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Playing in Church.


Sardonicus

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Good news: I'm playing for the first time in ages on Sunday!

Bad news: due to work pressures I haven't played a note in weeks.

Good news: we will get the songs tonight and rehearsal is Friday 7:30 pm, so lots of practice time!

Bad news: I will be working late at home Tuesday-Thursday and will still be in central Oxford at 5:30pm on Friday. 

Good news: Google says its an hour and a half to get home!

Bad news: Google hasn't got a clue and in my experience I might just about get home to collect the bass at 7:30 and so I will arrive late and be the one who everyone moans about because he hasn't looked at the songs, done any practice and turned up late having forgotten something! 😁

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Yup, the song pickers at church don't seem to take into account that it can be hard to get time to look at the songs if you already have a busy week.

 

I got a 1/2 hour look at last Sunday's songs on the Thursday & another short look on Saturday before I went to bed.

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20 hours ago, LeftyP said:

she played a rhythm similar to "If I Were A Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof. 

 

This made me laugh until I snorted tea through my nose 🤣.  It's tales like this that make me glad I'm in a worship team, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

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So this is how we set up our worship team rota:

 

For the last couple of years we’ve used a website called Church Suite to host our rota. We do a 3 month block at a time. With around 5 weeks left of the current rota (Oct to Dec), we are asked by one of the main worship leaders on our Whatsapp worship group chat, to input any dates we are unavailable for during the forthcoming 3 month block (Jan to March). As far as I know, the main 2 worship leaders then sit down and create said 3 months’ worth of weeks based on who is/isn’t available each week, then input these into Church Suite. Once the new rota is setup, we will be told as such in the group chat, and can log into the site and view it. By default it only shows up the weeks when you are on team, but you can make it show all weeks too. I normally then take a screen shot of this, showing the next few weeks I’m playing.
 

One good thing about Church Suite is that it auto generates an email on I think Monday morning, reminding everyone on team that they are down to play the following Sunday, and also reminding them of the midweek practice. So for both practice and service, there should never be a no-show from anyone on account of “Sorry I forgot / didn’t know I was meant to be playing.” 

 

I see that the guys on that video when talking about rehearsals, do a whole year rota at once. This seems a bit over the top, but I guess it works for them, and they have several distinct teams which I imagine not many of us will have. I sometimes wish ours was 4-6 weeks at a time, but 3 months it is. The obvious down side to planning a few months ahead like this, is that not everybody knows what they are doing on a given week in 2-3 months time; they may not get their work shifts that far ahead, may want to book a weekend away, etc. It is accepted that with the best will in the world, things will change and some people will end up not being able to play on weeks they are down to. 

 

So, once the rota is published, if you can no longer play on a week you are down for,  you can mark yourself as unavailable on the site, and a red line appears through your name for that week. We also contact the worship leader for that week to tell them we are no longer available. Another thing you can do if you can no longer play one week but are happy to play on another week that you weren’t originally due to, is organise a swap. You need to select ‘show all dates’ to see who is playing on the other weeks. I’m not certain if Church Suite contacts that other person for you when you click on ‘organise swap’’, as I’ve never tried to do that, I normally just ask them via the chat group. But once you’ve arranged it, you can just swap the names over on the site. It’s a good system and I’d recommend it to anyone getting frustrated with arranging worship team rotas. 

 

So, we’ve had our Monday reminder that we’re playing the coming Sunday. Then normally on Tuesday night, the setlist gets sent out. The only exception is the odd time it may end up on Weds or at worst Thurs, that is rare and then only because the leader that week has had to do long hours / bad shifts at work and couldn’t do it any sooner. But Tuesday for songs is normal. 

 

We rehearse Thursday night from 8 to normally no later than 9:30. There’s normally 2-3 songs more than we need but generally we rehearse them all. The leader mostly decides which songs get dropped. Some may face the axe on practice night or we’ll just be told when we are setting up Sunday that we’re not doing a couple of them. Sometimes it’s the songs you really enjoyed at practice that get dropped, which is a shame! We mostly know exactly what we’re doing by Sunday, but there can at times be an either/or, we just have both songs ready and of course the guys behind the desk have the words for both ready too. One might be a backup song depending on what ministry ends up happening. Practice night is mostly when any key changes needed will happen. That said, most leaders have their own preferred key so we kind of get used to what keys (and songs!) they will choose. 

 

We sometimes get an email between practice and Sunday along the lines of “The speaker wants us to do this song after the message”. It’s normally one we know well anyway, but we still have Sunday to go through it anyway. 

 

We have one more run through the songs on Sunday in good time before the service starts. We’ll also go over the endings of songs & transitions between songs, ie some like to do a couple of songs that seamlessly transition, or even a bit of a medley (this word used to make me cringe, but it’s not as bad as it sounds!). We’ll often play the opening song again at the end of the final practice as we’re all warmed up by then, and just to really cement it as it’s usually a loud, upbeat number that we wouldn’t want to fall flat! Not that we’d want to mess any song up of course. 

 

All in all we are pretty well prepared from rotas to Sunday mornings, so nothing should throw us out too much. This does not mean we have got it all right, but we simply do our best to avoid the most common pitfalls of worship teams, namely poor organisation! 

 

Edited by dmc79
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10 minutes ago, LukeFRC said:

Churchsuite works really well as a mobile app too

 

9 minutes ago, LukeFRC said:

And you can just sync the Rotas into your calendar. It also can be used to manage the set lists and do the licensing reporting 


Thanks. I wasn’t sure if it was an App too as I just use the website. Most of our team uses iPads and ‘On Song’. The set gets emailed out and those with iPads just open the set and can drag songs up and down to change the order as needed. 
 

They get emailed out as ‘Praise Chart’ PDFs too for those who prefer to use paper music. Possibly just me these days! 
 

I must say I really like the Praise Charts. I think they cost about £1.50 per song. When you’ve bought one I think it can be changed into about 5 different keys. They are well set out and generally the whole song fits on one page. One of my pet hates is songs going across multiple pages, so on my printed songs I’ll just hand write anything that goes onto a second page, so it’s all on one page. 

 

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Our church uses ChurchSuite too.  It's a pretty good app.

 

Hearing on here how most churches are similar to mine, I can understand why the vast majority of worship songs are musically very lame.  No one gets a decent practice, so the simpler, the better.

It saddens me how this poor music culture has created this.

 

I've been playing instruments since as far back as I can remember & been in quite a few bands, but I've only been playing in a church band for a few years.  I think church musicians & worship leaders should join some secular bands to learn how to organise.  :ph34r:

 

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31 minutes ago, dmc79 said:

 

I must say I really like the Praise Charts. I think they cost about £1.50 per song. When you’ve bought one I think it can be changed into about 5 different keys. 

The fellas on OnSong can spit the set out in the key you’re doing them in as PDFs in about 2 seconds…

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45 minutes ago, xgsjx said:

Our church uses ChurchSuite too.  It's a pretty good app.

 

Hearing on here how most churches are similar to mine, I can understand why the vast majority of worship songs are musically very lame.  No one gets a decent practice, so the simpler, the better.

It saddens me how this poor music culture has created this.

 

I've been playing instruments since as far back as I can remember & been in quite a few bands, but I've only been playing in a church band for a few years.  I think church musicians & worship leaders should join some secular bands to learn how to organise.  :ph34r:

 

I have experienced poor organisation in church and secular situations. Present day worship songs are not very different to mainstream current pop in harmonic structure. 

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I agree that many modern day worship songs are a bit bland and predictable but they are there so that congregations can sing them.  "When I were a lad",  we sang at school assemblies and in church but fewer people are experiencing that these days.  Some feel uncomfortable singing out loud in public so a simple tune is often best.  I must say I'm finding the phrases; "You Are Worthy To Be Praised", "Magnify You Name" and the like appearing in more and more songs.  My wife was playing through some recent releases from American churches and they were long, wandering, anthem style songs that did not catch my interest.

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6 hours ago, owen said:

I have experienced poor organisation in church and secular situations. Present day worship songs are not very different to mainstream current pop in harmonic structure. 

Difference is, the secular stuff more often has interesting music.

 

The thing is, Church has some good & interesting vocal melodies (okay, the lyrics can be a bit "church buzzword diarrhoea"), but most decent secular songs have far better musicianship.
Look at Gospel music.  Great musicianship and very singable songs.

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On 15/11/2021 at 09:58, Bobo_08 said:

I found that when we practice, someone decides that we will repeat the chorus x2 or whatever in a certain part. So I make notes on my chord chart and then in the actual service... they change their mind and go straight to the next verse... 😆

I've discovered one of the quirks of my new church worship setup is that it's the bassist who is responsible for directing the band to repeat choruses etc. So the power is all mine mwhahahaha 😁

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Picking up on rotas for playing;  Our latest rota, sent out via email, takes us to the first week in March.  It lists who is doing what at each service, from the welcome team to setting out the chairs, playing in the band, leading the service, preaching, children's activities etc.  I print out the schedule and highlight the dates when I am down to play or do the Bible reading.  I received the song list for the next two Sundays yesterday and although I am not due to play until three weeks time, I shall be practicing the songs at home.  This has two benefits. 1) It makes me pick up the bass and play it. 2) I shall be ready to fill in incase someone has to drop out.  Our system is that if someone cannot do the week they are scheduled for they have to contact someone else on the list to swap days.  Obviously a drummer will swap with another drummer, vocalist with vocalist etc.

 

The rota is prepared by our church secretary, who has just given birth to her third daughter, and it is a work of art!  Being able to plan ahead is essential for things to work well but, of course, situations arise when last minute changes have to be made because of life getting in the way.  As the old Boy Scout motto said, "Be Prepared"!

Edited by LeftyP
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On 30/11/2021 at 08:32, Richard R said:

Good news: I'm playing for the first time in ages on Sunday!

Bad news: due to work pressures I haven't played a note in weeks.

Good news: we will get the songs tonight and rehearsal is Friday 7:30 pm, so lots of practice time!

Bad news: I will be working late at home Tuesday-Thursday and will still be in central Oxford at 5:30pm on Friday. 

Good news: Google says its an hour and a half to get home!

Bad news: Google hasn't got a clue and in my experience I might just about get home to collect the bass at 7:30 and so I will arrive late and be the one who everyone moans about because he hasn't looked at the songs, done any practice and turned up late having forgotten something! 😁

I know this side of the coin too, so feel your pain. 

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23 hours ago, joseb84 said:

I've discovered one of the quirks of my new church worship setup is that it's the bassist who is responsible for directing the band to repeat choruses etc. So the power is all mine mwhahahaha 😁

That's an unusual set up.  Is it because your predecessor was a bass-playing worship leader, and you inherited the role?

 

It seems to me that the guitarist is often looked to as the leader, regardless of whether they are qualified or willing to carry out that role. 

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We are doing a new song (to us) this weekend and although I am not involved, I'm having a go at it anyway.  It's "Sing We A Song Of Emmanuel" by Matt Boswell & Co.  It skips along at a fair rate of knots so there isn't much scope, within the verses, for anything other that root notes (that's my excuse).  The problem is that it only has three chords; A flat, B flat and E flat but I keep doing an Eric Morecambe, playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order!  If at first...

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  • 2 weeks later...

So this week, two of us had sorted out the songs and just as we were going to send out the list on Tuesday evening, my mate gets a message from the Pastor to call him.

 

During said call, the Pastor tells us to scrap the list and announces that this Sunday will be different and that he now wants the entire service to be an off-the-cuff, un-rehearsed, un-scripted, all ages nativity play.  "What about the songs?" we asked?  "I'll let you know" he says.

 

For two whole days we hear nothing and then I wake up this morning, the day before rehearsal and also after the day that the drummer pulled out, to a list of 7 new songs that we have never played before.  I admit that my reply of "Have you been smoking crack?" was harsh but it got the message across I feel.

 

We managed to get the list reduced but I still wonder WTF goes through people's heads when they plan things.   

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20 minutes ago, Sardonicus said:

 I still wonder WTF goes through people's heads when they plan things.   


Very little in my experience, other than   whim and fantasy, clothed in super spiritual language in some cases.

I feel for you, and find it so sad that this is still going on 10 years after I was last involved in church organised music.

Leaders, please either trust your musicians, or help them by having some thought about what they may need to assist whatever it is you’re trying to achieve in a service. 
Too often I had “I’d like us to sing (x/y/z) now” at the end of a sermon, often something I’d never heard of, without notice. 
Given the significance often put on the “sermon/preach/word” and the time spent preparing it, gave some indication of the value put on musicians time in preparation.


I will bow out from posting on this thread as it’s probably not what the OP had in mind. But it still find it sad. 
 

Keep remembering why you’re doing it peeps, do your best, listen to as wide a pallet of musical influences as possible to increase your vocabulary. Love each other and, above all…. don’t listen to me 😂🤪
 

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@Sardonicus Hilarious post and very bizarre happenings for you this week. I must admit, even before seeing your smoking comment, I was thinking ‘It sounds like this guy is having some sort of crisis and has taken some mind bending drugs’.

 

I am fascinating by the thought of how this “entire service off-the-cuff, un-rehearsed,un-scripted, all ages nativity play” would have panned out. A total car crash I expect. 
 

Also the expectation that a worship band will learn 7 new songs overnight in time for rehearsal is absurd. Thanks for keeping us entertained! 

 

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@dmc79 There was also mention of everyone dressing up like shepherds etc, what sort of wardrobe do they think I have?  What sort of role playing do they think I get up to at home, I categorically deny that my Wife and I have ever played out "The 12 year old virgin and the barn full of strangers" ...that sounds more like a film that Jimmy Savile would love 🤣.

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