A typical line-up we’d be talking about is a small setting is: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Keys and Cajon or other percussion.
Key points to take away:
Texture – there are several things you can use to give different part of a song a different feel. Use Unison singing, Harmony, and Synchopation to add colour. The most important thing to remember here is that each person doesn’t have to play the whole time.
Dynamics – you can think with a small line-up that you’ve only got one dynamic available to you, but try experimenting with the song examples below to understand what a difference it can make just simply arranging the songs.
Listen to each other – things will sound the same if you’re just focusing on what you’re playing and therefore you end up playing all the time. Always be conscious of the overall sound and be thinking, ‘what’s needed here? What’s most appropriate for the song here? Will my instrument actually have more effective if I do very little in the verse and add more in the chorus?’
- The acoustic guitar isn't just a melodic instrument, it’s very much a percussive instrument.
- Keys can fill in eletric parts, not just pads, add in some melodic parts and riffs of songs.
- Make sure keys and acoustic aren't doing the same thing.
- Cajon: the most important thing is for you to be a solid back-bone. Four on the floor is your friend’. Keep it simple and solid.
- Vocals: worship the whole time, but remember you don't need to be on the mic the whole time. Pick a Chorus or Bridge where you will add something to build the song.
- You have the opportunity to communicate with the meeting host/oversight and each other and to be more free with the prophetic because of the small line-up and because there’s no stage separating you from the congregation and so on.from the congregation and so on.
Song Examples - try these arrangements with your line-up
1) He is Faithful
Intro - All in
Verse 1 - Cajon 4 on the floor, acoustic strum
Pre - Keys in cajon just snare
Chorus - cajon 4 on the floor with syncopated snare accent
Bridge - cajon half time
2) The Lion and the Lamb
Intro - acoustic strum, keys do riff
verse 1 - drop to acoustic palm mute down strum
Chorus 1 - vocal harmony keys pad and open up strumming to make space, build throughout
Interlude - cajon in, keys do riff
Verse 2 - all in but drop dynamics
Chorus - full big Chorus everyone in
Bridge - drop dynamics, keys pads acoustic down strum, cajon bass on 2 & 4, second time through 4 on floor. build to big chorus
3) Good Good Father
Verse - acoustic strum, keys pads, vocals
Chorus - Keys add piano accent end of line
Verse 2 - cajon in
Chorus - Add vocal harmony and build dynamics
Bridge - syncopate cajon
Verse 3 - Drop to acoustic and vocal build from there
Other things to think about
Don’t feel like you need to try and emulate a full band or the album. You can just as much out of a song doing a different arrangement that suits the small line-up. 'The Lion and the Lamb', for example, is still a powerful song without an electric guitar riff!
In free worship, you can follow the I and IV chords of the key, using two bars of each. In G, this would be G to C. In A, A to D. In C, C to F. In D, D to G. Or you can follow a chorus or bridge structure, for example, in 'Good Good Father' you might like to follow the bridge chord structure.
If you have several vocalists in your small line-up, you can get dynamic variation by not using all your vocalists all the time. When there is a strong powerful line lyrically, or a poignant line, it can be good to leave it to the worship leader to sing it as a solo vocal. A good example of this might be in ‘O praise the Name’: “Then on the third, at break of dawn”. Or use your vocalists in unison for a really strong sound, for example, in ‘Jesus You have won me’ singing unison on ‘Shout it out’ is really strong.
In the congregation, we're still lead worshippers. We can be ready to push into God and back up the worship team. We make up a large part of the congregation, so can really boost it.