Archives For September 2011

Why Use Technology in Worship?

Ben Worcester —  September 29, 2011 — 1 Comment

Hi, all.

A question that typically comes up when I tell people about all of the technology that we use in worship is, “Why use all of that? Do you really need to use technology to get the point across?” My answer to that goes along with some of my recent blog posts regarding worship. I’ve been highlighting some of our “axioms” about worship–those elements of our ministry that I’m not willing to budge on–those things I will always hold as true for our ministry. I’d like to quote some of that blog here:

Worship Axiom #1: God deserves our excellence.

With everything that we offer to God, we strive for it to be excellent. This is the core of worship and it is a priority that is as old as recorded history. In Genesis 4:3-5 we read about an offering that Cain brings before God and an offering that his brother Abel brings before God. In the first instance, Cain brought “some” of the fruit of his labor. Abel on the other hand brought forth the “fat portions” of his labor. There are many ways to interpret this. A clear difference in these offerings is that Abel offered his best. He gave that which represented his very finest work. Abel delivered to God that which was the most meaningful and bore the greatest value.

We are compelled to bring that which represents the best of our work–that which clearly shows the value of the offering. With everything we offer to God – art, music, poetry, time, effort, energy, money (and many others) – must carry a value that represents the best we have to offer. The sounds (all our offerings unto God) we make must be as sweet of a sound as the grace offered to us in return.

We will continue to toil so that we may offer to God the full excellence that he deserves.

Technology As An Offering

If you’re reading reading this post, you probably use technology on a daily basis. Many of us are very good at using it artistically (i.e., creating audio, video, other visual elements), but some rely on technology (the devices and their connections) as our bread-winning means. Either way, technology will continue to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

As bible believing Christians that desire to give the best we have to offer, we must also treat the use of technology as an offering to God. God deserves our excellence and if we can provide excellence in the use of technology, we are called to offer it to God in worship. Churches should seek out ways to implement technology that represents the very best of our abilities. Here are some simple ways to use technology that both help to create distraction-free worship services and represent the best we can offer.

1) Implement video elements that are excellent. They don’t have to be expensive. Remember, it does not have to be expensive to be excellent. Carefully weigh your options, which could include volunteers to create this content, and implement video that does not detract from the experience. Use video/audio when it is the best option available, not simply because using technology is the goal. Utilizing video for announcements or other awareness issues is actually detrimental if the quality is not excellent.

2) Use technology to create transitions between the elements of the services. Simple lighting fades, looped audio, and simple video transitions can make a huge difference in your services when you’d like to change the focus or the attention of the audience. Again, these things detract when they are not done with excellence. We use looped audio for every song to provide excellence, even in the transitions between songs. The tracks found here on LoopCommunity can aid with this as well.

3) Implement smart phone technology into your production. At YouVersion.com, a service hosted by Lifechurch.tv, you can create guides for your messages for free. Many smart phone users use the YouVersion bible app which allows them to search for live events. This is a free solution to keep the focus on the message at hand. With just 30 minutes of time, you can create a mobile guide for following along with the message, including note-taking, scripture readings, prayer requests, and many other elements.

Why utilize technology? The answer is simple. We can give an excellent gift to a God that deserves such an excellent gift.

About the Author:
Ben Worcester lives with his wife Sharyn in Manhattan, Kansas where he is the Contemporary Service Coordinator at University Christian Church. He holds a B.S. in Bible degree from Manhattan Christian College as well as Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music Composition from Kansas State University. His main duties at UCC include creating music content for the services. These include selecting songs, writing backing tracks, and writing for the church’s choirs and orchestra. Many of the loops that UCC uses are available on LoopCommunity. Visit his seller page to find them!

What ARE Loops?

ToHimAlone —  September 20, 2011 — 2 Comments

Wow, where to begin?

Let’s Start With Early Sequencers and Trackers.

The first analog sequencers played rigid patterns of notes using a grid of (usually) 16 buttons, or steps, each step being 1/16 of a measure. These patterns of notes were then chained together to form longer compositions. Sequencers of this kind are still in use, mostly built into drum machines and groove boxes, and are now called step sequencers. They are monophonic by nature, although some are multitimbral, meaning that they can control several different sounds but only play one note on each of those sounds.

In 1977, the Roland Corporation released the MC-8 Micro composer, the first microprocessor-based digital sequencer. Considered revolutionary at the time, it introduced features such as a keypad to enter note information and 16 KB of RAM which allowed a maximum sequence length of 5200 notes, a huge step forward from the 8-16 step sequencers at the time. It also allowed the user to allocate multiple pitch CVs to a single gate channel, creating polyphonic parts within the overall sequence. Described by Roland as a computer music composer, the earliest known band to utilize it was the electronic music group Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1978, helping them create new sounds not possible until then.

In 1979, the Fairlight CMI’s built-in sequencer, known as Page R, combined step sequencing with sample playback. This led to the development of similar software sequencers of this kind, called trackers, which were popular in the 1980s and 1990s as simple sequencers for creating computer game music and the like.

Modern sequencers.

With the advent of MIDI and in particular the Atari ST, programmers were able to write software that could record and play back the notes played by a musician. Unlike the early sequencers, which played mechanical sounding notes of exactly equal length, the new ones recorded and played back expressive performances by real musicians. These were typically used to control external synthesizers, especially rack mounted sound modules as it was no longer necessary for each synthesizer to have its own keyboard.

As the technology matured, sequencers gained more features, including the ability to record multitrack audio. Sequencers used primarily for audio are often called digital audio workstations (or DAWs). Many modern sequencers can also control virtual instruments implemented as software plug-ins, allowing musicians to replace separate synthesizers with software equivalents.

Although the term “sequencer” is today used primarily for software, workstation keyboards include their own proprietary built-in MIDI sequencers. Drum machines and some older synthesizers have their own step sequencer built in. There is still also standalone hardware MIDI sequencers, although the market demand for those has diminished greatly due to the greater feature set of their software counterparts.

One of those counter parts is software like Reason, Ableton, and many more. We are still in the infancy with software based recording and sequencing. They reason I say that is because we do not have a solid foundation built to cross support all software apps for a seamless transfer from one package to another.

Cross support or “Generalizing” (I will call it this from now on) was done in the hardware field and we called it “General MIDI”. Starting sometime in the early 90’s you began to see this logo appearing on most keyboards. In fact if you look hard enough you may still find this logo on your keyboard or recording device somewhere.

What generalizing did was create a standard programming set for an instrument on a device. Let’s see if I can remember… track 170 was set for drums or something like that while track 01 02 03 were piano’s. So what this meant is if you made a song or as we now call them loops and saved it in a general file any device that had a general MIDI sound bank would play correctly or with minimal changes. NEAT NOTE: The computer you are using to view this also has a General MIDI synthesizer built into the sound card. Want to test it? Click HERE to hear a MIDI version of As The Deer and the same song imported into Reason HERE. Notice the difference? Quite a change huh? With reason and many other software applications the sounds are generated using samples. That is another blog all together.

Here we are talking about what loops are and to answer that question I had to explain the history of using them. Really too truly answer the question is basically this. Loops are computer generated, perfectly timed renditions of the full or partial accompaniment of a song. They are triggered by the musician using a computer or trigger device. They play from point A to point B. They can be used to just add a click track usually paned to the left side of a stereo signal or a full bodied sound to fill in parts where there are no musicians to play the parts. It is that simple.

I know this blog was long but I wanted to be through with the history and samples of how the quality has changed for the better over the years. The David Crowder Band uses loops as do many artists today. Loops are not new they have been around as long almost as recording has been.  Another funny note is click tracks have been around since the first metronome was invented.

 

About the author: Scott Pearson (Username: ToHimAlone) is one of LC’s most active members. When he creates loops, the goal is to recreate a full band sound for churches that are missing members or parts. He is launching a world-wide youth group called To Him Alone Youth. His vision for To Him Alone Youth is to run a year-round camp dedicated to worship and teaching youth how to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Find out more details and listen to his loops on his seller page.

You think our loops are awesome? Excellent – we agree with you! But if you’re like most people, you have no idea how to use them in your worship set yet. Luckily, most churches fall into one of three categories based on how your worship environment is setup. Go ahead and scroll down to the section that best describes your church.

I’ve got a digital mixer and Avioms (or similar system)

You’re in the best possible case. Using loops in your worship set is as easy as it gets. You can play your loops from an iPod/MP3 player, computer, or even burn them to a CD. Have your sound engineer route the outputs of the loop track to two different Aviom channels. These two channels should not be paired so you can have individual control over the click track (usually the left channel) and the loop itself (usually the right channel). Some musicians prefer the click in both ears while others may want it in both. Your sound engineer can then send only the loop track to the main speakers. This approach ensures that your band stays in sync with the track and that they can hear and use the vocal cues in most tracks. If you already use a click track, have the engineer use a mix (sometimes called a bus, or aux) to combine both click tracks to a single Aviom channel.

I’ve got an analog mixer and Avioms

Good news, you can run our loops no problem off an analog mixer! If you are using Avioms and an analog mixer, you probably have an Aviom line level input mixer. The easiest thing to do in this scenario is route the click track (usually the left channel) directly to the Aviom input module. The click isn’t needed in the main PA, so you can save on available channels at the mixer by bypassing it completely. If you have the mic/line mixer from Aviom instead, the same methodology applies, just make sure you use a 1/4 cable to hook up, not a mic cable (XLR). Send the loop track to a channel on the mixer. If it has line level inputs (these are usually 1/4 or RCA jacks and may be labeled as ‘Stereo Inputs’), you can go directly from the MP3 player/CD to the mixer. If it only has mic inputs (XLR connectors), you’ll have to use a direct box. Direct boxes adjust the volume of mp3 players and cd players and makes them suitable for connection to your mixer. Direct boxes are available at most music stores for about $40. Your sound engineer can then mix in the loop track with the rest of the band, just as they would mix in another guitar player or vocalist.

I’ve got an analog or digital mixer, but no Avioms

Really? That’s too bad, Avioms can do amazing things for most churches, but that’s a topic for another day… The good news is that you can still use our loops! The setup is slightly complicated, but not difficult to support or maintain once it is in place. Start by getting the click track to your drummer’s ears. Often the easiest way to have your drummer engage the loop track from your mp3 player at the right time. He gets to wear just 1 headphone – the one playing the click, and keep time with it. The drummer stays on the click track and the rest of the band follows him. If headphones aren’t possible for some reason, you can send both channels from the playback device to your mixer and have your sound engineer mix the click track into the drummer’s wedge, or even better – a mini-mixer that the drummer can use for a headphone mix. There are of course, other setups and more complicated solutions. We want your worship sets to be as good as possible, so if you have questions about a specific implementation or just need clarification, shoot us an e-mail at support@loopcommunity.com and we’ll work with you and your sound team to get you going!