expressive worship

Winging It, or Planning It?

Being in this music industry for at least… well, a lot of years, I’ve seen most people “winging” it. There’s nothing wrong with learning as we go, because that’s life.

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a show (a big show) and I watch the artist backstage with their band or producer, and ten minutes before the show they’re writing out a set list.

And, depending on where someone has to change a guitar or whatever, they put a big “T” for talk. Someone needs to talk there.

So we string songs together, we put in a couple of places where we’re going to “talk,” and then we go out and “wing” it. And some nights the planets align, the Spirit falls, it happens, and it’s a beautiful thing.

But in most cases it’s just OK. Some nights it’s disastrous, a few nights it’s magical – most nights it’s hit and miss. One song works, one doesn’t, and it might feel like playing tug of war with the audience. To me, that’s “winging” it.

Here’s another example of “winging” it. You’re in the middle of a song, and all of a sudden you feel like you should do something, but you have no idea what to do, so you do something physically – move somewhere or whatever – and you “wing” it.

You need to have a plan. You need preparation before you walk out onstage. Everyone knows that to some degree, because we all prepare somewhat; whether it’s musically, vocally, different degrees of rehearsal, whatever. But to what degree should you prepare? You don’t want to over-prepare.

Well, there is a method to this madness of preparation. There are three simple places you need to prepare (simple conceptually, that is). You need to plan your show. You need to rehearse properly.

But the first thing you need to do is this: woodshedding the fundamentals (or learning and practicing the basics).

Now most of you that are reading this have done your woodshedding with your music – no question about it. Artist after artist can play and sing. You’ve worked on scales, tones, phrasing, melodies, your voice, your instrument. If you’re a guitar player, you know your guitar chords. You get the idea.

But onstage, have you worked the fundamentals? There are rules onstage, too! Next week, I’ll let you know what some of those rules are.

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Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson, world renowned Live Music Producer, helps musicians and worship teams develop songs into “unique worship moments.” His Live Music Methods help create freedom in the room so your congregation can express their worship more freely and passionately than ever before! Tom has worked with nearly every genre from rock to pop to Christian Gospel, impacting major artists and worship leaders such as Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, NewSong, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Todd Agnew, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Parachute Band, The Martins, plus a multitude of independent artists.

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  1. Hey Tom! Great stuff! I believe in your mentoring so much that after purchasing your DVDs, I donated them to a Christian band I love and believe in. But I miss watching them over and over again.

    My last performance, I applied everything you taught and #1- the church members’ response was awesome afterward, filled with praise to God and thanks for my ministry
    #2- I had a ball and it all felt so effortless because I had a Tom Jackson Plan!

    michelle gold

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