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.


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We recycle our chord charts so they usually have routings already written on them. Sometimes several and some scribbled out. So at rehearsal before each song I call out the routing I want to use VCVCBBCC. We run it, if we decide to change th routing we play with it. Then at the end if we tweaked the routing I call out the new routing, everyone makes the appropriate notes on their chord sheets and we move on. We rarely change that on Sunday morning. If we do I make sure everyone knows, the singers, instrumentalists, slide tech, soundboard, etc. We are more likely to flip the song order after the first service if we don't like the flow before we start the second service. Communication is the key, not making too make changes after rehearsal is a close second.
Ah - drums. Our drummer often says, "but wait, I'm playing it in D not C!".

Now that you describe your situation, I see what's going on. It's very very important to set it down and do it that way consistently. No messing about. This idea of "letting the Spirit lead" is often a patsy for lack of preparation. I mean really, if the Spirit IS leading us to change this and do that, wouldn't He tell everyone clearly? And wouldn't He request a change that is possible for everyone to follow?

So I don't think you are the problem here. I still think a lot of familiarity with the material will help, but it sounds like there is too much change and it's not coming from the Spirit. You need to have a discussion with your leader and band members. Practice and communicate together. Lay down the structure and stick with it. That's what you tell them. It's not as easy for a drummer and they need to know that.

"...but it sounds like there is too much change and it's not coming from the Spirit"
I agree. Too many people make the Holy Spirit sound like he can't make up his mind or he's deliberately looking for opportunities to trip us up and make us look foolish. I don't think so...
Ultimately, I think worship teams should practice the order in rehearsal. What we do is that we practice the song and then, if it is a song we've done ad nauseum (ie Blessed Be Your Name or One Way) we talk about changing things up a little. Granted we never change things drastically. While it may be a little predictable, when we are learning a song and introducing a song to the congregation, we use the same order that is found in the recording. I use both hand signals and vocal leading so our musicians and our projectionist knows where the song is going, before we get there. The other thing that should probably be mentioned is that my team has been playing together for 4 years and should I forget to use hand signals or vocally take them to where I want it to go (ie, lost in the Spirit), they know me well enough to intuitively guess where the song is going. I do like the "write things down" thought, although difficult for a drummer. I do think you need to try out a few different things and then use what you find works for you. Watch other worship teams and dvds of the "pros" and see if you can pick up what they do.
We use hand signals and the worship leader is issuing them in the following instances and sometimes a vocal cue. In this way, we let the worship leader, really lead us spontaneously as he/she listens to what the Spirit of the Lord wants us to do.

1. An index finger pointing downward - means "Begin the song".
2. A hand forming a "C" - means Chorus
3. A hand that has it's palm down - means verse, if we begin the song in chorus.
4. A hand swaying with 4 fingers - means bridge
5. A finger draws a circle - means repeat all over again.
someone has to be in charge. and in worship, don't know about your church, but when a song is the one that the Lord is landing on that morning or evening, any planned structure gets changed anyway. so then it's up to someone to lead where the song is going. hand signals work for some, but can be awkward. i find, as a keyboard leader, if we are not going somewhere "normal" as in "singing the chorus after the verse", or "going to the next unsung verse after the chorus", but repeating the chorus again or something different than would be expected, a simple out-loud spoken first phrase of the section you are about to switch to is helpful. it becomes a focus for the congregation and the team at the same time.


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