Worship Musician Magazine October 2021 | Page 55

to execute well is an increase in dynamics but without speeding up . That squirt of adrenaline as the intensity builds tends to drive internal metronomes off kilter - sending our BPM ’ s ( beats per minute ) up and up even if we don ’ t mean to be doing it . But if we can learn to allow our intensity and volume to gradually increase without the tempo also increasing , the dynamic build will be so much more effective . We in the band will feel it and , more importantly , so will the congregation .
CLICK OR NO CLICK ? Many , if not most readers of [ WM ] will have experienced the benefits of playing with the support of an external metronome during their Sunday services . One of the benefits of in-ear monitors is that we can have the constant “ click ” of a perfectly-in-time , electronic metronome to guide us . Whether the metronome “ click ” is heard by the whole team ( including the singers ), the instrumentalists , or just the drummer , it is a great way to improve a band ’ s timekeeping .
The drummer is no longer the “ conductor ”. The computer is .
But what about the situation where we don ’ t have in-ear monitors and so can ’ t use the click ? Or if we don ’ t want to be slaves to , or rely on the “ crutch ” of an electronic metronome ? There are big benefits to having the whole band hearing the metronome as we play , but there are also significant costs .
My ideal live music situation is that the band doesn ’ t use a metronome as we guide the congregation to worship through songs . But for that scenario to work , every member of the team must have a fairly accurate internal metronome . But I ’ d rather have the band listening to a click than have us playing with poor timing and , therefore , producing Sonic Soup .
With well trained , developed internal metronomes , our timekeeping will not be robotically , electronically perfect , but we will have groove - we ’ ll always be musically together - and we will tend to listen to each other , respond to the moment and feel the music and the “ voice ” of the congregation more than with the click . Even though our music might have some organic , subtle tempo variations , there will be no Sonic Soup . We can effectively engage the congregation .
SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS : If we need to improve our timekeeping , but aren ’ t using an external metronome during the services , there are still some very practical and quite simple steps that can be taken .
I hope this first one is obvious . During personal practice , encourage every one of our instrumentalists - especially the drummer - to play with a metronome , paying close attention to landing precisely in time . As we do this , we will improve our internal metronome . This is way better than just playing along with a recording . It exposes timing inaccuracies that we can otherwise miss . There are plenty of metronome apps for phones . If you haven ’ t got one , get one . Use it .
If , during a rehearsal , you are feeling the tempo tug-of-war , speak up ! Especially if you are the Musical Director ( MD ), name what you ’ re hearing . Ask other band members if they ’ re sensing lessthan-great timing . Some people can hear the un-togetherness but will say nothing . They might not think it ’ s their place to say unless they ’ re invited . Talk about it . Work on it together . Help your band find your groove . Reduce the soup and reap the benefits .
Consider using a metronome just during rehearsal . The MD or the drummer can get their phone ( with a metronome app ) plugged into a DI and through the audio system . If that long , dynamic build keeps rushing , find the tempo , program it into your app , pump the click through the monitors ( in-ears and / or open speakers ) and rehearse that build a few times . Once you ’ re able to stay with the click , run the build again without it . You should notice improvement .
Consider having that metronome click through your monitors for the first one or two runthroughs of each song - the entire song - in rehearsal . That should help us all find our groove . You ’ ll need to have decided on the best BPM for each song beforehand . I have found that adding 2 to 4 extra BPMs to the original artist ’ s tempo usually feels about right . Anything slower than about 100 BPM might need eighth note clicks rather than quarters .
CONCLUSION Now let me make a confession : My own internal metronome is far from perfect . I have done enough playing live with a metronome click in my in-ears and enough pro-level recording to know that my timing has plenty of room to improve . But I have trained my internal metronome enough to know how important it is to have good timing , what it feels like when we ’ ve got it and what a massive benefit it is as we lead our congregations to worship God through songs .
And , to be fair , I have no problem with some tempo variation during a song and neither does the congregation . As long as the tempo change is gradual , serves the overall groove of the song , the band is always feeling the beat in the same way ( stays together ) and does not produce any poor timekeeping tug-of-war Sonic Soup , it ’ s all good to me . Some of my favorite song recordings from the 60 ’ s and 70 ’ s - before recordings were made with constant reference to a computer metronome - have a gradual increase in tempo . Using subtle tempo shifts can be a very effective musical technique .
But let ’ s keep the main thing the main thing . Our goal should be to invite our congregation - as warmly as possible - to lift their voices as an expression of worship to God . Better timekeeping - reducing the Sonic Soup - will help achieve that important goal .
This is my third article on the subject of Sonic Soup - the causes and how to clean up the mess . Check out the previous two articles . Sonic Soup or a SONIC EMBRACE ? Sonic Soup - RESTS ARE GOLD
Grant Norsworthy founder of MoreThanMusicMentor . com providing training for worshipping musicians .
MoreThanMusicMentor . com
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