The Power Of Using A Small Band

Featuring Branon Dempsey Posted on February 18, 2009

This past week's worship was great! We slimmed down the entire band to only three instruments. We had bass and drums and I switched between leading from guitar and piano. There is something unique about the power of three. Many worship bands desire to have 5,6,10 instruments - a huge wall of sound. In some applications, this is very effective. Although, the number of instruments and voices really need to match the intent of the service. In our case, this weekend, was an intimate one. We began with three fast to medium tempo songs, leading by guitar. A song I had written called “Rise,” and two familiars “I Am Free,” and “Everlasting God,” began our time. The energy was carried between the drums and bass. I attempted to play through the middle by adding muted rhythms, while holding time with the hi-hat. Without the extra instruments, you can pick out every note as the bassist walked up and down the frets. As we led into the chorus, the bass and kick drove the groove in 4’s (I Am Free). The congregation was singing loudly. It was quite awesome to hear all the voices. The drummer had more liberty in playing other percussive effects to fill in some of the gaps. When the bass player thumbed out some ghost notes, you could hear every vibe. The acoustic guitar sparkled as each string was plucked.

As we moved to the middle and closing sets, I transitioned to piano. Next, we played “Draw Me Close,” with a Norah Jones type feel. The tempo was about 80, with a very light triplet feel. Very jazzy and laid back. I would walk chords chromatically down between passages. The bass would follow. In certain spots on the four chord, we managed a beautiful minor 7. In other areas, we proceeded with a few flat fifths. The bass player would glance over at me to continue the conversation. The drummer would interpret soft triplets played on the ride with a pair of brushes. Can’t you just hear it now? It was sweet.

Later in the service we switched gears to the “Wonderful Cross,” in a Michael W. Smith - version. It was almost like playing “Every Where I Go I See You.” The groove was set by the drummer, accentuating a melodic pattern on the toms. The bass player droned out the D note. I was on piano, also pedaling D with contrasting 2 and 4 chords on top. As we approached the chorus, we crescendoed into the standard progression. People rose to their feet in great congregational song.

The singing was very loud in an anthem of praise. I had chills that ran up and down my spine and arms. I almost did not have enough strength to continue to play - the feeling was overwhelming. The best thing? Freedom. We could hear every note sung and feel every note played. The air and space was ours to color and paint soulful textures in praise to God. People were engaged as they focused on the words and the sweet vibe of the rhythms. At some points, It felt like time stood still.  In these moments, God is here. He is in that small voice. He is in the simplicity of our song. He is in the basic root of our music. Big bands are great. However, it is refreshing when you allow the power of three to come together and create a beautiful mosaic. You have more room to create and more space to let things just sit. Be encouraged if your band is this size from week to week. If you are a big band, be different one Sunday and paint another kind of picture. All in all, there is great power in your singers and band, according to how they are placed. Always gear your services to the right time, right purpose and right moment.