11 Deadly Sins of the Worship Team, Part 1
By Jon Nicol
I know—I should have stopped at seven. But if you’ve been a part of worship teams for more then 10 minutes, you know that we perpetrate far more than seven.
We’ll be talking about the 11 Deadly Sins as part of a bigger series, Turning Your Team into a Band. We won’t tackle all eleven at once, so here we go again with a series within a series. If you can’t keep it straight, that’s OK. Just head over to Turning Your Team into a Band and you’ll be able to access the articles individually.
So here’s deadly sin number one.
#1: Every song is a blob of sound.
Why did I choose this one to be number 1? Your sound tech paid me—he’s tired of trying to create music out of mush.
(OK, he didn’t, but had he known…)
I chose this one first because it gives us chance to talk about some fundamentals of playing as a band. Plus, many of the other sins are closely related to this one.
There’s several reasons why every song is a blog of sound, but the biggest reason is because we all hang out in the murky, mushy, muddy middle.
Take a look at this graphic:
The piano dominates the sonic spectrum. That’s why it makes such an incredible solo instrument: it can cover pretty much any part.
Now let’s look at where the other instruments fall, starting at the bottom:
Notice the bass is nearly at the bottom of the keyboard’s range (a five-string bass in standard tuning is one note above the lowest not on the keyboard). If you move up the notes of neck, the bass can creep above middle C. But most players tend to stay in the darker shade of green.
Let’s ask a couple questions of the piano/keyboard players:
Where does your left hand love to play?
And where does the bass mostly hang out?
And whose job is it specifically to hold down the low end?
Did you hear that?
That was the sound of 10,000 bass players whooping it up in a happy dance.
And keyboarders, don’t think that I’m being “judgy” or critical. I play keys sometimes, too. So I’m pointing a finger at my own heavy left hand.
Now here’s the electric and acoustic guitar.
With 6 strings and 22 frets, the guitar has a pretty decent sonic spread. But here’s the problem. Where do most guitarists want to hang out?
Yep, the open position at frets 1 – 3. That’s pretty much the darker orange area on the graphic. And where do piano players love to play?
See where we’re going here?
The other major instrument in a worship band is a voice. And usually several. Here they are compared to the piano:
Most of your singers will fall between a Mezzo Soprano and a Bass. Look at that...more stuff in the middle.
And now let's put them altogether and add the drum frequencies:
Looking at the frequency range, we have an incredible potential to create a giant blog of mushy, mid-ranged music. Add to that the muddy mess of competing bass tones, and we have a bona fide blob of sound.
The key to overcoming this first deadly sin is being aware of your place on the sonic spectrum.
If you’re a guitarist or pianist playing an instrumental solo, you can have your entire range. But as soon you start adding other singers and other instruments, it’s time to share and play nice.
This doesn’t mean we never play in the same range as other instruments. But we need to be conscious of creating too much noise in one register.
The point here is to arrange ourselves out of the blob.
And what’s the root word of arrange? “Range.”
We all need to find our niche on the sonic spectrum in each song. Sometimes the piano gets to dominate the mid range while the guitar lays out or goes up higher. Other times, the roles are reversed. (Which is usually the case – because us guitarists are notorious for not being able to play beyond the 4th fret.)
By spreading ourselves over a wider spectrum, the sound tech will actually have something to mix.
We needed to cover this first deadly sin on its own, because several of the other “11 Sins” are related to this. In the next section, we’ll cover several deadly sins that are focused on arranging.
I don’t want this to be a one-side conversation, so let me hear from you:
Anyone have some good muddy-middle stories to share?
How have you helped your band to arrange themselves?
Also, if you'd like a higher rez copy of these graphics to go over with your team, drop me an email.
May 16, 2012Tweet