NOTE: This blog is part of a series called “Pursuing Excellence.” If you haven’t done so already, go back and read Part 2- “Why Learn It Like The Record?” at (link provided).
Last time, we left off with the question: Why should I follow the recording of the song when I play on a worship team?
The Answer: because it was recorded that way for a reason. Multiple reasons, actually! But the main reason?
Because every instrument was recorded to fit in the pocket.
“That drummer has POCKET.”
“Man, they’re locked and groovin’.”
“That band’s got deep, Bill Gates pocket!!”
Ever heard these before? If you’ve only played in a worship setting, maybe not. The concept of “Pocket” is hard to define, but easy to feel. If you were to Google it right now you’ll find hundreds of articles trying to put words around the phenomenon. And while it’s somewhat of an abstract term, the concept has been around as long as music has.The pocket is the musical sensation of every instrument in a band filling the right space, or “pocket,” so that they lock together and groove!
As music listeners we’ve all heard amazing examples of songs that are “in the pocket.” There are thousands, but just some examples include:
Let’s Stay Together- Al Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXx6RDzR6eM
Superstition- Stevie Wonderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CFuCYNx-1g
You Make Loving Fun- Fleetwood Mac https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJo3Rq5Fubc
The drummer lays down a beat that just has that OOMPH! It’s not too busy, it’s not too bare. The bass is simple and straight to the point, but somehow carries a tremendous amount of power. The guitar fits right in, instead of noodling with reckless abandon. Every melodic instrument fits right into a pocket of space where they can thrive, never running into the other instruments. Every instrument is living in the right space, playing their part.
So what do some famous pop songs like those above have to do with serving on Sunday morning? Why should we care about pocket?
Because when you play as a group, the ability to listen to each other and restrain is the most important part of playing music, period.
The famous French composer Claude Debussy said it best: “Music is the space between the notes.” Miles Davis reiterated: “Don’t play what is there, play what is not there…” For centuries, musicians worldwide have understood the role of control, restrain, and even SILENCE as a strength!
Likewise, when you serve on a worship team, the ability to master when you play and when you don’t is key. Spiritually, you’re part of something bigger than yourself. Consider what Paul has to say and how it might apply here:
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the
same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member
belongs to one another.…” (Romans 12:4-5, Berean Study Version, emphasis mine)
Although our parts are many, we all form one body (1 Corinthians 12:12). We are a unit! That means we actually do a disservice to each other by refusing to play our part, however simple it may feel. As a general rule of thumb, the more instruments that are in the mix, the more you have to lay in the pocket. Otherwise, your ability to sound like a team quickly diminishes.
Oh and by the way- the congregation can tell.
They might not be able to describe it using music theory terms, or even put words around it at all. But what they can tell is when something is off, distracting, muddy, cluttered, or unclear. Music is all about feel, and everyone can feel when something is wrong.
So…if there are certain pockets that we all need to fit into, and roles that we all have to play, how do we identify them and nail it on Sunday morning?For that, you’ll have to tune into Part 4: “Knowing the Role You Play”.To learn more about pocket playing, check out these awesome free resources!