How to Handle the Unexpected

Jimi Williams —  October 23, 2014

How to Handle the Unexpected

With any live performance, there’s always the possibility of something unexpected happening. I was reminded of this once again last week during worship. The tracks/click we were using went wacky during the first song. I had no option but to kill the tracks and click. After the tracks went down, the whole band was on edge having to adjust. And of course that led to a mistake. Me, the keyboard player, started a song while still transposed a half step down. I didn’t realize it until the singer came in. That’s the worst feeling in the world – trying to decide between two equally awkward options.

So after the message I decided to restart my iPad and maybe get our tracks back online for the last song. Not today! As soon as the iPad powered off it sent a bone rattling buzz into the mains that wouldn’t stop until I yanked the cable out of the iPad. At this point, I was ready to curl up in the fetal position and go to my happy place or grab the prayer oil and begin casting the demons out of the room.

Why do technical issues always arise right before or during the actual service? You can rehearse for 2 hours with no problem and as soon as you go live, something bugs out! Here are a few tips on how to handle the unexpected problem:

  1. Own the problem and recognize it. When that unexpected feedback happens, the best response is to acknowledge it. Say something like “Wow, did you guys hear something?”. Making light of the problem helps everyone relax.
  2. If a song starts wrong, it’s better to stop and restart instead of continuing to ride a wounded animal! You’ve probably heard the Holy Is the Lord capo debacle. People will forgive you for starting over, but they would forever hold it against you if you torture them for 4 minutes with half the band in the wrong key!
  3. Be ready for a lyric fail. Computers work “most” of the time. If your projector or computer fails, the church will not have lyrics to sing along. This will definitely affect your worship that day. But you not knowing the lyrics yourself will create a worship disaster. So either learn the lyrics or bring a lyric sheet back up just in case. Recently, I was leading at an event and the computer bugged out. It was just me on acoustic gtr, so I shifted songs from the new current songs I was planning to lead to some oldie but goodies. We also had everyone call out praises from the congregation. The worship time was amazing!
  4. Always have a few well known songs in your head. In the off chance that the whole sound system fails (I’ve had it happen), having a few well known songs to lead with acoustic gtr or just singing will salvage your worship time.

There’s no way to totally prevent the occasional worship fail. It happens to all of us. I love to hear other people’s worship fail stories. Be sure to post your personal nightmare in the comment section :).

Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

One response to How to Handle the Unexpected

  1. I posted my comment to this on Facebook, but will share here as well. A couple weeks ago, our electric guitarist started the intro to “Mighty to Save” on the wrong string, wrong fret. Didn’t sound odd until the rest of the band came in and then all of a sudden it took on the feel of haunted house music. He kept going for a few measures, suddenly realized the “off” sound was himself, and corrected it—but we all had a good “oh well” laugh about it later.

    There are some Sundays where we just look at each other and say, “We WERE all playing the same song, right?” A friend told me when I smile bigger and bigger as I sing/lead, she usually knows something must be going wrong with the click, even if the rest of the congregation doesn’t realize what the band is dealing with.