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Posted on Feb 10, 2014 in Leadership, Worship Ministry | 2 comments

Know Enough about Everyone’s Job to Get Yourself in Trouble

I recently read a good resource article by Wisdom Moon where he spoke to the importance of dynamics and, at one point, he said: “I don’t know how to play every instrument on stage, but I understand enough about each to give some verbal direction.”  I immediately thought, “Wow, that would make an article all by itself!”

So here it is. Perhaps you’re familiar with the expression: “I know just enough about _______________ to get me in trouble.”  As a worship leader, you are probably a band leader. And as a band leader, you should know just enough about each instrument in your band to get you in trouble! (Really, I suppose these principles will apply across leadership contexts.)


For instance, I can’t play drums.  While I’ve learned to keep two limbs in rhythm, four has proven more than I can ask of my uncoordinated self! But over the years, I’ve gleaned as much information about drummers and drum sets as I can because I believe they make or break a band. So I can tell you what each piece is called and I know what sound it brings to the table. I know what to tell the drummer to get the sound we’re looking for. Basically, I know just enough about drums to get me in trouble!

The same goes for basically every instrument in our regular band set-up.  Now that I write it down, it sounds kind of overwhelming. If someone had told me I needed to know all this when I first started out, I may have just quit! Learn the details and lingo that goes with every instrument? How does one even begin such a daunting task???

Looking back, it wasn’t so hard as it sounds. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Humble yourself. This is the first step because if you approach this as a know-it-all, you won’t ever know anything at all.
  2. Ask questions. That humility I just mentioned will allow you the freedom to ask a lot of questions about everything. What’s that cymbal called? What do you call it when you do _______________ on the keyboard?
  3. Google it. Musician forums, how-to sites, and Wikipedia offer endless knowledge about whatever instrument you want to know about! Forums have the added benefit of exposing you to the lingo of that particular sort of musician.
  4. Take advantage of hindsight. Every once in awhile I still run into a song or situation where I can’t find the right technical way to communicate what I’m wanting. In those cases, I use whatever means necessary to get there.  It usually involves a crazy blend of adjectives. “Sloppy-messy-folksy…but on purpose.” “Silky-smooth and tinkly.” “Tribal-jungly.” I’m above nothing in these situations! But the important step is this: once you finally arrive at the sound you were seeking, find a shortcut for next time! Again with the questions: “Ok guys, now what would you have called that so I can get us there faster next time?”
  5. Take it for a spin. Why not just try each instrument out a little? I’m not really talking about actually playing it in a weekend service. But you’re obviously musically inclined or you wouldn’t be serving in this area of Christ’s body. So just sit down at a new instrument and play around. You might just have fun and learn something in the process!

Have you had any successes or failures with learning about each instrument in your band? We’d love to know about it! 

Photo credit: andrewmalone / / CC BY


  1. I started out as a bass player, then moved to drums and spent several years playing and learning them, went back to bass, then to acoustic guitar to lead worship. Still working on lead guitar. Mix that with 3 years of piano when I was young. I have to say all that has helped me tremendously! Sometimes I wish I had stayed with one instrument (I wounder if I would be that much more ahead?) but because of the background I have been able to teach the basics of each instrument to musically inclined people when we were lacking that piece of the Worship band. It was very helpful in some of the smaller churches that I served in. It also helps to be able to pick out the parts on the latest worship CD so I’m not asking a drummer to play the same thing I’m hearing when I know that there are three different drum tracks overlaped on a particular part. Keep up the good articles!

    • Thanks, Jeff! You know, I’ve wondered that kind of thing, too, sometimes: If I had focussed more, applied myself more to guitar, would I be that much more ahead? But honestly, I don’t think most local churches need their worship leaders to be killing it on guitar like Lincoln Brewster or something! HA! In most of our churches that can actually serve as more of a distraction than a help.

      I guess I accepted a long time ago that I’m not always going to be the best musician on the stage (these days I’m pretty much never the best musician on the stage) but that’s not my role, anyhow. My job is to keep it all together, to take all these great individual pieces and help us become one lean, mean, worship leading machine!

      I’ll be you’re awesome at doing that, too, since you can think from each musician’s perspective with ease!

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