My family and I recently went through the dreadful process of moving. It was stressful, difficult, and expensive; we are so glad to be done (even if we still haven’t found a place for everything). Aside from all that, the process brought home to me how choosing a place to live is the quintessential example of tradeoffs. With price, location, size, and features, you are almost guaranteed to have to make at least some concessions. It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy with what you get; only that you need to prioritize.
I find that a similar thing happens sometimes with leading worship. It’s an unavoidable reality that not everyone can participate every week. So, depending on who’s available and what they can do, you’ll probably have to decide which instruments and voice parts are most important. We have a small team, and have to do this pretty often. If those present can each do only one thing, there’s not much to decide. But more commonly, team members can sing and play or play more than one instrument. Then the question is, which role should everyone fill that week? Luckily, we’ve never had to go without piano (that I know of), but other instruments are often missing because we need those players to do something else.
So how do you build your instrument pyramid? What factors do you use to make the call? Fewer voices? No drums? No guitar? Does it vary according to the song? I have a feeling most of you would place voices and piano at the bottom (the most essential), but I’m curious how you rank things beyond that. (By the way, if anyone has actually done an otherwise normal service with no piano, I’d love to hear how it went!) In some cases, you could have people switch roles for different songs. With some instruments, though (drums and guitar in particular), it’s usually all or nothing since there’s not time to switch between songs. For us, drums almost always win out over guitar, even if there are a couple songs that sound better without percussion.
You may not have thought about this much, or maybe you’ve never had to. Or maybe you’re very familiar with the one-or-the-other exercise. In any case, please share your approach to instrument prioritization, and experiences you’ve had. I’m sure there’s some wisdom out there that will be appreciated by all.