Folks…  This is Adaline…  She’s a 7 month old King Charles Spaniel… And she has two speeds…

This is one of them…

kcspaniel-fast

Okay, thankfully… that’s not actually Adaline, but instead her stunt double…

But this really is her… And this is her other speed…

addie-sleeping

Cuteness aside… There’s a valuable lesson Adaline can teach us here…  You see, musicians on worship teams can frequently get stuck playing in two speeds as well…  Either wide open/all in… Or not at all…  And that my friends doesn’t make for very dynamic worship.

So how do we get out of the puppy trap and play with the gusto that worship deserves?…  Well… There’s lots of good material out there but just for the sake of time…  Here’s the Cliff Notes version of tips I’ve accumulated over the years…

Oh wait… My oldest keeps reminding me that no one under the age of 35 knows what those are…  Well… before the internet existed, high school students had to be more creative about how to NOT read the great works of literature, yet still pass the quiz…  But I digress… (just Google it…)

  1. As you first listen to a new song you’ve been tasked with playing, focus first on the big picture dynamics.  Think of it like one of those political debate trackers that shows audience approval in real-time… (and that’s about all the politics you’ll get from this blog)…  Where in the track is it subtle & quiet?  Where does it build or swell?  Are there hard stops?  Are there ringing whole notes?  Plot this all on your debate tracker & let this be your overall guide.
  2. Now listen a second time & really focus in on your particular instrument.  Are there times when the instrument deviates from the “big picture” in Step 1?  It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen occasionally.  Youtube tutorials can help some here, but be careful about drawing a lot of conclusions about dynamics from an isolated instrument recording.  They sometimes miss the “big picture” in an effort to teach the part.
  3. Volume…  It seems too obvious right?… But there’s a lot of ways to adjust volume.  At the “Easy Button” end of the scale, you have the Volume Pedal… Then there’s your picking technique…  Developing some nuance there can go a long way…  And don’t forget about Right Hand Muting… Mix in some combination of all these techniques & you’re ready to roll…
  4. Be wary of your Overdrives…  Searing lead tones generally don’t go over well in those quieter / introspective moments during worship…  Personally, I like to use 3 OD’s…  a Light OD, a Medium OD, and a Lead OD…  Including the amp, which I set up right on the verge of breakup, that gives me 7 different options to match my Overall OD Level to the dynamics of the song.
  5. Effects… Same warning as the Overdrives… Too much at the wrong time… Not good…
  6. Harlan Howard famously quipped that “…all you needed was three chords & the truth…”  But sometimes you’ll see the same chord progression through an entire song.  So how do you create dynamics in that situation?  Well, there’s a number of ways to play a I – V – vi – V progression…  If you like to stay on the straight time…  varying between quarters, eighths, & sixteenths during different sections of the song can create some dynamics that don’t otherwise exist.  Or you can lay it back a bit…  Find more or a groove…

This isn’t an all inclusive list by any means, but hopefully it gets you thinking more about dynamics in worship and the role you can play in helping to develop it.

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