Okay, I apologize. The “Perfect Praise Team Practice” title might be a little exaggerated - I’m not sure what I’m going to discuss in this and the next post will help your practice be perfect, but it should help it get much closer.

Goals

So what makes one practice better than another? I would suggest three elements: quality, efficiency and quantity. Let’s look at those in reverse order.

  • Quantity – you want to cover everything that needs to be covered
  • Efficiency – you want to use your time wisely so that in covering all your material your practices do not run much past the 2 hour mark
  • Quality – in the time spent on what you need to go over you want to get the material to be as excellent as possible

Of course, there may be other things which are also important to accomplish in a practice, but these stick out to me as the most important. I am going to spend an entire post on streamlining your time management in practice, so I won’t really cover that in this post. But before we get to that point, there are some more general points of planning that need to be addressed.

Material to be covered

As I have experienced there are two types of practices. I would venture to call them “long-term” and “short-term”. As opposed to other types of musical practicing, in the Praise and Worship arena, both types are almost equally relevant and effective. Both also have their pros and cons. Which type you choose depends on the way you have your team(s) organized and how talented your people are.

Long-Term oriented practices

These practices spend at least the first 45-60 minutes on new material. The general concept treats your praise team members as a single band. This works if you have a very consistent team (you use the same people almost every week). With this type of practice session, team members are expected to be at every practice because this is where they will learn new material. The primary drawback to this type of practice is that it leaves a little over 10 minutes for each song that needs to be gone over for the upcoming service (figuring roughly 5-7 songs in that service).

But the positive of this type of practice (which I did for several years at my last church) is that less skilled musicians are given more time to learn and practice new material (I would start introducing them to new material a month before we played it, sometimes more).

Short-Term oriented practices

For these practices the entire time is spent on material for the upcoming service. The positive point is that you have more time to spend on each individual song. Another positive is that this type of practice is great for large teams where there are many different musicians (I consider vocalists musicians as well) rotating or multiple teams. If the Worship Leader/Pastor can plan several weeks ahead as far as his music is concerned he can get a songlist and even listening material to his teams a week or so before a particular service’s practice so they have plenty of time to prepare. With disciplined musicians and a bit of planning on the Worship Leader/Pastor’s part this is an excellent way to structure practices because you can introduce and do much more new material.

The primary drawback is that the musicians need to have a decent level of personal motivation (to prepare at least some on their own). And it seems to work much more smoothly if there is a higher level of musicianship on the team (talent+training+discipline). Though there is time for a bit of tweaking, this scenario does not give you a chance to teach each musician their part individually – they have to prepare it beforehand (to some extent, or be able to generate it on the spot!).

So, while it is called “short-term” it takes a bit of long-term planning on the part of the Worship Leader/Pastor so he can get the materials in the hands of his people a decent amount of time beforehand. I would suggest using a blog or even (if your budget can afford it) a subscription-based service such as The Planning Center Online to help with this.

Preparing the Material for Practice

Once you have figured out how the general structure of your practice is going to be, you need to prepare all your materials and get your brain in gear so you know what’s going on in each song. For new songs, I’ve blogged about how to go about learning them and then teaching them to your team (Learning a New Song Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). For other material which the team should know already, make sure the day of the practice you go over the entire service, planning how each song fits into it and the transitions between each. The more you figure out ahead of time the less you have to make up on the spot (and admit it – you do it, I do it, we all fly by the seat of our pants when we don’t plan well…). If you can, check over your chord charts to make sure the chords and keys are. The best way to do this is play through the songs according to the chord charts on guitar or piano.

Coming up next!

Next time I’ll go over these points as well as a few others:

  • Time Management – how to get through those songs effectively in 90-120 minutes…hopefully…
  • Why 90-120 minutes is the perfect practice length (at least in my mind)
  • The simplest trick/technique to keeping your team’s spirits up while you work them hard