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4 Ways to Grow as a Musician

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This post is for all the muso’s out there.

On the topic of preaching1, Timothy Keller says that it is our job to deliver a good sermon, and it is the Holy Spirit’s job to turn that into a great sermon. I believe the same goes for music. It is the Spirit’s job to turn our music-aided worship into great worship, but it is our job as faithful servants to deliver good music.

I hope you find these tips useful if you’re currently serving in music or hope to do so in the future!

1. Learn what pleases God

Step one. Easy, right? Maybe.

One side of the worship music spectrum promotes contemporary styles and performances, and the other extreme has no music or practices ‘exclusive psalmody’2, which means that they only sing psalms. I’m not sure where you lie on this spectrum, but what strikes me is the self-centeredness many worship songs and musical styles, in contrast to the distanced and impersonal worship of some churches.

God dictates what worship is pleasing to him, not culture or preferences; the Word of God illustrates not only the content of worship, but also the purpose and method.

Before stepping up to the stage (if your church has one) you should be able to answer these questions:

  • What is worship?
  • Who are you worshipping?
  • Why are you worshipping?
  • How does worship happen?
  • When/where should worship occur?

These questions may seem easy to answer at first, but challenge yourself. Ask your pastor, read a lot of Christian books3 and delve yourself into His word. You might just find that the way you do music changes dramatically.

2. Grow with others

One of the most encouraging things about playing music is doing it with a band.

In the same way that your brothers and sisters encourage you in your sanctification, they can also sharpen your skills for ministry. You’ll learn things you just couldn’t have learned in a music book or online tutorial4.

If you can, get someone to mentor you! Find a musician who displays the fruit of the Spirit to train you, or just sit there and watch them during rehearsals.

3. Diversify your music

Listen to a lot of music from different genres.

Don’t just listen to whatever you like – take your learning and enjoyment of music from k-pop and dance music to classical or jazz. Don’t just learn one way of playing a song (intro, verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, bridge, chorus…) but learn how to use dynamics helpfully.

You should also learn other instruments. This will enhance your ability to think musically as well as play effectively as a band with other people. Staying on one instrument could cause you to get bored anyway.

4. Practice. All the time.

Just do it. Tick.

There really is no shortcut to mastery. Get good at your instrument. Learn music theory (e.g. transitions, chord progressions, modulating, transposing etc.) to be flexible and useful in supporting your band leader or leading your band members.

Honestly, what I look for in a music band member is not primarily their ability or experience but rather their passion and dedication. I need to know that even if they’ve got a PhD in Music, they’ll prepare their hearts and practice their music for worship week after week. Sorry, but even if you think you’re good, you probably have things you need to work on. Keep growing in these points over and over, until we meet with the Lord and he says “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

 


1 Check out Timothy Keller’s book and lectures on preaching.

2 Here’s a book I was recommended on the practice of exclusive psalmody.

3 Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without some book recommendations. I recommend ‘Worship Matters‘ by Bob Kauflin and ‘Rhythms of Grace‘ by Mike Cosper.

4 On the topic of online tutorials, Worship Artistry has been a great resource for me.

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