Worship Musician Magazine January 2021 | Page 52

I am the Musical Director ( MD ) of the band . As we invite the congregation to sing worshipfully to God , I am the musical leader of the ensemble of instrumentalists and singers on the platform . It ’ s my job to help us navigate our way through each song . I ’ m also playing acoustic guitar and singing . Yes , I ’ m the leader , but ( most of the time ) it ’ s actually the drummer that the band ’ s following .
For my leadership to be effective , I recognize that I need a very special connection - a leadership partnership - with the drummer . Technically , I might be leading , but ( at least subconsciously ) the band is actually taking their cues from the drummer . And so is the congregation ! What ’ s the tempo ? Where ’ s the beat ? What ’ s the mood ? The groove ? How intense is the dynamic ? Are we building ? Are we repeating this chorus ? Is this the breakdown ? How do we end ? The drummer ’ s telling us all this and more .
In our most common , contemporary-styled ensembles , the drummer is the modern-day conductor . To lead the band , I must lead the drummer . And I must lead the drummer well .
Hey , I ’ m no expert on military ranks , but I know from watching more than my fair share of war movies that a squad of enlisted army soldiers is typically commanded by a lieutenant . He leads the troops ! But between the lieutenant and the enlisted soldiers is the all-important sergeant . It ’ s the sergeant who actually gets the squad to do what needs to be done .
The lieutenant rarely , if ever , issues orders directly to enlisted men . There is an established , understood and respected chain of command . The lieutenant usually communicates his orders to the sergeant who will then tell the troops what they are to do next . The lieutenant is happy for the troops to hear him tell the sergeant the orders , but it ’ s the sergeant ’ s job to pass those orders on .
And the lieutenant issues orders only in very general terms . “ Have the troops ready to move out at oh-six-hundred ,” he might say . The sergeant then communicates more specific orders to the troops - when to break camp , assigning specific tasks to specific soldiers and so on - so that the whole squad is in fact ready to move out at 6am .
That ’ s a great picture of how MDing - leading a band musically - works most effectively . In the same way that the flow of communication for the squad of soldiers starts with the lieutenant , moves to the sergeant and then to the troops , I like to communicate directions to the drummer who , in turn , will play the drums in such a way as to make it obvious what we ’ re doing as a band .
In the flow of a song during a service , this won ’ t be verbal communication . Usually , I give simple ( previously explained and rehearsed ) visual signals to the drummer who then leads the band sonically - with sound - playing the drums in way that make my “ orders ” obvious .
Here are some examples of what I mean :
MD ’ S VISUAL SIGNAL : A smile and a nod to the drummer . MEANING : I ’ m ready for the band to start the next song . DRUMMER : Starts the count-in for the next song , establishing the correct tempo and time signature . THE BAND : Starts the next song after the drummer ’ s count-in .
MD ’ S VISUAL SIGNAL : Swaying the headstock of my acoustic guitar backwards and forwards . MEANING : Repeat whatever section of the song we ’ re doing now . DRUMMER : Subtle changes to the drumming such as opening the high-hats just a shade , or executing what I like to call “ inhale ” drum fills ( which says , “ I ’ m going around again !”), our drummer clearly sends the message that we ’ re doing that intro , verse , chorus or bridge again and not moving to a different section of the song . THE BAND : Repeats that particular section of the song .
MD ’ S VISUAL SIGNAL : I angle my right lower leg behind me a little and stomp the ball of my foot on the ground two or three times . MEANING : I want the overall dynamic to build . DRUMMER : Begins ramping up the intensity by hitting drums and cymbals progressively a little harder . THE BAND : Instinctively follow the growing force of the drums .
MD ’ S VISUAL SIGNAL : I turn my right ( guitarstrumming ) arm towards the drummer with my open hand pointing downwards and then move my palm a little towards the floor . MEANING : Let ’ s lower the dynamic level . DRUMMER : Changes the intensity of his drumming . Hits drums and cymbals with less force , perhaps closes the high-hat more tightly , or maybe even plays the snare rim with a cross stick rather than the drum skin with a full snare hit . THE BAND : Intuitively , the other instrumentalist and singers will alter their own playing or singing to match .
52 January 2021 Subscribe for Free ...