Part 3: Time Management Issues, Continued
Blame it on the singers
As I was wrapping up part two, I made this statement: “Require playing to a click as a part of your qualification process for new players and singers.”
Notice I said “AND singers?” Vocalists are often the biggest culprits of bad tempo. Many singers in churches come from choral backgrounds – either a church or high school/college choir. Often that genre is more fluid, and tempo depends on the flailing arms of the conductor.
Singing in the pocket is a foreign concept to many of them. Most of the time, these singers tend to drag due to holding notes out too long. And once they get behind the beat, the band can too easily go with them.
Here are a few tips for training vocalists towards good tempo:
- On their own, practice a cappella with a metronome.
- In rehearsal, take time to have the vocalists sing with just the drums (and maybe a little bass if they can’t stay on pitch).
- Encourage them to practice at home with the just the guide tracks (if you’ve begun purchasing or making them), and NOT the full recording. Why? The full recording does all the tempo-keeping for them.
- Tell the to flip their turn signal on while driving and sing a song to the tempo of the signal. It may insight road rage from the person behind them. But it’ll help develop their internal time-keeper.
Louder Means Faster
This concept is a mark of musician immaturity. If we need to get louder or bigger or more driving, we speed up. It’s natural, but it’s wrong.
How do we fix this? Spend time with your team playing different dynamic changes over a click. Also, identity those certain sections of songs that tend to rush (or drag). Rehearse those sections with a click. Then go without to see if you can hold that section steady.
A close cousin to “Louder Means Faster” is using a faster tempo to compensate for a sparse band on a big arrangement.
Paul Baloche is the master of the deceiving tempo. Most of his uptempo songs aren’t as uptempo as you’d think. It’s easy to run Hosanna (Praise is Rising) well over 120, and even up to 130 BPM to try to create the energy his band creates with an arrangement at 116 BPM.
So listen to the arrangement and figure out what’s creating the energy instead trying to poorly replicate it with speed. Help your team understand that up’ing the tempo is a poor substitute for great musicianship.
I Am the Band.
Two of the biggest culprits of this one are pianists and acoustic guitarists. Let’s start with the guitarists.
There’s no getting around it. The acoustic guitar is an extremely percussive instrument. I remember the first time I tried to lead worship from an electric guitar. I had no control over my band. I didn’t realize how much my acoustic held the band together. That can be good. Or really bad.
Another issue is that the acoustic guitar player often spends too much alone. He’s his own drummer. It’s tough to let go of that and allow someone else carry the rhythm.
Now for the piano player. Again, the big issue is that she may have always been the band. And even if she has played in a worship team with a rhythm section, in many churches worship bands are piano-driven. She’s a speedboat and the rest of the band is wakeboarding behind her. Or a tugboat dragging a barge. (That was not a fat joke, I promise.)
Another issue with piano players is akin to what the chorally-brainwashed—er…trained singers do. Traditional pianists, especially those weaned on church hymns and Amy Grant songbooks tend to have a more fluid sense of time. Rubato is the norm, not the exception.
So how do we fix these two? If they have a decent sense of time, they can unlearn their bad tempo habits. But if they’re rhythmically challenge at the gene level, you’re kinda’ hosed.
If you think he or she can be rehabilitated, many of the same suggestions for dealing with singers will help with your acoustic guitarist and pianist – except for playing to the beat of the turn signal while driving.
That could get hairy.
Which of these “time management” issues does your team struggle with?
What sorts of things have you done to help develop your team’s sense of time?
This is part of a larger series called “Turn Your Team Into A Band” at WorshipTeamCoach.com