Just Get the Gist

Busy schedules. Limited time. People can’t make rehearsals. So how are you supposed to pull off a new song when you have 20 minutes before mass with your key players to go over everything?

This past weekend was First Communion at our parish.  My son, who is 11, played drums for two of the liturgies. He’s really, really good, but he was a little nervous that he was going to make a mistake by coming in at the wrong time, forgetting a drum fill, missing a kick drum groove, etc. in one of the songs. I told him to RELAX! Instead of trying to remember exactly how the drummer played the song on the recording, get the ‘spirit’ of the song…the gist of it.

Sure, sometimes in songs there’s a particular rhythm that everyone plays together, or a “stop” that everyone needs to follow. But to me, it’s more important to achieve the overall feel of the song (tempo, groove, feeling, emotion) than to play it exactly like the recording.

Don’t get caught up in, or stressed out about, every minute detail that you hear in a particular recording of a song. A lot of those things will work themselves out over time. Instead, make sure what you’re doing captures what the song/composer/arranger was trying to accomplish. Get the “spirit” of it!

We always joke about this because it reminds us of that classic line from the movie Back to the Future when 1985 Marty McFly says to the band in 1955 (who have never heard the song before) “All right, guys. This is a blues riff in B, watch me for the changes and try to keep up!”  There’s a good lesson there, too: you are the bandleader/music director/ensemble conductor…whatever you want to be called. If the other musicians can follow your lead you can accomplish quite a bit with little or even no rehearsal! (and good charts!!!)   Simply saying something like, “This has a ‘feel’ like Your Grace Is Enough” or This is in a 6/8 feel like the Glory to God in Mass of Saint Ann,” or some other song they might know, can do wonders…especially if you have someone filling in at the last minute.