March 01, 2016

By Ryan McLouth

In the last column, we talked about adding musical style to our songs, and how to create an environment that promotes participation. This month, let’s talk about making sure that God is found in everything we do with our music.
    
In an age where contemporary popular music influences not only the style of the music we worship with, but also components of the presentation, we can sometimes be distracted from the point of it all—to glorify and praise God. Not only should we sing our songs for God, but also to teach others around us how to do the same. When some of us lose sight of that point, I think that the tendency is to make the music about the individual, and not always on purpose. We are human after all. Sometimes church musicians get carried away and forget that the purpose is leading corporate worship. In these cases, the musician tends to make the performance, well, too much of a performance.     
    
We’ve all seen it—physical movements that are a little too much, decoration of the vocal melody that’s too hard for the average congregation member to follow, or an instrumental part that’s too loud/busy and covers the vocals. These are urges that we must resist. Although I’m sure that many musicians mean well when they make those choices, they are in fact often interfering with the congregations’ ability to worship as a unit.
    
There are many other items that can interfere with corporate worship as well. One that I have often witnessed (and even been guilty of) is an instrumental part that is too busy, or too loud. This may include a poor mix from the sound system, inexperienced musicians lacking the ability to play sensitively and dynamically, playing amplified instruments in a room with too much reverberation, playing and instrumental part that is “too busy” during a part that should feature the vocals, and the list goes on. Each of these items can detract from a corporate worship “climate.” If not treated properly, many of these items can be detrimental to the success of any worship service in the long run—no matter whether contemporary or traditional.
    
How can we treat these problems when and if they arise? There are two primary solutions to most of these sound/performance issues: 

1) teach your musicians to be more dynamic players, and 2) get or teach a really good sound man. I have always found that the first step to teaching someone playing an electronic instrument how to be more dynamic, is to point their amplifier or monitor directly at their own ears. After all, sometimes players just don’t know how loud their amplifier is, because it may be pointing away from them. If an individual plays too busy, they may need to be taught what their part should sound like. If so, play it for them. As far as sound issues go, it is always worth your while as a worship leader or pastor to find a good sound man. This can be a volunteer from the community that understands what appropriate worship music sounds like, or someone that you teach during rehearsals, or it may simply need to be someone with experience that you pay for their services. Either way, this is a resource that you need.
    
To summarize, we as worship leaders must assure that we and our fellow musicians remember that worship is a corporate activity, and not solely a performance. We must also teach our cohorts how to uplift the text of our songs, and not distract from it. Finally, we have to find resources for a balanced sound in our worship venue.

If I can help, please do not hesitate to ask. Call (660) 651-9964 or email rmclouth@centralmethodist.edu.