5 Tips for leading worship with a small team

This post originally appeared on brentoncollyer.com

Leading worship with a small team of musicians is a real challenge and considering the majority of churches in the U.S. are two-hundred people or less this is a challenge most worship leaders face.  Whether you lead worship regularly with a small team or only occasionally, here are five tips that will help you make the most of your Sunday worship.


1 – Simplify The Arrangement

The number one mistake I see small teams make is trying too hard.  Forcing it. Pretending to be something they’re not.  Most of the songs we lead come from worship bands with fifteen members or from studio recordings with over one-hundred tracks!  In reality, there are only three core pieces to every song:

     •Rhythm (Groove & Tempo)

     •Melody

     •Chord Changes (Harmony)

This is it.  Everything else is enhancement.  Make sure you’re doing these well and strip away the rest.  Don’t have your drummer play the full rock groove if you don’t have a bass or electric player.  Just play the CORE groove.  Don’t have your keys player hit that soaring synth lead if they’re the only instrument.  It will feel out of place.  Ultimately, lean into your strengths and play the core elements well.

2 – Make The Most of Dynamics

Want to know the secret to sounding great with a small team?  Play less!  With only a few instruments the places you play (and more importantly don’t play), are crucial. You need to come in and out at the right moments.

• Guitarists, don’t strum big all the time.  Use of the full dynamic range of your instrument so the song has movement.

• Percussionist, cut out for full sections of a song.  It will make your re-entrance that much more impactful.

3 – Shorten The Map

Have you ever tried to build that bridge the full six times only to discover you’ve maxed out by bridge three?  Long intros, extended instrumentals and eternal builds often don’t work with the small team.  If I’m playing by myself and I get to a sixteen bar instrumental I’ll usually shorten it to four or eight bars.  I don’t have drums to build.  I don’t have an electric guitar or keys to add harmonic interest.  It just get’s boring so keep it moving.

 

4 – Get Creative With Lead Lines

Don’t have another instrument to play a lead or melody line?  Sometimes you need to cover the key lead lines yourself. As a guitarist I take playing on my own lead lines as a challenge. I practice until I can play the lead lines within the chords. Keys players can do the same.  Try working it into your chord changes.  This can help expand your chord vocabulary, build dexterity and create more musical arrangements. Here are a couple ideas for you to practice:

• Try playing Cornerstone with the lead line embedded into the chord changes.

• Or 10,000 Reasons with an embedded chorus melody.

5 – Dial In The Sound

Mixing a small team is just as tricky as playing in one.  Every frequency and nuance is that much more noticeable for the better or worse.  Take time to dial in vocal EQ especially.  Make sure there aren’t any harsh highs or muddy lows.  Carefully choose and place mics on percussion instruments.  It’s possible to still get a strong, full sound with only one or two musicians, but you’ll need to take the time to dial in the sound.

Also See: Playing In Parts – How to Sound Like a Professional Band

What challenges have you faced with a small team?

What solutions have you found?  

Join in the discussion below!