So now you’ve chosen your songs, you’ve worked out how the verses and choruses fit together and you’ve worked out roughly how it’s going to play out, how do you make it into a worship set? Here are a couple of things to perhaps consider when you’re working out how this will play out. Continuity When you’re at a gig, you would perhaps expect many of the songs to end with a rousing crescendo, guitars searing and cymbals crashing in something of a grand finale at the end of many songs (think Queen Rocks Wembley Stadium and you get the idea). As we have discussed previously, if we think of our worship sets as more of a journey, then stopping at the end of each song (or leg if we’re sticking with the journey concept) may seem to hinder our progress somewhat. In order to counteract this, try (where possible) to create something of a flow through your set. Now I’m not suggesting you play 6 straight songs without stopping from beginning to end, but you could easily do 2, then 2 more, then 2 to finish (or any other combination you see fit). Many popular worship songs stick around chords I-II-IV-V-VI in their respective keys, and with this in mind you can often bunch together songs with similar or complementary chord progressions. On this note, think about the idea of something like Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” going into Jeremy Riddle’s “Sweetly Broken”. In this example they are exactly the same chords for the most part, just a different rhythm and tempo. Musically, when linking songs it stands to reason that something must keep going throughout, and that need not be the worship leader. It merely requires one (or a combination of) the band members to take the reins when going into the new song. In the above example, you may finish “Blessed be Your Name” on chord IV, leave it hanging, then have the acoustic guitar start the new song with an 1/8 beat on chord I, backed by a kick drum playing 1/4s. The best way I’ve found of getting inspiration for this is to listen to live worship albums and see what they do – if you want some guidance on this try any of the Passion albums, Bethel Church’s Be Lifted High or Here Is Love albums, or anything by Jesus Culture.
Listen specifically to the ends and intros of the songs, and you will hear how they do it – if you use it as inspiration, their influence will find it’s way into your thinking when you’re looking for ideas. Keying Songs In order for the church to be allowed to express themselves during a time of sung worship, it ought to be a fairly obvious observation that they should be able to sing the songs. In order for this to happen, songs need to be in a key that is accessible to the register of both male and female voices (female voices typically being around an octave higher in range). For any married worship leaders out there, take a tip – even (and in fact especially) if your partner claims not to have a musical bone in their body, yet would happily praise their heart out on a Sunday morning, ask them to sing your set with you when you’re picking it. If a self-confessed mediocre singer can sing it, it’s probably alright. If they can’t, you may want to think again. With this in mind, don’t immediately assume that the Chris Tomlin or Tim Hughes (these guys both have very broad ranges) song that you have been dismissing as too high for you to sing need be out of reach. Ultimately, it’s about striking the balance between your comfort and range of vocal ability, and finding keys which are accessible to most of the congregation. This idea of “striking the balance” is an integral part of the ministry of all worship team members and leaders – it affects our entire being. Tensions such as performance vs worship, balancing between Spirit led worship and planned worship and between hymns, heritage and new songs face worship leaders continually. The best worship leaders are those who face these tensions head on, and turn them into peace. As Brian Johnson says, “be comfortable in your own skin” – be confident in your calling, but maintain a teachable spirit and a humble heart. “Not our will, but Yours be done, come sustain us.” Dwell (Casey Corum, Vineyard Music)