Listening pt1 (your band)

A few thoughts on listening to bandmates on stage:

Many church bands seem more concerned with getting through a song than they are with saying anything alive or helpful. The thought seems to be that if we start and end in the same place and eliminate mistakes as much as possible in between, then we did our job. I disagree.

First off, this is not art. When you’re focused on reducing mistakes, the best thing you’ll ever create will be the thing everyone already expected. You’re more of an engineer than you are an artist. And your music is not very enjoyable - for your band or the crowd. It feels more like a legality (we have to have music in church) than a human expression. If playing a song well is your ultimate goal, you may want to look into using an iPod instead of a band. That’ll get you there faster and easier.

As stated in the [introductory post]( to this series on listening, the value of music performance (and anything for that matter) is always found in relational interaction, not in the successful exchange of information. When you play music for other people, they have something more to gain from you (and you from them) than what can be found in the mechanics of the song you’re playing. They don’t want to hear the song. They want to hear you. You don’t want to play the song. You want to play the song for them. The song is just a topic for conversation. The conversation is what you’re all there for. This is also true within a band. You’re not there to play a song. You’re there to play a song together. The playing of a song together becomes much more important than whatever song you happen to be playing. The value is in the interaction.

I believe the difference between a band playing a song with each other and a band just getting through a song lies in how well the band members are listening to each other. This is a crucial area for bands to focus on - especially church bands, where they generally have permission to bury their heads in their music stands and ignore each other on stage. Mainstream bands have to listen and respond to each other and to the crowd. But worship bands are more complex. The leader is listening for God’s voice and doing what He says (upcoming post) which can change the direction of everything in a moment. He/She is also watching the crowd and listening and responding to where they’re at (upcoming post) which can change the direction again. A good worship band must be communicating together on stage.

If you’re the leader of a worship band, I’m encouraging you to spend some serious time working on getting better as a band at listening to each other on stage. I think the payoff will far outweigh most of the things we tend to spend our energy on as bands.

Here are a few practical tips to get you started:

Hope that’s helpful.

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