There’s nothing like the energy of a tight R&B horn section to add energy to your band. But if you’ve never worked with horns it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are 6 things you need to know so that you can get that Tower of Power sound on a Sunday morning.
- Get Some good horn arrangements
You can’t just have some horn players show up and have them join in with the band. If you just let them “roam free” you’re in trouble. Get arrangements for them. I use praisecharts.com because they have great sounding arrangements for most popular worship songs. Praisecharts has a variety of different arrangements for a wide range of skill levels. DO NOT just have the horns play along with the melody because they’ll just obscure and overpower the vocals. You never hear a pro horn section do that… there’s a good reason!
- Play in “horn friendly” keys
Guitar driven worship bands most often play in keys with lots of sharps. But if you want your horn section to sound good and play confidently, you need to play in keys with flats – Bb instead of A, Eb or F instead of E. Anything with flats in the key signature will make your horn players happy. This is why the Good Lord created the capo!
- Play the arrangement
It is much easier for the horns to play with confidence if you play the arrangement as written. It is much more difficult for them to make adjustments on the fly if you are adding choruses or a throwing in a couple of extra bars after the bridge. If you do make changes to the arrangement make sure you communicate clearly what those changes are. Often the horn arrangement have several bars of rests that they are just counting off and if you do something different during those bars they have no way of knowing until they come in… which is too late.
- Manage the volume
Your stage volume is going to go up if you add some horns. Try not to have the section playing directly into anyone’s ears. Also keep in mind that trumpets are quite directional and anyone in the direct “line of fire” is going to be blasted! You might try having the horn section at the side of the stage playing across it rather than directly out to the congregation.
- Designate a section leader
It’s good to have one of your horn players act as a section leader who can give direction and cue the rest of the section to come in and cut off together.
- Have a separate horn section rehearsal
This is especially important when you’re starting out or if you have horn players with little experience. Get together with the worship leader, a pianist and the horn section to work out their parts. This will save lots of time and help everyone feel more confident once the whole band is together.
Do these simple things and you’ll be adding a new dimension to your worship band.