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I am hoping to generate a little discussion here regarding how many songs a church should have in their repetoire. I know that this will vary based on how many songs a church sings on Sunday Morning, but that is good. I would just like feedback on such things.

With my church, the worship leader does not play an instrument of any kind, she just sings. She has many unwritten, but very strict rules that create both an inflexibility, plus a burden on the instrumentalists. One of her rules is that no song can be used more than once ever 12 weeks. Another rule is that we do three fast songs, followed by three slow songs, and then at the end, we do an "ending" song. Of course the "ending" song has a criteria of it's own but I won't go into that. Here is the issue. To be able to follow these rules, we end up with 140 songs on our list of songs that we rotate through. What that means is that, every week it is like learning the songs all over again because we never play them enough, to really get them down good as individuals. It also means that some songs the group doesn't really play well together for the same reason.

Do you guys have that many songs that you use in your services? I think one of the issues for her is that she sings them so many times during the week when we practice, that it seems like we are doing them much more than we really are because the congregation only sings each song once on Sunday morning. I am not doing this to gripe, I just can't keep up and do a good job although I'm sure that many of you are probably good enough to pull it off. I am considering backing off to playing every other week so that I have a couple weeks in between playing to work on the music.

I'm just curious where all of you are at on this subject. Thanks!

Marshall
 

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Great topic, Marshall. It varies from place to place. But, it basically falls into three categories:

1) The Director/Worship Leader picks all of the songs and no questions asked;
2) The Director/Worship Leader picks all of the songs, but is open to suggestions; and,
3) The group or worship team gets together once a month and pick the songs together (this includes pizza or deli sandwiches with drinks [sodas, no booze] bought by the Church).

Needless to say, number #3 is the best, but rare. Most of the time it's #1 and on occasion #2.

The only rule that I've encountered is, "Does the song fit the theme of the service." The opening and closing song are a little faster due to the cadence of the ministers either walking in or out.

This is the first time I have ever heard of a twelve-week rule. It's also the first time, I've heard of a tempo rule (The first 3 fast, etc.). But then, she is the leader so it's her call. As one famous sax repair person says, "If they don't play the instrument, they just don't understand." And, if your leader only sings, and doesn't play an instrument, then we have the picture. It's a one-way street. But, this is the hand we are dealt sometimes.

This block of 140 songs is also new. We may have as many songs throughout the year, but they are sectioned off in smaller blocks specific to the season of the Church and theme of the gospel readings. For example: Christmas, Easter, and so on. We also take on about ten or twenty new songs every year, sometimes more than that, depending on what is available.

As an aside, in some situations, one of the problems that we instrumentalist encounter with leaders that just sing, is that all of the attention is focused on the singers. The instrumentalist is kind of left out on their own. The choir warms up, no instruments. Then the choir goes through a song and the instrumentalist get to play. Then they work on parts; SATB and the instrumentalist just sit there till the choir gets it together. Then the choir will do the song one more time at rehearsal and the instrumentalist get to play the song one more time. 90% is spent on the singers and 10% is spent on the instruments. With this kind of situation reading off the sheet is the norm and if one feels inspired to improvise, so be it. But there is very little time for free expression. The way around this is to take a tape recorder and tape it and then practice and noodle at home. During the week, it's the best rehearsal of all, with no interruptions.

Although, you are not griping, it appears that your comfort level could use some help. If you are a volunteer, don't feel obligated to play "every" song. Play what is within your comfort range. If they want an explanation, tell them you are going for a dynamic instead of having the same instrumentation in "every" song. This will also allow the other instrumentalist to stretch out when you are not playing and hopefully they will give you some space when you do play. Tell them that you don't want to "horn in" all the time.

The key is to get the songs before the rehearsal. Just because they call it rehearsal doesn't mean that it is rehearsal for the instrumentalist. Most of the time under these circumstances, it's rehearsal for just the singers. Ironically, you have to be rehearsed before "rehearsal," then you get to sit there and watch the singers rehearse.

There is nothing wrong in kicking it down to every other week, if it is going to increase your comfort level. The more comfortable you are the better you will play.

Get the songs way before hand and take control of your comfort range. Or you can do what I do, find another group that understands instrumentalist and are willing to work with them.

Also, as an aside: If you are not there every week, then the weeks that you are there become special for both you and the congregation and you are not taken for granted.

Just my two cents... and
 

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Most of the time, the music director picks out the music to go with his "theme" of the week. We then practice it for about fifteen minute and it sounds horrible. Then I go home and completely rearrange the piece to fit our little group. My wife, my son and I then work up the piece until is sound great. Then we show up on Sunday morning and give a copy of the "revised piece" to the other players that show up. I also talk to our pianists to make sure he or she knows what tempo we are going to take and if we have special endings or turns.

I love our music director. He is a great guy, but can't keep a solid beat. So when we start playing, we follow the tempo of the lead instrument (usually my son or me). The piano knows to do this too. Luckily the music director has learned to just try and wave his arms in tempo with us. Sometimes he tries to speed us up (he likes his church music fast), but we usually just ignore him and stay together.

Lately, we've been trying to get the music director to give us our music early so I have time to fix the arrangement and get the kids practiced up. Then when we practice on Wednesday night, we often get our practicing done before the music director ever shows up. He is also youth director so he has a lot to do before orchestra practice. Winning kids to the Lord is much more important than having a brass band on Sunday morning. So we've got our music director covered in what ever he needs help with, whenever and wherever.

So this all works out well. I've found that when you put your trust in God, things often turn our wonderfully even when you are completely disorganized.

Oh.. And we pick out our own solos and specials. We often let him know what we are going to do about five minutes before the service. Sometimes all he knows is that we are going to play something special.
 

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Without checking on the computer at church I can't give a precise answer but I would guess there are about 250 songs in the folders. BUT many of these are rarely used. I would guess we use 30-40 on a regular basis at any one time. New songs come along fairly regularly (say one or two a month). We have all the songs in piano part and chords format. Most of our guys read pretty well so in the practice time we have it works ok. I wold prefer to move to just using chord charts but a lot of our melody players and keyboard players would not be able to cope with that. The idea of not using a song more than once in twelve weeks seems a bit scary. I can understand trying not to batter songs into the ground but that does seem over the top. Songs can get tired: We have just started to use Majesty (the one that continues ...worship His majesty etc) after a failry long lay off and I'm loving it, but it needed a long rest.
Sometimes it can be hard if your worship leader is pushing the band hard. Obviously it would be good to pray about it, but maybe you could also try to explain to your leader how hard it is to cope with so many songs and ask if you could reduce the rotation a bit?
Let us know how you get on.

Blessings

Alastair
 

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Must say the 12 week rule would never work for me. At times one song has great significance for the congregation, and GOd uses that song to speak to peoples hearts. We often sing 'that' song every week for a month! Used to have your struggles, but have now pared things down to a constantly updating repertoire of around 80 numbers, of which around 50 will get most of the play time. Yes, it does make things much easier, and that means for the congregation too.
Music is an aid to worship. The better a song does the job, the more you should use it? No? Stay fresh sure, but lets face it, there are worship songs and there are worship songs!
 

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We’re a Catholic Charismatic group where the praise ministry/choir rehearses every Friday night (or Tuesday night if it can’t be done on Fridays). The prayer meetings are on Wednesday nights. The music is a combination of traditional hymns and charismatic songs (ala Don Moen, Hillsong, etc)
We have several prayer/worship leaders (PWL) who rotate which means each one gets to lead once every 2-3 months. This way the worship is not too-centered on the preferences of one person or group.
The assigned PWL selects the songs based on theme and Sunday readings following this format:
1. Opening (fast and lively to wake everybody up)
2. Invocation (slow and prayerful to put everyone in the mood to pray)
3. Reflection song (part of the worship is a short talk by the prayer leader reflecting on the Sunday Reading and the Reflection Song is sung immediately after this)
4. Contrition song (slow and penitential)
5. Thanksgiving/Offertory (usually lively, partly to wake up those who fell asleep in the meantime, and there are one or two who do)
6. Intercession
7. Pre-high Praise (prelude to #8)
8. High Praise (songs that allow the choir to raise their voices high up the scale. Most of the choir is female and the Alto sax provides good vocal support here)
9. Quiet Time (usually the same as the Reflection song)
10. Closing (usually the same as the Opening song)
That makes 8-10 songs. We have a huge library of maybe 200-300 songs (I’m guessing at the exact number here but it's a lot, accumulated over the years) to choose from. Of course some songs get sung more than others. There are no 12-week rules but if you’re PWL usually you don’t want to repeat a song the congregation heard just last week.
The PWL can also introduce a new song as long as he can provide a CD and/or music sheet and the choir has enough time to rehearse it. Enough time means the week before.
We have a choir master/lead guitarist (he also gets his turn at PWL) who ensures everyone is in tune and in harmony.
We also have keyboard, second guitar (both are acoustic), bass guitarist, and myself on alto.
It’s rather structured but IMHO it still provides some room for flexibility.
Hope this helps.
Thanks and God bless!
Ben
 

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I was wondering if you and what you guys are getting paid to play for your church. I play saxophone and piano for a living and am in contact with a church that wants me to play two services and a four hour rehearsal per week. I was wondering what I should ask for pay.
 

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I was wondering if you and what you guys are getting paid to play for your church. I play saxophone and piano for a living and am in contact with a church that wants me to play two services and a four hour rehearsal per week. I was wondering what I should ask for pay.
It depends on:

The part of the country you are in and its cost of living;
The size of the Church income and their ability to pay;
How many capable volunteers the Church has;
How many other options the Church has;
How good you are at what you do; and,
What the last person got.

It also depends on how much you are willing to work for and how often you want to work. There is no set rate.

Christmas and Easter is usually more.

Keyboard players make a whole lot more than horn players.

It can go from anywhere to $100.00 to $250.00 per call in this area, which is a major West Coast city. $250.00 per call requires a Doctorate in Music. Small towns in the Central Valley in Calfornia wouldn't come close to that.

Horn players go from $75.00 to $200.00 per service (rehearsal included). The $200.00 would be for a wedding or other special event at a very high end church and one has attended some well known Conservatory of music, like Julliard, to command that price. Or, you have a major reputation in the area or are a well-known artist. Trumpet players usually make more than sax players in Orthodox Churches.

Ask them what they are paying and go from there. If you want more $$$ than what they are offering then they may be willing to hire you on a limited basis if they are hurting for a keyboard player or it's a real special event (Like a soprano saxophone for the Missa Gaia and you can play like Paul Winter.)

On the other hand....it's a free market and it really just depends.

Try and find out what the last person got in the position you would fill and find out what her chops were like. From there you should be able to come up with at least a ballpark figure. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thank you all for your input. No one in our church gets paid - all volunteers. Obviously, with a 200+ song collection, some of you have it more difficult than I do. I should clarify that I do help the song leader pick out the songs, I just don't control the paremeters that guide the choices. We pick them one to three months in advance. I created a spreadsheet of the songs (thats how I know how many there are), the resource they are from, and a date tracking each time we use them (to make sure we don't violate the 12 week rule).

I really do need to pare my playing down some. I am just not good enough to be able to play that much and do it well. The problem really is two fold, I love to play, and secondly, when I don't, lots of people say something, so I feel kind of guilty sitting in the pews. I also have another issue. I love to sing, but because of throat and sinus problems, I loose my voice and get a sore throat after a song or two. So for me, being able to play is also being able to participate more in the worship than when I am sitting in the pew. It used to be easier because I played melody more when we only had one singer and she needed me to back her up. Now we have three or four singers, and I have moved away from playing melody and am learning how to improvise or write my own harmony. That is much more time consuming and adds to the pressure. I have books for parts for about 20% of our songs, but some of those are pretty lame, or are not in the right key, and thus require transposing (another thing I am learning).

Thanks again to you all, I really do appreciate all of your input, and would like to hear from more of you on this subject and how your church works it.

Marshall
 

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Bradshawm: the more you do this, I believe the less you will be intimidated by a large repertoire. I am sure you will find most extremely simple harmonically speaking. You will be able to improvise without writing parts. It is also OK to play for 3 or 4 of the songs - the ones you feel comfortable on and can really contribute meaningfully - and sit out (or sing!!) the others.
As stated previously though, I am glad I work in an environment of constantly updating, but limited repertoire.
 

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I have to agree with Ian, it comes with time. Right now you have a lot on your plate. You really will not notice it till you get into the latter 12 week cycles and things will start to come back to you and you will realize that you are not starting from scratch. You are also facing some learning curves here, that take a while. The more you do it, the faster it will come. Even then, it still takes a while.

What worries me the most is your sinus/throat problem. Doesn't sound good and can effect your overall feeling. Tell your Doctor that after a song or two you are horse. It doesn't sound normal to me. Please have it checked out. If you are not feeling well, that will also impede your progress.
 

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The Lutheran Church came out with a new hymnal in the Fall. It is called the Lutheran Service Book (Concrodia Publishing House) and is the basis for all of our services. Included are the Psalms, various divine services, daily offices, other services, and about 500+ hymns. The hymns are codified for the various times of the church year to make it somewhat easier for our Minister of Music.

Ours is a rather "traditional" or "conservative" church - pipe organ with choir..."classical" brass ensemble at times, "classical" woodwind ensemble at times, or a mix. I never play sax for services - only clarinet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Straightsax - thanks for the concern on the throat issue, but Its an old issue that has existed since I had my tonsils out at age 15 (I'm 47 now). The doctor messed something up because I was singing in the choir before that, and then I could no longer do it any more. That combined with year round hay fever keeps the singing at bay.
 

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Hi Bradshawm!

Theres a lot of opinions here, which has made interesting reading.

Comming from my point of view, I lead worship once a month and play sax for the rest of the Sundays, so I see both sides.

1) Songs - when its my turn to pick, I take suggestions if they are offered, but generally, its up to me. We have a large 200+ list of songs, but not each worship leader would be completely familiar with all off them, and indeed may not be too "keen" on some of them anyhow and some are generally not done. I generally pick a few well known (including some nice old hyms, as we are a Cathedral) songs and a couple of more modern or new ones. I pick the songs not according to any rules, other than prayer and what fits where I feel the service is going and what fits the theme I have been given to work with. Sometimes, especially a new song, we would do a particular song perhaps twice or three times a month (new songs each week for at least 3 weeks to help it become familiar). Working with the theme provided, I choose songs by tempo, sometimes a lot more of quiet meditive songs, sometimes more loud quick songs, but it really does depend on the service, and indeed where the service moves/changes away from what you expected!

What worries me is that if the "12 week rule" means the musicians are not familiar with a song, how can the congregation become familiar, relaxed and comfortable with it? I find in our church the congregation generally takes twice as long to learn a song as our "musicians" ie singers and instrumentalists, so this needs to be taken into account.
On a personal note, I tend to praise and worship God with songs which I know well, understand the lyrics and know where the melody is. 12 weeks is a long time between repeating a song!

2) Playing. My advice to you is to work on your improvising. I did this and it means that each time you do a song, its different, because you are playing what is in your heart or head at that time, meaning what you play is part of you, really really adding to the song. If you want to play written parts or melody, try just playing over the chorus or bridges or intro/outros. I found written parts frustrating and very time consuming, and unless you have backing tracks in the same key at home, very hard to practice! I'm sure you have heard the phrase "less is more", and it really is. We only get about 7 songs a service, and there are times when for one reason or another, I dont play one or two of them (perhaps I am not comfortable with the song or feel it is nice with just keyboards etc), so dont be afraid to do this. Perhaps you could walk over and join the choir for just a number or two?

Hope this has been off some help, and by the way, none of us get paid too!

Jason:)
 

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This has been an interesting thread. Our church is all volunteer and has a huge collection of songs that have been done at least once. We have three worship teams, and I'm on one of them. (As a horn player, not a leader.) We generally do two weeks on, 4 weeks off, and the "on" weeks mean doing two services (which I jokingly refer to as the "practice" service and the "real" service).

The point above about the congregation being unfamiliar with songs is a very good one. I believe that is a common problem at our church. Off the top of my head, I'd guess there are over 500 songs that are "on the list", though each worship leader has a more limited repertoire of 50 songs or so that get used more regularly, but it still means that the congregation only sees most songs once or twice a year.

There are good new songs out there (there's also a lot of junk). There are good old songs out there (there's also a lot of junk). I don't think there's any magic formula for how to balance that, and keep things familiar without becoming stale. If there were such a formula, I'd write a book about it and go on a lecture tour. ;)

Geoff
 

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We have a catalog of all (or most) of the songs the choirs have ever sung. There seems to be no rhyme or reason in selecting the songs. The music director usually opens the floor during rehearsal for suggestions and valuable time goes by without a decision. I think the music director should have the all songs picked with a few extras prior to rehearsal. We only have a 6-song requirement for our service:

opening - fast/upbeat
Hymn - Hymnal from the book
After Prayer - Slow
Offering - Fast
Sermonic - Usually slow...sometimes fast
Invitation - Slow (never rehearsed)

Only the keys and drummer are paid.

BTW do any of you play music while the congregation is departing the church at the end of service? I get conflicting views on this.
 

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Hi Altosaxplayer!

All of the worship leaders in our church would pick the music to be sung on their Sunday and email the instrumentalists and singers a day or two before hand, to allow them to prepare and pray through them. Everyone is welcome at that stage to chip in with suggestions and or changes, but the final say lies with the leader, as they are responsible for praying through the service and choosing songs to suit the direction they think God is leading.

I'd find it strange to turn up to a rehearsal, and nobody knows whats happening. Also, I think certain songs just dont suit or appeal to certain people, so as a Leader, I'd find it hard to lead with songs I dont get on with for one reason or another (pitch/unusual rythms/words/melody etc etc).

Unfortunately, none of us are paid, however, it stops us from looking upon it as a job, which HAS to be done, rather than a service which you give which returns your God given talents back to God (and costs you something, which is always good in worship). This is not an attack or slur on anyone who gets paid, its just my situation. I dont think anyone who is getting paid is any more or less dedicated/giving back, than someone who isnt getting paid.

Jason
 

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altosaxplayer said:
BTW do any of you play music while the congregation is departing the church at the end of service? I get conflicting views on this.
We play a closing song which everyone stays for although a few do leave while it's still going on. Personally I don't see any point playing music while the congregation is departing since no one would be listening anymore anyway. The time you devote to playing/singing can be better use for packing up.
God bless!

Ben
 

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I'm not currently involved in church music, but in the situation I'm most familiar with, the EX-troit (post service music that accompanies the departure of most of the participants)
is as nice a touch as the instrumental introit, has helped set a nice mood of 'with the best conveyence effort we're able to put forth under your belt, now it's time to go out and try to live it' (chosen music seemed in that character - Introit was 'contemplative' ), and seems to help 'package' the service, hopefully leaving a nice taste with the fellow-worshippers... (In that case, the minister picked the featured music to complement the message...seems like at that time they had a 'two familiar, one newer' approach ...)...but certainly varies from place to place.

REALLY nice to se how it's being done his year...

Best Wishes,
'DBD'
 

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We have well over 100 songs in our database (I created a site to where the Praise and Worship members can download the music and sheets) it has exceeded well over 100 songs and grows every week.

I attend a Non-Denominational church and we play everything from Clint Brown to Hillsong to Oasis Praise. I love to jam out on my sax with Praise music but I REALLY love to slow it down and WORSHIP Him on my Axe!
 
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