Worship Leaders: Musicians are more than fillers for your multitrack loop!

There are just so many amazing technology advances today to aid the average church musician. You can get the original multitrack stems from the best recordings of modern worship music and do everything from rehearse with them, sweeten a live set with them, or fill an empty band spot with them. I applaud all of these and actually currently employ them in worship settings. However, how we lead our modern worship musician requires us to ask a couple questions. Are we dumbing-down our ability to lead by relying too much on tech and not enough on musical skill? Are we using musicians to fill a slot in a machine rather than inspiring them to create?

Your guitarist volunteers each week for your worship team. He’s got a day job. He buys his own gear. Little time is left after his family obligations so we tell him exactly what to play and provide the pedals and even proper delay and chorus settings to mimic the tracks we downloads. It surely helps him execute something predictably accurate and without error. But, you might be boring the musician—the one that has skill and talent—to death. You might be allowing passable talent to be a part of your team, keeping them from aspiring to personal excellence.

Indeed, there is a balance. One fact must be stated. Being a better musician means you can be a better leader. And, it means your musicians can be better leaders, too. Musicianship is not simply providing a part or mimicking a recording. Each member of your team—in the ideal world—is leading worship and creating. To take away entirely the contribution of a musician’s creativity is to lose the imagio dei and settle for mechanical puppetry. Would you rather your music is perfectly executed or do you want people led? Do you want your congregation bored or engaged?

In my book, The Six Hats of the Worship Leader, I mention one of the six hats worn by worship leaders as being the music director. To be an effective music director means to lead other musicians with competence. Using the digital tools I mentioned actually is what I suggest! But, leading your team to be better musicians is to teach them—no matter their level of skill—to be musical leaders of worship. When you educate them why dynamics will work in a section and allow the them to own it, they will likely rise to the moment. The more ownership artists have in creating, the more inspired and motivated they are to create. And, the result is one which is more likely to inspire others.

How do you get a better spiritual result out of your team? You humanize them. Use technology to serve the person, not the opposite. Understand that creating music is something people do, not machines. No one loves being a cog in a machine. However, people love being committed as part of a winning team. Your attitude about people and the results you want will come through. If you value execution over purpose, that is where the heat will be applicable. What is the purpose of church music, again? It is to lead people. When I am a better musician as a worship leader, I can direct music better. That skill ultimately makes my leadership all the better.

How do you become a better music director? That is another post. For today let’s simply ask this. Does it make sense that musical skill will increases a worship leader’s leadership?

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

11 comments

  1. Good thoughts Rich.

    We use backing tracks (Stems, loops or multitracks…what ever you chose to call them) pretty often. I’d say that we use at least one to two tracks each week. We use tracks to "dress up" songs that benefit from some extra support. Most of these decisions are determined by what musicians I have for the day usually depending on their availability to serve.

    For over 2 years we’ve not had a keys player. Most of our backing tracks, if we use them at all, are used to fill holes like that (pads, keys, accents etc.). We also add percussion or syncopated elements that we don’t have the "extra pair of hands" to play them.

    I’ve heard the argument made, that you shouldn’t have anything playing that you can’t do in real-time with real hands. While I understand that argument, It’s similar to the argument against makeup, hair product or fashion. Why use any of that stuff to accentuate a flawed human form? Be what or who ever you are! I have always held to the idea, that if you have the ability to use a tool, and you have the ability to teach about a tool, then use it. I love using people to achieve what may otherwise be unachievable by training and educating musicians. I think we can be true to live, spontaneous and interactive worship while also taking advantage of technology, if we as leaders do the right things and do not stray from building people.

    As a leader, there is nothing that brings me more joy and satisfaction than taking a marginal musician and putting them in a position to increase their knowledge, skill and experience. Making someone who doesn’t really think they can do it into someone who’s comfortable on stage and at ease using technology to worship is a big win for me. Build musicians, and you’ll build a future for the ministry and for God’s kingdom. Use technology tastefully and respectfully, and you’ll always ADD to your skill set and widen the range of worship expressions available to your congregation.

    Thanks Rich!

    1. Helping musicians reach competence is indeed the main reason these tools exist–responding to the time we actually have to prepare and the expectations for higher quality and results. My main point is that investment in the musicianship of our people will grow our leadership base. We can certainly do this with loops. But, what if we are making musicianship mimicking rather than creating? Even a violinist in a symphony must "mimic" to some extent, but creating within however small the box makes it better. How do we do that with loops? Who even needs parts we don’t have?

  2. Agreeing with Scott, here. Btw, Rich – I’m back in the blogging world again. I’m going to subscribe & you’ll likely be hearing from me a lot more now-a-days! Blessings!

  3. Agreeing with Scott, here. Btw, Rich – I’m back in the blogging world again. I’m going to subscribe & you’ll likely be hearing from me a lot more now-a-days! Blessings!

  4. Agreeing with Scott, here. Btw, Rich – I’m back in the blogging world again. I’m going to subscribe & you’ll likely be hearing from me a lot more now-a-days! Blessings!

  5. Agreeing with Scott, here. Btw, Rich – I’m back in the blogging world again. I’m going to subscribe & you’ll likely be hearing from me a lot more now-a-days! Blessings!

  6. Agreeing with Scott, here. Btw, Rich – I’m back in the blogging world again. I’m going to subscribe & you’ll likely be hearing from me a lot more now-a-days! Blessings!

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