Archives For For Worship Leaders

Continuing on from yesterday – let’s take a look at a different take on music theory notation, the Nashville Number System.  As I’m writing this, I’ve decided to make this a mini-series for the rest of the week – as there’s a lot to cover.

Previously we have only looked at the classic Roman Numeral system of notating chords within the music. I want to spend some time in this post looking at the differences of the two and offer some thoughts as to the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Nashville Number System in Brief

The basic gist of the Nashville Number System is to simplify, simplify, simplify.  It consists of numbers (obviously) that correspond to each chord of the scale.  So, just like the notes of a scale these numbers range from 1-7 (and 8 for the repeated root note).  So, if you’re in the key of C – the numbers would look like this:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8(octave)
C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

In this system, you need to know right away which chord is major and which chord is minor.  The system assumes the diatonic (written within the key signature) chords when each basic number is written.  So, if you see a 1, 4 or 5 – you need to know that it’s a major chord and if you see a 2, 3, or 6 you need to know it’s a minor chord.  The 7 is a different story altogether.  The system adds a capital ‘M’ if the chord needs to be change to a major chord.

The system will add suffixes to the chords if they need to be extended.  For example, if you want to play a G suspended chord in the key of C, it would be written 5sus4.  The system also allows for the ability to shorthand more than one chord in a measure.  Extra chords within a measure are written in parentheses – (1 4) (1 5).  In C, this would tell you to play C – F for the first measure and then C – G for the second measure.

There are a few more things to the Nashville Number system.  I just wanted to give a very basic crash course for our purposes.  A good, brief overview of more of the system can be found here. Tomorrow we’ll look at the classic Roman Numeral equivalent to the chords above and then Friday we’ll dive in to the benefits and drawbacks of both systems.

This week I’d love to spend some time diving into some more practical music theory tips that you can use in your worship ministry (or in any modern musical venue for that matter).  Very often I will run into bass players that know where the root notes of chords are but have no idea what to do beyond playing the root note.  Today we’ll try and look at some simple tips bass players can use to get off of the root:

Listen – learn – play.

The absolute best way for bass players to find their way out of the familiar root note is to listen to recordings and pick out the bass part.  Crank the bass on your EQ and pick out everything the bass player is doing.  Attempt to play along with the song (you might have to pause quite a few times!) and learn what notes the bass player is using.  Start with a slower song with a less intricate bass line to avoid a lot of frustration.

Fifths and Fourths

These two intervals are very key to making bass playing a little more interesting while keeping it simple.  Because the root chord is built up of a root, a third, and a fifth – the fifth of the chord can be used to add interest.  Alternate between the root and the fifth in rhythm with the rest of the song.  It doesn’t have to be fancy right away.  If you’ve never tried to get off of the root note before, play the root note for three beats (if you’re in a 4/4 song) and then use the fourth beat to switch to the fifth of the chord.  Then, on the first beat of the next measure, come back to the root note.  By playing the fifth on the last beat of the measure you create a great transition note into the next measure.

Knowing where the fourth of the chord is can be very helpful in adding a note that transitions to the fifth.  It could be a quick transition that helps create a rhythmic, punching bass line.  Or it could be a transition from one chord to the next.  If the music goes from a I chord to a V chord, use the fourth to transition between the two.


In the same way, use thirds to transition to a knew chord.  The third note of a I chord helps transition perfectly to the first note of a IV chord.  Use the third note of the IV chord to transition to the root note of the V chord (take note that you will be going down instead of up in this case.)  The third note of the V chord has to transtion back to the first note of the I chord.  Use the third of every chord to find your way either up or down to the next chord in the song.


If you absolutely have a hard time getting away from the root of the chord – use rhythm to help create more interest.  For a driving song, play repeated eighth notes instead of whole notes.  Repeat the root as a separate note on the fourth beat of the measure (in 4/4) and then repeat it again on the first beat of the next measure.  This helps create movement in the music.

These are some very basic tips that will help beginning bass players move away from the root note of each chord and create much more interest in the music.  Anyone have any more?

After looking up what “in absentia” actually means I have to say this – “You keep using that word.  I do not think that word means you what think it means.”  But I digress already….

For those of you (like me) who are unable to attend WorshipGod08 I thought I’d offer a few highlights from some folks who have been there and are posting to Twitter.  Even just a few great nuggets from the conference were enough to encourage me.  So here we go:

“Our perception of God will shape our response to God in worship” – CRAIG CABINESS (via Shannon Lewis.)

WG08: Thabiti Anyabwile – Self-centered emotions lead to despair, but God-centered emotions to a singular love for Christ!” (via Josh Tuttle)

Attending Bob Kauflin’s session on The Task of a Worship Leader. It appears everyone else at this conference is in here, too.” (via Gregory Pittman) Not surprised!

His word is more powerful than the flow of our services – Kauflin” (via Brad Loser)

I also found this exchange rather interesting and humorous (especially as these guys were hanging out together):

Listening to Bob Kauflin Teach is like drinking from a fire hydrant” (via Shannon Lewis)

Listening to mark dever teach is like drinking from a fire hydrant” (via Brad Loser)

Enjoy the rest of the conference, guys, and thanks for sharing with us!

Well, I have kind of veered away from the ultimate purpose of this blog within the last few posts.  That purpose is to share teaching, tips and training on leading worship within the local church.  Even though it’s been fun to build community (which I love, by the way, so please keep joining in the comments) I miss just pouring out my heart with what I’ve learned in leading worship and raising up worship leaders within the local church – so it’s time to get back to it.

Building a Worship and Music Ministry

At my former church, I was blessed to be able to be hired into a pretty well-established ministry.  I just needed to continue to work with those who were already involved and recruit some more volunteers who wanted to be involved.  Currently, the situation’s a little different.  I’m in a church plant that’s about five years old that has had kind of an on-again, off-again worship ministry going on.  So basically, I’ve jumped in with a little bit of a ministry, but not much.  There’s been some great growth, but now I’m stuck.  Why?

Instead of taking small steps to build things up gradually and consistently over time, I’m wanting to take huge steps to have a full-fledged ministry right now.

I sent out a Twitter post a couple of days ago asking for some advice on building a worship ministry.  Billy Chia sent me this:

Do Less – fewer songs, fewer people, fewer “extras”. Keep it basic and add one new component at a time.

I think he nailed it.  When we begin to build a worship ministry, or any ministry for that matter, we need to look at the big picture slowly.  Yes, it’s good to have a huge vision, but don’t get discouraged when that vision doesn’t happen over night.  My roadblock has been just remembering to take the small steps, the fifteen minutes a day that doesn’t seem like much but will ultimately have me going, “Wow, how in the world did this ministry grow so quickly?”

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

So, make a point to take things slowly, yet with persistance.  Take one small step at a time.  Soon that small step will lead to a bigger step yet that bigger step will seem as small as the original small step.  So, what’s the next small step you need to take in order to persistently build the ministry?  Mine is setting up a meeting and making a few phone calls I’ve been putting off.  Let’s get to it.

Over the last several weeks and months I’ve had the privlege of “meeting” several folks who lead worship throughout the country.  These people range from staffed positions like “director of worship” or “worship pastor” to volunteer worship leaders in local churches or church plants throughout the world.  One thing I’ve yet to see though, is what inspired all of you to begin to lead worship in the first place.  I (and probably others) would absoultely love to hear your story. Ultimately God is the one that puts the spark in us, but he uses people, places and experiences to do it.

So come out of the woodwork – don’t be shy, and share your story with us.  Was it encouragement from a family member or friend?  Were you surprised to end up leading worship somewhere but ended up loving it?  Even if you are “just a piano player” or “just the screen operator (you lead worship too!!),” please let us know!

For me it was rather interesting.  I was in my first year of Bible School at the Association Free Lutheran Bible School in Plymouth, MN. I was excited to possibly begin a career in youth ministry.  One weekend, while counseling at a camp, there was no one to “lead music.”  I had sort of done something like this before, but didn’t really know what it looked like.  I was just getting introduced to “leading worship” at the time.  Someone said, “Hey Ryan, you have your guitar here.  Maybe you could lead.”  So, I jumped in.  Let me tell you, it was amazing. To be able to be a part of helping those teenagers engage with God through music was unreal.  I never went back and have been pursuing leading worship ever since.  Granted, it’s not my job at the moment (hopefully someday it will be again) but it is my passion.

So what ignited your passion?