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Transitions in a worship set can make the difference between a mediocre worship experience or a great worship experience. When we are talking about transitions, we are talking about how we are going to get from one song to the next. Transitions should be well thought through, just like anything else in our music. The main role of a transition is to help keep the attention right where it should be: on worshipping God. If a transition is done well, it should be hardly noticed at all. Here are some things to think about when planning your transitions:

Pick The Best Type

Two common ways to transition from one song to the next are:

  • Stop-start
  • Seamless

A stop-start transition means that you have a distinct break in between songs. This transition works well if it is a more upbeat song, in which the congregation will clap afterwards, or if you have something planned that you wanted to say or you want to read a Bible verse. A seamless transition means that the music never really stops from one song to the next. This transition helps people stay more engaged in the music and leaves less room for distractions.

Consider Common Chords

Obviously two songs in the same key work well, but so do keys that have common chords, such as the key of D and the key of A, which share the chords A, Bm, D and F#m. So if my first song was in the key of C and my next song was in the key of G, I could play a C chord to transition, because C is used in both keys. Using a common chord can help you pivot from one key to another seamlessly. For more information on this topic, check out this article from musicnotes.com. Also, learning more about the Circle of Fifths and Nashville Number System will really help bring more clarity to transitions and help build your musicianship as well. We cover this more in our article Basic Music Terms in the “Scale Degrees” section. 

Practical Musical Example

If you were to look at transitioning the song “From the Inside Out” by Hillsong Worship in the key of C with “Cornerstone” by Hillsong Worship in the key of A, you would first look at the circle of fifths to see if they share any similar chords (checking the major and relative minor chord that corresponds to both the left and right of that letter (chord) on the Circle of Fifths). If they shared a common chord, you could simply go to this chord and hang out for a minute there or transition back and forth between that chord and the IV chord of the original key, which would be F. The IV chord usually works well for transitions. Since they do not share a common chord, we will need to be a little more thoughtful with our transition. Let’s move to the right on the Circle of Fifths until we get to the key of A so we will start our transition by ending “From the Inside Out” on F (the IV chord) and then moving to the G chord (both the V chord in the key of C and the I chord in the key of G). Then we will go down to the D chord which is shared between the key of G and the key of A and then we’re ready to move to the tonic A chord in the key of A to set up the intro to “Cornerstone.”

Know Your Set

Perhaps the set would do best with a seamless transition at one point in the set but do better with a stop-start at another point. You want to mix up how you do the transitions in your set, as to make it more interesting and less monotonous. If you just do all stop-start transitions, people will never fully engage, but if you do only seamless transitions, people may feel overwhelmed by the amount of non-stop music. Sometimes it is good to be quiet and sometimes it good to keep the music flowing.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Have you noticed transitions at church, concerts, performances, etc.? How well were they executed?
  4. Considering the type of music you play, what kind of transitions do you think would work best at your church? How could transitions help your worship?
  5. What kind of transitions are you best at? Which could you work more on?
  6. Can you think of any other ways to transition besides stop-start and seamless?
  7. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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