7 Ways to connect with the music you lead

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I recently met with a good friend over a bowl of Lamb and Barley soup, which, is a really amazing soup.  Hearty and filling.  During the conversation we talked about the difference between Knowing a song to lead during worship, and really Owning a song.  It’s easy to listen through the recording a couple times and get an idea of the melody, then stand up on stage and sing through the song while looking at the monitor for the lyrics.  With 15 minutes of prep time on a Saturday night anyone can show up on Sunday and Know a song.

But how do you really Own a song?  How do you really make it yours, so you’re not just singing random words as they pop up on the screen, but really giving as piece of yourself every time you sing because this song has become a part of you!  This isn’t’ just any song…it’s your song…and the story the song tells isn’t another persons story…it has become your story…

I don’t think there are any shortcuts to this level of intimacy with a piece of music. It takes time.  It takes Active listening, not just putting the song on repeat in the background while you’re typing away at work.  Active verse Passive listening is the difference between sitting down to a slow home-cooked meal and savoring every bite and flavor as they move through your pallet, pausing to give thanks for each subtle taste and spice and nuance that you discover verses stuffing a big mac mindlessly in your face while driving down the highway because you’re 10 minutes late to a meeting.  And I should know, I’ve eaten plenty of fast food meals in the car!  It’s about being mindful and present with the music you are taking in.  This is the only way to move from Knowing to Owning.  From Repeating, to Storytelling.

I’m sure there are dozens if not hundreds of ways to begin to digest and embody a song.  But here are 7.

7 ways to form an emotional connection to music

  1. Rewrite the lyrics in your own handwriting…it slows you down enough to get in touch with them, and to create a physical connection with the words you’ll be singing.
  2. Take time to journal about the lyrics and create an emotional connection with them.  How is this song a story about Your life and experience and what God shown you?  How is this song telling truth about who God is in Your experience?  Journal and write it out!  Make that deep emotional connection!  In addition to helping to get the song ready to lead, it’s also great, emotionally healthy work to do.
  3. Play the song and choreograph motions to it…dance to it!  How can your body express the message of each line of the song?  It can be crazy and over-the-top…no one else has to see it…it’s just a chance for you to be free and experience the  music in a new, embodied way.
  4. Take time to sing it acapella…not just to the recording. Singing along with the album is great, but, you’ll know the song in a deeper way when you can sing it acapella without the recording.  You’ll know the melody better, have a better grasp of the lyrics, and you’ll be able to make it yours in a new way.  You don’t even have to do the whole song at once…just sing a verse or a chorus or a bridge over and over…several times a day until it really becomes Yours.  It won’t take long!  Sing verse 1 in the shower in the morning 5 times…that’ll take like 2 minutes…then sing it on the way to work in the car without the radio on, another 2 minutes…then sing it once more when you get home from work and no one is in the house.  That’s like 6 minutes of your day, and you’ve already sung the verse 15 times…it’s yours and know it and love it!  Then whenever the full band comes in, nothing is going to shake you or startle you…you know what your voice sounds like inside and out and the song is yours…no matter what happens around you, you’re solid.
  5. Fall in LOVE with the melody.  Pick your best vowel, and just sing one line or section of the melody on that vowel sound.  Don’t even worry about the words…just concentrate on making the melody as beautiful as possible.  Love the way the line rises and falls, the emotions that are inherent in the line…see how your voice can make that simple line as expressive and beautiful as you can.  And do it without the recording.  Then when you add the words you’re just sprinkling different vowels and consonants on top of this gorgeous line you’ve fallen in love with.  The line will ‘sing’ in a whole new way.
  6. If appropriate, use the lyrics in your daily prayer life…feel how they help you connect to God and what happens when you speak them out loud to God.
  7. Sing through the song every single day!  It won’t take long.  You can do it while you make dinner or wash the dishes. Learning music is a lot like taking vitamins…taking two vitamins every day is going to do a lot more for you than taking 14 vitamins on Saturday night and hoping that you get super healthy for Sunday morning.

Those are a few ideas, but sure there are many others.  Do you have any you’d like to share?

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