How To Create Better Transitions For Worship (Podcast Episode 10)

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What Is A Transition?

A transition in worship is simply what you do musically or verbally between songs in worship. If you play 4 worship songs you’ll have 3 transitions between those songs.

What you do — or don’t do — in between those songs can make or break a worship set.

Why Are Transitions Important?

One of your main jobs as a worship leader is to eliminate distractions. We usually think of distractions as things that happen, but they can also be things that don’t happen.

For instance, transitions between songs.

You come to the end of a song, hit the final note, then nothing. No one starts the song. The band is looking around at each other. No one knows what to do. The worship leader looks uncomfortable. So, the people are uncomfortable.

Now the worshipful atmosphere is disrupted all because of something that didn’t happen.

That’s not an experience you want to create. Fortunately, you can plan and execute great transitions with a little planning.

Good transitions between songs are always intentional. If they are not planned, one band member will attempt to start the song and the rest of the band will trickle in. It sounds terrible.

I would go so far as to say that a worship set is only as good as its transitions.

So how do you create transitions?

1. Use musical elements to transition between songs

Music is good not only during the song, but between songs.

But, you must plan out which instrument will do what to get from one song to the next.

For instance, everyone in the band does a strong break at the end of one song. Then, a drum beat starts the next song.

Or, the keyboardist plays a transition chord for the next song, which cues the rest of the band. Or the lead guitarist starts the song’s main riff.

Any of these will work. Mix them up and be creative.

Something that’s not very creative and all-too-common: the acoustic guitarist starts strumming. That usually means no one planned a transition and it’s the easiest way to get into the next song without any plan.

Some songs start with acoustic, but don’t start every song with it. It’s overdone! Let others in the band take the lead and shine.

Maybe there’s no room for a guitar solo, but many songs these days have lead guitar intros. That’s the lead guitarist’s chance to show her skill.

Keyboardists can get you from one key to the next by playing transition chords – the 4th chord over the 5 bass note for the key you’re going to. That creates a nice way for the ear to get used to the new key before you start singing.

Be creative and use every musical element in your arsenal to get from one song to the next.

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2. Choose keys that make for easy transitions

In episode 8, I talk about how to create good set lists and I dive into choosing the right keys for each song. The right keys make your job easy when creating transitions in worship.

Use the circle of 5ths to choose keys. If you go clockwise or counterclockwise around the circle of 5ths, your transitions will be much easier. For instance, go from a song in C to one in G, then to D. Don’t go from C to Eb. It can be done, but it’s a very hard adjustment to make.


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3. Don’t be afraid to speak

Non-musical transitions are as effective or more effective than musical ones.

What’s a non-musical transition? In short, it’s when you speak.

For many worship leaders, speaking in front of people is way harder than playing music. In fact, if you’re gifted musician, there’s a good chance you are not a gifted speaker.

Still, speaking between songs is a good opportunity to teach about worship, talk about how a song correlates to the sermon, or read scripture.

As a worship leader, your eventual goal is to be a worship pastor. Part of this is taking on a teaching role eventually. Speak into the lives of the people you are leading in worship.

So what do you say?

Start with reading a Psalm. This takes the pressure off of you to speak and make sense in front of people. Since you are reading, you don’t have to memorize or practice what you’ll say.

And Psalms are God-breathed songs. While we have a lot of good songs today, none of them are inspired — straight from the mouth of God —  like the Psalms are.

And the Psalm can relate to the next song, giving the songs more depth.

But when you get more comfortable speaking, why not give a 30-60 second talk?

The key here is to have something to say and to prepare. I write down what I’m going to say, then practice delivering it without notes at least 5-10 times. You shouldn’t just get up there and try to wing it. That rarely works out.

Your job is to eliminate distractions, not create them. Make sure your words are smooth and comfortable

What can you talk about up there? Encourage the congregation with a scripture that meant something to you. Hopefully it fits into the theme of the sermon or your song set.

I heard good advice about what to say recently from Leading Worship Well, a worship Instagram account I follow.

He says break down this speech into 2 parts:

  • What they need to know
  • What they need to do

They might need to know that God still heals. And what they need to do is ask for prayer, come up front, believe for healing.

That simple formula can take you a long way!

4. Rehearse your transitions

It’s not enough to create transitions. You need to practice them at home and rehearse them with the band.

Transitions are actually much harder to do than the songs themselves.

Everyone can listen to songs on their own and learn their parts. But you all need to be together to practice transitions.

And, transitions change each week depending on your song order. You have to basically learn a new mini song between each song every week. That’s a challenge!

Summary

Putting on a worship time is no easy task, and transitions are probably one of the hardest elements of worship. Again, here are tips to make those transitions better:

  1. Use musical elements to transition between songs
  2. Choose the right keys to make transitions easier
  3. Use non-musical transitions such as reading a Psalm or giving a short message
  4. Rehearse your transitions then rehearse them again

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2 thoughts on “How To Create Better Transitions For Worship (Podcast Episode 10)

  1. For sure! So if you’re transitioning to the key of C, play an F chord with a G in the bass. If going to D, play a G with an A in the bass. And so on. Let me know if that helps!

  2. Could you elaborate or given an example for “the 4th chord over the 5 bass note for the key you’re going to”? I’ve been leading worship at my church for many years but I’m a little rusty on some of my music theory. Thank you!

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