The Guitar Pt. 1 Electric vs. Acoustic

When I started playing guitar I was around 15 and borrowed my  brother’s Franciscan acoustic guitar. He taught me three chords (G,C and D of course… this is my younger brother by the way.) As time went on and my 16th birthday neared, I decided I wanted a guitar and the first question was acoustic or electric. Ironically enough this question is still one of the main question each worship team / leader / guitarist ask themselves every Sunday.

As a 16 year old wanting to play the Nirvana and Metallica (the coolest bands of the time!) I of course picked an electric guitar. Which was fun, and looked cool in the youth group band at the time. I got a little 15-watt Peavy solid state amp called “Rage” and love playing clean, then pressing the “crunch” button in my personal rendition of teen spirit. It was pretty terrible. But I still have that guitar and still love picking it up playing some of my favorite 90s hits. (With a few more pedals and through a tube amp of course)

The years went by and I still played in the youth band but I came to realize that an acoustic guitar seemed to be the “way-to-go” for all things 90s worship music. Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and my later favorites Enter the Worship Circle and Water Deep. So my freshman year in college I committed to an acoustic. Thankfully someone encouraged me to spend a little more money then your basic laminate top guitar. I purchased a Seagull flame maple artist series in the year 2000 and haven’t looked back since.

Since then I have much more experience with both electric and acoustic guitars. I found ways to get the electric to sound the way I want it to. I have experimented with tube amps with pedals as compared to modular units such as the POD X3 Live and the POD HD 5000 all with varying degrees of success. I also understand how different the acoustic and the electrics are as members of the band.

The acoustic is not only a guitar but is also is a percussion instrument.  I always found early when I would lead, I was able to generate the feel and lead a band much better on an acoustic than an electric. This I realized later was because of the fundamental differences in playing styles between the two. While playing rhythm and lead on electric are two different beasts, even playing rhythm guitar, which requires more strumming and straight forward rhythm then most lead parts, on electric usually involves far less strums then your average acoustic on most worship songs.

The drummer knew what speed, feel and volume I wanted by how I was playing my acoustic guitar.

However things changed. I starting playing with a click. The drummer was no longer reliant on my for tempo. I started to plan out songs a little more. I had more acoustic guitarist and very few electric guitarist. So on the occasional Sunday I would play the electric guitar. Usually just rhythm, but I wanted a fuller sound that I wasn’t going to get from a couple acoustic guitars with the rest of the band.

So then I started asking around. Acoustic or electric? It seemed that the jury was out. However in practice I could see most preferred the acoustic. In fact I found I preferred listening to a worship leader who played acoustic rather than electric. Very rarely did I see it done well. However it can be done amazingly! (See Citizens, Ghost Ship and Lincoln Brewster) But it has to feel right in your particular setting. Some church are perfect for stages with 2 or 3 electric guitars. While others you would be better off with just an acoustic or two accompanying the rest of the band.

I think most people would agree to start leading with an acoustic. However I there is always room for new styles of music Praising our God and Father.

I am also a firm believer in using what you got and making it work. Don’t go buy some crazy expensive electric rig because someone told you that you need it. Also don’t fret about the switching to acoustic when your church really digs the electric sound and worships well in that setting.

God be praised both plugged-in and un-plugged.

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Save a tree or three, upload these apps

Stop using sheet music! You have an iPad, time to start using it.

Here are the Apps in order of awesomeness.

1. OnSong

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$15 a bit spendy for the initial purchase, but that’s it! Unlike Planning Center’s monthly subscription you just buy it one time! And it syncs with everything (Well not literally but close) SongSelect, Planning Center, Dropbox, iTunes, WorshipReady, and yes for you old schoolers Rockin’ With The Cross. This also takes music off websites (Ultimate Guitar Tabs anyone?) So you are not limited by what SongSelect has. The kicker for me was the projector that is part of this program. Perfect for a house worship set when its just you, your guitar and your iPad.

2. Planning Center Music Stand

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Works amazing and is always improving. The app is free so if your church already has a subscription then download it, mess with it it has more features than you think.

Oh yeah one more thing. Buy a foot pedal. Totally worth it.

I use this one:

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Livestream – The pain of watching yourself

My church uses livestream to broadcast our service each week. This is done so that anyone who isn’t able to make it to church on sunday morning can join us live or watch us later throughout the week. It is also to connect to MCC Falls City, which receives a live stream of our pastor preaching. This also provides me, your ever-learning worship leader with an opportunity… to watch myself. And it is horrible.

Now I know it is not about me and my shortcomings. However sometimes when I watch myself I wonder how people can get past some of my mistakes to engage in musical worship. But I know He is working a good thing in me and in my grace-filled congregation. And I am sure it doesn’t feel as painful to everyone there.

Back to my point.

Watching the last Sunday’s service gives me some amazing insights to what I need to work on. In fact I found this trail by fire (Sometimes you just want to look away) so useful I know have encouraged (almost required, if you can require things to my wonderful group of volunteers on the music team) my team to watch and listen to themselves as well. Often you don’t need someone to tell you what you are doing wrong when you can see it and hear it yourselves. I even got together with a few of my leaders and made a rubric both for the singers and instrumentalist to check on themselves. I am not going through to grade them, but I am encouraging them to grade themselves and write down a few things they can improve on for the next time they sing or play. So here’s to the pain of self-evaluation! Hear Hear!

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What you need for click …. on a budget (Pt. 3)

So I have my set list loaded on my iPad. I have bought a couple songs from loopcommunity.com and one from multitrack.com and loaded a click I made with metronomer.com and used garage band to make sure the click on only on the left side of the track. I have loaded all these onto my Worship Director ap on my iPad and now the real question… who presses play? And more importantly, who presses stop? 

Well this is where I have done it almost every way possible. And sadly I have often gone with the worst scenario. That being the leader pressing and starting the click / enhancement track. The way this has looked has been my mic stand holding not one, but two iPads. I used planning center’s music stand with the airturn BT-105. This enable me to play my guitar while turning the page of my music sheets on my iPad. The Worship Director Ap can also be used with your iPhone or other mobile device. I use the iPad because it is a large screen and easy to see when switching songs. 

The best / better option is using either:

1. The drummer: the reason for this is he or she is responsible for the beat or tempo so it is natural for them to start end the click as they see fit. 

2. The sound guy. This is great because then he or she knows when the click will start and usually feel pretty comfortable with the technology. However they would have to have a pretty good feel to know when to cut a click / enhancement track if you do get off beat. And, as it happened one sunday to me, they might start before you’re ready! That gets your “good morning church” speech over really quick.

3. The keyboard or the pads player. This is your best choice if you have a keyboard player who isn’t the piano player. This person usually is responsible for the fills and feeling of many of the songs. They are usually also tech savvy and are aware of what is going during the song and set. 

Another side note, don’t be afraid to stop the click / enhancement track. The greatest part of the worship director ap is that it fades rather than stops. So when you press the stop button the congregation can’t really tell. I have done both trying to catch up and get back on the beat and cut it right when you start to get off. The later is a much superior choice. Cut it when you are off live. 

Also when you are starting to use it, be patient. It won’t be great the first time. It may feel rigid but the more you play with a click you will see your time and tempo be more constant and steady. Your drummers will appreciate the worship leader actually staying on the beat!  

 

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What you need to click… on a budget. (Using click and backing tracks pt.2)

Okay so I asked around and started to check out some of the sites that my buddy was using. So first the sites:

loop community – this is a site where users submit their “loops” and you can purchase them from $10-40 depending on your technological prowess.

Multitrack.com – This site is pretty amazing. This has the actual studio recording of the songs. You can buy the multi-track of the recording or make a custom mix of your own for about $12-15 depending what format you want.

So those two sites are my bread and butter. They have forums, discussion boards and instructions on how to use backing tracks.

So the next question is once I have the “track,” how do I play it? Do I bust out my iPod? 

Actually that would work. However there are some more advanced apps that work better in a live situation. I will start with what I use. These are available for both iPads and your iPhone.

Worship Team Director by WorshipTeam.Tv – This is a very simple and user friendly and syncs to your dropbox and box.com (you should get one of these too if you don’t already)

Loop Community Prime – This is to use exclusively with track bought on loop community. But it works well. I played with it and like its functionality (good because you can buy the $10 loop and get the ability of the $35 multitrack using this program) But it as said before it only works with Loop Community loops, as far as I can tell.

So what else do I need?

A couple more DI (direct box) boxes and some more cables. Check out this diagram from the loop community site.

After that you need your sound guy to send the click to your in-ear monitor and not the house mix and the enhancement to both. And then you can start playing with clicks and enhancements.

So… this can get a lot more complicated with programs like ableton live. But that is beyond  my field of knowledge so I am going to leave that out of my posts. (for now)

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To Click or not to Click (Using backing tracks and click tracks pt. 1)

What is click? Click is the “new” way to say metronome. But instead of just practicing with it, you (with the help of in-ear monitors) actually play live with the metronome constantly clicking away in your ears. This is great for tempo but can take a few Sundays to get used to. Click can be huge help to get your drummer not to rush or slow down (Or to get your worship leader to not speed up or slow down.)

One step further is what is called backing or enhancement tracks. This often includes a two channel mix where the click (metronome) is on the left channel and the enhancement or backing track (this is often synth sounds, pads, perhaps a drum beat or electronic sound and sometimes even instruments that you are missing.)is on the right channel. Also on the left channel along with the click you will often have vocal cues. These vocal cues actually tell you what part of the song is coming up. This is also great because if utilized well you can cut down on group practice time by quite a bit. This sounds like, “Verse two three four…” by a usually siri or animatronic like voice. (like the one in

The downside of the enhancement track of course is that you are locked into the song progression and won’t be able to deviate without cutting the whole enhancement track.

Advantages include a more consistent and accurate tempo, a full sound, a better ability to time the service (especially if you are doing multi sites), everyone knows where you are and where you are going.

Disadvantages include being stuck to a certain program possibly limiting where you are “lead” during the service, the inability to slow down and speed up for certain parts of the song.

There are of course more advantages and disadvantages but for this blog I am going to talk about the process I have gone through to include more backing and enhancement tracks in MCC’s worship sets.

 

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My playlist (Possible future MCC songs pt.1)

As my list of possible songs to sing Sunday morning grows daily, I want to share what songs keep coming to the forefront. We add a new song about every 6 weeks. We know there is a lot of great music out there but we also don’t want overwhelm our fellowship by constantly introducing new songs. Sunday mornings when we worship through song, we want this to be the time we want our congregation to be able to sing and lose themselves in their adoration of our Father. Yet we also want to sing a new song and keep our church body in touch with what the larger Church body is singing to worship our Lord and King. As new songs and sounds continue to change with each generation the constant balancing act of connecting to songs we know in contrast to introducing new and different is the challenge and sometimes the frustration of every music leader in church. Yet it is also a great joy. To spend time pouring through these amazing songs praising our creator that amazingly talented artists have created is a true joy.

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“Worship is our…

“Worship is our humble constant appropriate glad response to God’s self revelation and his enabling invitation.”

A quote I’ve been using weekly by Bob Kauflin from his book Worship MattersThere are so many layers to this quote I find each time I read it or quote it I focus on different aspect. 

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Another Blog from a “worship” leader

Although I would have to admit the era of blogs are over I realized how much I use the blogging world. So much good information is still available via blogs. And although there are many professional sites, youtube videos, Facebook posts among whatever the latest ways to get new information blogs still have their place. I realized that each blog that I read is useful because of its personalization. Each situation is different and as I read through discussion boards and get a wider view it has proven useful to apply to my current situation. So I this may just add to the noise but here is what I am learning as I seek out to become a more skilled guitar player, worship leader, singer and most of all, one who brings the focus on God, the reason for it all.

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