Musical transitions can make or break a time of praise and worship. A poor transition can jolt someone out of prayer, since suddenly they’re thinking “What’s going on with those musicians?” instead of God’s presence. When we distract those we lead, we have to start over with our progression into prayer. Distraction is the last thing we want to do as worship leaders, yet when we don’t plan our transitions, we might be doing just that.
A good transition will build on the momentum and depth of prayer from a previous song. It will bring a sense of cohesiveness to the time of praise, so that the praise doesn’t depend so much on each isolated song, but it becomes greater than the sum of its parts - it moves from a collection of songs to a time of deepening relationship with God.
Stay in the Same Key
An example of a great transition can happen when you have two songs in the same key, so you can go straight into the second song without an official ending to the first. This is the best way to carry the momentum of a song without a break into the next song, by going straight into the next song.
If you can’t keep the song in the same key, I recommend adjusting the adjacent songs so that they are in a similar key. A similar key is usually one step up or down, or an interval of a fourth or fifth away. You can identify a similar key because it will usually share a chord, and this can be used as your transition chord, also known as the pivot chord. For example, if your first song is in D major and your second song is in E major, you can use A as the pivot chord since it is in both keys. The keys G major and A major also sound great coming from D since they share their initial chord with the key of D (G and A are the IV and V chords in D). Instrumentally, you can make these transitions with your lead instrument, usually guitar or piano, but it especially sounds great to transition using a keyboard pad patch. If you can’t stay in a relative key, a trick is to have a few bars of drums only, kind of like the intro to Hosanna:
The challenge for worship leaders is to spend as much time thinking about transitions as you do the arrangements themselves. This will allow the momentum of prayer to carry through each song so those you lead can go into deeper places of intimacy with Him.