Incorporating Brass and Woodwinds into Worship Sets
This article is tailored more towards worship bands where horn and wind parts aren’t written out and arranged into sheet music, if you do have written parts for worship songs, see tip # 5– that one’s just for you.
In my experience, most bands that I’ve played in don’t have the staff or resources to make written parts for brass instruments and wind players, and the worship director relies on the musician’s improvisational skills. And, after playing trumpet for most of my life– and in worship bands for a couple decades– there’s one thing I’ve learned more than anything else:
Less is more.
And this leads into the first quick tip:
1. Spend More Time Listening Than Playing
Probably the most dangerous place to be as a musician is that level of competency where, yeah, you’re getting pretty good at you’re instrument, but a certain overeagerness or desire to impress compels you to play as much and as often as possible during the song. They aren’t afraid to lay out for an entire verse or play very sparsely throughout the song.
2. Practice the F# Major Scale Until You Drop if You’re a Bb Instrument (i.e. Trumpet or Tenor Sax)
As it turns out, about four billion worship songs are written in the key of E. This means, for some horn and wind players, they have to play a whole step above that, the key of F#, which has about four billion sharps (okay, only six, but that’s still a lot). You might as well get the pain over with in your practice sessions and get so comfortable with playing in F# that the next time a worship service has seven songs in concert E, you won’t break down in tears.
3. Use Dissonance Wisely
One mistake that some musicians make is thinking they can only play notes that the rest of the band members are playing. They assume they can only play one of those three notes. It takes a little practice and experimentation, but playing notes not in the chord can add some wonderful colors to the music.
4. Listen to the Jazz Album “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis
Listening to the right music will sharpen your sense of what’s tasteful and what’s not, especially in situations where the worship leader/director is leaving up to you to improvise something that fits. And just listening to this masterpiece will upgrade your sense of what’s tasteful as a horn or wind player, even if you’re not playing jazz.
5. Try to Memorize Them if You Do Have Written Parts
When you memorize written music, you internalize it in a way that allows you to focus on the musicianship– and the worship during a worship service– in a way that will drastically improve your notes and the overall tastefulness of what you’re doing. When your eyes aren’t stuck on the page, you can pay better attention to what the band’s doing, what the worship leader is doing, and to worshiping God in general. If you’re sincerely worshiping, you ‘d be surprised how that shows in your body language, and the congregation will pick up on that.