That final chorus-into-bridge is a real goosebump factory, ain't it? But it absolutely will not sound that big with your one electric guitar player. Guitar overdubs are awesome, but they are not your friend when you're doing these songs live. And throwing more players up there isn't always the answer, either, unless you got a sound engineer who understands EQ and panning. If not, you just added two more layers of overdrive and that's about it. Always remember that amplified sound and monitored sound are two different things. It may feel weak on the platform, but that doesn't mean it's not strong in the mains. Trust the PA.


"Man, they transitioned right into the next song and it's not even in a relative key! How'd they do that?" With applause. (Maybe even fake applause, at that...) You have to worry about transitions. It's a part of your job. Because your congregation may not commit to a 15-second applause break after song 3. They might just stare at you. Don't get be discouraged by it - just plan for it.


When you're in the room leading these songs, you have to pay attention. And just because your favorite worship artist vamped on the last line for 14 measures, doesn't mean you have to do that. If you're listening and looking, you'll know if your people are tracking with you. If not, cut it short. Worship leaders are rarely successful at pummeling their people into liking a song.


My old-man-grouchiness is showing, but I don't understand why worship leaders on live albums sound so weird. Are they trying to sound like Bono? It may be cool that the one girl on the record laughed or say "ya ya" or that guy moaned "thank you, Jeeeeeeesuuuuuuus" but that doesn't mean you need to imitate it. Just be the guy or gal who leads your church. Let's face it - if we were good enough to be rock stars, we already would be.


I love worship albums and think they should be fantastic. They should be memorable and huge and produced within an inch of their lives. I just want us to remember that there's a big difference between the Record and the Room. Your job is to take the Record and make it work for the Room. The Room is where you're planted - love and lead the people in that Room.


If you follow me here or on other social media, you might have heard me talk about our recent commitment at Bethel South to train and encourage worship leaders. Specifically, we've begun rotating worship leaders on the platform for worship for the past couple of months.

These leaders are planning the set, (with a little help from me!) running rehearsals and leading the whole service on Sundays. It's been an extremely rewarding - and difficult - experience. Being able to sit through rehearsals and Sunday services as both a spectator and worshipper has had the sort of spiritual benefit you would expect - getting to worship Jesus as a member of the congregation for a change! But I wasn't expecting it to be this instructive as a worship leader. Watching my worship leader friends lead our worship has been teaching me a lot about worship.


Around the same time we started rotating worship leaders, we also simplified our band setup by removing two instruments from the band. As I begin to stand out in the sanctuary and listen, I realized that our sound system (quite old) wasn't handling the band very well. We were running drums, bass, acoustic, rhythm, piano, keys and two electrics. I could hear that the mains weren't able to differentiate or even highlight the two electric guitars and two keyboards (piano and keyboard.) Our sound was, in essence, MUDDY. So we went to one electric and a combined piano/keys position. Even though it was a drop in volume and feel for the band, the mix immediately improved.

Amplified sound is a powerful thing. Even a single guitar, once it's pumped through all that sound gear, can fill up a room with sound. We don't need every musical space filled with noodling. Watching these other leaders on the platform has reminded me that volume and dynamic space is so valuable. Even the simplest combination of instruments through a moderately sized sound system is more than enough to help people sing together. (This also relates to my patented TODD WRIGHT TERRIBLE SOUND MIXER TECHNIQUE, which you can find here.) We have to be careful that we're not adding instruments just so it can "feel" full on the platform.


I've long believed that the role of the worship leader is resident theologian. The songs and scriptures and prayers we choose make a huge impact in what people believe about God. BUT...that doesn't mean we have to talk all the time. Watching other worship leaders is teaching me that a two-minute talk by a worship leader feels like a five minute talk by a worship leader. My worship leaders are awesome and seeing them simply transition from one song to the other without laboring to pseudo-preach has been encouraging to me. Even for newer worship leader who may not be as vocally strong or completely at ease end up leading great worship sets when they just get up there and play the songs. (See this article for the why.) I like to talk, but I'm convinced more than ever than I should do everything I can to get out of the way once those songs start.

I'll also remind you that I lead at a church where preaching is a very high priority. Our guys are good and 9 times out of 10, they're going to say things more clearly and powerfully in the sermon than I could ever come up with. If you serve at a church where the preaching isn't as strong, you may need to do more talking/teaching than I do, but just remember that LESS IS MORE!


We are extremely blessed at Bethel. Our musicians are fantastic and our crop of worship leaders do an amazing job. But they don't all sound the same. One worship leader is a better guitar player than the rest of us. Another is an outstanding vocalist. Another one has a great ear for arranging. Standing out in the crowd and listening to all these different worship leaders is reminding me that well-written, singable songs matter more than any of that.

A weak vocal, an unsure arrangement - all of that disappears if the songs are chosen through prayer and a pastoral perspective. We only have so much time on the platform - let's not waste one song while we're up there. I've always loved songs, but I'm even more dedicated to choosing songs that are clear and expressive for our people.


If you don't step off the platform very often, give it a shot. I guarantee you'll learn something!


This post is 100% NOT for actual sound engineers. If you're a sound engineer, please don't read this article and if you do read this article, please don't comment with a bunch of tips or be all condescending. This article is meant to help bad-sound-engineers fake their way through a mixing session.

I'm a terrible sound engineer. I think I have a decent ear for what sounds good in a band mix; I just can't actually make it happen behind a sound board. And maybe you are, too. 

Real sound engineers are awesome - a gift from God - but what happens when YOU have to mix the band for a service? There are some tricks you can use to improve the quality of your mixing. This is about as basic as you can make it. You won't be as good as the guy or gal who has a working knowledge of things like mic placement and frequency range, but maybe these little tips will help you get a better mix than you might normally come up with.

I won't event talk about EQ here, except to say this: go brighter on the drums. We all love those big thick kick drums and toms, but we often end up mixing drums that are too thuddy. Even the best snare drum won't crack enough for the mix if everything is designed to shake the subs out the door. If you've got an overhead mic (or mics) on the drums, use those to catch more brightness coming off the snare and toms. You have to watch out for cymbal crashes, but it wouldn't kill the drummer to do that a little less, right? EQ and Compression and Effects are all vital, but remember...this post is for all you sound dummies like me.

Three (and a half) steps to mixing a live band for worship. I told you it was basic.


Once everybody's plugged in and running a song, bring every instrument down in the house. If your team uses in-ears, this will mean a near-silent stage for a few seconds. Then mix the big three - DRUMS, BASS and VOCALS. The drums keep the congregation together. The bass communicates the root chords throughout the song - a solid foundation underneath all the harmonic variety of the rest of the instruments; The vocals lead the actual singing. Build a mix where the drums and bass are balanced and the lead vocals can be clearly heard. Once this is done, have the band run songs of differing intensity to make sure the big three have some consistency song to song.


Now find the texture elements. These are instruments that are communicating more attitude and tone than actual rhythm. These are the electric guitars and keyboard pads. At this stage, the added instruments aren't taking away from the role of the drums in keeping everyone together. This may seem counter-intuitive; it may seem as though you need to add rhythm parts second (piano, acoustic guitar, aux percussion, etc) but avoiding them will help you to still have a strong, singular groove while you're mixing.


If you're able, grab some headphones and start listening to the rhythm instruments like acoustic and piano by themselves to find out what sort of "attack" they're bringing. If they're good players, they'll be finding ways to support the tempo without mimicking the drums - they'll be playing good rhythm parts in the "gaps" around the drum parts. If they're too rhythmically busy, you have two choices. Keep them quiet or have them try a different playing approach so you can carve out some space for them in the mix.

3(and a half) BGVs

Good BGVs are amazing. When done right, they can elevate a worship set in beauty and nuance. But you have to be wise with BGVs. If the lead singer is doing a song that's hard for both guys and gals to sing unison, bump those BGVs to give the congregation some other parts to sing along with. However, if the congregation can easily sing the melody, stay busy with the BGV channel, using them as an artistic tool to add size and intensity to the songs.

You won't win any awards for mixing like this, but if you don't know much about live sound mixing, these tips will help you build a mix that will work for congregational singing.


Went back through the old Spotify playlist to see what worship tunes I've been digging. (I've got a few things from my music library but most of it is linkable on Spotify if you care to listen along. I noticed that I don't have a lot of whole albums in the rotation, but a ton of songs I've been digging.

As a guy who loves hymns, I am always impressed and blessed by Matt Boswell's music. His most recent hymn project, Messenger Hymns Vol. 2, is full of fantastic hymns for worship. I absolutely "O Church Of Christ" for a couple of reasons. First, I've been feeling the vacuum of church-focused songs for worship and this one came at just the right time. It also helps that its melody is utterly fantastic and the rhythmic turns give this song that catchy/can't-stop-singing-it effect. If you're looking for solid, singable hymns that your team can easily add to your song catalog, check out Boswell's songs.



I'm surprised how much I love this song, primarily because the chorus device isn't something I usually don't dig. But I can't help myself - there's just so much working in this song. I love that it's a big riffy worship song that uses keys for the riff instead of electric guitar; I think the chorus is fantastic and singable; I love the way he infuses so many of his songs with an understanding of suffering ("You're there in the fast / You're there in the feast"); and yet for all that keyboard love up top, I also I love the guitar solo. Remember guitar solos? Man, I miss them in worship music. For that matter, I miss rock n' roll in worship songs.




A friend just hipped me to the tune. Even though it's fairly old (and actually on an album I own) I honestly don't think I had ever listened to it. Obviously, The Village does a great job writing theologically-sound, Trinitarian songs, but this song also has a lot of musical "cred" as far as I'm concerned. As a guy who leads a lot of hymns, it seems the majority of hymn releases are couched in overly, obviously folk arrangements. (Banjos, handclaps, mandolin, etc.) I love The Village does a hymny worship song with the same instruments that most of us use each week. I'll admit I'm much more prone to add this song to our setlists if the arrangement is something I can hear us playing.

What about you? What are some worship tunes you're digging?


Robert and Shelly Conn are long-time friends of mine, so I was excited last year when they decided to take the leap and record and EP. I was even more excited when Robert asked if I would co-write one of the songs with him!

Shelly's new project is called Go Everywhere and it's a great album with two original songs and three covers. My friend, Jon Meyer, produced the record and did an amazing job on it. (Robert and Shelly live in Nebraska, so Jon essentially had one week to get them to Texas and make a record!)

Robert and I met up on Skype back in the summer and started working on the song idea, which he already had. The verses and bridge were collaborative, but I think we ended up keeping all of Robert's chorus lyrics. In that first writing session, we ended that chorus with "I am forever free" and it just stuck. One of those things that just felt right. I think Rob even said something akin to I guess that's the title! Robert and I got pretty close to being done, but he and Shelly weren't sold on the chorus. After a day or two, they came up with a melody they liked better.

I was excited that the song took a well-worn premise - all the ways that God loves us - and kept the focus on His saving work. This song isn't just saying you love me, you love me, you love me, I'm your favorite, but rather is a testimony of what God does in the heart of a sinner. So many worship songs about God's love seem to omit what that love really looks like - our guilt and shame are washed clean by the work of Jesus!

What's more, I love the arrangement that Shelly and Robert and Jon came up with. I'm a sucker for a big ride cymbal, straight groove in choruses and when this thing hits, it's got all sorts of subtle touches that come alive every single time I hear it.

I love Robert and Shelly dearly and I am excited to see what God does this new worship project. I encourage you hit 'em on iTunes and download. You'll be glad you did. (And I'd love to know what you think about Forever Free.) If you'd like a chord chart, click the MP3s & CHARTS links at the top of the page.