Worship Musician Magazine September 2021 | Page 46

SONIC SOUP - RESTS ARE GOLD | Grant Norsworthy
“ Notes are silver , rests are gold .” ~ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ( 1756 – 1791 )
Sometimes , the best thing to play - the most musical choice - is not to play at all .
This is my second article for [ WM ] that attempts to address the issue of sonic soup . What is sonic soup ? I use this term to describe the mushy , messy , over-played , over-sung sound that church teams often seem prone to produce .
With every good intension of leading their congregation to sing worshipfully , the singers and instrumentalists might be cooking up overthick arrangements that make it very tough for the congregation to hear any “ gap ” for their voice . But with less playing , we can actually do a better job of guiding the congregation ’ s “ voice ”.
To understand the term better , please head back to my previous article called “ Sonic Soup or a Sonic Embrace ?” in last month ’ s issue .
In that article I reminded us that the wonderful , profound paradox “ Less is ( almost always ) more ” is most certainly true and relevant as we build our song arrangements . If we intend to lead our Church congregations to worship God by singing , I believe that our goal will be reached more effectively with a somewhat hollowed out “ embrace ” of sound rather than a sonically soupy “ wall ” of sound .
I also gave one , often-encountered example of how sonic soup is unintentionally produced . Namely , when multiple instruments - often acoustic guitar , electric guitar and keyboard - all try to be the main , rhythmic , driving midrange of a song simultaneously . Too many hands on the steering wheel ! Be sure to check that out if you haven ’ t already .
In this month ’ s article , I want to address another source of the unwanted sonic soup : Too many instruments too much of the time . Not enough rests ! Right now , I am not so much talking about rests within a bar or phrase of music ( although they need to be appreciated more too !) but resting for a longer section of song . Perhaps not playing at all for a whole verse , chorus or bridge .
As I coach bands , I often encounter instrumentalists who seem to underappreciate not playing : Taking short or even longer breaks during a song that leave space for other instruments and the vocals - allowing them to “ breathe ” more easily .
Left to their own devices , less musically aware drummers , bassists , guitarists , keyboardist and others will tend to want to play their instrument constantly . From the very beginning of the song ( or as soon as they possibly can anchor into how the song goes ) until the very end , they feel the need to be making pretty much continuous sound .
There can be many reasons for the tendency of our worshiping instrumentalists to play too much of the time . Some of my theories include :
We don ’ t need to copy every element of an original artists ’ version of a song . We must be ourselves ! But we can and should be inspired by those artists . This could include copying ( as best we can ) the main entry and exit points of instruments . There are very good reasons why the pros have added and subtracted instruments at certain times . With better personal preparation , our team members should come to rehearsal knowing their entry and exit points from the provided recording . Without this level of personal preparation , many players will simply look at the chord chart and read everything that appears on it .
The roster might tell a person that their job is to play bass during the church service on a particular date . The subconscious position could be something like , “ They want me to play bass , so I ’ d better do as much of that as I can .” But a good MD would take the time to help the whole team understand the job description better . Our task is to craft a sound that warmly invites the congregation to worship God by singing . At times , reaching that objective will require you to not be playing bass . Other times , we ’ ll want you to play bass .
If a player is at all anxious about being in the band in front of the congregation , their anxiety can become greater when they ’ re not playing than if they are . They may play to distract themselves from their nerves .
I have found that the tendency to play constantly is especially prevalent with less experienced or less capable teams that do not enjoy good clear leadership from a Musical Director ( MD ). With clear-but-kind guidance , the MD can bring their team to appreciate the value of rests and
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