Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lead Worship workshop with Paul Baloche

Tuesday 16th November 2010

I’ve just come out of the closing session of Paul Baloche’s workshop and while I wait for the worship concert to start tonight, I thought I’d write a bit of a blog about the day.
This will probably be a bit of a random selection of thoughts and notes but I wanted to get stuff down while it was still fresh in my mind.
There was a lot of emphasis placed on timing and “the click”. The band actually plays to a click live on stage! They have it played through their in-ear speakers. They all practise to a click on their own too! The drummer has an electronic metronome beside him which is connected to the monitor system (ie, what the band hears, not what ‘we’ hear). The drummer selects the tempo and starts the metronome.
The drummer also uses some techniques to communicate the timing of a song to the band before they fully launch into a song. Typically this would be a couple of well timed cymbal taps or a shaker. The congregation/audience only notice it as atmospherics - the band uses it to lock down the tempo.
The drummer has the set list pinned to the metronome and beside each song is the BPM. So he just punches it in as each song starts. There’s also a tap-in tempo selector if he’s not sure exactly what BPM he needs.
Oh yes, it’s a beep rather than a click sound, as the click can get lost a lot easier in the real drums sounds.
While our band at church will not feasibly be able to have a click played to all members, it’s definitely something the drummer can do with a dedicated set of head phones perhaps. That said, perhaps we can have the click played through the monitor speakers?
While we’re on drumming, another main topic was that of ‘drum loops’. These are pre-recorded drum beats that are usually a bit more complicated or involved than the standard beat you would play during a live song. Indeed, they are often many drum beats mixed together to create an overall groove.
Again the drummer has control over this as he has a laptop beside him which is connected to the PA system. This time, the sound IS fed to the congregation.
The loop would start the song of and the drummer would play the normal beat over the top.
There are loads of websites out there that supply pre-recorded drum loops for free and for purchase. There are some recommended software packages to put on a laptop which can be used to manage the drum loop in the live situations.
One final cool thing about drum loops is that they are a lot more fun for the drummer to practise along with!
Drum loops is one of the major missing pieces we have in sounding more like one of the CDs that we like to listen to. We would need to look into how to provide the laptop and have it connected up to the PA system.

As for worship itself there were no magic cheat sheets to how to be an effective worship leader (by the way, this includes everyone in the band, not just the person calling the songs). If I was to sum up the core message of the day is that worship is something we should LIVE, not something we DO. Indeed, Paul used the phrase, it is something that is “caught, not taught”.
So what does that mean in practical terms? Well it means that we should be practising a lot – but not just the actual musical composition, but the words. Get to the point where you don’t need the words or music in front of you. Sing the words over and over. But don’t just sing a song then sing it again or move to the next one – sing many songs; make a melody of the ones you know and like. Even throw in random lines from well known songs, hymns or even Psalms!
In fact, the band spend a lot of time talking about singing Psalms and reading Bible passages in between the songs you are singing.
All of this prepares you for God leading you in how you lead worship.
One thing was very clear today and that is the band only has a rough framework of what they want to do during a worship set. Before during and after songs they may just doodle over the words of a song, or speak Bible verses or well known lines from other songs. They are mainly just hanging on a single chord and playing/singing over that. One of the most striking examples was when Paul called the congregation to just sing lines themselves – while Paul sang a particular line over and over, the congregation sang their own lines. I’m not sure this is something that our church is ready for, but it was an interesting dynamic.
A lot of the above of course is down to the actual leader, or the worship pastor as they preferred to call it. It is up to the leader to interpret how God is leading the time of worship. But crucially – the rest of the band will follow the leader and will be able to do so because they have practised the songs so much and committed the words to their hearts that it comes naturally.
So the core message here is that we as members of the worship band should be singing and playing our songs as often as possible in our own time, committing the words to our hearts. While I don’t see St Paul’s opening up to free worship like this for a while, the principle still holds true.
One particular piece of advice I have taken to heart is to go to the church in my own time every now and again and simply play. Turn the PA on and just play. I’d love to share that time with anyone who would like to do it with me.
Some other titbits from the day:
We are all “mini-g’s” – a tongue-in-cheek reference to mini Gods or mini creators. The meaning being that everything else in creation operates to God’s divine design and plan – whereas humans can actually “create”. After all, that’s what music is, right? Our creativity. We should consider that gift an incredible blessing and we should use it!!
When we practise and prepare for leading on a Sunday, we should close our eyes and imagine looking at our church. In our mind, picture various people that we know and where they sit. We’re leading THEM in worship. Pray for them and picture them as we prepare.
New songs. No hard and fast rule about how often to introduce new songs. One band member said when they introduce a new song, they do it for 3 weeks in a row. Others were saying one new song a month. Give them a chance but don’t be afraid to drop them if they don’t work.
“Pads” on a keyboard are incredibly atmospheric. Even if the keyboard player just holds this and does nothing else for 5 minutes, this can be incredibly powerful.
Don’t force or guilt people into worship. Some people will always look grumpy. The main thing is to lead by example. Make the time of worship a time of WORSHIP! Not just songs. Let God soften their hearts.
Bass guitar. A cool technique during the quieter parts of songs is to play as far up the neck as possible to get softer notes. Then to move down the neck (playing exactly the same thing, groove and all!) when you start to build up the song, and perhaps even during the livelier parts.
Finally, worship have a relaxing, welcoming, community feel. Paul used the term “unconcert”. IE, the big concerts are on Friday and Saturday night where the music is played to you – the unconcert is where people should be having the opportunity to come to God. Consider even an imaginery fire place at the front of church and we are all gathered around it!

All in all, a fantastic day and I’m really looking forward to trying to apply what we learned to our own situation.

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