Choose your song, pick your key

Choose your song, pick your key – MAKE SURE IT’S THE RIGHT ONE!

It is hard to deny, but the songs in today’s church have brought to the creative team an interesting development and challenge.

The songs are powerful, they are breathing life to the House on a Sunday service, and extending beyond that onto our iPods, iTunes, Spotify, the car CD player – you name it, we’re listening to it – in our personal as well as our corporate space.

But a challenge has presented itself to the creative team of the House – many of the songs in their original key do not translate to the gathered church, and a lot of the time it can go from being a unifed sound to a spectator event. Eeeech!

Now, I could provide you with all the ‘clinical’ answers for male and female keys and ranges, but a lot of the current songs on our playlists don’t really fit into that model.

Without a doubt, there are incredible anthems proclaiming the life, love and works of God coming from the hearts of songwriters who are passionate about calling home the lost to Christ. And the songs, when we sing them, connect us to avenues of fresh revelation of the love our Father has for us.

There tends to be two strains here that I would like to examine; (I am certain there are more, and I am eager to discover them on my journey) – the first strain is the ‘personal worship’; that place where we do our one-on-one daily moments with God, the secret place that only He knows, and He tends to us in such a way a parent can, sometimes with guidance, sometimes with understanding but always with love. The songs we listen to help us connect in this fashion, and once again, the iPod or car CD player comes in handy to assist us.

The second strain is our ‘corporate worship’, and this is where I would like to spend a little time…

As stewards and leaders of worship, we need to have a sensitivity and understanding of what our purpose is on the platform to convey the message of Christ through song. This extends to the song choices we make.

Here’s a thought – imagine this….

The service kicks off, pre-roll video closes out and the band hits the chord!

We are into the first song, and the congregation is engaging, and the music builds and grows.

And then it happens….

The worship ‘leader’ lifts the song up an octave, heading into the musical land of ‘unobtainable’ by the average singer.

No one can sing like that!

So, the result is everyone stands there watching. There is no longer any active participation – it has become the observance of a performance. And then there is the added issue of those who really want to sing and join in are completely and utterly thrown off!

Now, this is a bold step to take in talking about this, and although the song may have a strong message, the result is the following:

Don’t they see that 75 percent of the people in the church just stopped singing? Don’t they see some people trying to follow them, hearing their voices crack, and then giving up? Most of the congregation just stand there feeling awkward until the pitch drops back down and they can join in again….

It’s important to consider, if no one is following you, then you are probably not leading….

My encouragement to you is this:

Remember that on the platform, we are there to connect the congregation of the gathered church to the Father, through the praise and song of His glorious love and works.

Be certain that the songs are in keys that are suitable for the congregation, so that ONE voice is heard in the House, and our AUDIENCE OF ONE hears the praises of His people.

It may be that the song is not necessarily in your key, but in the primary essence of your role, you are a LEADER, there to LEAD the congregation. There is a team with you to lead ALONGSIDE you, so if the song is in a ‘girl’ key, then let a ‘girl’ sing it; if it’s in a ‘guy’ key, then…. You get it…..

And of course, the land of the ‘co-lead’ (guy and girl) is making it’s mark strongly in the sound of songs encompassing our lives today.

A heavy topic, with many points of view. My thoughts on this are more to promote questions rather than provide an avenue of practical application.

Please as always, hear my heart in wanting to bring the best for His Kingdom.



Planning and preparing for your sunday service

Almost weekly, I am asked what the process is for getting ready to honour the platform on a Sunday. In fact, to be a little more to the point, I am asked “how do you learn your stuff for Church?”

You know, one of the most important things I do in preparing for Sunday is PLANNING!! I have a relatively full life, working all the time doing television work, sheet music typesetting, lecturing, coaching….. it would be easy for me to turn up to a mid week rehearsal or a service soundcheck and not have prepared adequately for it.

But knowing what it is I am geared and wired to do for the Kingdom, an amazing and incredible thing happens that lays the foundation for everything that I do in my journey with Christ – I MAKE A CHOICE!

Now, I am wanting to encourage you all, not condemn you – as the Bible says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and it is this first and firm realization that grounds you for life, as well as the work that you do in your 24/7 here on earth, gearing all that you live and breathe in Him for your ministry on the platform on a Sunday. (Hope you get what I mean . . . )

In planning for your contribution with the worship team on a Sunday, here are a few tips that may help you:

1.Have your songlist / setlist in front you, and all the resources that accompany that – this would include an audio recording of the song, lyrics, and a song sheet that can have either notation or chords.

2.Have information from your team leader / worship pastor / music director as to any changes in the arrangement of songs – different keys, altered forms, any additional elements (tags of other songs etc.)

3.Work on your songs in sections, getting every element of each part of the song concreted in your mind. It doesn’t really help you or the team if you glaze over the bits that need the most work – you can be guaranteed the part you may be smoothing over is a vital bit for the song (the song writer intends for those things to be earmarked!)

4.MUSICIANS – be sure to be listening to the song for what the other instruments are doing, so that what you bring complements and strengthens the musical conversation that is being brought.

5.SINGERS – learn ALL your lyrics and harmonies! All to often it is left to the ‘Worship Leader’ to carry the weight of bringing the words of the song. Please remember that WE ALL are LEADERS OF WORSHIP – we carry the load together, we go forward together, and sometimes we all trip over together…..

6.PRACTICE your songs before coming to the REHEARSAL – if you are unsure of the difference it is this: PRACTICE is what you do on your own, where you sharpen your gift and refine your work in preparation for the service, looking in detail at the songs you are pareparing. REHEARSAL is the culmination of everybody’s PRACTICE, so that what has been prepared at home is brought to the ‘table’ and everything is put together, like a well prepared meal!

7.An important thing to remember is that what you have invested into your preparation will primarily be what can be produced or returned – to make it easier – you reap what you sow….. let’s always be sure to prepare the soil well for the seed, so that it can grow, and the harvest can be reaped and His Kingdom extended.

I trust that you hear my heart in these thoughts – as always I am passionate about bringing the finest to my Saviour, and I pray that you are encouraged to lean in and dig deep for the treasures that are waiting for you in your walk with Him.



being a healthy music director

The role of the Music Director can be traced to bible history times with specific reference to the time David became king of Israel.

Even though this particular ‘portfolio’ had been around for a very long time, it wasn’t until David became king that it gained prominence in the everyday life of God’s people.

A full study of the reforms that took place under David’s leadership (1st Chronicles) can attest to the emphasis that he placed on temple worship music.

These reforms brought to the front music personalities like Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun, who became key leaders and Music Directors with varying responsibilities.

The dynamics involved in the role of Music Director become evident based on the environment of its performance.

In David’s time he, the king, was the chief musician while others functioned under him (1st Chronicles 25:1-8).

The Musicians for Worship

1 Chron 25:1-8

Next David and the worship leaders selected some from the family of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun for special service in preaching and music.

Here is the roster of names and assignments: From the family of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asarelah; they were supervised by Asaph, who spoke for God backed up by the king’s authority.

From the family of Jeduthun there were six sons: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah; they were supervised by their father Jeduthun, who preached and accompanied himself with the zither—he was responsible for leading the thanks and praise to God.

From the family of Heman there was Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael, Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti-Ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth.

These were the sons of Heman, who was the king’s seer; they supported and assisted him in his divinely appointed work. God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.

Under their father’s supervision they were in charge of leading the singing and providing musical accompaniment in the work of worship in the sanctuary of God. They were well-trained in the sacred music, all of them masters.

They drew names at random to see who would do what. Nobody, whether young or old, teacher or student, was given preference or advantage over another.

This was so because apart from his royal responsibilities and calling, David had been raised and anointed of God for the office of the prophetic through music.

By this we learn that it was not the fact that he was king that gave him right to be chief musician but rather a divine calling of God upon his life.

When you look at the other kings of Israel beginning with Saul, we do not see any of them stepping into that Music Director role as David did.

So . . . .


The music director:

-Is appointed to teach songs like a choir master.

-Must be the most talented musician.

-Must be the longest serving member in the team.

-Must be the most prayerful member in the team.

-Must be the most loyally serving and committed member.

-Must be the one in the team with bible school experience.

-Must be an associate Pastor or on the church Pastoral team

-Must be the most friendly member with good relational skills.


•Know the songs

•Keep an eye on the MD & WL for direction

•PRACTICE (different to REHEARSAL)

•Bring ideas for ‘fleshing’ out the song – bring the better…

•Come prepared to work!

•PLEASE be on time!


•3 second rule – keep an eye out for the next moment…

•anticipate what may be coming next

•know the songs – REALLY KNOW THEM!

•talk through with the Worship Leader ideas and transitions

•have a few tips ready for flavouring up the song

•make your signals clear – for ALL

  1. •keep relaxed! If you’re tense, EVERYBODY gets tense….



Relationship between the music director & worship leader

Both of these roles play a major part in the exchange of ‘language’ between what is presented on the platform and then delivered to the congregation.

However, to fully understand the roles that each of these play on the platform it is necessary to examine what each brings, and how the combination of these gifts creates a vehicle to declare the goodness and love of God to His people.

The Music Director

•The MD plays a pivotal role in performances, whether it be for choirs, orchestras, ensemble bands, worship bands etc. With simple hand movements, he sets the pace and keeps various sections on task to produce pleasing sounds. However, the MDs duties extend well beyond stage performance. He can also be a creative influence for both the musicians he directs, and the community at large.

•To work in this position, the MD must have creative, management and public relations abilities. In the area of weekend church services, many of the musicians and singers will generally be volunteers, so a great deal of patience is required in order to build and strengthen the team, always building into them that it is not perfection that is required, but excellence!

•In general terms, the success of a musical presentation / performance is determined by the direction given by the MD. In most cases for specific presentations, an MD will select musicians or singers to fill the required positions, and then works with the team to create a cohesive sound. The MD has to have a keen ear to isolate and correct performance issues, and the ability to provide first-hand instruction by playing an instrument or singing a note is particularly important. Since many different personalities will be part of the group the MD also must understand how to communicate effectively and to give constructive criticism.

•The MD assists in the musical selections for the team to execute. Generally, this requires meeting with the Worship Leader, and sometimes gauging songs based on sermons or messages that may be presented to the church. An experience MD also can expand on a personal resume by crafting original compositions or researching particular songs for fresh interpretations of older works.

  1. •On an additional front, the MD serves as the face of the team. The distinction comes with the ability to speak publicly about various issues facing the music community, and encouraging youth participation and assisting in the development of the next generation of performers and Music Directors.

The Worship Leader

Churches have taken a wide variety of approaches to the role of the worship leader. Choir directors, accompanists, rock bands, soloists, and organists have all been included in that category. Regardless of the title, those who lead the singing and the worship of God play a prominent role in most Christian gatherings. At every meeting they have significant opportunities to teach, train, and encourage Christians in giving God the glory we were created to give him.

The New Testament gives us little to go on to establish the specific job description of a worship leader. However, it’s apparent throughout Scripture that singing is important to God, and that it is usually led.

Ephesians 4:11–13 tells us that God has given gifts to certain leaders in the church for the maturing and building up of his people. Some of those gifts are pastoring, teaching, prophesying, and evangelising. In a corporate worship leader, we have a leadership role which combines aspects of these and other New Testament gifts in the context of music.

More specifically, the role and goals of a worship leader can be described in this way:

•An effective worship leader, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, skillfully combines biblical truth with music
to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church
to join in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God
and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.

It’s not just “worship leading.” It’s leading people. The question is, in what direction?

What does it mean to be a leader? When someone takes a position in front of a group of people, they will, to one degree or another, be leading, whether intentionally or not.

Romans 12:6 says leaders must lead with zeal, or govern diligently. Both phrases speak of faithfully seeking to direct a meeting. The first duty of a worship leader is to take on that responsibility cheerfully.

Congregational worship in spirit and truth doesn’t just “happen”. God can at any moment choose to manifest His presence in our midst, but He has identified specific activities and attitudes to which He generally responds. Critical words, for example, quench the Spirit, while praise invites His activity and involvement. Thus, there must be intentionality and purpose behind what a worship leader does.

Everything ultimately glorifies God (for example, all sin and rebellion is eventually judged by God, thus magnifying His holiness)…but not everything worships God. Worship is all I know of me responding to all God has shown me of Himself. This response involves a choice, and the use of my mind, will, and emotions. Thus, everything a worship leader does should encourage that response in the people they are leading.

Since we’re leading people (and not just “leading worship”), we need to be clear on what direction we’re taking them in. It’s easy to overuse vague phrases that sound good but don’t necessarily define where we’re going or what we’re doing. For example, in recent years “entering in” has become synonymous with the corporate worship experience. But what do we mean by that phrase? Are we entering in to some mindless, automatic-pilot state of ecstasy? Are we perhaps passing through the outer courts of worship to enter in to the holy of holies?

First, worship is neither automatic nor mindless—it’s intentional, purposeful, and very much involves the mind. And second, Jesus has already entered the holy of holies for us (Heb. 10:19–22). The purpose of worship is to enter in to a fresh awareness of who God is, what he has done, and how that affects our past, present, and future.

Finally, a worship leader’s task involves leading people effectively. We should expect good fruit from our labours. Worship leading is not a hit-or-miss proposition. God desires to bless us with his manifest presence when we gather to worship Him.

The Music Director & Worship Leader

(All of these things will be discussed prior to the meeting.)

The things that the Worship Leader and Music Director liaise with include:

Song choice

Choosing songs is a vital step in preparing for the Sunday Service – some songs are geared for different moments, and although it isn’t generally discussed, there are some songs that work better at evening meetings than in the morning meetings. The songlist will comprise of songs that the church are currently ‘breathing’ or ‘living in’, and can be dependent on the sermon or series that is being teached to the gathered church.  The Worship Leader has an idea of the songs that will encourage the congregation to connect with the message from the speaker, and in discussing the list with the MD, the list can be strengthened in ways that the WL may have not thought of. Two are better than one, and this includes song choice.

Order of songs

The flow of the songs from one to another help to take the congregation on a journey. MDs can help with the order, in terms of the dynamics of each of the chosen songs, and how the WL can connect the songs from one message to the next. If you are planning a 20-25 music segment for your meeting, then starting with songs of great proclamation and affirmation (a lot of the time these songs will be stronger in their delivery and faster tempos), followed by declarations of His goodness, love, joy etc. in a more intimate setting (these songs will have a slower tempo, and also have a larger dynamic range) will give a balanced set of songs.

It is worth noting that every meeting is different, and it is important to be flexible in choosing songs. Please remember to have a care when teaching new songs, or having a number of new songs in a setlist – the aim is to get the congregation connected to Christ and not worrying about all the things they have to remember in just singing the song.

Keys and Arrangements

Keys of songs are important – firstly, be certain that the songs being sung are in keys that the congregation can actively take part in. It doesn’t really work if the WL is leading the song in a key that nobody can effectively join in with – it goes from corporate worship to performance.

How we get from one song to the next a lot of the time has to do with the keys of the songs.  Although you don’t have to be ‘military’ about modulating keys, you do have to be aware of the move from one song to the next. A lot of the time, this has already been discussed between the MD and WL at the time of choosing the songlist and refining it.

Healthy arranging of the song is equally important – a song has what I like to call ‘weather’ – it has a sunrise, a sunset, moments of clear sky, sometimes it’s windy, or clouded over, and sometimes it can be downright stormy! So in preparing the flow of the song, try to make it so that the congregation can quickly attach to the moment – intricate arrangements, although musically ‘clever’, can be quite a distraction, and put eyes on the team, instead of God. Healthy arrangements also helps with the singers and musicians on the platform so that everybody is on the same page.

Flow and Transitions

How the songs flow from one to another once again connect to the service in general. Healthy flow incorporates getting from one song to the next with a defined starting and finishing of the piece. It’s like reading a book where the chapters are all interconnected. Turn the pages well!

Transitions of songs tend to be the more difficult part of executing a good songset for the team. Much of the time, a ‘leading’ chord or note for the next song rises above the end of the previous song, almost providing a bridge between the two moments. There are other occasions where you can put two songs together in a ‘butt-end’ fashion, mostly in the faster songs. Once again, there are no rules for this, but in whatever you do, always make it a confident moment, so that there are no awkward ‘hang’ moments, and the congregation look at you in a bewildered way….

Starting and Ending the set

Starting and ending the songset with strength helps to connect the various moments of the service together, so start the set with sure intention, and finish the set with a strong welcoming for the emcee. This is what I like to call ‘book-ending’, like placing a ‘brace’ around the entire songlist so that it is firm, well packaged and everything is all together.

Moments of free worship

Always have these prepared, mostly when there will be moments of prayer and praise. Much of the time, you can use segments of the song you are currently in, and at the end of the set when the emcee is onstage, you can use a segment of the last song played, to maintain connection. Alternatively, you can have some chord progressions ready for the team to play. Be certain to discuss this before the service, so that everyone is on the same page.

Altar Call / Appeal moments

This is an intimate and tender moment of the meeting, so be certain to be strategic with a song that can welcome people. Much of the time, the message being presented will lend itself to a song that will connect with the moment.

Closing the service

Have a song of great praise that encourages the congregation to leave church with vitality and enthusiasm. Sometimes this will be an up tempo song that may have been in the list from the start of service, or it may be a song that encapsulates the meeting as a whole.

So here is my checklist for what I talk over with the Worship Leader:

•Song Choice

•Order of Songs

•Keys and Arrangements

•Flow and Transitions

•Starting / Ending The Set

•Free Worship

•Altar Call / Appeal

•Closing The Service

Be blessed, all . . . .


What makes a good musician

To try and actually provide an insight to this question, you probably should be asking yourself ‘what am I doing to bring the finest I can bring?’, and that’s a HUGE question!!

Here is just one aspect of approaching this mammoth thought . . . and please know that I don’t profess to know it all, I am still a happy student in this symphony we call ‘life’. . .

In speaking from personal experience, when I started playing piano at the tender age of 14, you couldn’t ply me away from those ivory keys (yes, the piano I practised on, and still sits in the front room of my mother’s house, has actual ebony and ivory – and THAT song by Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder hums in your head…..) – there was nothing I loved more than to sit there and play music penned by the greats from centuries earlier.  To me, the piano brought conversation out of me that my spoken voice couldn’t – and although I didn’t come to know the true purpose of what music was designed for until later in my life, I sensed the connection that music played with the listener.

Have you ever been to the movies and been so moved by a scene that for a moment it overwhelms you – the visual image, the dialogue, and the underscore of the moment all converging to give you goosebumps and connecting you to the circumstance that is set before you. Although in your mind you know that it is just a movie, the confluence of all the contributing factors draw a connection out of you.

For me, one of these moments was when I went to see the film ‘Evita’, the version with Madonna in it – in one of the opening scenes, you see the funeral procession with tens of thousands lining the streets to pay respects, and the film score is so in your face that you can almost see the tears falling off the violin bows as they play their lament.

It is this kind of imagery that sharpens your awareness as a musician, and makes you realise that you can affect peoples thoughts and even circumstance for a short period of time (sometimes longer….)

Although technique, practice, application, composition and arrangement provide valuable insight into the mechanics of musicianship, it can be the amalgamation of these in the creative mindset of the musician that gives the spark of life which is so strongly sought after in today’s player.

So, I say this – you can spend years HEARING music, but what makes a musician is the LISTENING – finding the tapestry of conversation that is going on beneath the surface of the song or piece.

You can always find me on facebook and twitter – would love to hear from you.