This week on our podcast Matt McCoy interviews Bwack, former long time drummer for David Crowder and now with The Digital Age, he discusses his experiences with using loops, tracks, and multitracks in live worship.Continue Reading...
by Wade Huggins
Loops and multi-tracks are a tool – just like your guitar or keyboard. They can be used to truly improve the overall sound of your band. However, if you do not use the tools correctly, they can become a distraction and cause a great deal of frustration. Get the best out of the technology by using some of these techniques.
- Prepare your tracks. This sounds obvious but I have made this mistake myself. The week gets busy and you forget to go through and make sure everything is set up. As leaders, we have to prepare for rehearsal more than we expect our team to prepare. Rehearse going through the setlist – triggering the loops (regardless if you are actually the person triggering them). You wouldn’t show up to rehearsal with two broken guitar strings you have to change out. Show up with your Ableton set (or LC Prime) ready and tested to go!
- Give the team an accurate song map of the song (before rehearsal). There are several ways to do this. If you are using planningcenteronline.com or something like it, consider uploading an .mp3 of the actual multi-track split file so the band can practice with the actual form of the song (with the right cues and click) that will be used in the service. Email is another great tool! A lot of times, I’ll send the band an email the day of rehearsal so they know what I’m looking for in a particular song and I don’t have to spend time at rehearsal talking them through builds, transitions, and forms. Most worship teams have one rehearsal, a sound check, and then it’s go time. The more you can do to clarify the form of the song and service BEFOREHAND the better off you will be and the more effective your rehearsals will run.
- First run through the song, from beginning to end. No stopping! When I was first using loops and multi-tracks, we would get to a place in the song where we got lost or messed up a transition and I would stop, explain what happened, tell them what I was looking for, and then I’d have to navigate through the track to get us back at that same spot and we would run it from there (or even more time consuming, start over from the beginning). This made sense to me at first because it was how I used to run rehearsals before I started using loops and multi-tracks. Without loops, you could mess up and stop, then immediately pick up where you left off. What I have learned in this is basic – most musicians know when they messed up and what they need to do to fix it. Since I started doing this, my team knows that we will run through the song from start to finish. If we mess up, we all take a mental note. After we have been through the first time, I’ll touch on the places where we made mistakes and clarify what we need to do. Then we move on. It helps rehearsals be much more productive and efficient. It also teaches your team to keep going even when you make a mistake.
- Run trouble spots with only a click. Set up a way to solo just the click track and run trouble spots without the loop. It is sometimes beneficial to take the loop out and touch on spots. Less instrumentation helps the band hear the individual parts and get tight as a group without the loop. As a leader, you’ll also hear things you might not hear with the loop blaring in your ear.
- Practice Transitions. This is equally important as getting through the form, maybe more important. Make sure you take the time to run the transition several times with the band before you move on to the next song.
- Make sure everyone can hear the click/cues. Ask them, “Can you hear the cues? Click?” I have found cues and click to be one of the most helpful tools for rehearsal efficiency. Another thing you can do from time to time is record custom cues where you talk through the song and throw it in the cues track to give extra direction for rehearsal. This is especially helpful for songs that are a little more complex or for if you want to do something different than the original track.
Any other thoughts? I’d love to hear how you use tracks in rehearsal!
A passionate leader and talented singer-songwriter, Wade Huggins currently serves as Worship Pastor at First Baptist Athens. His primary passion for leading is the local church, but Wade also serves as a speaker, trainer, writer, and leads for retreats and camps. Wade manages the blog for loopcommmunity.com. He lives in Athens, TX with his wife Kristin and their two chihuahuas: Verdell and Schubert.
by Eric Barfield
With all the demands placed on modern worship leaders, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed coming into the mid-week worship practice, let alone Sunday services. Here are 7 easy ways to make your worship prep less stressful, so you can focus more on what’s really important:
Many times what most stresses us out is not our work, but are lack of managing our workload. Make a schedule at the beginning of the week, and give yourself time to get everything done. Remember to leave time open for unexpected tasks, and don’t jam in too much.
Now that you’ve given yourself a schedule, start cutting out work that simply isn’t important, or can be avoided without damaging your career or those around you. If you’re like me, this is difficult since I often feel that everything on my todo list is important, but it’s absolutely essential to keep your workload down by taking a hard look at what is really necessary. Be ruthless!
Does your task absolutely require that you do it? If it doesn’t, hand it off to someone else. For instance, I often hand off scheduling, bill paying, and other items to keep my workload manageable.
Group common tasks together (i.e. worship planning, song prep, and sheet music assembly for several Sundays). By staying in the same frame of mind, you’ll be able to finish your tasks sooner than if you split the same items into shorter times throughout several weeks.
5. Prep in Advance
Worship leaders often fall into the trap of throwing things together at the last minute, making them feel stressed. Give yourself artificial deadlines, and you’ll come into worship more relaxed and focused on Him. For instance, if you know the choir needs music next Friday, set a todo to finish the sheet music by Monday, and then give yourself time in your schedule to do it.
In addition to rehearsing at home, make sure you give yourself time before everyone shows up to rehearse at the building. If you can, check mics, your gear, and even the powerpoint before everyone arrives for practice to keep from having unexpected problems arise during practice or service.
7. Don’t sweat it
We often give ourselves permission to stress out about stuff that really isn’t that big a deal. We need to constantly rely on Christ as our rock of stability, and choose to relax in His peace instead of our own strength.
The first ever episode of the new Loop Community podcast. In this episode, Loop Community founder Matt McCoy talks about his earliest memories using loops, multitracks, and Ableton Live in a worship setting. This episode is the first in a series of episodes on the history of loops. Check it out here on the blog or on the iTunes store.
I’ve always found statistics to be a fascinating part of life.
- There are 360,000 babies born each day.
- There are over 60,000,000 passenger cars produced each year.
- Americans spend an average 43.5 hours on their phones every month.
- There is a new worship record released every hour.
Ok, ok, that last one was a joke. But it certainly feels that way, doesn’t it? As a songwriter and Worship Leader, I am absolutely in love with the generation that I was born into. A generation that has found itself squarely in the center of one of the most exciting eras in the history of the church regarding creation, production, and distribution of new music. These really are unprecedented times for the Worship Leader/Songwriter/Artist.
As Worship Leaders, an increasingly important part of our job is to navigate the fairly unstable and overwhelming waters of “new worship music” and somehow return to shore with something to give our congregations, something to edify our gatherings, something that expresses our worship to our magnificent Lord in a “new way” (Psalm 96:1).
So how do we do this? How do we fight the battle of successfully finding, selecting, and introducing new songs to our congregations?
In a word: carefully. In my experience, nothing will frustrate a congregation quicker than introducing new songs too often, introducing them incorrectly, or simply selecting the wrong kind of new songs.
So here are some helpful tips, from one Worship Leader to another(s), that I have gleaned over the years (some rather painfully) on how to find, select, and introduce new songs.
FINDING NEW SONGS:
- Other Worship Leaders- Make friends with WL’s in your area, or online. This is such an easy way to find and share new music. Plus, they usually have charts, arrangements, etc. to go along with any song recommendations.
- Social Media- Worship Leaders love to share about artists they love, new albums they’re listening to and new songs that they’re singing in their churches. I follow dozens of WL’s on Twitter who are constantly introducing me to fresh music that I would have never found on my own.
- Concerts, Worship Events, Conferences- Always a fantastic way to find new music.
SELECTING NEW SONGS:
Whenever I select a new song to introduce to our church, I always put it through a heavy vetting process by asking several questions of the song.
- Is the song sing-able?
- Are the lyrics biblical?
- Is the song more suited for personal worship time?
- Is the song too similar to another song we are currently singing?
- Will my team be able to pull it off?
- Will it work in my congregational setting?
INTRODUCING NEW SONGS:
I have found that this can be the trickiest part of this entire process. If you introduce too many, you might overwhelm your congregation resulting in them not singing because they don’t know any of the songs. This can also be very frustrating both to the WL and the congregation. On the other hand if you introduce too few, this could lead to complacency or even unengaged, uninterested, or passionless singing due to familiarity or overexposure. Whenever I introduce a song I usually follow these guidelines:
- Pray that God would use the song to lead His people in worship
- Share an anecdote about the story behind the writing of the song or share the passage of scripture that the song was inspired by or pulled from.
- If there is a Biblical word that is potentially unfamiliar or obscure (i.e. sanctify, consecrate, Yahweh), take time beforehand to explain what that means maybe even giving personal application for the congregant.
- Place the song in a part of the set that is typically less participatory for the first couple of times you sing it. I do this so the unfamiliarity isn’t distracting or offsetting but they can hear it and start learning it. (i.e. First song, Offertory song)
- I always follow a 2-1-1 template: Sing the song for two consecutive weeks, take a break for one week, and bring it back the week after that. I will always observe congregation participation and ask for feedback from key members, pastoral staff, and elders during this time. If it is positive the song will be put into our rotation. If negative, the song will be put back on the shelf.
- I never introduce more than 1 new song a month… and honestly that is pushing it for our congregation. I have found that right around the time I am absolutely sick of a song, our congregation is finally feeling comfortable with it.
I truly believe that all of these tips listed above are driven by a heart desire to deeply know the people that make up my congregation, to know what stirs them up to worship the Lord, and to serve them in picking songs that lead them to the sing to the Lord with hearts full of adoration. They are in no way etched in stone tablets, but I certainly pray that they help you as you search, select, and introduce new songs to your churches.
What tips do you have for finding, selecting, and introducing new songs?
Jason Dunton serves as the Worship Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Houston, TX. He holds a Master of Arts in Worship Leadership degree from Dallas Baptist University and is also a songwriter, producer and Nutella addict. He lives and loves with his wife Joanna, daughter Penelope, and English Bulldog Grubby.
Twitter and Instagram: @jasedunton