Pursuing Excellence- Part 2 – Why Should I Learn It Like The Record?

NOTE: This blog is part of a series called “Pursuing Excellence.” If you haven’t done so already, go back and read Part 1- “A Biblical Approach to Giving Our Best”  

“If your interpretation was so good, they would’ve recorded it that way!” 

Woah woah woah. Where the heck did that come from? 

Picture this: it was time for Sunday service, and it was one of those…rougher weekends. Everybody showed up a little late, the team gave off a tired vibe, and it seemed like everybody came in under-rehearsed, hoping to feed-off on that one teammate that really knew their stuff and had it all together. 

The bad news? That person cancelled last minute. 

So here you are, trying to piece together the fragments of a new song, with service fast-approaching and you just weren’t hitting on all cylinders. You knew for a fact that your guitarist hadn’t learned the lead riff, and the song was suffering in its absence. 

Then, after two frustrating run-throughs, the bass guitar player turned to the guitarist, shouting: 

“If your interpretation was so good, they would’ve recorded it that way!”

Was that the best way to communicate the frustration in love? Nope.  

But is there an element of truth to that statement? Absolutely. 

Ok, so this actually happened. And the truth is that our veteran bass player was getting at one of the most important concepts when it comes to playing in a band: Everyone has a role to play, and the second we deviate from that role our worship has the potential to suffer. 

The real struggle is that as leaders and lovers of music it’s natural to want to take creative liberties with songs.

However, we are called worship leaders for a reason–to lead others into worship. John Maxwell puts it into perspective, “If you think you are leading and no one is following, then you are just taking a walk.” The band wasn’t prepared (and yes, there is way more to unpack about that problem in itself), so as a leader we have to do what is right for what we are called to do: lead worship. That lead riff would have been great, but as it stood, the entire song would have done the opposite of what we were trying to accomplish. 

It was a reality check. As a leader, I had to know my part.

This concept is ages old, dating back to the earliest bands imaginable. Orchestras have whole sections devoted to playing melodies that, on their own, seem inconsequential. But together– the sum of the parts combines into something extravagant. 

Fast forward to now- the principle remains the same. 

The whole note chords that the piano is padding down allow the lead guitar to play even stronger with a great foundation behind them. Add in an eighth note arpeggiator and we’re starting to rise. When the quarter note kick drum comes in, it’s driving, complemented by the bass in perfect unison. By the time the acoustic guitar strums out crystal clear sixteenth chords, we have a full, passionate sound, building excitement until the melody rings for everyone to sing along. 

When everyone knows their part and is firing on all cylinders, there’s nothing like it. That’s why we study the recording over and over. We play it in our cars, we practice it at home on full blast, and we have it stuck in our heads for longer than we care for…We don’t just come in blind, playing whatever the heck we want, making our best guess. 

Or do we?

You might be saying to yourself, “if we’re on the worship team, that means we were made creatively. We were meant to worship with that individual creativity, right?” There is freedom for that, but most teams aren’t there…yet. 

Let’s answer that question this way. Imagine if an orchestra approached their music with that mentality. Not ONE person would be on the same page as another, and what was written as a cohesive piece would turn into a giant mess. 

On Sunday morning, you might have some incredible players that can not only play like the recording, but sound even BETTER than the recorded part. But chances are your average volunteer-team doesn’t have that luxury. So then, why do we bother learning the song the way it was recorded? 

Because it was recorded that way for a reason. 

What are those reasons? And can we ever break out and let loose from the record?

For that, you’ll have to wait for Part 3- “Pocket, Parts, and Holy Groove.”

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