Seven Tips for Leading Worship Without a Band
by Justin Rizzo
Artists and Authors
For years I led corporate worship without a full band. Though there were some really special times, much of the time I felt like I wasn’t measuring up as a worship leader, and even a little defeated. I felt second rate, like I wasn’t serving the congregation as well as I could if I’d had a band.
If you lead worship in a small group setting or at a church that doesn’t have a band, maybe you can relate to some of what I felt. But I want to encourage you—you also have some unique opportunities as a worship leader.
You can literally go wherever you feel led at a moment’s notice. You can change tempo, key, song, or arrangement without having to communicate to a team. There’s a ton of freedom that comes with leading solo corporate worship.
Here are 7 tips for leading corporate worship without a band.
1. Know that it’s not second rate.
You don’t need a band or sound system to lead worship. In our video-driven culture, it’s so easy to watch live worship videos that look and sound amazing but leave you feeling that what you’re doing is second rate. Don’t discount the significance of what you’re doing. The stage, the band, the lights, or how many people are in the room doesn’t matter. Worship is so much deeper than that. Your worship, in the exact scenario and place where you are right now, is precious to him.
2. Play and sing with dynamics.
This is important with or without a band, but when it’s just you on the keys or guitar, it’s even more important. Pay attention to your strumming pattern, how hard you’re playing the keys, and how loud you’re singing. You don’t want to play and sing the intro, verse, and chorus of the song at the same intensity. Start out gently picking the guitar for the verse, then gently strum at the chorus. Make verse two a little more aggressive and then hit the second chorus full on strumming with some aggression. Have a song that’s more aggressive followed by a more gentle song to change up the dynamics.
3. Incorporate spontaneous times into your set.
This may depend on whether you’re leading a congregation where the goal is godward-focused room engagement the whole time or a more laid-back soaking/prayer meeting. No matter the format, find those moments to veer off the beaten path of a song and be spontaneous. Sing a scripture, sing a spontaneous chorus, or just sing your heart to the Lord. These times can very life giving and can really keep the set feeling fresh, especially when you’re leading solo.
4. Use an iPad or Laptop.
Incorporating different sounds, pads, ambiance, and even loops can really bring a freshness to your worship time. If you’re not able to get access to a laptop with the right software (which can be expensive), there are some really easy-to-use tablet apps that you can download cheaply, and even a few free options that offer some decent sounds.
5. Use Multitracks.
Multitracks.com is a great resource that allows you to download all of the tracks from hundreds of worship songs. By all of the tracks, I mean all: bass, drums, electrics, strings, click, loops, you name it. You can then run them in the multitracks.com app or Ableton Live. It’s a learning curve to run this seamlessly while leading solo, but it is possible!
6. Sing well-known songs.
When you don’t have a band to lean on for arrangements, musical moments, or crescendos, it can be helpful to sing songs that people can hop in and sing with you right away. Congregation participation can really strengthen a solo corporate worship set.
7. Get sound help.
If you’re leading in a space that has a sound system, ask your sound guy to really help you make it sound full. You don’t want it to sound like a boom box at one end of the room. You still want it to be a dynamic even though you’re leading solo. Don’t blow people’s ears out but run it louder than you would if you had a band. Also, having good EQ on your voice and instrument helps a lot!
No matter how large or small the venue in which you’re leading, it is an honorable thing to stand before God and help usher people into His presence.
Do you lead with a band? If not, what are the main challenges you’ve found?
Enjoy this latest release from Forerunner Music featuring IHOPKC worship leaders Justin Rizzo, Laura Hackett Park and more.
Justin was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, where he developed a passion and love for music at an early age. He began playing a variety of instruments and started leading worship at age 12. He has released five albums and been featured on multiple compilation projects along with writing and producing two full-length musicals. In addition, he travels extensively to lead worship and speak at conferences and events around the world. Justin is currently a full-time staff member at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, Missouri, where he serves as a worship leader, songwriter, composer, and blogger.