Leading From The Seats

 

Consider this a random thoughts post.

Last Sunday I started my “paternity leave” from leading worship at Calvary:Arlington. My son hasn’t arrived yet but I thought it better to schedule myself off early in case he decided to show up early. Last week I played in the band, this week I won’t.

Strange as it may sound, I think that when we lead the church in worship regularly, we can forget how to worship with the church regularly. Can I just be a part of the congregation without hearing the chord changes, and thinking how I would have arranged that song? That is a huge question because how can I lead people in worship I can’t enter in and be lead in worship myself?

And yet, another funny aspect to this whole season for me is that in a real sense I will be leading people in worship: my family.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” –Proverbs 22:6

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” –Ephesians 6:4

“How on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so” — Deuteronomy 4:10

The bible is full of verses and passages calling men to teach their children to worship. By making sure my family is at church regularly. Making sure they see me worshiping Jesus. Making sure Jesus is praised and talked about often in our home. But living an active faith as a witness to my wife and son, I will be leading them in the praise and worship of Jesus Christ.

So I’ll lead worship from the seats tomorrow with my wife by my side and Jesus as our focus.

The Electric: Pedals

Each Week I’ll try and address different practical aspects of playing the electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about Effects Pedals.

The electric guitar can be an amazingly versatile tool. You could spend years perfecting the sounds you can get just from messing with the volume and tone knobs and pickup selectors. Then you add pedals to the mix and you basically have a stringed synthesizer at your disposal. I will say it again, the electric guitar is an amazing tool.

What Pedals Do I Need?

Tuner

If you’re not in tune then you’re not in business. I use the Boss TU-2 Pedal because it’s fairly accurate and you get a lot bang for you’re buck.  The TC Polytune, Korg Pitchblack, and Peterson Strobe Tuners are also very popular and you’d probably do ok with any of them. (I also have the Peterson strobe App for my iphone which is a great tool for the guitarist on the go). If you are just starting out you should probably have (in addition to an electric guitar and amp) a tuner, volume pedal and overdrive. That would be a good start, especially since a lot of amps have effects like reverb built in.

Overdrive/Distortion/Fuzz

Something to give you that “edge” or dirty sound for Rhythm parts on up beat songs, lead worship or to give atmosphere to a song in a minor key. I have several all set to different settings depending on what I need. I’ve been building up my pedal collection over many years so if you’re just starting out I would recommend the Fulltone Plimsoul because it’s incredibly versatile or the Ibanez TS9 because 1. EVERYONE, every guitar player you’ve ever heard of seems to have one and use it. 2. You can get them at a good (cheap) price on Craigslist (which is where i got mine).

Compression

Evens things out, keeps the louds from being too loud, and the quiet from being too quiet. I leave my compression on 99% of the time.

Delay

Get that U2 Rhythem or that Coldplay effect. I use a TC Electronics Flashback but any of the Boss series (DD-3, 5, or 7) would do just fine. Note: some of the delays with all the bells and whistles are also the most time consuming to dial in… take that into account before you buy.

Tremolo

Great effect to fill in the sound of a song, give it atmosphere or just sound cool. Several amps I’ve had over the years (VOX AC15, Fender Vibro Champ) have had this effect built in so you may not need the pedal. I use a Fulltone Supa-Trem and love it but a Boss TR-2 would work just fine for a lot less (another great Craigslist option)

Reverb

Again, many amps come with this build in. Reverb is basically that sound you get when you’re in a room so big the echos start to bounce off each other. I usually leave mine on all the time. I just fills the sound in nicely. I use a TC Electronics Hall of Fame. For the money there isn’t much better.

Other options

I don’t use Flanger, chorus, rotary speaker, or phaser but I could see uses for any or all of these pedals in a church band. Just because I don’t use them doesn’t mean you wouldn’t or that they wouldn’t serve the music you play. Did I miss one?

What Pedals Should I Avoid?

For a church band I try to avoid any pedal that is distracting, performance based, not useful or doesn’t fit the sound. A pedal that makes crazy sounds is not only distracting but not practical, and while it may be fun to mess around with, it’s probably a waste of money for what you’re trying to accomplish. If the band I serve with plays CCM, then a heavy distortion is probably not the best call. If you’re playing folk/country hymns do you really need a ‘pulsing filter’ effect?

I have my pedal board set up for versatility (I can do rock, pop, CCM, country, and indie rock) and I’ve gotten rid of pedals that were great but I would never use in a worship setting (Adrennalinn III to name one)

What Makes This Worship and Not Preformance?

That’s up to you. I see my guitar and my pedalboard as a tool to shape a sound that helps people express their love, praise, reverence, adoration, and worship to Jesus through song. I try not to be center of attention, but just another part of the whole. I pick my effects to that end (as talked about above) and use my tools to serve Jesus and His church to the best of my ability. When I’m leading the band on electric or acoustic, I do as little as possible because enough attention is on me as it is. When I’m just part of the band I prefer to hang in the back. It’s starts in the heart, is worked out in practice, and lived in how I play and comport myself.

What’s the Point?

The point as always is to glorify Jesus, serve His church and make good music. These pedals and effects are just tools for that purpose.

 

Behind the Music: All Creatures

I love hearing the stories behind the songs we sing as a church.

All Creatures of Our God and King is one of the better known songs in the western church, but I hadn’t realized how ancient and how recent it was.

The song is based on the “Canticle of the Son” by St. Francis of Assisi. It’s the work we get the lines “brother son and sister moon” from which are well known from the 1970’s movie and the inspiration for the title of an album by the band mewithoutyou.

The Canticle was written in Francis’ later life as a reflection on Psalm 145. The story goes that while on his death bed Francis had friends dictate addition words reflecting on his coming death and faith in Christ. Which are reflected in the third verse we sing at Calvary:Arlington: “And thou most kind and gentle death, waiting to hush our latest breath… thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the way hath trod”

The modern English version is a translation and paraphrase of the Canticle by William Draper. He translated the text in 1910 for a children’s festival in England and the version was published in 1919.

I love that God inspired men through His Spirit and by His word to write word and music to express what God has done in their lives. God’s work inspired the anicent Jewish songwriters to pen Psalm 145. He cause Francis to write before his death in 1224 what became the Canticle of the Son, and for a man in 20th Century England to bring new music and a fresh lyrical perspective.

In the story of this song I see God’s inspiration and work in the lives of people across all generations. I see the timelessness of God’s work in humanity. I see in William Draper the need to update songs and expressions for a new generation, but also to reflect in the power of what Jesus did in and through a previous generation.

Most of all I love the 3rd verse of the song. I love the idea of Praising God even with our final breath.

“And thou most kind and gentle death. Waiting to hush our latest breath. Oh praise Him, alleluia.
Thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the way hath trod! Oh praise Him!”

“I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless your name forever and ever.
Each day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” — Psalm 145:1-2

The Electric

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about leading with the electric guitar itself.

“Switching from Acoustic Guitar to Electric Guitar can be a fun adventure as a musician and artist. Seek excellence with a servant’s heart, and I’m sure that it will be a blessing to your worship team and church.” — Brian Logue

What’s the Point?

I guess my first question is why? Why are you leading with an electric guitar instead of an acoustic. Most worship leaders I’ve met started out leading on an acoustic guitar. There are a number of reasons. 1. It’s cheaper to buy an acoustic than an electric and all the gear that comes with it. 2. When a church is starting out, acoustic instruments make more sense. 3. The church wouldn’t accept an electric guitar leading before now, and various other issues and reasons.

These are all valid reasons why a worship leader started out on an acoustic guitar. I’m challenged personally that my reason for switching instruments should be equally as valid. Some one said you should “Ask Why 6 Times” before you do a major change, and I think that might be valid here.

1. Why am I switching Instruments, is it for me or to serve others? 2. Does the style of expression in my church fit this change? 3. Does the Style of Expression at my church need to change? 4. Do the musicians in the band have the skill set to make this change?  5. What are the practical realities of this change? (PA/sound system, set up time, etc) 6. What are the positive benefits of this change?

You’re questions and Why’s will probably be different depending on the situation but it’s great to ask them and feel free to chime in with you list of “Why’s”

It’s NOT the Acoustic Guitar

It sounds like I’m stating the obvious right? An electric guitar is plainly not an electric guitar Adam, we all can see that. Yet I’ve seen many a church band leader make this mistake. For whatever reason they want to lead with an electric guitar instead of their acoustic, and  so they pull out their axe, plug it in, and start strumming away. The problem with this that it often sounds awful. The tones, timbres, and range of an electric are different than an acoustic, and if we don’t recognize this fact we’ll be starting off on the wrong foot before practice even begins.

We Need to Know What We’re Doing

Before we lead worship with an electric guitar it’s probably a good idea to do some research. Blogs like this one are a great tool, also reading guitar forums to see if there are any amp settings or effects that might be helpful. A few years back I was playing bass for a worship band and the leader (who was fairly new in the role) showed up one day with his electric and didn’t know why it didn’t sound right when we were practicing. When he asked me we changed his Pick Up selection and changed his effect settings. I didn’t mind helping out but it showed that he hadn’t recognized that he was now playing a different instrument.

Personally, if I were leading by myself with an electric I would be on the clean channel of the amp, using the Neck Pick up with a little bit of reverb an maybe (just maybe) my lightest Overdrive effect.

If I were leading with the band, I would probably have the amp set the same way, but use have both Pick Ups selected, with reverb and using light to medium overdrive on some (not all) of the more up tempo songs.

In both cases a small amount of tremolo might be good for some atmosphere, especially on a slower song that has a darker or more somber feel musically.

Tone

If you switch instruments your tone will change. An acoustic guitar has a different Tone and sonic signature than an electric guitar. There is nothing wrong with that, but in recognizing it we can make adjustments for it. If there is a week with no bass player in the band I generally tell the piano player to ride the “low end” of the keys. If I’m removing certain sounds from the music by switching types of guitars, sometimes I might want to replace them with a 2nd guitar player, or a what range the piano plays in or whatever musical talent you may have a your church to accomplish such a change.

Also, having communication with the sound guys is a big help here. They’ll have to mix things a little different and so having a conversation going on already should be helpful.

The End Goal

The point of all of this is to learn how to better connect people with Jesus. Music is a great tool for us to express things that mere words could never hope to do. If you read my post on “Who the Music is Geared To” you’ll see that one week using an electric set up would work well for connecting with one crowd and I would use the acoustic the next week to connect with a different crowd with the end goal being the same: Jesus.

For further reading, here’s a link to another blogs post with a different take on the same subject: Leading With Electric

The Problem With Modern Church Music

The Following was twittered by @brentonbrown and is meant to show how lame/stupid/ill thought/etc criticism to modern worship music is.

The problem was that found I agreed, at least in part, with many of the objections.

So I’ve included the original posting along with some of my thoughts.

From an American newspaper in an article objecting to new trends in church music.
There are several reasons for opposing it.

1. It’s too new.
-This is actually a problem to be dealt with. How does someone who listens to mainstream top 40 connect with a worship team doing experimental music. Or a church that has done hymns for its entire church life make the jump to Top 40. Its not a reason not to do new songs or styles, but a issue that needs to be dealt with in love, service and humility.

2. It’s often worldly, even blasphemous.
-This charge makes the assumption that some styles of music are good and some styles of music are evil. This is not true but still something held in churches today.

3. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style.

-This is true. Rock music is most likely not pleasant to an 80 year old. Twang country is probably not pleasant to someone from the Urban Centers, and Metal is unpleasant to everyone accept folks like me who enjoy it. Worship leaders should know their audience.

4. Because there are so many new songs you can’t learn them all.

-You’ll never learn all the new songs. I don’ t know all the old songs. This objection smacks of the fear of change.

5. It put’s too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than Godly lyrics.

-I go both ways on this one.

A while back I was in a worship service of very hip and modern music and I realized that it had been minutes since I had sang, and I found that repeated in many of the songs. There is a difference between a performance concert where the band plays to the audience and a corporate time of worship in music when the band serves the people by leading them in song. Sadly too many talented musicians fail to make good worship leaders because they don’t see the difference.

On the flip side, there is far too much bad music in the church and a band playing well, being well practiced and sounding professional is far from a bad thing.

6. The new music creates disturbances making people act indecently and disorderly.

-if that’s happening then read I Corinthians.

7. The preceding generation got along perfectly without it.

-They also got along fine w/o flu shots and iphones… that being said, there is some wisdom in that statement that gets overlooked because of the shortsightedness/stupidity in that statement. Not everything the preceding generation did was dumb, and not every new idea is good.

8. It’s a money making scam.

-Boy it sure can be… (cough…CCLI… cough…)
9. And some of these new music upstarts are lewd and loose.

-To be fair it might seem that way to an older generation and in truth the artsy types seem to be more open to instability morally. But you know… so are the not artsy types so…

You might think this was written recently. But it was written by an American preacher, a church leader attacking Isaac Watts, the hymn writer who wrote the hymn ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross’ published in 1707.

Adam’s Final Thoughts:

Overall, I feel like it’s the same problem all over again.

-People confuse style with substance
-People put personal preferences over service and the needs of the many (both old and young are guilty of this)
-And they try to condense a nuanced subject like music in the church with cookie cutter charges and predictable answers.