Do It Yourself!
I’m going to make some of you mad with this post, but I’m going to set all of you free.
Quit emailing, tweeting, or Facebooking me or my team asking for charts of songs you heard us do over the weekend. If you can’t figure out a 4-chord progression then you need to seriously reconsider your career choice.
I know that sounds harsh, so let me explain. We are not doing you any favors by simply handing over the roadmap of a song. I understand your time may be limited on how much you can give to figuring out your weekend music, especially if you are part time or volunteer, but it does not belie the fact that you are taking the easy road by asking for help in something that is actually a pretty easy process.
The majority of worship music today hinges on a combination of, at the most, 6 chords - the 1, 4, 5, 6m, 2m and very sporadically the 3m. And if you play a lot of Chris Tomlin music, get ready for a 7 in the chorus or bridge. Check out this older post on the Beauty of Number Charts if these numbers aren’t making any sense to you. If you haven’t discovered it already you will be amazed at how worship music (and pop, country, folk, etc.) all follow pretty much the same grouping of chords. And once you figure out what chords are being used in the song, the next step is memorizing the pattern. Simple as that.
Now here’s the “setting you free” part. Figuring the chart out on your own will make you a better musician and a better worship leader. Here’s how:
You discover the song
When you take the time to break down a song chord by chord, note by note, you begin to inhabit the same headspace as the songwriter. You begin to understand why the song works, why it makes you feel the way you feel when you hear it. Or you may come to the realization that the song isn’t as good as you thought it was. You can’t get there by someone handing you a chart. Pulling the song apart and putting it back together again puts you in the drivers seat when you lead it, and that’s a very confident place to be.
You make it your own
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve come up with awesome new arrangements of songs by accident. Most of the time it comes from playing the WRONG chords. A pre-written chart only shows you where someone else has gone before. Logically, that map hasn’t changed over the years for a reason - it works. But putting your own chart together opens a whole new realm of possibilities that will eventually reward you with a fresh take - your take!
You create a culture of listening
Music isn’t about reading a chart. Music is about sounds coming together, players and singers all in the same headspace. Before we start a new song I require my worship leaders and players to listen to the song and figure it out on their own. Then we figure it out together. That’s when it really becomes fun and not paint by numbers. Grabbing a stack of pre-written charts squelches the creative spark to an extent.
Granted, there are some songs that are difficult for those without a music degree (such as myself) to figure out. For those situations there’s always CCLI. If you’ve never written a chart before here’s a simple, easy-to-use program available online called Finale.
This post also goes for lyrics. Google is your friend...