Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Worship Leader Tip: Ditch the Music Stand

Occasionally, people search for worship leading techniques and land on this blog. For those of you reading this and searching for worship leading tips, maybe this one will help.

One thing that has helped me to lead in a worship setting is to ditch the music stand. That's right. Throw it out. It was a crutch for me for a long time. There are great reasons to get rid of it. Head up. Increased eye contact with band. Close your own eyes to remove the distraction of the kid who just threw up on the front row.

What do I use in its place? Here's the skinny.

There are video monitor screens in the back of the worship space. I know exactly what the worshipers are seeing (or not seeing) at any given time. If you can't install video screen(s) in the back, then go for a TV monitor upstage on the floor. Have a backup (music stand with lyrics sitting behind you) in case the monitors go down mid-morning.

I've seen some leaders simply have the music stand there to hold an outline of the order of worship. Since I use a Line 6 PodXT Live effect pedal and a Variax 700 electric guitar to lead worship most of the time, I set each song to a pedal on the floor board. I post the following outline for myself so I know which song is coming next, and also which pedal I have assigned to that song. This way I don't have to try and remember, "Now was this with an acoustic setting or was this with a Les Paul bridge pickup setting with slight delay?"

Here's what mine looks like.

*By the way, the tempos and keys are lined up underneath the song titles for me, cause I'm not perfect.

And it matches my Line 6 PODxt Live pedal board...


Know the basic chord structure of the songs like the back of your hand. It's not going to come just by rehearsing it once with the band and a sound check on the weekend. Spend time by yourself, learning the music. The best way is to play along with recordings. Keep playing and singing until you can anticipate just about everything. Remember, don't practice until you get it right...practice until you don't get it wrong.

Memorizing the music is great — but there are still times I have a lapse. I rely heavily on the band to catch my mistakes. There are plenty of times that I'll drop a chord here or there because I was too into the words/worship or simply pulled a "brain fart." Regardless, don't be afraid to mess up — because the other musicians will cover your back. There have been moments that I back off my volume or quit playing and let the band take it. Besides, a good worship leader won't play solid on everything — but play like you really are 1/5 of the band.

That's right. You'll need to fail a couple of times without the music stand in front of you to become comfortable how to overcome the crutch of having it there. The more you fail — the more you'll learn to circumvent those failures by recognizing what caused the failure.

Hope this helps as you lead worship. It's helped me by getting my head out of a music stand and more focused on the act of worship and making sure others are able to do the same.

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