worship leading essentials 08 – transitions between songs

 “What you do between the songs are as important as the songs themselves.”

This advice was given to me about 10 years ago from an influential worship leader. It may be a bit overstated, but often times worship leaders give little thought to the transitions. That is, until the transitions come.

For some reason, I am hyper-sensitive to transitions. Maybe that is because when a transition goes bad, I feel yanked out my prayer and worship. All of a sudden, the drastic change calls attention to itself and the worship flow takes a jolt.

I have seen it done poorly and done it poorly myself. It’s a bad feeling to come to the end of a song and realize the coming transition is going to taste like a swig of lemonade after a bowl of ice cream. Here are some ideas on a few things to do between songs.

  1. Pray. Sometimes I will pray along the lines of where I sense God has been taking us. For example, say the teaching has been on forgiveness, we are ending the hymn “Wonderful Cross” and transitioning into “Oh Lead Me” (by Delirious). I may say something like “God, thanks for the reminder tonight of our forgiveness. Thank you for the beautiful and disturbing cross. God, we ask you to forgive us and again say that we choose to follow you, the forgiving one.” As I prayed this, I might be playing the transition musically. I do not script my prayers. I prefer them to come in the moment. Although I use them as a transition, I speak them from the heart. If the only reason I pray is to transition, I just shut my mouth. It can get dangerous if you use prayer for what it is not intended for. This is a tricky one.
  2. Read Scripture. Scripture is a great way to transition. If I am going from the key of D to Bb, I may end the song and have a band member read scripture. Again, the scripture would fit the flow and the theme.
  3. Drum transition. Once we are in a more aggressive part of our worship set, we may put a big ending on a song. As the chord dies out, the drummer would start the beat of the next song. The band comes in after the drummer lays down a couple of measures. In another option, the drummer clicks a count and the entire band comes in. Do this at the right place in the set and it works well. Do it at the wrong time and you will want to crawl into a hole.
  4. Call for silence. There are times when I sense that we need some quiet time. I simply say “let’s be quiet for a moment.” When I feel it is appropriate, I will begin the next song, or cue the musician who is to start it.
  5. Don’t stop. There are a few song combinations that will flow into each other almost seamlessly. An example would be “Facedown” and “O Sacred King,” both by Matt Redman. While “Facedown” starts in Em, it ends with a G and C vamp- the same as the into of “O Sacred King.”
  6. One instrument transition. There are times when I tell the band to end the song and I will transition. I take the key and rhythm from the song we ended and slowly change it to the intro of the next song. Sometimes our keyboard player will do this as well.

I always try to make the entire set flow as smooth as possible. The better I have done at planning the worship set, the easier the transitions. Check out Putting Together a Song list for more details on getting the set to flow.

These are a few ideas for transitions. If you have any others, chime in!!

[tags] worship, worship leading, transitions, Matt Redman, Wonderful Cross, Facedown, O Sacred King, Delirious, Oh Lead Me, guitar, drums, silence, scripture, prayer[/tags]

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9 thoughts on “worship leading essentials 08 – transitions between songs

  1. encourage.

    the purpose of a “worship leader” is to…lead others in worshipping. sometimes, this requires us to challenge those who we are leading. challenge has a negative tone to it, so i tend to look at it more as an encouragement to worship.

    sharing a few thoughts between songs can provoke/encourage/challange those you are leading to become more involved in worshipping.

    they may need to confess their sins to the Lord to free up their minds to worship. challenge them to repent.

    they might be thinking about the busy-ness of the day. challenge them to “be still”…and know He is God!

    nothing too long-winded. just something to encourage those you are leading while you (and the other musicians) prepare for the next song.

    its a heart thing.

  2. Scott,

    Great post. I’d add the following:
    1) call attention to the key thoughts of the song you’re about to sing, or what you’ve just finished saying. Show how it fits with scripture, or even how we struggle to remember things sometimes. When we say “Lord I give you my Heart” do we really mean it?
    2) Every song can transition to another in terms of key. Try working backwards from the song you’re trying to get to by either: a) playing the fifth of the new key (if the new song is in E, try and work your way to a Bsus), or b) playing a chord a tone below the new key (if the new song is in E, try and work your way to a D). This is a tricky thing to write about, especially in a brief comment, maybe I’ll post some more detail on my other site.

    I’ve also written a lot about this subject at my own site. Here’s two related docs:

  3. I hear this talked about a lot amongst worship leaders. This is my own opinion and it may not be shared. I realize this…..
    I have been leading worship for around 12 years now and I used to worry about transitioning between songs. I do not anymore. I have learned to embrace the silence between songs and not have to feel the need to “fill the gap” I personally don’t feel it right, within me, to pick songs based on the “flow between songs”. I am more concentrated on what’s going on while I’m playing rather than the “gap”. I am now 100 % comfortable with changing a capo or being sensitive to changing a song last minute because It may “fit” with where the Lord is leading His people to worship…

    Silence is ok.

    My opinion.