9 Tips for teaching your worship team a new song

This post originally appeared at brentoncollyer.com

Introducing a new song to your worship team is always a bit of challenge.  Which song should I choose?  Can our team pull this off?  Will our congregation engage with it?  Each of these questions is worth a blog post of its own, but once you’ve narrowed it down the next questions is “How can I help my team learn this song?”

There are a lot of different approaches you can take to help your worship team learn a new song, but the important thing is that you do the work up front to set your team up for success. Here are nine tips to put your team in the best possible position to lead a new song well and grow in their skill.

Share the Recording

I love to start here.  You don’t have to do the song exactly as you hear it.  In fact sometimes that’s impossible.  The important elements are the groove, tempo, feel, melody, chord changes, and lead lines.  All this can be gathered by listening to the recording.  I post these MP3’s to Planning Center and ask my team to use the recording as a starting block for their parts.

Transpose The MP3

If you want your players and singers to practice along with the track but you’re doing the song a full step lower than the recording then you should transpose the MP3.  Planning Center’s free transposr.com is my go to application.  **Warning, anything beyond 3 half steps up or down starts sounding pretty funky.

Start With A Great Chart

Don’t just copy and paste a chart you found on ultimate-guitar.com or a similar site.  These are spotty at best.  Try these routes instead.  I’ve used them all.

  1. Find the official chart from the artist’s website
  2. Find the chart on songselect.com or praisecharts.com
  3. Create your own custom chord chart in Microsoft Word
  4. Create your own custom lead sheet in Finale 
  5. Use recordings, instructional videos or live videos to make sure the chords and lyrics are completely accurate.  

Show A Live Video From The Artist

Many worship bands have live videos of their songs.  This can sometimes be helpful in seeing just how they’re playing different parts. I will sometimes send this to my team, or add it as an attachment in Planning Center.

Show A Live Stream From A Church

If you regularly catch up on archived services from churches you admire you’ll come across someone leading a song you’re thinking about introducing.  This is really helpful in seeing and hearing how a local church volunteer team presents this song live.

Use A Training Resource

There are several great training websites that teach parts to most of today’s popular worship songs.  Consider purchasing a team subscription and sharing it with key volunteers.  Two worth checking out are Worship Artistry and Worship Initiative.

Purchase The MultiTracks

Several sites like multitracks.com offer the original artist recordings of popular worship songs.  Purchasing these tracks are a great way to compliment your live band, but as a worship leader I’ll often solo a guitar, keys or drum part to hear the exact notes played and tones used so I can instruct my team.

Find / Write / Record The Vocal Parts

Vocal parts are the most obvious thing missing from all chord charts.  Many modern songs have very few parts, but others have beautiful and important harmonies.  You can find these harmonies through things like Song Select’s vocal sheet resource.  You can write you own parts with the help of skilled arranger.  Once you’ve found the parts, it’s helpful to do a simple recording of the melody with the alto line, tenor line, etc., and share them with your team, so they can learn them before rehearsal.

Modify The Map

Are you leading a new song but planning on excluding the 2 minute instrumental vamp in the middle?  Import the MP3 into your favorite audio editing software and cut it out.  Being able to listen to the flow of a song in the way you will lead it is very helpful for your team.  I prefer Logic Pro X.

For me, sharing the recording and starting with a great chart are the two most crucial tips. Beyond that pick and choose which tips work best for you.

Finally, be sure you have the appropriate licenses to share music and charts with your team.

Also See: 5 Questions to Ask Before Introducing That New Song

What about You?  How do you introduce new songs to your Worship Team?