How To Speak Musician

Talk the talk

We’ve all got different backgrounds in music. Yours is probably different than others' on your worship team and sometimes practices can start feeling like the tower of Babel. Here are some ways to start speaking the same language.


Any bilingual person will tell you that picking up a language is easiest when you surround yourself with it but that's not always easy when you only see your team a couple hours every week.

Be intentional

Instead of being so focused on your gear and playing “Back in Black”, be attentive to the others on your team. Try and spark some musical conversation. Use context to understand what terms mean and you’ll naturally begin to understand and speak it. I didn’t start talking about “crushing it” until I spent a lot of time with dudes who always crush it and refer to it with that term. Now I can’t stop saying it. Maybe it’s because I’m always crushing it. I digress.

Be attentive to your team.

Use the common tongue

Every musician understands the language of sound. I might not know what a specific beat is called (are they even called anything?) but I can “sing” a part. “Hey can you give me more of a boom, ba-boom, KA? Can you play a melody like la, LA, laaaaa?” It might not be elegant but should get the point across.

Ask questions

Humility looks good on a worship leader and the most valuable thing you can ask is, “What do you call that?” You’ve gotten your drummer to play the groove you want, now ask them if it has a name. Your bass player throws in a nice run. Pause ask if there’s a name for riffs like that. Not to generalize, but your keyboardist most likely knows exactly what that cool voicing they used on the chorus is. Next time you are arranging a song you can tell them it might fit well with that Major 7th chord they used on “Mighty To Save”. 

Humility looks good on a worship leader.

Speak clearly

Watch for clues that your team doesn’t know what you are talking about and take time to explain what you mean. Be sure to use a language that they understand and take the time to work through misunderstandings. If you’ve told your guitarist to do something and they keep not doing it, it might not be stubbornness. They might just not understand what you want. Take the time to teach.


When practices are short or last minute changes happen, being able to communicate quickly and clearly can mean the difference between a smooth transition and a train wreck. Take time to develop your team vernacular and you’ll be better equipped to crush it every week.


Jason Houtsma serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA, Husband to Alli, Father to Bjorn and Asher, and guitar instructor for

How To Speak Musician

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My team calls drum fills "drum rolls" They also call drum breakdowns "drum solos" I think other people would get confused but I get them.