Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thoughts From a [Semi] Retired Worship Leader, Part II

Continuing my thoughts... this section deals w/ my personal effects, gear preferences & wrapping it all up w/ some closing suggestions for future worship leaders.

Electric:



My main axe is an Epiphone Les Paul Standard & this guitar has smooth tone & the action is perfect. Here are my effects for my electric in order from guitar to amp/direct box:

1. Boss TU-2 Tuner
2. Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor
3. Tech 21 Sansamp GT-2
4. Boss GE-7 Equalizer
5. Boss DD-20 Giga Delay II
6. Boss Giga Delay I
7. Boss RV-5 Reverb



Again, I get all the noise out of the way at the start of my signal chain, then my overdrive & delays are next, rounded off w/ reverb. 



I'm a huge fan of both Boss & Tech 21 Sansamp products; I highly recommend the Sansamp GT2, it can be programmed for a Tweed (slight overdrive), British (amp stack) or California (more smooth overdrive) amp simulation. Like I mentioned before, I pick one overdrive & stick w/ it. I used to have a Sansamp TRI-OD & that was a great pedal, it had all three & one switch to get to all three sounds but it was replaced by the superior TRI-AC w/ three switches which I'm thinking of getting for recording purposes, it's also a highly recommended pedal.

My GT2 is set to the California amp simulation, it's so smooth & coupled w/ the modulation/smooth (smooth is a slight warm/reverb effect) settings on my DD-20's it makes my sound very warm & silky. 



My Boss GE-7 EQ pedal is next: I have it set on a slight frown configuration which gives the overall signal a mild mid-range boost (this makes the electric guitar stand out in the mix w/o the sound man having to adjust it at the board) & the pedal has a volume slider for that added boost to the sound board. This pedal is always on.  



I have my Giga Delay II running into my Giga Delay I; the II has my modulation/delay & smooth settings whereas my I usually has the more raw, analog settings; they are as follows:

Boss DD-20 II:
  • Manual = 500 ms delay, dotted 8th note, smooth
  • Bank 1 = 1 ms, dotted 8th note, mod (r/100, d/78), leslie
  • Bank 2 = 20 ms, dotted ½ note, mod (r/16, d/90), chorus
  • Bank 3 = 270 ms, 8th note mod (r/60, d/100)
  • Bank 4 = 850 ms, ¼ note smooth


Boss DD-20 I:
  • Manual = 340 ms, ½ note triplet delay , tape
  • Bank 1 = 425 ms, 8th note delay, smooth
  • Bank 2 = 365 ms, ¼ note delay, tape
  • Bank 3 = 637 ms, ½ note triplet delay, smooth
  • Bank 4 = 330 ms, ½ note triplet delay, tape


I used to have a separate chorus pedal but since chorus is basically a very tight delay I just use my delay pedal for that & save space.

The great thing about using two delay pedals is the combinations you can achieve, like the following:
  • 500 ms into the 425 ms for over the top soloing
  • 850 ms into the 637 ms for fingerpicking
  • 500 ms into the 340 ms for a galloping delay



Rounding it all out is my Boss Rv-5 set on a Modulated Reverb; I really like the warm cave feel of this setting & it's usually always on, sometimes I'll turn it off for the more “up” songs & turn it on for the slower, more intimate ones…

The signal chain is as follows & this is very important: guitar into tuner into noise suppressor into delay II into delay I into reverb pedal out to direct box or amp.  At the noise suppressor, the signal is split w/ the overdrive & EQ pedal going from the “send” into the “return” jack; this is called an effects loop & you want your noisiest pedals in this send/return loop. This is a very clean signal chain & will usually produce the best tone & sound for you.

Keyboard:



I play a little keyboard & like to sometimes sit in as a second keyboardist way in the background using pads to enhance the sound/worship experience. My keyboard of choice will always be the Korg Wavestation. It's a 25+ year old keyboard but it creates the most beautiful soundscapes you've ever heard, like a movie soundtrack, it's just indescribable how great this keyboard is for pads or really anything. One of the only drawbacks for some is it lacks a piano patch, but since I use it for background/pads/ambiance, that's not critical for me. 

Now I'm a casual keyboard player but I believe that every serious worship keyboardist needs four basic sounds:
  • Piano
  • Strings
  • Organ
  • Vox
Everything else to me is peripheral w/ the possible exception of horns. Nothing bugs me more than seeing a worship leader leading from a $1,000-2000 keyboard & using only one sound, usually the piano or piano/strings setting; you may as well sell the keyboard & lead from piano. 

In modern worship, pads are huge. Pads are simply ambient patches, usually strings but sometimes vox, that are played in the background to help set the atmosphere & assist in key changes. Normally these are not played w/ triads (the usual 1, 3, 5) but either chord voicings (1, 3 or 1, 5 or 3,5) or just the root note, sometimes held for long periods of time but always in the background. 

This is a great way to introduce keyboardists to the worship team, simply have them sit in, play pads in the background, listen to them, record practices & listen to the mix w/ them, critiquing where/when to play, if that pad sounded on or off, was too little/too much, etc. 

I personally love a keyboardist who can play rock organ, seriously… if you have an accomplished keyboardist on your team, utilize them! In place of a ripping guitar solo, try a ripping organ solo. Mix it up, try some different things, different sounds, different arrangements. 

A seasoned musician  will know when & when not to play, arrangement will come very easy w/ them on the team. As a lead guitarist, I've learned to listen to the other instruments, I've learn to play around the others, to fill holes when needed, etc & that's transferred to my keyboard playing.

Now that I've gotten the technical & gear stuff out of the way, my epilogue will deal w/ some ideas & suggestions for future worship leaders & musicians,

Thoughts From a [Semi] Retired Worship Leader, Part I

'Just some thoughts, observations & effect settings from a semi – retired worship leader/worship guitarist… 

I was involved in worship ministry for close to 30 years & retired from it almost 2 years ago; as of right now I have no plans to ever return to it on a regular basis; however, I do play occasionally when I'm asked to but I've taken on more of a mentor role as of late & I'm also busy w/ several recording projects.

I've been on a songwriting binge lately; my weapon of choice is always my Takamine 12 string acoustic guitar. I believe that any song, worship or otherwise, should have a prominent acoustic undercurrent so that it can be played equally well in a service or at the beach, 'just my personal thoughts & preferences on the matter… once I get a song pretty much nailed on the 12 string, I'll then go to my six string acoustic or my electric & see how it plays from there, adding parts, arranging, etc.

Because of my sudden burst of creativity, I've revisited my old electric guitar worship pedal board & all the various effects I used to use. Now I've seen some pedal boards that appeared to be jumbled messes of redundant pedals but to each his own; I used to be that way but decided to simplify my life & streamline everything. For me, I hate having to keep track of what pedal does what & when to engage or dis-engage it for each song. I started this philosophy w/ my overdrive pedal after I saw other worship guitarists frantically switching overdrives between songs & sometimes forgetting which overdrive to use. I determined then & there to use only one overdrive & switch it on or off, 'very much simplified my life when leading worship!

Back to my pedal board: I went through all my effects to not only see see what I used to use but also to see what was relevant to the songs I was currently writing; some were, some weren't. I saw the overused dotted 8th note delay on one of my banks & said to myself, “at the time that was pretty cool” & it was. I love U2 & their sound, but when the Church got a hold of that sound & ran it into the ground I backed away from it. It still has it's place though, like for a fellowship that hasn't heard it before, this sound could inject new life into the praise & worship setting. The other banks on my board were pretty standard stuff but it had nothing like what I was hearing in my head, so I headed online to see if there were any settings I could confiscate for my delay pedals. I found a few & a few combinations that rocked me so I spent the last week programming them in & tweaking them to my tastes. After that, the creativity just exploded.  

So the next few blogs will be on my observations & reflections as a former worship leader/guitarist & a run down on the effects I use.

Acoustic:



As I've said before, my favorite songwriting & solo worship leading instrument is my 12 string Takamine EAN40 acoustic. It has a beautiful tone, sounds great unplugged around a campfire & when I'm live in a worship setting at a fellowship I use zero effects, 'just plug it into a direct box  & unleash the power of it. To me, it's perfection. 

I rarely see a 12 string acoustic in a praise & worship setting; if you look at Hillsongs, Bethel, Gateway or Vineyard worship videos, a 12 string is nowhere to be found. Even in a local church gathering, most everything is 6 string & I've always wondered why? Now for some, they can simply add a chorus pedal to their favorite 6 string & get close to a 12 string sound... for others those 6 extra strings are just too much to handle… for still others, they just don't want to buy another acoustic & that's understandable, to each his own.



My 6 string is a completely different story: I own a Washburn Festival EA20 series; it's a thin body acoustic w/ a built-in EQ & I created a pedal board for it. It's great for intricate finger picking but since I was usually called on to play lead, it was the perfect acoustic for me. I ran it through these effects in this order: 



Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor: I usually run the noise suppressor first in my chain to get rid of any noise in my line from the get go. I also have it set where it creates a slight swell when I pick a note a certain way :)



Boss CS-3 Compression: I recommend playing an acoustic guitar through a sound system w/ a compression pedal (my 12 string being the exception); it just keeps the sound levels in check & your sound team will love you for having one & using it.



Boss Ad-3 Acoustic Pedal: this is a must-have for any serious acoustic player and/or worship guitarist. It has body shaping, chorus, reverb & feedback control. You can dial in anything from a hint of chorus or reverb to heavy doses of each, 'just depends on your taste. I've done coffee house/open mic stuff w/ it & people are always coming up afterward asking what gear I'm using for my acoustic, well… this is it!



Boss DD-20 Giga Delay: I own three of these pedals as I love them & one is in my acoustic rig. There's four banks to store your settings & a manual bank which can be used for programming, as a fifth bank or as a mini-looper.

The delays/settings in my Acoustic DD-20 are as follows:
  • Manual Bank = SOS (sound on sound looper)
  • Bank 1 = 485 ms, 8th note modulated delay (r/16, d/70)
  • Bank 2 = 270 ms, 8th note modulated delay (r/60, d/100)
  • Bank 3 = 365 ms, dotted 8th note delay, smooth setting
  • Bank 4 = 560 ms, 8th note delay, smooth setting

Note: r = rate, d = depth, “smooth” adds a very subtle/warm reverb.

The 485 ms delay is for soloing over a loop, another acoustic guitar or a piano. 
The 270 ms delay is more of a modern chorus/delay sound & is great for arpeggios.
The 365 ms delay I usually use for a pseudo U2 sound, sometimes I'll dial it to 375 ms for a slightly slower groove.
Lastly, the 560 ms delay is for fingerpicking w/ a very cool delay trail.

The noise suppressor does it's job as well & the compression pedal keeps the levels in check.   

The acoustic guitar is pretty much standard/critical for modern worship. I've seen worship teams that were either keyboard driven or guitar driven & in the latter, it's usually the acoustic carrying the load but more & more I'm seeing people lead w/ the electric guitar. I have yet to see an acoustic used as a lead guitar/soloing instrument in worship, for the most part it's a strictly rhythm instrument.

Some fellowships have a full team: drummer, bass player, keyboardist, acoustic guitarist, rhythm electric guitarist, lead electric guitarist (sometimes these latter two can seamlessly switch between rhythm & lead but that's not often the norm) & that's great if that's what you're blessed with.

As you know, too many instruments can muddy the sound, especially if they're all playing the same thing at the same time (an all too common problem) so I often recommend that the acoustic guitarist double as a lead guitarist. Instead of the rhythm electric guitarist carrying the dotted 8th notes w/ an overdrive, simply have the acoustic guitarist do it clean or w/ a slight overdrive like Tweed; it cleans things up & many people are not expecting dotted 8th notes (or any kind of delays) from the acoustic guitar.

Now, I'm a rocker at heart but I also love an acoustic, candlelight worship setting & I have these delays at my disposal to enhance the worship experience.

One last thing about the acoustic category I want to mention is I like to encourage worship teams to practice & arrange their songs for both electric & acoustic. What I mean by this is every rocking song should have an acoustic counterpart. Songs like One Way Jesus, Great In Power, In Jesus Name, etc should be played equally well on acoustic (or piano) as they are on the electric. Sometimes that's playing it at the same intensity/tempo or much slower in a different style. This kind of approach really stretches the team & helps them grow musically. 

Also, what happens if the power goes out during a service? Is your team flexible enough to grab some acoustics & carry on?

Part II will focus on my electric rig & all things concerning that ~


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tidbits: Love & Other Things

Continuing my mini-series on interesting things I find in the Bible, the passage in 2 Timothy 4 w/ Demas always comes to mind... Paul refers to Demas as a “fellow worker” in the gospel (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:24). 

Here's the infamous passage though:

2 Timothy 4:10
“for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world...”

I got to thinking about this passage & the more I did, the more it bothered me, I knew I had heard this before but I couldn't place where I had, then it hit me, the most famous passage about loving the world:

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world...”

Well, it was time to dig into the Greek & see just how similar these passages were:

John 3:16
For God so loved [agapao] the world [kosmos]...

2 Timothy 4:10
Having loved [agapao] this present world [aion]....

The word agapao is used both times, it means “of persons: to welcome, be fond of, to love dearly” & “of things: to be well pleased, be contented at or w/ a thing”.

Now, agapao is the verb form of the noun agape, which has many times been taught as the God-kind of love, Divine-love, etc.

So, God had a Divine-love for the kosmos (the world, the universe, the inhabitants of earth, the human family) & the implication is that Demas had a God-kind of love for this aion (eternity, the worlds, universe, period of time, age).

The passage in 2 Timothy says that Demas forsook Paul, it doesn't say he forsook God.

I just find these two Scriptures & their parallels interesting...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tidbits: Angels & Babies

While I'm working on some new “Hotspot” topics I thought I'd start a new mini-series called “Tidbits” = mini blogs on some observations & interesting things I've found in the Bible.

In Luke Chapter 1, we read the account of the announcement of the conception of both John the Baptist & Jesus by the angel Gabriel to the respective parents of each; here are the interesting things I found in this account:

  • Gabriel physically appears to Zacharias (the father) but not to Elizabeth (the mother), v 11
  • Gabriel physically appears to Mary (the mother) but not to Joseph (the father), v 28
  • Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, v 12
  • Mary was troubled when she saw him, v 29
  • When speaking to Zacharias, Gabriel opens w/ “fear not” then he delivers the message, v 13
  • When speaking to Mary, he opens w/ a blessing then says “fear not” & continues w/ the rest of the message, v 28

Now, in Matthew 1:20, Joseph had his mind made up about Mary but an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, he did not physically appear to him as was the case w/ Gabriel appearing to Zacharias & Mary.

Questions:

  • Why didn't the angel appear to just the women or just the men? 
  • Why didn't the angel appear to them when they were together like he did w/ the parents of Samson?

In Judges 13 we have a slightly different scenario that unfolded:

  • An angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Manoah & told her she would have a child, v 3
  • She told her husband (v 6) who asked the Lord to have him return & instruct them about this child, v 8
  • The Lord listened to him (v 9) & the angel appeared again to the wife of Manoah, who ran & got her husband (v 10) & they both talked about this situation w/ the angel, who hung around for a while then split (v 11-20)
  • Both the angel & the wife are not named

I just found these two scenarios interesting...

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Crux Conviction

I Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

Many people believe what they believe but they either: 
  • can't back it up w/ Scripture or 
  • can't say how it applies to their life 

It's always good to take some time & lay everything out, print it out, look it over & review exactly what you believe & why you believe it.



I was born on a Friday & in a church service 48 hours later; as of Autumn 2016 I will have been saved for 43 years. I grew up in the Assemblies of God & I believe in their tenets of faith/fundamental truths as follows:
  • The Bible is Inspired by God and declares His design and plan for mankind.
  • There is One True God - revealed in three persons...Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (commonly known as the Trinity).
  • In the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ - As God's son Jesus was both human and divine.
  • The Fall of Man ushered in evil and death, both physical and spiritual, into the world.
  • The Salvation of Man - Man's only hope of redemption is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
  • The Ordinances of the Church - (1) Water Baptism by Immersion after repenting of one's sins and receiving Christ's gift of salvation, (2) Holy Communion (the Lord's Supper) as a symbolic remembrance of Christ's suffering and death for our salvation.
  • The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is for everyone and empowers believers for witnessing and effective service, just as it did in New Testament times.
  • The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is 'Speaking in Tongues,' as experienced on the Day of Pentecost and referenced throughout Acts and the Epistles. 
  • Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God.
  • The Church has a Mission to seek and save all who are lost in sin.
  • Divine Healing of the sick is a privilege for Christians today.
  • The Blessed Hope - When Jesus Raptures His church prior to His return to earth.
  • The Millennial Reign of Christ - when Jesus returns with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years.
  • A Final Judgment Will Take Place for those who have rejected Christ.
  • New Heavens and a New Earth - that Christ is preparing for all people, of all time, who have accepted Him.

These are things that I fundamentally believe, 
they are my very basic, core beliefs & they will not change.

My theology is sound; I do wrestle though w/ certain denominational practices & doctrines, the main one being the lone/senior pastor pyramid structure. I believe the Bible models [especially in Acts] plurality/elder oversight. I tried to articulate this several times but decided that perhaps someone else has done a better job of it so I found these two websites that explain it much better, please take the time to visit these two:

https://bible.org/article/who-should-run-church-case-plurality-elders



Though I believe & endorse elder oversight, this hasn't stopped me from faithfully serving in fellowships that have a senior pastor pyramid structure; I've worked well w/ both pastors and elders; wherever I'm called, I serve, period.

Prior to joining my last fellowship, I sat down w/ the pastor & we talked about theology, doctrine & church structure, the conversation went something like this:

Me: I feel that God is calling me here for a season but I have to tell you something: I have nothing against pastors but I believe the Bible models elder oversight.

Him: Oh I agree w/ you! The Bible does model that. You might be interested to know that we're already implementing a change in our bylaws & constitution that more closely resembles the Early Church, it places more responsibilities on the elders & less on me. If there's a need in the fellowship or from outside it, we send them to elders who investigate, pray about it & take action. The elders will handle about 80% of things, if they feel we need to change direction/format or implement something, I will listen to them & their counsel, we'll all pray about it together & make a move. The only reason I have “final say” is I started this fellowship & my name is on the paperwork! 

Me: Ha! Good one.

Him: I've known you for a long time, I know your heart... I respect your stance & I believe we can work together.

Me: That's good to hear, I too think we can work together.

You know what? I faithfully served in both the worship ministry & social media ministry there for two years & we got along great in that time. 

I prefer elder oversight but I don't actively oppose lone pastoral oversight; elder oversight reflects the Scripture “in the counsel of many there is wisdom”. Elder oversight tends to remove any possible personal bias that a pastor may have toward someone or something.



I prefer home church; I love the intimacy, structure & accountability found in that format but I don't actively oppose the institutional/traditional church. I'm all for Believers getting together on a regular basis & those Believers should have the freedom to meet in either format without judgments from either side concerning the others existence/validity. 

Note: there is valid concern that home church is not “church” as it has no pastoral oversight, that it's basically Bible Study 2.0; etc. Most home churches do have mature Believers/elders that lead, teach, disciple & oversee the gatherings. There is equal concern that the institutional church is not “church” as it has no elder oversight, does not meet in homes, etc; believe me, I've heard & researched arguments on each side of this but I'm going to blog more on this topic later in the year so stay tuned for that.

The tenets are my very basic/core beliefs.
My two preferences are simply my personal preferences.