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Worship Workshop : Adding Spice to Your Arrangements

2015-09-08 10.10.22 pmBy Jeff Slaughter…My wife is the queen of spices. She can turn an everyday tomato sauce into a marina that surpasses that of any gourmet restaurant. And she can take a can of lowly pumpkin and turn it into a masterpiece dessert fit for a king.

Her secret weapon? Spices! With experience and a bit of knowledge, spices are the cook’s secret weapon in the war against bland, tasteless cuisine.

Have you ever noticed that some worship leaders know how to spice up their arrangements with creativity akin to a great curry, while others lead with the blandness of a baked potato?

Just like the cook who knows when to add a dash of oregano to that marina sauce or a drop of Madagascar vanilla to that pumpkin pie, the worship leader who understands that spicing up his or her set list with creative ideas will help make Sunday morning worship more appealing, tasteful and heartfelt.

Here are three ways you can add a bit of spice to your worship set.

Let The Ear Focus
Have you ever looked at a printed brochure and not been sure what to focus on? A good graphic designer knows to allow ‘white space’ in a design so that the eye understands where to focus. The same is true when arranging a worship song.

Our songs need ‘white space’. When every instrumentalist plays and every vocalist sings the entire song, there’s no white space – nothing to point the listener to a particular melody, harmony or instrumental riff.

Without leaving white space for the ear to focus, the song sounds the same all the way through.

Practice This: Take a song and experiment with the arrangement. Start with guitar only, add bass and drums on the second verse, save harmonies for the second chorus, repeat the bridge acapella. These are all simple ways to add white space and focus to the song. Have fun finding others!

Songs Have Emotions Too
Dynamics in a song are the equivalent of vocal inflections when we speak – they communicate the intended emotion of a song.

Imagine if your best friend only spoke with you in a LOUD voice. Or imagine if he only spoke in a whisper. Or what if he only spoke in a monotone? How annoying would that be? How would you know if he was happy or sad? Content or bored?

Just as we use inflection in our voices to communicate our emotions, we should use dynamics in our songs to do the same.

Practice This: Choose a song and think through the emotions of it. Speak the lyrics and use vocal inflection to communicate emotion. Now, play and sing the song with that same emotion. If we’re in touch with our emotions, we communicate them naturally when we speak. If we’re in touch with the emotions of a song, we should also communicate them naturally when we sing it.

Been There Done That
It’s easy to rest on our laurels and slide on our creativity. Once we get that arrangement down, why bother changing it? (“That’s the way we’ve always done it!”) Looking for way to end a song? Why not use that old trick of repeating the last line three times and slowing down the last time? Works every time, hundreds of time.

Really? Are we that lazy? Are we that void of creativity? Hey, we’re the musicians … the ones who are supposed to be creative! We have a license to create but how often do we settle for the status quo? Let’s not!

Practice This: Choose a song and change it up. If it’s fast, play it slow. If it’s slow play it fast. Have the drummer find a a different beat. Find an alternate ending. Read a Bible verse during an instrumental break. Do something different and see how it sounds. You might like it.

By Jeff Slaughter, European Worship Institute Director

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