10 Tips on How to Combine an #Orchestra with a #Worship Band

Last weekend at Topeka Bible Church we had our last round of the orchestra with the worship band.  Here are some tips when combining an orchestra with a worship band.

  1. Find good orchestral arrangements.  Two most popular sites are PraiseCharts and LifeWay. If you can’t find an orchestration and need a custom arrangement, MyMusicWriter can do one for you.
  2. Select keys that are singable and easier for the worship band. The fact of the matter is that the rhythm section (band) needs to be more solid than the orchestra.  I know, you are probably thinking the orchestra will shoot you for selecting the key of (heaven forbid) E — but the orchestra is filled with musicians who are most likely more proficient at reading music…so don’t give the band the key of Bb.  If the rhythm section doesn’t sound solid, nothing will.
  3. Rehearse the band without the orchestra first, then the orchestra second. The rhythm section (band) will need to be solid and work out the roadmap of the song in advance.  The orchestra won’t want to wait around for the band to iron it out.  And the band will be frustrated with stopping for the orchestra questions (usually good questions, but not for the band).  So separate the two.
  4. Create a written “edit sheet” for the orchestra. Do this after your band rehearses and the roadmaps are ironed out.  Yes, it takes time — but it will save you explaining it to the orchestra 3 different ways.  If possible, get the edit sheet into their folders in advance.  See the example below.
  5. Have at least the piano and drums rehearse with the orchestra. It will help keep time and establish the holes where the orchestra will not play (generally the 1st verse of most songs).
  6. Tune the orchestra after they play the first song in rehearsal. I know, most orchestras tune before they play — but reality is that the woodwinds and brass aren’t warmed up yet.  After they play, the intonation will change enough that they will not be in tune.  The best method would be to tune before you play, play the first song, then tune again.  Then it should lock in.
  7. Setup a few wedge monitors for the orchestra to hear drums and a little keys/bass/vocals. If they can hear what’s happening in the house with sound, then they will play out more and in time.  If they can’t hear, they will play sluggish and sheepishly.
  8. Get some help with a librarian and conductor. There are other people probably more capable than you in organization and conducting.  Put them in charge of these areas to free yourself up to do what you are best at.
  9. Mic the orchestra musicians properly. Get the right mic, get the close enough, put them in the right places.  If you don’t, they won’t be in the mix.
  10. Have the orchestra musicians get their own music stands. They’ll know exactly where they want the stands to be — better than trying to work around them when micing the orchestra and setting out the chairs.  A side benefit will be an appreciation for the work that goes into getting the other stuff out to make the orchestra happen (chairs, music, mics, etc.).

Example Orchestra Edits

A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD

  • delete m.33
  • change m.34 to a 2nd ending
  • delete ms.84-90
  • caution…ms.91 to the end is 3/4 time signature & slows down (rit.)

I AM FREE

  • at m.81 write in “2nd time D.S. (m.33) al CODA”
  • delete ms. 82-86

INDESCRIBABLE

  • delete ms.39-48
  • make m.49 a 2nd ending
  • make m.51 a 3rd ending

OFFERING

  • delete ms.44-end
  • make the downbeat of m.43 the FINE, hold/fermata on beat one (if you are playing a concert C# on beat one, change it to a concert A)
  • m.29 cross out the D.S. sign (keep the measure)
  • m.34 cross out the “2nd x to Coda” (keep the measure)

FAITHFUL

  • delete ms.1-6
  • begin at m.7 (caution, you don’t play 1st time ms.7-10 — you’ll come in the 2nd time)
  • delete m.102
  • write “goto m.77” at the end of m.101
  • make the downbeat of m.83 “FINE 2nd time” with a fermata/hold on beat one

Setlist

  1. ___ TEST AND SOUND CHECK TRACKS BELOW
  2. Test – click LEFT and loop RIGHT
  3. Sound Check – Full Band
  4. Sound Check – Vocals
  5. ___ WORSHIP SETS BELOW
  6. Set 1 – May 20, 2010
  7. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  8. Set 2 – May 22, 2010
  9. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  10. ___ END click here (cue)
  11. ___ SINGLE CLICK TRACKS BELOW
  12. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – loop and click 110 BPM
  13. I Am Free – loop and click 136 BPM
  14. Indescribable – loop and click 60 BPM
  15. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  16. Offering – loop and click 70 BPM
  17. Faithful – loop and click 114 BPM
  18. ___ END click here (cue)
  19. ___ FULL SONGS BELOW
  20. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Bb – C)
  21. I Am Free (A)
  22. Indescribable (F)
  23. Offering (E)
  24. Faithful (A)
  25. Head Over Feet (iTunes Originals Version)

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