Six Ways to Engage During the Intro of a Song

This is a continuing series about how to use our opening song to engage our congregation. It’s drawing from seven points made in an article by Tom Jackson, a live music producer. Here are the previous posts:

Introduction  #1  #2   #3    #4   #5

In the early days of my pursuit to become a professional songwriting in Nashville, I was struck by the brevity of songs that made it to the radio. Within 30 seconds, they were already moving into the chorus of the song. A lot of the music I grew up with didn’t even get out of the intro in the first 30 seconds.

Wanting to be a signed writer, I adopted that approach. Brevity. “Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.”

That started to spill over into my worship planning. If a song had a longer intro, or repeated the first verse twice before going to the chorus,* I’d often cut a song’s intro down to the minimum and trim the overall length of the song.

But as I read Tom’s article, his sixth point started to make me think differently:

6. Have The Right Kind Of Song Intro

“I spend a lot of time with song intros when I’m working with artists, getting as creative as I need to be so the audience will be drawn into the song. This is extremely important in the first song! Typically, the intro is too short.”

He said what?!

“Typically, the intro is too short.” So he did say that.

Tom continues, “It needs to be long enough so you can move to the front of the stage, engage the audience visually, and get their attention.


Remember, Tom’s talking to the performing artist/band. He encourages artists/bands towards a longer intro, because that gives them a chance to start a relationship, to “gather up” their audience. If not, the audience won’t be drawn into the rest of the song.

Again, if we substitute congregation for audience and look through the goggles of our worship gatherings, we can see that Tom’s advice can be translated pretty easily.

Move Up And Start Something…

Did you catch when he said “move to the front of the stage”? When I first saw one of Tom’s training videos for worship, that technique was one of the first things that struck me. I was the guy who stayed behind his mic and music stands. Heck, it seemed almost sacrilegious to go walking up to the edge of the platform.

Tom calls it “putting pressure on your audience to start a relationship.”

So I tried it.

I felt a little naked, but it was worth it. I realized that those “slight” physical barriers between me and the congregation were more like an 8-foot tall privacy fence. I could engage and connect so much more easily.

Six Ways To Engage During The Intro

So if you put a longer intro in on your first song, it will give you time to engage. Here are 6 ideas to help you connect:

1. Move towards the front of the platform, with no barriers between you and the congregation.

2. Smile. Seriously. We forget this one way too often. 

3. Welcome them. Often we think this has to be done before the music starts. But if you plan the flow of your intro well, you’ll have time and space to do this.

4. Read or recite an appropriate scripture.

5. Invite them to enter into worship with a short encouragement. And if your church needs to be invited to stand, do so then.

6. Get them clapping. A little encouragement from you is all it takes.

Just don’t forget to move back. You don’t want to stay at the front of the platform the whole time. That could creep out the congregation.

As You’re Creating A Longer Intro…

Here are a few things to think about as you’re creating a longer intro:

  • Keep it simple. If it’s complex, there’s a greater chance of a train wreck. Not a good way to open the service.
  • Keep it sparse, at least as you’re talking. Nothing worse than to try to talk over a busy instrumental.
  • Hold off on the intro riffs. If there’s a “standard” intro riff to the song, consider holding off until you’re ready to full build into the song, especially if you’re talking. Also, some intro riffs can get nauseating if done too long.
  • Keep your sound tech in the loop. Tell him what you have planned. He can bump up the band mix as you finish talking for even more punch.
  • Make sure your team is engaged, especially your vocalists. The last thing you want them doing is staring at their music stand or perusing the congregation to see if they’re family arrived yet. Teach them to look at the person talking – even if it’s at the back of their head.
  • Have a plan to exit the intro. Work out some sort of cue with the band to know when to kick it up, or go into the opening riff. Or, if you plan it right, you could just start singing over what’s already there.

So over the next couple months or so, play around with your opening song intro. See what works, see what doesn’t. And let me know how it goes.

Question: How do you use the opening song intro to connect with your congregation?

*This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…you just need to know if your congregation can handle the tension of a delayed chorus.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Jon Nicol