Song Transitions - The Setlist Checklist Series
When I was coming up as a worship leader, there was one all-important priority.
Themes, lyrics, content. Sure. These things were important. But Flow? Flow prevails.
A Philosophy Of Flow
Flow Defined: The smooth sequencing of songs within a worship set
Many agree with Barry Griffing, good flow can "bring the congregational worshippers into a corporate awareness of God's manifest Presence" (Releasing Charismatic Worship, 1989)
Other's agree with Carl Tuttle's more general statement, "Grouping songs in such a way that they flow together and make sense is essential to a good worship experience." (Worship Leader Training Manuel, 1987)
Good flow can be taught. Tactics can be employed.
Good flow can be heard. Achieved.
Because of its tangibility, flow has become a benchmark for measuring success.
“Was it smooth? Yes? Must have been a good worship service.”
This phenomenon is unique to modern worship. We don't have any indication from history that musical flow was a priority as Christians gathered throughout the Centuries.
I believe musical flow is important, helpful, and a wonderful expression of our musical creativity. But "essential to a good worship service?" "Bringing...God's manifest Presence?" I don't know about that.
Song Transitions and Song Tempos (The elements that create musical flow) are number six, and seven on my set list checklist.
Music should contain beauty and fluidity. Inhales and exhales. Ebbs and Flows.
But silence between songs is not the kiss of death. If the Glory of God is revealed in your worship service it’s because He's chosen to show up.
No amount of liquid, musical fluidity can coax Him.
No amount of choppy chord changes can deter Him.
All that to say…5 Ways at achieve musical flow in a worship set.
1. Song Keys
A great place to start is the key of each song.
Flowing from one song in the key of D into another song in the key of D is pretty seamless. It will help your church stay in the moment.
Moving from a song in the key of “A” into a song in the key of "D" or "E" is also a good idea. This is using a little music theory to transition to a song in a "Relative Key". It's a different key but doesn't have a totally different sound.
My good friend Alex Enfiedjian has tons of great resources through his site and podcast Worship Ministry Training. Download his Relative Keys Cheat Sheet.
Finally, don't be afraid to transition into a totally different key. From G to Bb. Or from F to A. This can actually be an effective technique to shift gears. From upbeat praise to reverential worship for example.
2. The Pad Intro
A great way to move into a new key, a new movement of your set list, or a new element of your service is with a pad. Just fade it in, let it sit for a moment, and start your song.
Listen to Vertical Worship's 2015 Album Church Songs. They begin almost every song with a pad swell. Sounds great!
3. The Drum Intro
If you're moving into a totally different key, have the drummer play the groove for 2 bars and then have the band drop in. You'll have the taste of the last key out of your mouth and be ready to start fresh.
4. The Clean Break
Don't underestimate the clean break. Land one song. Let it sit a moment. Then begin the next song. Not the most glamorous of transitions, but simple and effective.
5. The Medley
Stringing a few songs or sections of songs together in a medley can be a really powerful way to linger and worship. You’ll break free of pounding through songs one after another.
Keeping all the songs in the medley the same key will obviously help.
Looking For More?
Download your own Setlist Checklist and catch up on parts 1-5 of the series.
If you'd like to hear a more in-depth explanation of some of these techniques, Alex invited me onto his podcast to chat about it.