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?

How to not be a jerk when you say, “I’ll pray for you.”

Say "I'll pray for you" and mean it.

It happens to all of us. We have the best of intentions.  Someone it hurting.  You say you’ll pray for them.  You mean it.  But it doesn’t happen for this or that reason.

In steps a free solution that has changed the frequency of my prayer life, thanks to www.echoprayer.com – a free online prayer manager.  Here’s how it works.

  1. You create a prayer list
  2. You set times throughout the week for reminders
  3. Echo emails or texts you one prayer at a time from your list

You can set reminders for specific prayers or random ones, and get them as emails, text messages or both.

There’s also a built-in prayer journal that lets you write notes and automatically keep track of answered prayers.

Pure and simple, Echo is a tool to help you pray more diligently.

Give it a try…and pray for me, would you?

Ever try a Country Music #worship environment? We did. Here’s how it went. #sundaysetlist #sundaysetlists

We’ve all been asked the question before, “What kind of music do you like?” Music preference gives someone individuality. Some like country music. Some don’t. Then there’s the difference between modern country and Country & Western. (If someone can clearly define the difference between the two, please comment.)

The fact is, everyone is wired differently when it comes to music — which makes designing a worship environment all the more difficult. What works for Person A may or may not work for Person B. At any worship environment, we’ve got everyone from A to Z. So how do you plan for it? One solution is to periodically pick a genre of music and go to town on it for one week. There are pros and cons to doing it this way.

Pros

  • Those that enjoy that music preference, really engage that morning
  • Others who may not enjoy that music preference may come to connect with one or two songs
  • There’s a little bit of ribbing and joking that goes on, that can be healthy for a church
  • It gives your musicians something to chew on and expand their playing/singing

Cons

  • If someone simply dislikes the music or has a very bad association with the music style, they can simply be too distracted to worship
  • Not all of the church’s musicians can pull off a particular style of music
  • It takes a lot more planning to pull off a music style not typical to your church or region

If you are wondering if “Country Music Sunday” was successful this past weekend — the best question to ask is, “Did worship of God happen?” It’s the most difficult question to answer. Why? People, really, one can’t tell. You can see bi-products (singing, hands raised, movement, no one sleeping, etc.). But whether or not they are do those things because their heart is actually worshiping — that’s between the “worshiper” and the “Worshipee” only.

Musically it was successful for a number of reasons. We added a pedal steel guitar and violin to the band. Adding these instruments is almost a must if Country & Western music is being played. Playing the style of country is more of a challenge — there’s different changes and turns to learn, and most did a good job of owning the charts before rehearsal.

Technically it was successful for a number of reasons. The lyric backgrounds were “country-ish” — so that helped. And the audio engineer spent several hours perfecting the mix and EQ from Thursday’s rehearsal (recorded from DAT and played back on Saturday). It took work, but it paid off to hear my wife say, “good mix” later on.

Spiritual success — that’s something too difficult to evaluate here. But would be beneficial to attempt sometime. That’s for a whole other time.

As expectations shift from “let’s worship God” to “what’s the coolness factor / are we going to like it” — our worship becomes less focused on the One we are really there for.

The trick, though, is that the bar gets raised when we pull off a “theme” weekend of music. We’ll most likely do Country Music Sunday again in the future.It means that worshipers might expect a variety of styles. The only problem is we can get into a consumer mentality. A consumer mentality says, “What are you going to WOW me with this time?” As expectations shift from “let’s worship God” to “what’s the coolness factor / are we going to like it” — our worship becomes less focused on the One we are really there for.

So let’s keep changing it up, as long as we avoid changing it up solely to make people happy, smile, or be the “church that can do any style well” and potentially lose focus on Who came to worship.

Setlist from June 27, 2010

  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 – June 22, 2010
  7. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  8. ___ Spacer (10 minute silence)
  9. Set 2 – June 22, 2010
  10. Greeting – revised Ring of Fire
  11. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  12. ___ END click here (cue)
  13. ___ SINGLE CLICK TRACKS BELOW
  14. I’ll Fly Away (Country) – loop and click 100 BPM
  15. Joyful Joyful (Country) – loop and click 104 BPM
  16. You Are My King (Amazing Love) Country – loop and click 70 BPM
  17. Anywhere with Jesus (Country faster section) – loop and click 100 BPM
  18. Revive Us Again – loop and click 98 BPM
  19. ___ PAUSE click here (cue)
  20. ___ END click here (cue)
  21. ___ FULL SONGS BELOW
  22. I’ll Fly Away (A)
  23. Joyful, Joyful (We Adore Thee) (D)
  24. [Amazing Love] You Are My King (D)
  25. Anywhere With Jesus (C)
  26. Revive Us Again (E)

What do we value in worship arts?

Any “band” of people ought to have some type of structure — otherwise they wouldn’t be a “band,” would they?  Corporations have expectations of employees.  Countries have expectations of politicians.  Parents have expectations of children.  And, yes, churches have expectations of their musicians.  So what are the expectations of musicians in a worship band setting?  While each church’s expectations will look differently, here’s what our expectations are.

Let’s begin with expectations, then we’ll contrast with what expectations we ought not to have.

  1. Accountability. Musicians ought to be in a growing accountable walk with Christ. Life off the stage is more important than life on the stage.  Since those on stage are in a pseudo-leadership role, taking a look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is helpful. Leading worship is a noble task. Musicians (both instrumentalists AND vocalists) should be above incrimination, the husband/wife of one spouse, restrained, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach others, not addicted to alcohol, gentle, a peacemaker, not a lover of money, manage their family well, not be a recent convert, and have a good reputation with outsiders.
  2. Available. Musicians ought to have availability to be a part of the worship arts family. Not everyone is in a season of life where they are able to participate in the worship arts family.  Attending rehearsals and leading worship regularly with the worship arts family is important. For example, a musician ought to be available to sing/play regularly in a foundational group before leading worship outside that group. It promotes unity, a team-spirit, and contributes to rubbing shoulders with others. Musicians also need to be available enough outside of rehearsal to prepare the music in advance. Rehearsal means re-hearing the music — not hearing it for the first time.
  3. Attitude. Musicians ought to have an attitude that is pleasant and enjoyable to be around. We’ve all been around someone who was incredibly gifted at what they do, but they were a pain to work with. Without an “others first” mentality, it’s hard to swallow — regardless of talent level.
  4. Ability. Musicians ought to have an ability to sing/play at a level God has set up at their local church. For one church, this might mean singing in tune. For another church, this might mean singing at a solo level. While the height of the bar is different at each location, there is a bar.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the “bar” at our church. Someone else’s bar will have a different look.

  • Prepare music in advance of rehearsal
  • Ability to play/sing by ear or written music to keep time/tune with the band, smooth changes, ability to identify good tone
  • Ability to play/sing with confidence to lead, instead of follow
  • Singers, strong ability to harmonize and vary voice slightly to blend
  • Bass guitars, ability to lay down a groove with the kick
  • Guitars, ability to read chords and lead sheets, understand tone, effects, and ability to drive guitar-driven songs
  • Pianists, ability to read chords, written notation, ability to drive piano-driven songs, and knowledge of when not to play
  • Drummers, ability to take notes, play with and without a click-track, simple to moderately-complex worship patterns
  • Keyboardists, ability to read chords, mod wheel use, navigation of keyboard, knowledge of where to play to fill in the holes and when not to play

In contrast, here’s what we ought NOT to look for when it comes to expectations:

  1. Perfect people or spiritual giants. No one is perfect. Not one. (Romans 3:23)
  2. Serving every week with no time to worship off-stage. There’s a margin that needs to be maintained. Burning out for the sake of “always available” ends up being “no availability” in the long run.
  3. A fake-happy-face all the time. We have bad days. We can’t keep up a faux face all the time. Authenticity and being real with a positive attitude is what we are after.
  4. The best singers/instrumentalists in the nation. Many of us are average singers with average instrumental skills. We aren’t recording artists. We aren’t a monster player. There are plenty of others who can sing/play circles around us. Realistic ability is what we are looking for.