Communion solo by cellist Samuel Cho

Samuel Cho

Last weekend Topeka Bible Church’s resident cellist, Samuel Cho, played his arrangement of “Near the Cross with Jesus Love Me” — a thought provoking arrangement that represents Jesus’ death on the cross.  He also played it at the Overflow worship event held Fellowship Bible Church later that evening (another great Topeka worship event).

The foot stomps Sam did represent the nails being driven through Christ’s hands.  You can hear the rope being twisted — not a fun experience musically, which is the point.  It was a tense moment.  Have a listen here.

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Vision – a picture of what the future of music looks like

Some people have a clear vision of what the future looks like — the rest of the people in this world sit back and either follow or wait to see what happens.

What Onyx Ashanti (the guy in the video) has going for him is a great vision — a picture of what the future could look like.  While it’s probably not your type of music or performance style, you’ve got to give him credit for seeing what COULD be in the future — and then going for it.  His call to partner with you and I is comendable too.  It makes you want to donate just be a part of what he’s going.  He’s already got $300+ toward his goal.  Only 94% more to go Onyx, hang in there.

Check out his blog to see progress on how he’s making the TRON Beatjazz Controller system.

Loops for A Beautiful Exchange by Hillsong — some of my favorite songs right now

The recent album by Hillsong has some great songs on it. I have to think God smiles when music for worship is written like these. We will be teaching some of these song in the near future at our church. And finding loops and click tracks that go with new music can be difficult — but mymusicwriter.com has 6 of the songs off the album posted (here). I’m excited for these fresh batch of new songs that Hillsong is cranking out. These were very fun to work on. It’s easy to create stuff for songs that are clear cut awesomeness.

How to transition when using click tracks and loops #sundaysetlist #sundaysetlists #WorshipSet

There’s a problem in lots of churches when it comes to worship participation — there’s lots of standing around waiting to be led in worship. You know what I’m talking about.  There’s that 16 measure rippin’ electric guitar solo, the 12 measure outro that’s the same as the intro, the 2 second pause between songs, and then the 8 measure needed intro to establish tempo/key/feel.  That’s a lot of ‘waiting around’ for worshippers who are used to more of the ‘sing only when directed to’ type of format.  More charismatic influences use these times to allow the song and worshipper to breath.  But it’s a problem in my churches who do not follow that more charismatic/free worship structure.

The solution is to turn these non-participatory moments into participatory ones can greatly increase the tracking of worshippers.

Here’s what I mean…

The most difficult part (and crucial part) of any musical worship environment are the transitions from song to song. Once you establish a key, maintain tempo, get a groove, and begin singing — a song can virtually run itself.  However, once the song is over, getting to the next song can be a challenge.  There may be a tempo difference, difference in key, a mood/texture shift, or even needing room for something else to happen (pray, scripture reading, video, etc.).

Using click tracks to create “transition click tracks” can create a smooth flow from song to song.  This means there are clicks/loops for the songs, but also click tracks and loops that guide through the in-between times.  These loops can create a smooth live feel that link songs into a more seamless set.

Worship Set from mymusicwriter.com

For example, this past week we had these three songs in a row.

Sweetly Broken (B)
New Doxology (E)
You Shine (E)

Began Sweetly Broken with the full intro (to establish key/tempo/feel). When we got to the end of Sweetly Broken, we simply played an Eno3 chord on the final word — leaving a deceptive/unsettled feel.  It’s typically OK to leave a song hanging at the end on a dominant (V chord) or subdominant (IV chord) if it sets up the next song’s key.  For example, if a song is in the key of B…the the deceptive chords to end on would be either an E or F# (subdominant and dominant respectively).  The *Eno3 chord played at the end of Sweetly Broken sets up the beginning of New Doxology (Key of E).

*no3 simply means the chord doesn’t have the third played in it, so you’d play an E and B…or sometimes called open fifth

The more tricky transition is going from the New Doxology into You Shine. Yes, they are the same key — but they are drastically different in both tempo and style.  The solution here is to sing a SLOW version of You Shine’s ‘pre-chorus’ in order to denote that we are transitioning to a new song.  This means after the last note of New Doxology, while still stirring the last Eno3 chord — a NEW click track would count off into You Shine’s pre-chorus at a slow tempo.  Once the pre-chorus is completely sung at that slower tempo, another click track triggers for the actually You Shine song.  Also, the proverbial 8 bar intro into You Shine is stripped down to simply two measures of Eno3 vamp to launch into the first verse.

It sounds complicated, but all these transition loops are automatically built into the click tracks & loops available at mymusicwriter.com — so all the work is done.  Figuring out transitions can be daunting at first.  It takes time and fore-thought.  And if you are using click tracks, the live timing and feel are critical for the end result for worshippers who are following.  Minimizing timing distractions and working out flow in advance can increase the opportunity for worshippers to be in an environment that guides them smoothly.

And as for those electric guitar solos or extended piano intros, try displaying Bible verses that keep the worshipper engaged.  It will point their eyes to God, and maybe take them off the stage for that moment.

Here was our line up…

  1. ___ TEST AND SOUND CHECK TRACKS BELOW
  2. Test – click LEFT and loop RIGHT
  3. Sound Check – Full Band
  4. Sound Check – Vocals
  5. ___ WORSHIP SETS BELOW
  6. Set 1 – Beautiful One, Jesus Messiah
  7. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  8. Set 2 – September 14, 2010
  9. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  10. ___ END click here (cue)
  11. ___ SINGLE CLICK TRACKS BELOW
  12. Beautiful One – loop and click 126 BPM
  13. Jesus Messiah – loop and click 86 BPM
  14. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  15. Sweetly Broken – loop and click 93 BPM [Bb]
  16. > Invite to Stand
  17. New Doxology – loop and click 86 BPM
  18. You Shine – loop and click 128 BPM
  19. > Greet & Move Table Cue
  20. ___ END click here (cue)
  21. ___ FULL SONGS BELOW
  22. Beautiful One (A)
  23. Jesus Messiah (A)
  24. Sweetly Broken (Bb)
  25. New Doxology (E)
  26. You Shine (E)

How to make an alternate key of your worship loops and click tracks

A common question is how to edit audio files.

For example…

  1. How can I take off the vocals of a music file?
  2. How can I put the song in a key tailored for my voice?
  3. How can I take out the middle section of this song to make it shorter?
  4. How can I make the song slightly faster, but keep the pitch?

Let’s address just one of these — changing the key of an audio file, such as a loop with a split click track.

Let’s say you just got a tasty loop/click track from mymusicwriter.com to use in your worship gathering. The loop is in the original song key of F#.  However, let’s say you prefer to lead the song in the key of E instead of the loop/click file’s key of F#.  This is because your guitarist would get a hand cramp before measure 8 in the key of F# because he’s too cocky to use a capo.

So here’s how you can change the key, even with a split-track or loop/click track.

1. Download the free open source software Audacity. Then use Audacity to open up that MP3 click track or loop track.  The file will open in one stereo track in Audacity.

2. Then, clicking the pull down menu (arrow), select “Split Stereo Track” so that Audacity will take the stereo track and split it into two tracks, one LEFT and one RIGHT.

3. Highlight the entire track where the LOOP is located. To do this, click just above the SOLO button in a blank area on that track.  This will highlight the entire track.

4. Change Pitch. From the menu in Audacity, we are going to go to Effect > Change Pitch…

5. Select your origination and destination key. In the “Change Pitch” dialog box, simply select the key the loop is already in (from) and select the key that you desire to do (to).  In this case, the original key was F and we are going to G.  Once you’ve established the “from” key and the “to” key — click OK, and you are all set.

Voilà! Almost done.  You’ll notice that when you click the play button — the loop is altered, but the click track and vocal cuing on the opposite panned side is left unaltered.  The tempo is not changed each (since we selected Change Pitch earlier, instead of Change Speed).  By the way, if the loop/click is slightly slower or faster than you’d like — Audacity will bump the tempo from BPM to where you want it.  Simply select Effects > Change Tempo and follow the dialog box.

6. Export to MP3. The final step is to export the track as an MP3 file.   Be sure to rename the file with the new key — to circumvent any rewrite of the original loop/click file.

Happy key altering.

Incorporating a Chicago-style horn section #sundaysetlist #sundaysetlists #WorshipSet

Chicago horn section

This morning was another “not normal” morning for our worship environment. Yes, we used our normal two synchronized bands, click tracks and loops library, singers, and the like — but we added one different element that gave the style a spin.  It was a simply Chicago-style horn section (Trumpet, Sax, Trombone).  Chicago-style, meaning like the popular band Chicago back in the 70’s and 80’s.  Who knew that Chicago would be “second only to the Beach Boys in terms of singles and albums, Chicago is one of the longest running and most successful U.S. pop/rock and roll groups.” [1]

Here is one email received today, immediately following the morning.

On Sun, Sep 12, 2010 at 2:18 PM:

Great job with worship today!  I’m an old brass player, and although I am usually not too fond of brass in worship, apparently it’s because no one has shown me how to do it right until now.  You were perfectly balanced and really complemented the vocalists.  I’m guessing you wrote the brass parts?  It reminded me of why I loved the group Chicago back in high school.

Keep it up!

[name withheld]

Here was my response…

Thanks for the encouragement (name withheld).  I’ll certainly pass it on to the musicians.

I’m with you — I’m usually not a fan of how brass is incorporated into worship bands (from past experience), but some of my favorite groups from my younger years are Chicago, Tower of Power, and Earth, Wind, and Fire.  However, if the brass parts are written in true “horn section” style — it can work.

Wish I could claim I wrote the brass arrangements, but they were all purchased from praisecharts.com.  They were the horn parts taken straight from the full orchestrations, but they work as stand alone horn section parts.

The balancing act was kudos to the sound operator — they can make us sound worse than we really are, just like we are, or better than we really are.  The sound board is the most important instrument in the entire house, in my opinion.

By the way, let me know if you ever want to break out your instrument — would love to have another like-minded brass player in our ranks.

Bryan

Yes, it takes extra work to put together elements. A volunteer had to assemble the sheet music for the horn section.  We edited down the music to fit the roadmap to the loops and click tracks. We had to pipe down the horn section with the synchronized band in the Lower Auditorium from the Main Auditorium.  The horn section had to be available for the rehearsal and weekend.  Extra mics and platforms had to be setup.  The stage needed to be reconfigured.  Certain songs had to be picked — and then cross your fingers that the arrangements work with Hillsong, Baloche, modern hymn arrangements, and Redman songs.

Are these extra elements really worth it in the end? As long as you can keep a balence (don’t burn out from it or overuse the elements as to diminish its value) — yes, it is worth it.  It creates variety from week to week, uses the talents God has assembled, and provides an added challenge to both musicians and techs.

And here is the full setlist…

Setlist from September 12, 2010

Is a worship leader type degree worth it?

What would you rather have more of for your calling in life — education or experience? Some say you need more education than experience to get started.  Others say experience trumps education.  Yet other, you simply need a heart for a calling.
Is a worship leader type of degree worth pursuing? One small indicator might be looking at the total number of positions currently listed through churchstaffing.com as of today (September 9, 2010).

Listings % Position Area
35 21.47% Worship & Music Pastor
33 20.25% Youth Pastor
15 9.20% Children’s Pastor
12 7.36% Senior Pastor
11 6.75% Music
7 4.29% Associate Pastor
6 3.68% Christian Education
6 3.68% Discipleship/Equipping
4 2.45% Business/Administration
4 2.45% Media/Technology
3 1.84% Campus Pastor
3 1.84% Church Staff
3 1.84% Executive Pastor
3 1.84% Other Pastor
3 1.84% Para-church Ministries
2 1.23% Chaplain
2 1.23% Church Planter
2 1.23% Secretarial/Office
1 0.61% Combo Positions
1 0.61% Counseling
1 0.61% Family Pastor
1 0.61% Missions Pastor
1 0.61% Missions/Domestic
1 0.61% Other
1 0.61% Pastoral Care Pastor
1 0.61% Small Group Pastor
1 0.61% Women’s Pastor
163 100.00% Total

Next question, how many of the 46 positions below require a degree — and what kind of degree?