Matthew Morrisey
1 year ago

5 Fundamentals of Being a Band Leader

Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of serving as band leader for the Liberty Worship Collective. This was a real “learn-as-you-go” experience for me, since I had never been in such a position before. Looking back, I’ve been able to identify some important fundamentals of band leading that I wish someone had told me on day one.

For clarity’s sake, I’ll say that a band leader is the on-stage leader of the band. In the context of the Worship Collective, this includes having a talkback microphone, which is a mic routed only to the other musicians on stage.

Know Your Players

A band leader whom I admire greatly gave me this advice when I was first starting out. She told me that her words in the talkback mic are mostly dictated by the musicians on stage. If you know that your keyboardist has missed a specific chord in a song’s bridge during rehearsal, it would be helpful to remind the band of that chord when the bridge comes around during the service. If you know your guitarist has a tendency to miss his cue in a specific song, be mindful to remind them of it during the service. If you know your band is very unfamiliar with a song, be more willing to remind them of chords than you would in a familiar song.

The better you know your players, the better you can lead them.

Speak Clearly

To put it simply, if your band can’t hear your direction, there’s no point in even saying it. Make sure you’re speaking with enough volume to cut through the mix in loud parts; and don’t be afraid to speak at an adequate volume during quiet parts of the service. I also find myself mumbling into the talkback from time to time, which is another barrier to your band’s understanding. Even if you think you’re talking like an obsessive fool—yelling and over-annunciating—your band will thank you in the long run.

Make a Decision, Even if it’s the Wrong One

Eventually, as a band leader, you will run into a situation where you don’t know exactly what to do. Let’s say your pastor decides, while you’re in the middle of a song, that he wants the band to repeat a section in order to emphasize the truth he is speaking. Obviously, this isn’t the album arrangement of the song; it isn’t the way you guys rehearsed it; but it’s about to happen!

In such situations, all you can do is make a decision and boldly stand by it. Imagine a racecar is travelling at top speed and reaches a fork in the road. In that split second, it doesn’t matter which direction gets you to your destination fastest; it only matters that you commit. If you swerve back and forth, you’ll flip the car. If you stay in the middle, you’ll run into a wall. Pick a musical direction and commit to it. Your band will follow you, even if you look back and see that you should have taken the other route.

Over-Prepare

Know your musician’s parts better than they do. If one of your musicians is not adequately prepared, it’s your job to pick up their slack. This could mean knowing all the lead lines of the songs in your set, or knowing every lyric in case the vocalist forgets what to sing.

Obviously, this is a pretty daunting task, and you won’t be able to remember everything for every song. But the more prepared you are before a rehearsal or service, the more your band will trust you.

Have Fun

I’ve been in multiple worship environments, big and small, where the worship leaders on stage looked more like they were being slowly killed by a million papercuts than communicating truths about the God of the universe. I would never suggest phoning-in emotion, but your face can sing louder than your words.

To put it simply, look like you enjoy worshipping God. If you legitimately don’t enjoy it, maybe you shouldn’t be on that stage in the first place.

This principle goes for every musician on stage, but it’s especially important for a band leader. Your musicians will follow you, musically and physically. If you want your band to be more expressive in worship, be more expressive yourself.

Don’t sit back while your team goes ahead of you; be a leader and blaze the trail.