Worship Band Tune Up, part 3

Parts 1 and 2

3. In keyboard driven worship the guitar players need to listen and play a complementary part and not the same rhythm. (This also applies to a multiple guitar scene).

When the keyboard is the driving instrument in a Worship Band (or just on a song), the guitar players need to do something different rhythmically. If the keyboard is playing steady eighth notes, the guitar should play whole notes, or half notes, or a lead part with a varied rhythm. If the keyboard is playing dense chords, the guitar should play a lighter voicing or even a single note figure. If the keyboard is playing sustained chords, the guitar should play a rhythm using open chords or a palm-muted power chord part. As always, there are exceptions to this rule – there are times when you would want all the instruments to line up rhythmically to create impact or buildup at a high point within a song. You probably don’t want every instrument playing the same rhythm the whole time in a song.

A note about frequency range: The guitars and keyboards tend to occupy the same frequency range. The guitar occupies the middle frequencies of the keyboard. Keyboardists can stay above middle C and be fine most of the time. If the guitar boosts it’s mid frequency this will help distinguish itself from the keyboard.

When you’ve got 2 guitars in the band, it’s good to break up their rhythmic approach and chordal voicing as well. If one guitar is playing open chords and strumming, the other guitar can:

  • capo and play different voicing of the chords
  • play palm-muted power chords in a higher voicing
  • play an arpeggio of the same open chord or a varied voicing
  • lay out (a novel concept)
  • play a counter melody using single notes

Worship Band Tune Up, part 2

Read “Worship Band Tune Up, part 1” here.

2. In guitar driven worship, the keyboard should use pads and strings so not to conflict with the rhythm of the guitar.

Depending on what God gives you, your band may be more guitar driven than keyboard driven. The instrument “driving” the band is the one that the lead worshiper usually plays. It’s also the instrument that starts most songs, and sets the rhythms that other instruments play to. If you’re blessed, you have a band that can be both guitar and keyboard driven, depending on the need of the song. Then you can add variety and depth to your worship music.

When the guitars are instrumentally “driving” the songs, the keyboard has to be played differently. This requires a keyboardist with sensitivity. They have to know when not to play notes in the left (bass) hand. They have to know when to switch pads so not to compete with the tone of the electric guitar. They have to know when to drop out altogether.

Humility is truly a wonderful contribution to a Worship Band.

So if the guitars are playing a heavily rhythmic strumming pattern, the keyboard should play something else and not try and copy the rhythm using a piano patch. Simple, single-note melodies work well in this setting. If the guitars are playing a flowing, eighth-note, finger-style pattern, the keyboard should play long, sustained notes/chords. If the guitars are playing palm muted, chunky riffs, the keyboard should find alternate voicings for the chords and look for countermelodies in the pockets between chord changes.

Worship Band Tune Up, part 1

Technologies for Worship Magazine had a great little tip from John Chevalier on how to build a Worship Band. I’m going to break apart his points and riff on each of them.

1. The bass should always play in sinc with the beat of the kick drum. This is key, as about 60% of your sound comes from these two instruments.

“Always” is a relative term. As will be the case in all of these tune up posts, these rules are flexible and should be taken more as guidelines. There are “always” occasions when they should be ignored.

The final comment about 60% of the band’s sound being generated by bass guitar and drums is a good and important statement. Unless of course, your band lacks either bass or drums. Again, there are occasions when these guidelines do not apply. But when bass guitar and drums are present, you can not underestimate the importance and function of these foundational instruments. They lay the chordal and rhythmic framework on which all other instruments and vocals are constructed upon.

It is also wise not to separate the bass guitar and drums into different sections or layers, but to think of them as 1 cohesive unit of tone and rhythm. I like to think that the bass guitar exists primarily to give tone and melody to the kick drum. When the kick drum is “punched,” the bass guitar provides the color and pitch to that impact. This combined sound has to be strong, just like the foundation of the house, so that everything that rests on top of it is secure and finds it’s place.

803573_31924336Drummers and bassists that play in sinc are rare. They are rare because it takes a relationship. It is much more than mechanics. It requires friendship and partnership. Of course, the bass guitarist needs to be positioned on stage so that he can keep an eye on the kick drum. That’s a basic thing in order to keep the sound tight. But the really good teams are able to anticipate each others playing. As I’ve been known to say, “the bass guitarist needs to know what the drummer had for breakfast before he sees him.”

In my 10+ years of worship ministry, of all the groups I’ve led or played in, I’ve only experienced this drum/bass sinc-anticipation playing maybe one time. It takes time to build. And it takes discipline for the drummer to play a beat consistently the same way so that the bass guitarist can follow along. Discipline is also needed from the bass player to accent the rhythmic pattern initiated by the drummer.