What Making Worship Albums Has Taught Me

1Last year I had the privilege of producing a worship album for my church called “A Thousand Amens“. This year I’m producing two more. It’s been a ton of fun, a lot of work, and a learning experience. Here are a few things making worship albums has taught me:

Make every measure count
Do you really need that 4-measure interlude between the chorus and verse? Could you cut it out altogether? Could it be more effective if it was just 2 measures? Extra measures can drag a song down. Cutting out 2 measures here and 2 measures there can make a huge improvement.

Play less. Really. Play a lot less
You hear this a lot and you know it’s true, but do you and your team members practice it? Probably not. I need to do a better job insisting that all of our team members, and this includes me, play less and play better stuff when we do play.

There’s no such thing as a live worship album anymore
We’re able to fix so much stuff in post-production that it’s almost ridiculous. The result is a great-sounding worship album, but the danger is that worship leaders and congregations expect Sunday mornings to sound like a worship album. Except for rare circumstances and rare teams, your Sunday morning services will not (and should not) sound like a recording. Relax.

I should only introduce new songs if they’re worth introducing
It wasn’t long after our first album released last July that I knew we’d be doing another one in 2013. So every time I thought about introducing a new song I had to think “is this a good enough song that I’d want it to be immortalized on an album, put in the cars and homes of my congregations, and held up to other worship leaders who buy this album as a song they should do as well?” Most songs didn’t meet that criteria so I didn’t introduce them. It was a high bar. But I don’t regret it. Set a high bar for what songs you introduce.

It doesn’t take much to freshen up a song
As our latest live recording in July was getting close, I had lunch with a good friend of mine who’s a gifted worship leader/arranger/composer. He cautioned me against doing songs the exact same way they were recorded. Change a chord here or there. Do a different melodic thing on the intro/interludes. Whatever. It doesn’t have to be much. Just use your brain and your creativity and freshen up a song. Good advice.

Congregations are hungry for extended worship
The two times we’ve recorded live worship albums, I’ve been amazed at my congregation’s response to the lengthy times of worship that we’ve offered on a Friday/Saturday night or even on a Sunday morning. They sat down when they wanted to. They stood when they wanted to. They wanted more at the end of 90 minutes. They seemed rejuvenated. So did I. I shouldn’t wait for album recordings as an excuse to offer extended worship. I should look for other times as well.

God gives congregations a song to sing
I’m not talking about a “song” as in an individual song, but I’m talking about “song” in a bigger-idea, over-arching-narrative sense. Our first album was recorded when we were losing our building. Our “song” was that Jesus was “all to us” (which happened to be an actual song, too). This time we recorded an album after a year and half of being a portable church without a home. Our “song” was the faithfulness of God and the unchanging power of the Gospel. What “song” is your congregation singing? What song should they be singing? Keep your ear to the ground and you’ll hear it.

3 thoughts on “What Making Worship Albums Has Taught Me”

  1. Hi, I passed this onto our worship team, as we are considering recording an album. We are a bit confused about what you mean about playing less? Can you expand on that? Thanks!

    1. Hi Annie. I mean the “less is more” principle. A pianist, electric guitarist, drummer, or violinist is tempted to think that there’s a direct correlation between the number of notes (or hits) they play and how much they add to a song. Quite the opposite. Oftentimes the more/busier an instrumentalist is playing, the less he or she adds, and the more cluttered the final result. Instrumentalists need to leave space, play the notes that really matter, and resist the urge to play all the time.

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