As the tone of the title might suggest, getting attention is not always a good thing. As a musician, there are ways you do NOT want to get others’ attention.
As one who plays with a band or team, especially in leadership contexts, this is even more important. A worship leader should not attract too much attention since his whole purpose is to help people focus on the Lord.
The title is “Ten Ways to Seize All the Attention When Leading Worship,” but I could have titled it “How to be a Distraction.” Of course everything below is entirely sarcastic (and slightly irreverent). The purpose is to implicitly show the disastrous ramifications of a worship leader seizing all the attention.
The list includes some of the primary distractions I have seen as a worship leader. They can be made by anyone on the stage, not just the worship leader.
Without further ado, if you are dying to know how to grab your instrument, get in front of people and seize all the attention (because, if we’re being honest, people deserve to be blessed by you), then here are ten ways you can do it.
1. Play A LOT of runs and licks
For most instruments, you can pick some very strategic places to play your best fills and runs. These fit best every time the singers are not singing, though sometimes you can help them out with cool alternative melodies. If it’s an easy song with easy chords, feel free to fill in all that nasty “dead” space with some creative leads. If you want to really get those heads turning your way, use a combination of an alternate melody and some sick syncopation.
If you are a drummer, people like to hear cool fills, so play them- everywhere. As a vocalist, runs and licks are becoming more commonplace, and expected. If this is you, be sure to keep your microphone up at your mouth in case you need to improv at a quiet spot, or between verses.
The point is, the more set apart you are, the better.
2. Use A LOT of interesting body language
Some really famous guys are really famous because of their ability to move their bodies with the music. This works really well with a great lick – bend your back as you bend your string for one of those really high notes. Or, if you are a bass player, know that attitude is everything. Wear shades if you have to. Be as cool looking as you can possibly be. Drummers should definitely swing their head and even stand up at times right before a big “crash” on the cymbal. Everyone should try to jump at least once during the performance. Or, consider moments where you can dance excessively.
Some of the most interesting body language, however, is worn on the face. To get the most attention, you should exaggerate just slightly, as actors do on a live stage. If you are really enjoying the song, smile REALLY BIG. You can also seize their attention as you work out a really complicated fill. Be sure to stick your tongue out a little to show them how hard it is. Grimacing works exceptionally well for this, too.
Above all, be real. If you happen to see someone in the audience you really don’t like, show it. If you are not in it at all and are feeling bored, drooped shoulders go well with a small scowl or blank stare.
3. Don’t Practice
If you are into the music, the main thing is to be passionate. People will notice passion. If you miss a few notes here and there, or even if you miss most of them, your passion will cause people to be amazed. Just play from your heart. Everyone knows practicing too much nurtures a grudge against music anyway. It’s a drag. Besides, after a church service, you can give all the credit to God! You will be a blessing. If you utilize the first two, and play a lot of runs with some good body movements, you can just “feel” the music. You might feel your way to a wrong note or two, but remember, passion is what counts. Seize all the attention by seizing their hearts with your passion.
As a sidenote, if you are a vocalist and feel the audience should be blessed by your passion, but aren’t the lead vocalist, there’s a quick solution. Simply make a side deal with the sound engineer, mentioning the need for passion in the congregation, and tell him to turn you up just a bit. The leader won’t mind.
This goes nicely with the two previous tips. If you are feeling passionate, a nice, loud, yell works really well. Close your eyes and laugh briefly right after you yell. Just let it out. Don’t be afraid of what others think. These are utilized primarily during the upbeat songs, but can be mastered at key quiet moments as well. Whether you are yelling words or not, a yell will be very effective in seizing attention. Try to vary the kind of yell you use. People will stop looking if they hear the same thing too many times.
If you are not the “yelling” type, another option is to sing/yell. This is half yell, half note. You may have noticed this is a very popular style these days and you should try to be as “relevant” as you can. If they are comfortable with you, they will love to watch you.
5. Mess with your gear a lot
As a musician, you will often have a lot of buttons and or gadgets to play with during a performance. You should use this one with caution. If the purpose is to draw attention to yourself, you want to make sure to look like you know what you are doing, especially if you are playing by yourself. You need to look both smart and talented.
The best time to mess with your gear is when others in the band have started the song first, and you’re just waiting for your turn to shine. You can seize attention even when you are not playing if you do this right. Be strategic. Lean or reach over to adjust your gear the instant before the song is started. With this first motion, you will silently command attention, and people will wait on the edge of their seat for your turn. Use your body language skills and then start playing a little earlier than agreed upon. If you are to come in after the first verse, keep adjusting your volume or push your pedals, then play some light runs in the middle of the verse before you really come in.
You get the picture.
6. Stare at people and wink
With this advanced move, you can draw the eyes of many by looking at one person. One of the best ways to get people to quit thinking about words they may be singing is to wink at inappropriate times. These must all be done during a song, and the timing is critical. The wink must happen at the most random time possible, where no connection to the meaning of the song can be construed. Otherwise, they will not be blessed by you, but by the meaning of the song. If you wink at inopportune times, where meaning might be extrapolated by the viewer, you have not seized all the attention, but have given some away to the song itself.
7. Spend very little time, if any, tuning your instrument
Hey, if the rest of the band failed to tune to your instrument, that’s not your fault. In general, don’t spend too much valued time tuning. There are more important things to deal with. Believe in yourself, and trust that your ear and your skill will easily accommodate for a mistuned string here and there. Besides, if you show off your lead guitar skills, you will be primarily playing one note or two at a time, and it will be hardly noticeable. And speaking of, you are your worst critic anyway. If people are being blessed by you, they won’t even notice little details like if your instrument is in tune or not.
8. Use bad grammar and speling
If you want people to sing with you, but someone has told you to put words up on a screen, be sure to use bad grammar and spelling. The reason for this is obvious. If you intend to seize all the attention, you can not afford people’s eyes to be off of you for very long. Using bad grammar and spelling has a two-fold effect. It not only causes people to shift their eyes back to you (due primarily to being annoyed by what they see on the screen), it will also cause them to listen only to your music instead of considering the meaning of the words.
This two-fold effect gives this tip much power and should be used as much as possible. People deserve to be blessed by you, after all. For some reason, they don’t realize that the screen is not a person, so you need to help redirect their eyes to your person.
9. Play in a different key
This is really only effective if you are the primary leader. If the rest of the band is following you, one trick to seize 100% of the attention is to suddenly play in a different key. This is particularly easy for guitar players. You can thank the makers of the Capo for that. One ½ step shift is all it takes. If you are playing piano, simply pick the next key that is easiest to play. If you are in a key with a lot of flats, like the key of B, simply transpose the song one half step up to C. Do this on a song with few chords to make sure you don’t make a fool of yourself. That would defeat the purpose.
10. Stop a song in the middle
Like the previous, this one is only effective if you are the primary leader. Of all the previous items, this one is the most effective towards your goal of seizing all the attention when leading worship.
Picture with me: you begin the song with passion and entreat the congregation to sing with you, but you notice serious faces, bowing of heads, and a general somber appearance. A twinge of anger comes over you as you remember all those conversations with leaders about a “dead” congregation. Why can’t they just sing?
Remember at this point that your goal is to seize all the attention. Their lack of singing is only a surface issue. Use it as an opportunity. Take a moment to stop the song and speak to them. Broaden your smile and lightly scold them for their silence. Chastise them for the serious “praying” faces and encourage them to rejoice in the Lord!
(Of course, you and I both know that if they aren’t doing what you’ve asked them to, you might be losing control. This is bad. As a leader, control is what you do. You need to subtly remind them to love and respect you and your music.)
Now, if it’s a newer song, you might even be able to, very slowly, play sections of the song at a time, and have them sing after you. They might think you are teaching them the song, but in these things you have successfully seized all the attention while leading worship.
Way to go!