Space: the unlimited or incalculably great three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.

Space in music is just like space, well in: space. It’s the absence of something rather than an addition. In music, having space before and after a big moment helps to emphasize the importance of what is being communicated. If every available breath is taken up by words and melody then the result is somewhat tiring. Some of the best worship leaders on the planet know when to sing and when to leave space.

If you are frightened by moments of music-only interludes on stage it’s time to grow. Everyday life is built around points when we are in conversation and when we are not. If we were always talking, never remitting then we’d be lost and tired. It’s in the breathing in and then breathing out rhythm of life that we find crescendos and decrescendos. We need those times to allow for the next wave of movement to build.

Rather than being afraid of turnarounds, channels and instrumentals in worship let them work for you. Take more time before your set to think about what your congregation and audience will be experiencing while hearing what your team has prepared. Remember that they haven’t just spent the past few hours rehearsing the worship songs that have been meticulously planned. Instead they are coming from t-ball games and weekend chores. They have made a concerted effort to come to the worship service that you are a part of. In most cases they are routing for you. That all being said, let those musical interludes be moments where the congregation can relax in the musical setting that you are creating. Only use words when you have to.

Allowing musical space in worship effectively gives your congregation an opportunity to speak to God with their own thoughts, troubles, petitions or ideas. Rather than sending up a few exhortations of: “Isn’t God good?” or “Aren’t you glad to worship Him today?”, realize the moment. Better yet, take the opportunity to get out of their way. On your best day as a worship leader your aim is to be made so invisible that those joining to worship only see and experience the Father. Let each person joining have a chance to communicate their cares, trials, frustrations and joys in the midst of worship. If you do speak, speak as one who is encouraging them to take a stand before God. Invite them to let God know their heart. That is communion with Jesus. Anything said that is generic is just a clanging cymbal and not worth the time.

As you prepare your sets make sure that you are giving some time for musical space to occur. It doesn’t need to be minutes upon minutes but it should happen in every set. Try to think through the mood and time of day of each service. If it’s morning perhaps you make the space smaller. We tend to be more goal oriented in the morning and then right-brain, spontaneous in the evening. Perhaps you have a longer instrumental section in the evening services. Knowing who is coming to your services and how to best serve them should be one of your greatest goals to achieve each time you prepare a set. If you aim to serve each service them same way then you’ll miss out on opportunities for effectiveness. On the other hand, adapting to the mood of the sanctuary shows true ability and experience. As before, bringing people into the throne room of God is your goal, never lifting yourself up.

If you are someone who is guilty of musical-space-fear (or MSF): begin to relax. Most people focus on what is most prominent in a front of house mix. When a guitar or piano line is being played prominently our ears tell our eyes, go try and find who is playing that line. Attention is brought to the source. You don’t need to talk over that time. Instead, let the new attention be that build up of the new wave of momentum that is going to developing in the solo/instrumental/interlude. Know that because the focus has shifted from you it now has an ability to swing back to you and hit stronger than it did before because of what has been drawn from the prior section. I’m sorry if that got confusing or technical. Simply put, don’t always assume everyone is looking at you on stage.

If you have been a part of loads of stage time then you know that one second of real life existence feels like seven seconds on stage. What I mean is that a quiet moment that isn’t playing out as well as you’d hoped may be only one second of time to those listening but feel like a cool seven seconds to everyone on stage who feels the embarrassment of what has gone on. As you mature as a musician the more you can begin to bring your stage-time-awareness back into align with real life. Wisdom says that subtle mistakes aren’t heard by a majority of people in attendance. Don’t bring attention to mistakes that most don’t hear. That being said, remind yourself that a turnaround without a spoken exhortation may feel long to you on stage, especially if you don’t have an instrument to play during that time, but it really doesn’t feel that long to most in attendance.

Begin to use musical space as a friend. Let it be meditational or devotional in nature. Many of us have great bands that can pull together moving moments if we’d just get out of the way. Let the Holy Spirit be the one speaking to the hearts of His people instead of you needing to speak if it’s out of insecurity.

Is musical space frightening to you? Do you often fill every gap with a scripture or overused phrase? Have you considered releasing those insecurities a bit and thinking more from the perspective of a person in your congregation? I would love to hear how you encourage your worship leaders to embrace musical space. Giving God room to be God is ultimately why we are here. Let me know what you do. Comment or private message…

-Micah Brooks