2 ways to help your team be more musically dynamic (without offending them!) - Part 1

A worship leader sent me this question:

"Our team has been growing in building musical dynamics that really create openings for people to enter in."


Stop right there! I’ve never heard it said quite like that "Musical dynamics create openings for people to enter in." There’s so much there, but let’s keep reading.

"One area I haven’t figured out how to address without making people feel like ‘I don’t like their voice’ is helping vocalists understand there are times when dropping back to only the lead vocal creates an amazing dynamic that is lost when ‘everyone’ is singing. I have a similar issue with a piano player who is hyper sensitive to any comment I make that I would like the piano to drop out or play softer – they either are crushed or offended – and there is a temptation to just let them ‘do what they want,’ though it undermines some of what we are trying to achieve as a team. Can you help worship leaders know how to approach and address such types of dynamics in a way that builds teams and individuals, but doesn’t avoid necessary conversations?"


Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is YOUR worship leader, because you’re sure that she’s talking about your team with these exact dynamics, trust me, it’s not. There are 50 churches within an hour of you that struggle with this exact scenario.

The first thing is a small, but very important tweak: When.

If you start playing a song, and THEN give arrangement directions, it’s much easier for your team to feel like it’s personal. ("He didn’t like what I did.") So instead, give all the arrangement instructions BEFORE you play a song.

Like this: "On this song, I’d like to have the singers sing off mic for the verses, and come in with harmony on the chorus. Then on the first bridge, I’d like the piano, bass, and drums to drop out so that when they come back in, it’ll create a lot of energy. And can we try playing the intro at an 8, the first verse at a 3, first chorus at a 7..."

Notice three things embedded in that little sample:

1. Singers on stage should ALWAYS sing. But they only sing ON MIC at intentional points in the song. A singer who just stands there tells the congregation to just stand there.

2. Give a reason for why you’re asking for players to play. Answer the question "How is that music choice going to make the song better?"

3. Use numbers to give a somewhat more objective mesure of dynamics. Quieter or louder isn’t that helpful. But a 2 out of 10 tells everybody that it’s pretty small. And if you play through something that was too big, busy, or loud, you can say "That chorus was about an 8...can we simplify, thin out, or soften it to a 5?" (And yes, you astutely noticed that dynamics are NOT just how loud you play/sing, it’s how big/small and busy/thin too.)

So WHEN you give the direction is the first thing. The second is HOW.

And I’ll address that in the next Fertilizer. Click here to read it.

-Dave