Trevor Stinson

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How our worship team makes vocal rehearsals work

Last week I explained why our worship team does vocal rehearsals and how that has been helpful to us. This raised a few questions, so now I’m going to give the “how” as well.

Do the planning before rehearsal

First, one point that applies regardless of whether or not you’re doing a separate vocal rehearsal: it is essential to have a complete plan before the team arrives for rehearsal. This means knowing what order you’ll use for each song, who will start each song, how transitions will flow, and what the dynamics will be throughout the service. Make sure the plan is written down and distributed to the team. A worship leader can try to get by without this preparation, but it will be discouraging to both yourself and the team, the results won’t be as good, and it will ultimately be more work than it would have been to prepare in advance.

Don’t think that having all of this planning done ahead of time will make things too rigid. Lack of preparation does not lead to increased creativity. Rather, it means you’ll be scrambling just to make things work. Flexibility and creativity are increased when there’s a solid plan in place as a framework.

Designate a vocal team leader

Now for the specifics of running a vocal rehearsal. The first question to answer is who will lead the vocal rehearsal. If you (the worship leader) are both singing and leading the band, then you’ll need to either have vocal rehearsals at a completely different time (probably before the band rehearsal), or identify a person who can act as vocal team leader while you’re working with the band.

Whether it’s you or someone else, the vocal team leader needs to understand harmony, be capable of developing a vocal plan for the service, and know how to coach vocalists. Don’t expect to just throw a few singers together and see good results. It’ll sometimes work, but it’s not viable long term, and it probably won’t lead to growth as a team.

If the worship leader and the band leader are the same person…

As the worship director at our church, I lead the band all the time, I sing all the time, and I act as worship leader about half the time. We’ve chosen to conduct our rehearsals as one hour of split vocal/band time, and then a second hour with everyone together. This means that I’m with the band the whole time, even when I’m the primary worship leader for the week.

On the weeks where I’m the primary worship leader, we have a designated vocal team leader (and she does a great job). On the weeks when someone else is the primary worship leader, then they run the vocal rehearsal themselves. Either way, I stay with the band. This means it’s important that the vocal team leader knows how to play an instrument for the vocal rehearsals. We also have pitch-shifted recordings of all the songs on Planning Center so that the vocal team can sing along with the melody even though I can’t be in two places at once.

Remember, we still bring everyone together for the second hour of rehearsal. So we do get the chance to all sing together—I just can’t be with them for the first hour. This isn’t too much of a setback if I’m singing melody or if the vocal team leader knows what parts I’ll be singing.

In summary, our recipe for vocal rehearsals:

  1. Have the planning done before rehearsal.
  2. Know who will run the two sub-teams (vocal and band).
  3. Decide in advance how to work around the fact that no one can be in two places at once.

Most of this comes down to doing the homework ahead of time. That includes the weekly preparation of service plans, but also the more long-term work of identifying leaders who will help you build up the team.