Tips for writing parts for instruments in Worship



So, I have to tell you, I’ve got a pretty great thing going on.  The Open Door community where I lead worship is located about four blocks from the campus of Indiana University, which is home to one of, if not the premier school of music in the country (at least as far as public universities go).  It really is amazing.

And some of those musicians find their way to The Open Door.  They are incredible musicians with an insane work ethic, they tend to be super disciplined during rehearsals, and they just Love to play music and to help others worship.  They’re amazing, and I love to try and incorporate them into our worship service.  Whether it’s an oboe or a cello or a trombone…whatever the gifts and talents that our community has at that time, we want to be able to fully use them and express them and say Thank You for them in worship.

Here are 5 few tips that I’ve discovered for myself in the last few years of writing parts for different instruments in a worship setting:

5 Tips for Writing Parts for Instruments in Worship

  • Listen to the Recording – It’s a great place to start.  They’ll usually have lot of extra riffs and synth parts already in them…you can either copy those riffs directly or adapt them.  String parts are really great for this.  Instead of using a synth string pad…if there’s someone in your community that actually plays a string instrument, why not have them use their talent? Even if there are no extra parts to pull from, I always start by listening to the recording to really get a feel for what another instrument might be able to contribute
  • Pick Your Moments – I always think that none of us should be playing 100% of the time…but specialty instruments that are unique and interesting probably need to play even less.  More people playing more often does not mean better music! I’m constantly having to re-learn this, and will often times write too much and have to tell the instrumentalists to sit out an extra verse or chorus. So, maybe they don’t play that first verse and chorus, but that allows you to really come in on Verse 2 and add something extra.
  • Simple is okay – People love catchy, repetitive, simple riffs….something that doesn’t compete with other instruments or try to be showy, but recognizes its place in the texture and just fits into the overall sound.  Like salt or pepper in a dish – it adds flavoring…but too much salt and a dish is ruined.
  • Play with registers – Know what each instruments sonic space is within the whole band, and then pick rare moments to deviate from that.  For example if I’m writing for cello (which I love to do), I’ll use the low register on sparse places where the bass guitar is going to sit out, but, I usually move it up an octave or more if the bass will be playing so it has it’s on sonic space to be heard.
  • It’s about Timbre more than Notes – This is something I’m in the process of learning right now.  Coming from a classical background counterpoint and more notes were always something that was applauded.  But so much of today’s pop music and worship music is all about changing timbres…not more notes.  So, an instrument can do very little, but have a Big impact if I think in terms of the way the instrument will change the texture, rather than just what cool riff I can give it.  Just a simple held chord in a brass instrument can add a lot.

I hope this helps!  If you have any other tips that you use for part writing for worship, I’d LOVE to hear it!


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