Summer 2017 Update

Summer is here! Hopefully you are enjoying a slower pace and taking time to relax. It really is essential, I have found, to find seasons when you can deviate from the daily grind. Maybe you are able to take a nice vacation. For others it may mean an entirely different schedule than the school year that allows you to enjoy different things. My family will be headed to Galveston a couple of times to see friends, go to the beach, and maybe a little fishing.

Here is my vacation tip (one that I need to practice as well). If you are truly trying to have a vacation, leave the work behind, all of it. That may mean leaving a laptop at home, disconnecting your email app, or turning your phone off completely. The first day is weird. It feels like you left the oven on or forgot to close the garage. Once you get over that nagging feeling, it is freeing to feel undivided. You can fully be where you are and present to whom you’re with.

For me, and perhaps for you too, this is all about control. I like to live under the illusion that I’m in control of things. I am on top of what is happening and I know what needs to be done. I sense that things are going well when I’m in control. Staying connected to my work and people who might need me gives me control. And a vacation might be the most opportune time to let go of control and join God in a Sabbath.

Summer has become a busy time for me over the last several years – go figure. This summer is no different. In July I am headed to Toronto for a week to attend the annual conference of The Hymn Society. I’ll be presenting a workshop called, “Engaging Worship and Culture: (Re)Discovering the Nairobi Statement” and talking about the work I participated in creating a resource for the ELCA. In August I will host our fifth annual Tune Up Worship Band Gathering. This year it is being held at Messiah Lutheran Church in Cypress. Tune Up is a worthwhile event where church musicians from all over the area gather for training. The week after that I will be in Atlanta for the ELCA’s first Rostered Ministers Gathering. I will be presenting two workshops: “10 Ways to Use Video Technology in Worship” and “Curating Worship for a Cross-Cultural Context.” I will also be coordinating video technology for the event.

In September I will be headed to Dubuque, Iowa for my first weeklong intensive at Wartburg Theological Seminary. I am beginning my journey toward rostered Word and Sacrament ministry in the ELCA. I am very happy about these next steps in my calling to serve the church. Fortunately the Collaborative Learning program through Wartburg will allow me to stay at Faith Lutheran and complete my degree and internship without having to leave. I am currently enrolled in a Biblical Greek course over the summer! I am eager to learn and looking forward to more school!

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Worship Band Tune Up, part 5

5. Lead guitars, sax, flute, and other instruments should not play the melody, but learn to play complementary parts in the pockets (between the vocal parts).

Read Tune Ups 1 2 3 4

I think there are also exceptions to this rule. I know there are times when I’ve had a lead solo instrument double the melody with the vocals, and it has added impact to the song. But I don’t suggest doing this more than 1 time during a set of worship songs. When you overuse this, it can sound amatureish. If you do have a solo instrument doubling the melody a lot, have them stop, and this should give your band a more professional sound instantly.

Some other solo instruments that sound good with a Worship Band:

  • cello
  • trumpet
  • clarinet
  • oboe
  • mandolin
  • hammer dulcimer
  • accordion
  • vibraphone

Learning to play complimentary parts in the pockets takes many years of musicianship to be able to do it on the fly. “In the pocket” in this sense means “between vocal parts.” The best example is on “turn-arounds” or the section of instrument music that takes you from the end of a chorus back into the beginning of a verse. Another “pocket” would be at the end of a vocal phrase, during the rests before they come back in.

Of course, if you’re going to add a solo instrument, and they can’t improvise, or even if they can, someone is going to have to write a part for every song. There is one resource that I have been consistently satisfied with when finding orchestrations for Worship Band songs. G3 music not only has creative arrangements of popular worship songs and hymns, but they also have great sounding horn parts that accent the song. G3 also allows you to subscribe to their service, or just buy single songs “a-la-cart” from the website. Having a solo instrument play the orchestration of their part from a song would be a good example of how to play in a Worship Band.

Worship Band Tune Up, part 4

Read parts 1 2 3

4. No one should ever play the melody line. (This is for the vocal team).

The obvious exception is during an instrumental section of a song. But if a vocalist is singing, an instrument can probably think of something better to play than doubling the melody being sung. Some ideas of what solo instruments (flute, violin, trumpet, etc.) can play instead:

  • a harmony at the interval of a 3rd, 4th, or 5th
  • an echo of the melody (“call and response” style)
  • follow the chord changes on sustained notes
  • play a counter-melody (something subtle that doesn’t take away from the melody)
  • when in doubt – lay out!

The rule to not play the melody also applies to keyboard instruments, unless the song is brand new and needs the support. Generaly, doubling the melody can be avoided by the keyboard. The keyboardist can think of their part as a separate accompaniment to the song and not like four-part hymn playing that doubles the melody and it’s rhythm.