By Greg Johnson
The Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.” As musicians, there are many things we could learn from our green-shorted friends: How to tie a knot, make a camp fire, set up a tent, wear an awesome uniform, sell cookies (wait, that’s the girl version)… But, at the top of the list should be preparation. Maybe a checklist would do the trick.
A couple of years ago, we were loading a trailer and heading out to lead worship for a camp. The bass player showed up, began unloading his car, stopped and exclaimed, “DANG! I’ll be right back…” With that he jumped in his car and sped off. I had to call him and ask where he went. “I forgot my bass.”
Things needed to play BASS at a youth camp:
BASS GUITAR. CHECK.
I was playing at an event and having a conversation with a young artist who had gotten pretty far in a national singing competition. He was telling me, in a not so humble way, about all of the important gigs he was now doing and who in the music industry was pursuing him. He mentioned in the conversation how good it felt to be a “professional” musician. Then, almost on cue, he asked, “Hey, do have a guitar cable and a pick I can borrow? I forgot mine.”
Things needed to be taken seriously as a PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN:
GUITAR PICK. CHECK.
GUITAR CABLE. CHECK.
On a Sunday morning, a young guitarist showed up late to play for a service. We scrambled to help him load in and get set up. He was almost ready to go, when he suddenly began to dig around frantically in his bag. He then looked up and sheepishly asked, “Hey, do you have an extra guitar strap I can borrow?” The cool, hip guitarist played sitting on a stool that morning.
Things needed to play ELECTRIC GUITAR at church on a Sunday morning:
SET ALARM (clock, iPhone or other 4G device). CHECK.
GUITAR STRAP (or stool). CHECK.
I was leading the song Stronger on a Sunday morning recently. I decided to start with the bridge. We were coming out of a song in 4/4 going into Stronger in 3/4; I planned for the band to drop out and let me make the transition on my own, then they would come back in. At the moment I began to sing, I managed to forget both the melody and the meter of the lyric. The band tried to come in and rescue me, but I looked out to see everyone in the congregation staring blankly at me…Awkward!
Things to know when LEADING A SONG:
I was in rehearsal with a band, and something just sounded off. I stopped and said, “Everybody check your tuning. Something is out of whack.” The acoustic player turned and said to me, “I think it’s me… can I borrow your tuner?”
Things to bring/buy if you want to be taken seriously as a musician:
I was back stage during a service one Sunday morning after leading worship while the pastor was speaking. About 15 minutes into his message, he began to pray. I had not been paying attention, so I panicked and rushed the band onto stage and we began to play behind him. When he finished praying, he said, “Amen. Ok, point #3…” Not knowing what to do, we continued to play lightly. And, after about 30 seconds, he turned to me and asked, out loud in front of the congregation, “Am I done?” Not knowing what to say, I said, “Apparently not. Let’s go boys…” and scurried off stage. Laughter ensued (at my expense).
Things to do to be PREPARED FOR TRANSITION in a service:
COMMUNICATE WITH THE PASTOR IN ADVANCE. CHECK.
SIT IN THE SERVICE. CHECK.
PAY ATTENTION. CHECK.
KEEP RESUME POLISHED UP. CHECK.
Sound familiar? So, what’s on your checklist? Go.