How to Get Into a (Musical) Groove
Tight musicianship doesn't just happen. Here's how to get there with your church musicians.
Does your praise band groove? Growing up classically, I never knew what groove was until I became involved with contemporary worship and was a part of a praise band.
Groove is a mysterious and exciting feel that happens when the band is all playing together at their best and in sync. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you achieve it.
The foundation of groove is the foundation of a band: drums, bass and a mid-range part (like keyboard, electric or acoustic guitar.) You must have these three elements like a stool must have three legs. You can add additional players, but more on that later.
I’ll never forget the first time I experienced groove – I had been at my church about 2 years and one Sunday morning everything came together – the feel of the band was so exciting it almost took my breath away. I never experienced that with classical music!
Up until that time I was struggling to find musicians every Sunday – the musical chairs approach to a praise band. But finally I found players that could provide a steady 3-pronged groove foundation (in other words, they could be counted on to show up every week!)
You can, of course, have wonderful worship without groove (God isn’t dependent on us) but it sure doesn’t hurt, either. Why not go for the gold and sound the best you can? I’ve often had a warm glow after church and the rest of Sunday afternoon, just basking in how “right” the music felt – groove sticks with you! Groove will also get people talking about your band.
Groove doesn’t appear on command, but there are a few things I’ve discovered that help prime the pump:
1. Don’t continually switch musicians. Groove is partially dependent on musicians trusting one another and anticipating one another. This only comes by being familiar with each other’s playing. Keep the same musicians together in your band. If you have extra musicians don’t try to rotate them in – form a second band that can rehearse separately.
2. Rehearse. Don’t expect to groove if your band shows up 20 minutes before church to “rehearse.” They’ll be hanging on for dear life, let alone trying to feel the music. If they can’t come to rehearsal, they can’t play in church.
3. One weak musician can destroy an entire band of competent musicians. I had several solid, professional players in my band, but have from time to time added less than perfect players (by saying “less than perfect” I’m being kind – I’m talking about players who have trouble staying in the same key as the rest of the band!) Groove starts showing up when musicians can get beyond trying to figure out the right notes and chords and start playing effortlessly from the heart.
Add additional musicians carefully. When you’ve developed a basic praise band that grooves, be >very< picky about who you let join – the wrong person can disrupt the continuity. 4. You don’t necessarily need top studio musicians. Musicians who can competently play their instrument can together create groove. You’d be surprised at how musically incompetent many of the top secular rock bands are – they’ve simply played their own material so many times and know it so well they sound spectacular. A well-rehearsed praise band with average players can also sound spectacular in time. Think of it this way: a typical church only sings so many praise songs. After a few months the average band will know these songs by heart, and be able to play them from the heart.
>Bottom Line: What can you do to make your praise band groove?