Over the past nine years, I have had the privilege of working and traveling with our worship pastor, Charles Billingsley. We have been in many different churches with worship ministries that run the gamut on how they do things, and in so doing, have had many different issues arise. However, when it comes to practically executing quality worship services, there are a few issues that seem to arise more than others.
One major issue is whether or not to use a click track. At Thomas Road, we use click track on 95% of the songs we play. Using a click track helps us lock in together and function as a unit musically. When changing songs, sometimes it's hard to remember the difference between tempos. A 10 bpm (beats per minute) difference doesn't sound like a lot, and between 120-130, it isn’t a huge variation. But that same 10 bpm difference between 70-80 makes much more of a difference. A click track ensures that we all hear the same tempo and know where the pocket is.
Besides changing tempos, we have also encountered what I call "the drifting of the beats." Most players watch a conductor enough to know where beat "1" is, which is good. The problem comes in between each "1" on beats "2, 3 and 4." Drifting happens especially in churches where electric drums are used. If everyone is unable to hear the drums laying down the beats within a measure, they develop their own definition of where the other beats are. Within a short amount of time, you have an entire orchestra with a dozen different definitions of where to play the accents, pushes, and hits. You can help alleviate this issue in one of two main ways: One, make sure everyone can hear the drummer consistently across the stage, which may mean you need to increase stage volume <cringe>. Or, two, use a click track. By using a click track, everyone, including your choir director or conductor, has the same definition of what 110 bpm is and where beats 2 through 4 are.
So, if you want to use a click track, what should you use? At Thomas Road, we mainly use Ableton Live for our worship set and some of our choir tunes. Ableton has become the industry standard for generating live clicks, as well as for loops and live stems playback. We also use "loops in worship” (www.loopsinworship.com), which is a website developed by my good friend, Will Doggett. The website is an incredible resource completely geared toward equipping worship leaders to use Ableton to improve the quality of what they do. You can also buy a simple metronome, like the "Dr. Beat", which lets you program song tempos within the actual metronome like a set list. There is also an app called "iSetlist" which lets you do the same for a really low price.
Hopefully, these thoughts help you as we all continue working to increase the quality of our worship services. God Bless.