qualities of each instrument. For teamwork to happen effectively, we rely on you to play your part accordingly.”

    Do you really want someone who does exactly what you tell them to do, no more, no less? As far as I can see, it comes from three places, two of which are not positive:

    1. I'm a control freak. I don't like anything new nor surprising nor inspiring nor creative. I am insular. The astoundingly average level of musicianship and general indifference is readily apparent within group. I like guitar players who barely play the chords and aren't capable of fills, improvisation nor changing arrangements. I have ensured apathy by frustrating and running off anyone who is capable of such behavior.
    2. I just want someone who can show up and play the parts. Someone I don't have to worry about. Someone who can play the pants off it and make it look easy.
    3. I’m dealing with volunteers and getting what I’m paying for. They are most likely teenagers and or people just starting out. I want to motivate them to spend enough time and effort to be proficient and to grow as a musician. I want it to be clear as to what is expected. Others in the group who are more skilled and/or dedicated should not be expected to endure sub-par band members.

    With Regard to Equipment, “……exactly like the MP3.”
    I could easily drop $3000 on with a TC Electronics unit and three or four Eventide boxes. Maybe go with the new Line 6 Helix. It's a bargain at $1350.

    Some say, “Buy and use a Line 6 HD500 because that’s what Lincoln Brewster does.” Though it is what he uses live, he adds an Axe-FX and two Marshall half-stacks set to “roar” for his onstage rig. His onstage volume cannot be described as demure. If I brought a half stack to worship band, I wouldn’t even get it plugged in before I was shut down. The amp provided for me (Vox A15C1) is just loud enough for the microphone to pick it up, which is appropriate.

    Until you write that $12,000 check and get all of the gear used by all the bands we’re playing today, I’ll use whatever you put in front of me and the amp provided. I’ll choose to use it or bring my own.

    Musical Performance, "….you are expected to learn your parts exactly like the MP3"
    Let’s take Hillsong United playing live. They have 27 guitar players on stage (he-he). There are easily three or four guitar parts going. For gosh sakes, even they don't play it live EXACTLY like it's on the MP3. Even THEY won't sound just like the recording. If you want that, just leave us live musicians out of it and play the recording.

    I would hope that they give a better-than-the-recording performance. I want them to be inspiring and inspire me. I want them to be in the moment and go with it.

    With multiple guitar parts going, I choose the one which stands out the most and learn that. To be exact, I would need someone to transcribe all of the guitar parts, assign one for me to play and then provide that transcription and the isolated guitar track. I don’t have time (I am a volunteer, after all) to learn all of the guitar parts by ear and then prepare all of them.

    Finally
    It all seems a bit confusing. Inexperience and naiveté as to the recording and performing process is revealed. I have had this discussion with my church band members. We all agree that “exactly like the MP3” is an unreal and counterproductive expectation.
     
    Rick Towne likes this.
  2. Dunnigan

    Dunnigan Tele-Meister

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    when I was working with a teenage band in a ministry setting years back, we set the bar high. We expected everyone to be able to play without leadsheets at the weekly rehearsals and certainly at performances. One lead singer we let slaughter the song live because he just didn't know the words. We were a bit sticklers too about sounding like the song we were covering. But these were young musicians growing in their craft, not seasoned professionals. In your case I think playing "exactly" is a bit much to expect as you point out there's only one of you! But if there's a well known hook or melody line that everyone is expecting to hear, try to do it. But also recognize when your ensemble just can't pull something off just like the recording and then do something with creativity and excellence. I don't expect my excellent band at my church to sound just like the cd, or even to sound the same each Sunday.
     
  3. Jhengsman

    Jhengsman Tele-Holic

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    I always balked at the signature licks and everyone expects to hear it argument. Coming from evangelicals there should strive for new believers, not those looking to us as a safer cover/tribute band alternative.

    The congregations in large part shouldn't know the songs like a fan paying $$$ to see their favorite pop act knows every lick and riff. In fact beyond the music ministry using a recording as a guide the iconic version of a song is how we perform it during services.

    While we can see a video of a service where Hillsong or Bethel connected with that particular congregation we should be open to our particular church having regional and ethnic differences asking for a different interpretation of a song
     
  4. dougstrum

    dougstrum Tele-Afflicted

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    "exactly like the MP3" is not going to happen and is not a
    necessity. I thought about this very thing while listening
    to a local Christian station this week, and realizing how
    different our arrangements often are.

    Our WL is a folk rock oriented player, when he brings a new
    song in, it's already filtered by his interpretation. Then the
    band has a go at it...We all come from different backgrounds
    musically and add our parts.

    If melody and lyric are solid, so the congregation can sing
    and worship, we don't have to play note for note covers.
     
  5. davidwhitson

    davidwhitson Tele-Meister

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    This is an interesting discussion but I'm not sure I understand why you are bringing it up. You mentioned that you did not have to audition and are already in the band. Is this something that you or the band are now being pressured to do?
     
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  6. Dunnigan

    Dunnigan Tele-Meister

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    I wonder if they've had problems with people not showing up prepared or playing stuff that doesn't work well. Noodly/long solos, thick overdrive, or whathaveyou. For those types, the message is play the MP3 for now while you learn. If you have seasoned musicians, they can come up with something new that works, interpreting the song, the audience, their skills, the skills of the band. We have solid and sometimes pro musicians on the big stage, but I don't think they are strictly beholden to the MP3. I remember a recent set where they had two guitarists, two vocalists. Guess what? Hillsong arena arrangements aren't happening. So, both guitarists grabbed their acoustics, and we all worshipped. there's no strict one right way to play a song, although there are plenty of bad ways to play a song.
     
  7. SngleCoil

    SngleCoil Tele-Holic

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    We have similar expectations on our team. The biggest reason is consistency. We have a team of 8 electric guitarists that rotate teams across multiple locations so having that consistency is a big plus. It really supports unity and cohesiveness especially when time to rehearse as a full band is very limited. And of course there are limitations and adjustments that need to be made depending on the situation. But like Dunnigan says ...

    Nothing against creativity, but we just need to make sure creativity doesn't fall into the latter part of that statement. ;)
     
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  8. 79Blackie

    79Blackie TDPRI Member

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    That's a good point that I never even considered since it's mostly just me.

    Our band members are all very experienced and inherently don't need to be told to be properly prepared. Our congregation is very appreciative and grateful for what we do. The "exactly like the MP3" has never been part of my experience. There rule/guideline is so prevalent in audition documents is what intrigued me.

    Thank you all for the good and honest discussion.
     
    Rick Towne likes this.
  9. mnfidel

    mnfidel TDPRI Member

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    Found the problem :)

    Documentation unfortunately usually describes the way someone wants things to work. Not the way it actually works.

    Talk to one of the worship leaders that uses documentation like that and I'll wager lunch that in practice they run things just like everyone else does.
     
  10. Octorfunk

    Octorfunk Tele-Meister

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    BINGO.

    I'm a former on-staff worship leader, and can speak for the frustration I experienced when people would show up to rehearsal without even having looked at the setlist, much less actually worked on guitar parts.

    One time I instituted a "no-charts" rule (a mistake), and the one guy the rule was really meant for (bass player who never even listened to the songs) just quit.

    More often than not, some of the more extreme rules enacted on worship teams are coming from very specific situations that the WL has gone through and is trying to avoid in the future. That doesn't make them good rules, just might explain where they're coming from.

    As far as gear requirements, I can almost guarantee the WL used to have a guitar player on the team who had terrible tone coming from cheap/cheesy gear. He's trying to avoid that, so he says you have to have (fill in the blank) gear. A better approach would be to talk to the player and help coach him towards better tone, and to explain why certain sounds work best in certain situations.

    As to sounding like the MP3... This can be to get people to listen/practice more, but in my experience it's often something different: we really love the sound/feel of the MP3, so that's what we want our band to sound like. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it can squelch creativity and also require more of the musicians than they are capable of.

    I always tried to tell my band that for the sake of time, lets all listen & practice to the MP3, just so we have a common starting point for our limited rehearsal time. That helps us get through the song once on sort've the same page, and then we can make alterations from there.

    I've found that by starting completely from scratch with every song, that most of us will tend to play what we're most comfortable with, which usually results in every song sounding the same. So in that regard, using the MP3 as a guide can help force us to branch out musically.

    It really comes down to leadership though. If the WL publishes a list of requirements like the OP mentioned, with no explanation, it can be a huge turn-off. However, if the WL takes the time to explain the mission/vision for the worship team, and shows how each of those requurements helps to further that mission, then it makes a lot more sense to the team.
     
  11. Scaper2014

    Scaper2014 Tele-Meister

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    I'm all for being organised, prepared, knowing lead lines that help identify the song etc. But if you can't bring your own identity and expression everyone just sounds the same!
    I want to be me and me only. and if I had to be squeezed into a particular sound and had to sound like the mp3 week in week out, that would be very dull.
     
  12. hotraman

    hotraman Tele-Holic

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    This 100%
    I lead worship at two small churches and play lead guitar for a mega church on Friday nights.
    All three churches have different expectations.

    When I am the leader, I want to have fun, no pressure and let the singers / musicians do the best they can. But I draw the line with junky gear, pitchy singers, or bad drummers. No more.
    That robs the joy from me.
     
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  13. Dunnigan

    Dunnigan Tele-Meister

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    Being teachable and not having your ego tied up in your playing/singing is indispensable as members of a team. Egos and immaturity get in the way of hearing deserved criticism that your skills, gear, and/or preparation are not cutting it. Almost all of that can be improved and you can find a place in some band, as long as there is honesty. And certainly those conversations that people aren't yet ready for a certain opportunity or that they need to step it up are tough. Especially when you know they will probably not hear it in the spirit intended.
     
  14. GoldieLocks

    GoldieLocks Tele-Afflicted

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    We're mostly just happy when volunteers SHOW UP at all. Nothing lazier than religious musicians who just want to be in the club when it's convenient and COOL.
     
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  15. Wildwind

    Wildwind TDPRI Member

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    I heartily agree with the OP. Playing parts that match the recording simply cannot be done with so many bands using at least 3 or 4 guitars, some of whom I swear are there to just play one part and then fall silent. Not unless you have that many players with the skills and/or the infrastructure to manage all that live.

    For many years, I was the only guitarist and have always been the only lead guitarist dating back 25 years. We have a very dynamic team, including several former touring pros. It's not a huge church, but we do good worship.

    As for gear...like most, I buy my own. The church provides everything else, including $7,500 V-Drums and at least $12,000 worth of keys. And my gear can cover about any base you can imagine (Fractal Axe-Fx and AX8). But I do it all with my Strats. No Gretsch or Dusenburg guitars, no Vox amps (or models). The Strats are wired for both outside pickups - faux Gretsch when needed - but I make no effort to keep up with these mega-bands otherwise though I love their music.

    I do work hard on my parts and am always prepared, but pretty much all the time I have to find key parts or hybrid parts to make good music. So that means playing a part that might not be as fun or flashy, but it shapes the song when/where needed. And it just works.

    Finally, while we do sort of follow the recordings, we adapt for our band and our congregation. We cut short very long intros, at times shorten guitar solos a bit (if they are way long), and even change the arrangement a bit. It works for us very well. To me, faithfulness, continuing to work on upgrading skills, playing the best gear you can afford without starving anyone, and being a worshiper - these are vital. IMO, the rest is not.
     
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  16. GoldieLocks

    GoldieLocks Tele-Afflicted

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    In my 35 years as a musician:

    I've learned that most musicians can only really do 1 or 2 styles of music. Ever invited a Classical musician to a blues jam? Ever tried to teach some Miles Davis to a punk drummer? Ever heard B.B. King play a Metallica riff?

    And my personal pet peeve: Ever heard an L.A. studio musician try pathetically to play Southern Rock or roots music - OR WORSE - Blues?

    We once had a jam night where we tried to get a bunch of College educated Jazz musicians to play some Bob Dylan songs... It never even made it to the Train Wreck stage... The train broke just getting it to the tracks.

    Lately i've been trying to get Metal musicians to flounder on some Reggae jams... Oh MY!

    Now i'm just happy if church musicians know how to put a battery in their tuner. Music is an interesting challenge. I'm surprised churches are often as successful as they are. Auditions would be a dream and a nightmare.
     
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  17. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Friend of Leo's

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    I half expected this topic to get flamed. I'm really impressed with all the reasonable opinions and the effort people put into trying to understand the perspective of those who made up those rules.
     
  18. GoldieLocks

    GoldieLocks Tele-Afflicted

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    This is a somewhat important applicable issue to all of us in the modern church. (especially as we get to have children who desire to play music as well).

    We need to deal with all of the different types of musicians that make their way to a church setting. Handing people C.D.'s and MP3's isn't always practical or situational.
    I generally just laugh when somebody tells me to play like someone else... and then I mention how influenced I am by Willie Nelson and his band. (I get an instant look of HORROR from worship leaders... then I mention how influential Metallica and KISS was on my tone and early development.)

    Since many of us here care so greatly about these topics - we may become the church worship leaders of tomorrow. It's great that we are discussing and rethinking our experiences so often). There's hope.
     
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  19. islander

    islander Tele-Meister

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    my personal taste really depends on the mood i'm in and then the scene I am in. Have I played exactly like the original recording, or the bethel version or the vineyard live and on and on. and sometimes, that is old. I've been in a place where I have been with musicians who do every song completely different to varying stages of even being able to recognize. and sometimes that got old...sometimes really quickly, although the dimed marshall punk version of Eternity by B.D. was still garnishes a smile.
    I'm not exclusive to anything anymore, although I do have my preferences and they are fleeting like the wind cause I'm a creative soul or some kind of touchy feely garbage like that. LOL. what ever works today is good enough for me. lets put some structure in there, and then lets giver' if we follow it to a Tee, great, if we have a tangent or two....cool

    sometimes, I just like to sit back and laugh at it all. This worked today.
    http://babylonbee.com/news/church-tech-guy-completes-historic-perfect-service/
     
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  20. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Friend of Leo's

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    Great article. I had him on my Worship Leader Rotisserie League team for a while, but I dropped him after he let the bass get too boomy during an Easter service. LOL.
     
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