Worship leaders, we've got to be more careful about picking songs.

Why do we keep choosing the biggest, most overdubbed, glossily produced epic anthems and then expect our volunteer bands to perform pitch perfect covers of them? We're setting our bands up to fail!

Because when that song that sounds so good on YouTube falls flat in the service, we're so quick to try and figure out which instrument messed it up. Even if they played it perfectly, it just CANNOT sound as good as the mp3. (Because the mp3 is played by professional musicians in a vacuum and edited to perfection.)

There are a few things we can do to pick better songs for our bands:


Some songs need that keyboard pad to work. Some of them need the guitar riff. Heck, some of them need a 2nd guitar riff, too! As you listen to new songs, try to find those band elements that make that song unique - what instruments are making that song so cool? Then ask yourself if your instrumentalists can pull that off. Because if they can't, you're going to be scratching your hand wondering why the song isn't working.

Once you've identified those hooks, figure out if your players can do that on your own or if you need to help them pick out those specific parts.


Don't have a very good drummer? Then don't pick songs with complicated tom-patterns. Don't have electric guitar? Stop choosing rock songs. Look for songs that will let your players succeed on stage. Or better yet, adapt the arrangements so that your people will play them with precision.

We want to strive for excellence and hard songs are a great way to do that; just try to spread out the challenging songs. If you plan enough in advance, you can even give your team extra time to learn harder material.


If song 1 is a beatdown, don't immediately plan something nuts for song 2. Identify those moments in the set with your band and talk them out. A setlist rife with musical risks is just too much tension to spread among a group of people.

You know what happens when there's only one or two risks in the set? Your players leave euphoric. You know what happens when you've got dozens of those hard moments? Your players leave exhausted.


Your job is not to make people like songs. Nowhere in your job description does it require you to play a song so much and so perfectly that people love it. Your job is to lead people into the worship of God. That's it. The songs you like may not be the best fit for your players and your people. If that's so, pick different songs.