I am always having difficulty when playing with the church band remembering song structures. Is there an easy way to remember what to play during the song? It's easy to play along with a recording and keep on track (that's like training wheels), but when you are playing with a band, you have to either write everything down and try to follow or memorize the exact structure.

The other problem that makes it worse is the leader or someone else might suggest changes during rehearsal. Like OK, we're going to do Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus, instead of VCVCC (a fancy stop that we never did before) then BBC or something like that. It's not just me who has problems remembering the part of the song we are in, but others too, but I need to worry about my own playing. Being the drummer, it's the most noticeable when I screw up.

I'm looking for any tips anyone has used.

Writing out an entire score would be great, but I can't always concentrate on watching the music when I am playing, plus after writing everything out, they change it, that goes out the window.


Dan

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We are working on this issue as well. For now, we are just doing our best to memorize the pattern we work out at our practice. Some folks put notes on their chord sheets etc, but that does not work well for a drummer! Once in a while the drums will be louder than planned or something, but by listening to what the others are doing, he gets right back on track. I think that is the key - the team members need to be LISTENING and they will catch the cues from what the others are doing, what the leader is singing etc.

Sometimes I just say something to the congregation & the team to indicate where we are going next, if I think we need to do something different than practiced, like adding an extra chorus or two, or singing acapella etc One of the team has asked if I could have some hand signals - like making the letter "V" or "C" with my hand . . .

I'll be interested to see what others are doing.
I think listening to each other with sensitivity is key in any group. If the vocals keys or guitars are getting soft or louder, the others should do so, too.

All too many times one of us can go off to our own little 'solo' world, and that can distract the others, and detract from the worship of God...
This one I'm afraid comes with time and experience. The more you play with a group the better you can read them for the cues of where to go. A previous worship group I led playing bass. Because I had played with them for many years, especially the drummer, he could pick up the subtleties of my playing and know where to go. With less familiarity, it has to be down to good communication from the leader or clear leading on an instrument so it is obvious where it is going.
I agree on the experience. The worship band I am playing drums with now is new to me and they have taken songs that I have even played many times with another band and made them different than how I remember. That's really tough.

The problem I have is when a song really repeats many times and the same patterns apply, but then they add a stop or something that sneaks up on me and I either keep playing or I try to guess where a song ends, but they keep it going for an additional chorus.

One thing I may try is that they project the words on the back wall. I may be able to watch those as well if I can see them while playing.

The perfect thing for me would be a guitar hero like computer screen that scrolls and tells me exactly what to play in real time or at least what's coming up.

Dan
OK. Not sure if this applies, but one of our vocalist has a neat system. She draws this lines down her music, and that tells her what we are doing next.

So on the right-hand side of the sheet, where there is usually a lot of white space, she will down a line from top to bottom if we're singing the song exactly how it's written on the sheet. If we're going back into the chorus, she'll add a second line, starting the chorus, just to the right of the 1st vertical line.

When we're done, she usually has multiple lines running down the right hand side of her sheet with various breaks. Works great when we ad-lib and add 1/2 pre-chorus or instrument part. Your eyes can just look at the side of the page for a road-map, without look at each word/chord for notes.

Not sure if that helps for you, but once others saw her doing this, they all quickly picked it up. It was much easier than V P C B notation, as sometimes people mix up which part is chorus and which is the verse, etc. Repeating parts of a structure is much easier here too, as we sometimes do that to fade out a song during the 1st verse.

Not exactly like rock-band/guitar hero, but easy to do if you have chorded sheets in front of you and you don't want to score the whole thing out.
We use chord sheets. At rehearsal we mark on the chord sheets V C V C B B C C (etc). However, on Sunday morning we may not completely follow that. If I feel led to deviate I try to give some verbal clues to the slide tech and my team. However we have been playing together long enough that we tend to pick up on each other if we are LISTENING and blending. To end a song a lot of times I tend to glance at our drummer during the last measure I want to play and give him what he calls "the look". I'm not sure what that is other than briefly making eye contact. A side note, I've found that when we decide to repeat a bridge or something more than 4 times, many on our team can't count past 4, myself included sometimes. When this happens we have one singer that places her hand behind her back and uses her fingers to count them off as we sing. That way everyone else can steal a glance at her if they lose count.
We use chord sheets and lyric sheets that are totally linear. If you just follow it, you can't go wrong. But also, nothing beats experience with the song. Our team has gotten so familiar with our material that we hardly even need sheets.

It sounds to me like you need more experience, especiallly with your band. Familiarity with material produces smoothness and flow. Whenever I work out a classical guitar piece, there is always that transition from the sections of the song to smooth playing all they way through.

In addition, I'm not sure why you can't look at the music while you're playing - what instrument? That also sounds like an experience issue.

But to be sure, there's nothing spiritual about deviating from what you've practiced. The Spirit is a Spirit of order and He's totally ok with planning out a worship service. If you still feel like a change for whatever reason, or your worship leader messes up like I do so often, then you won't have as much to adjust to.
Let the worship leader use verbal cues to cue everyone. That includes the congregation. If they don't cue the congregation they are just lead singers, not worship leaders.

Next, keep the fancy breaks to a minimum. More than two for a 5 song worship set is too attention-getting, I feel. And make the timing for the break obvious. Either we set it on the 3rd time through the chorus (like I often do) or the worship leader gives a verbal cue when one isn't necessary (that cues the musicians).

In closing: if your structures are too complex you lose the congregation. It makes for a nice show, but not smart if your objective is to lead the congregation in worship. :)
Our words are projected on the back wall for the band to see, so it's rare that I'll make a change once we've set the pattern on practice night. So following those words helps our band stay on track. If I make a change on the fly, I'll give a vocal clue that even the congregation will hear. (like "let's sing that chorus again...")

Some worship leaders might be changing things too often and for unknown reasons. That makes it a pretty tall order for the band to keep up. I agree that order is something God can use really well. And as a worship leader, I have to remind myself that it's not fair to throw too many changes at the band on the run - in other words I need a pretty clear leading from the Spirit before I go down a rabbit trail...although sometimes it's the thing to do.

I always look around just before the end of a song, or before a major change (like the instrumental if there is one) and that at least tells the band to pay closer attention. If you need your worship leader to give better signals, don't be afraid to ask for them.

But the biggest key is listening - learn to feel where the song is going. And time and experience with your band will do the rest.
We use numbered cues for band and vocals. 1 finger means verse, 2 for chorus, 3 for 1st bridge, 4 for second bridge, pinky for tag and fist for ending. It works!
Well, all went well with the new worship team this week. I did not lose my place. The words on the back wall really helped and also mentally making sure the structure was in my head.

To Stevo, it's not that I can't look at my music during the song. It's that looking at my music during the song is not really useful. The reason is that it is written in a way that makes more sense to the guitar and singers, but not so much drums. Everything is written to fit on one page and then when things repeat, those things are not written usually.

However, making sure the map is written out and memorized somewhat is very important. VCVCBBCC

The thing that messes me up is that I will practice it like the mp3 sent out by the worship leader, then during rehearsal, they change it up, then sometimes later at rehearsal, they change it up again. Sometimes we play a song and it falls apart during a certain spot because we don't quite have it down, then before we really have it down, they change it again. See how that can get confusing. But like this past week, once we had it down and I got that map (structure) finally in my head, we played it no problem.

I see something kind of common between different groups I have worked with. Someone in the band will try to work something out with one other person and they may be on the same page each each other, but the rest of the team is left out. This happened a little bit this past week. It's usually a guitarist and the leader or someone hashing out structure. The problem is they don't really communicate with everyone after that. Then they say OK, 1,2, ready, GO, and then they figure everyone else knows what they changed. Train wreck!!

Sometimes things can go all the way until Sunday before the final "this is how we are going to do it" is nailed down. Sometimes, the band falls apart (during warm up) at a given spot and then someone suggests to change it again. Then people are like NOOOOO!!!

D
Somebody's messing with the stew...sometimes you can add so many ingrediants that you suddenly lose the flavor. A good lesson for us all not to be tweaking things so much.:)

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