Playing Worship Songs to the Recording

    Almost every mega church worship band plays their worship set to the recording. This is mostly due to the use of multi tracks in worship. While the use of backing tracks in worship is a debate in itself, I’d rather explore my own thoughts on consistently playing worship sets to the recording.

    Why do Worship Teams Play Worship Songs to the Recording?

    A couple of words come to mind rather than sentences. Perfection, YouTube, church branding. I don’t think that churches play it to the recording because that’s the way the multitracks are set up, rather multitracks serves the church’s goal to play to the recording.

    If multitracks did not exist, a lot of churches would yet shoot for an exact 3:45, to the recording, potentially the radio edit of the worship song.

    It comes down to lack of band development but with a high value placed on the band’s performance.

    It is easy and somewhat guarantees a made-for-YouTube shiny end product if everyone just played the song to the recording. With minimal effort, everyone is on the same page. Everyone knows when the pre chorus kicks in, when the bridge hits hard and that final high energy crash to end the song. Done. Next song.

    Band Development

    Worship teams in general, rarely practice. While bands like Vulfpeck are notorious for never rehearsing – even before playing Madison Square Garden, they are the outliers. Worship teams are made up of volunteers and with any volunteer scenario, commitment and schedules can be a tricky situation to navigate. Understandable.

    Most churches also don’t really practice. It is a run down of the songs top to bottom about 2 hours before the first service begins on a Sunday morning. This absolutely does not cultivate a band. This encourages all the musicians to learn their parts and show up on Sunday where everyone just plugs in their parts and build the song puzzle. Minor issues are tweaked and you are done.

    Next song please. Rinse and repeat.

    Church Policies

    Some churches have policies and make this intentional. From the pastor and worship leaders, it is mandated that the worship team play the song to the recording. Multitracks aids this thinking.

    Worship Musicians are Not Special People

    Worship musicians are not special. However, they are gifted and have a calling on their lives to lead their local church in worship. It is a creative art. Worship is an expression.

    Worship teams should be developed, with hard work. Encouraged to express within safe boundaries, maybe. Take a song and interpret it. Almost every musician has a gift of composition and expression that they can bring to songs and make it a local expression of a song. This is stifled because: perfection, YouTube, & church branding.

    When the band plays yet another Elevation song just like Elevation plays it, they are playing someone else’s expression. Worship is an expression of your heart to the Father. Imagine having a heart to heart conversation with your dad, but you are reading a script, in the exact tone & pacing, of your brother’s talk with your dad.

    Would not your Father prefer you sing for yourself? Use the gift He gave you?

    When did we depart from shining our own lights to letting Elevation’s light shine. Or Hill Song. It does not matter. Choose any worship song with the best marketing.

    Imagine the creativity in every heart that is being stifled and never allowed to bloom.

    Let’s Extend Perfection, YouTube, & Branding

    Pastors, mostly, I assume, aren’t reading another pastor’s script. They get to preach their own message. They put in the time in prayer and research and prepare a message every Sunday.

    Worship teams are just as capable, but for some reason aren’t afforded this same creativity. It would be one thing if the pastor also read one of Elevation’s messages timed to the millisecond.

    It would appear that worship and preaching are held to different standards. Preachers get to use their gift of speaking while musicians are stifled. It sounds harsh and accusatory but rather is a very simplified deduction. There are probably nuances that are being lost, but that’s the gist of it.

    I once heard a famous musician say something along the lines of “we should interpret music, not translate it”. There is a beauty in taking a song and interpreting it. making it your own. Putting your stamp on it.

    Back to Band Development

    If your worship leader thinks Jeremy Riddle is as good as it gets, he or she is probably right. But when the amount of effort the church puts into developing their local Jeremy is zero, they will always get, as the kids say, a Walmart Jeremey Riddle.

    Church, pastors, and worship leaders, take the risk. Work on one song with your band that’s not reliant on 20 tracks. John Mayer three piece band sounds phenomenal. Your three piece or even 8 piece band can sound great if you put in the effort and have a long term vision.

    Ask your musicians, even demand of them, to bring their own ideas for one song every Sunday. Share a video of you doing this as you work it out. Reharmonise, think of interesting intros, or transitions into other songs.

    Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Be thankful for your little light. Let it shine and throw petrol on the flames of your worship team members. Don’t carry a picture Elevation’s flame. Or Hill Song.

    It is a risk. It might not make for perfectly produced worship but that’s not the point, is it. It will make for a deeper, original conversation between you and the Father. The congregation will follow you on that journey. How many mega churches or churches of any size are walking off of a killer set only to talk about people not engaging or raising their hands?

    Is worship just the quality of the music or is it the leading of the congregation towards the Father?

    If anyone has watched any of the The Voice type of shows, the judges always talk about something deeper, something beyond the talent and quality of the singer. They connect with the way a song is presented. They talk about an emotional connection that made them believe that the singer (or band) believed in the song and took them on a journey.

    If the worship team is just playing for perfection and not worrying about that personal conversation, the congregation is going to find it difficult to believe the music and might be hesitant in joining you on that journey.

    Posted by Conrad Abraham

    Hey there. I’m Conrad from Atlanta, Ga. I’ve a passion for worship, In fact, I’ve been worshiping before it was official – or before I accepted Jesus as the one true God and as my saviour.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *