How do you, as a worship musician, feel about practicing? How much practice is enough, or do you really need any? It's kind of a divisive question, people feel different ways about putting time in practicing (spoiler alert: we are for it!)
We get it, time is precious and nobody has enough of it. You're pretty good already at your instrument, or as a singer you feel like you already know the words to these songs, so you're comfortable just rocking up to sound check on a Sunday morning without any previous practicing during the week.
I want to explain why we think that's a bad idea, and why we are big believers in the power of practicing.
Let's talk first about weekly worship band practice, the kind of thing that might happen on a Tuesday or a Thursday night. This is a hugely important time, and it shouldn't be neglected. This is when new songs are introduced and learned, when vocal harmonies are worked out, and when a team learns how to play cohesively together. Friendships are forged in these rehearsals, and this is the time for new ideas to bubble up and be tried and then perfected.
Those weekly rehearsals aren't just for learning new stuff, either. They are for working out kinks in songs you've been doing forever, or maybe finding a way to put a new spin on an old favorite. It's the perfect time for practicing how you will transition from each song to the next during Sunday's set.
If you've been thinking that Sunday morning sound check is a good enough time for any of that, I have to respectfully disagree. If you use your sound check time in place of rehearsal, you are adding an unnecessary level of stress to your dynamic. There's never enough time to work out problems on Sunday morning, and if you're rehearsing when you should be checking sound, you'll never get an actual sound check!
So we've established that mid-week band rehearsal is super valuable, and that Sunday morning sound check should be for checking sound.
Now let's go one step deeper, to the area that not many worship musicians take the time for - personal practice at home.
Again, I know your life is busy, and this is the hardest of all to make time for, but hear me out. Practicing at home, preferably before your mid-week rehearsal and possibly after as well, will take you to the next level as a worship musician. If there's nobody playing/singing but you, you will not be able to ignore problem areas that may get swept under the rug at rehearsal, where there might not be enough time to deal with them.
If there is a particular chord progression that is giving you trouble, you will have the luxury of time to play it over and over again, first very slowly and gradually increasing tempo, until you master it. That sort of thing almost never happens in your group setting. This is also where you will discover that suddenly, after you've known a song forever and played it a million times, you're having trouble with one part of it that has never bothered you before. If you find that out ahead of time, you can take care of it before you get to rehearsal.
If you are a singer, this is when you can memorize your lyrics, which will free you up to truly worship on stage more than any other practical step I can think of. I believe that the only greater help for freedom in worship singing than memorization is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Your personal prayer and devotion time is how you plug into the presence of the Holy Spirit, and your personal practice time is when you memorize lyrics. Prioritize both of these elements, and then just watch what happens!
If you are a singer, this is when you can memorize your lyrics, which will free you up to truly worship on stage more than any other practical step I can think of. To truly achieve that freedom, first you need the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Second, you need to memorize your lyrics. Your personal prayer and devotion time is how you plug into the presence of the Holy Spirit, and your personal practice time is when you memorize lyrics. Prioritize both of these elements, and then just watch what happens!
One final thought, and this one is just for you, worship pastor/leader/head worshiper/whatever your title is if you're the one in charge - your personal practice time is the most important of all. Your team's success lives or dies on your own personal preparedness. If you think you're such a good musician you don't need your own practice time ahead of rehearsal, check that attitude. The best musicians in the world know they need practice all their lives, and you are not better than them. You are just as likely as anybody else to have trouble with a new song, or to suddenly stumble over a familiar one that has never given you trouble before. Make time, do your due diligence, and offer your practicing up to the Lord as your own personal act of worship - you will benefit from it, and then your team will benefit, and then your congregation will benefit.
Practicing is a win/win proposition. Make it work for you.