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The Bible, The Spirit, & Diet Mountain Dew

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So you’re not Yngwie Malmsteen – Part 2

So what if you can’t defeat a three-headed dragon with your shredding guitar solos…  I mean seriously…  Book of Revelations aside…  What’s the job market even like for that skill set anyway?…

No, being a mere mortal guitarist is not the end of the world…  If you need a refresher, go back & check out Part 1.  Otherwise, let’s pick up where we left off with some practical tips for being your best you…


PREPARATION

lead_worship_like_a_boy_scout_355716596

Admittedly, its probably the former Boy Scout in me, but I REALLY dislike the idea of being THAT GUY at rehearsal that isn’t as prepared as they should be.  I mean, its happened from time to time, but as a general rule… If I can’t commit to being ready for Wednesday Nights, I’m more likely to decline the opportunity to serve.

So what does “ready” look like for me?…  Let’s dive in…

MONDAY NIGHT: Generally, this night is focused mainly on setting up delays, reverbs, & other effects, followed by a first run through of what looks like the most troublesome parts.  If its a new song or a song I haven’t done in awhile… I’ll take more time to figure out all the parts I’ll need to play.  If they’re all very familiar songs, I may take less time.  In total though, this night usually requires a minimum of an hour to get it all done.

TUESDAY NIGHT: This night is all about repetitions… As the old saying goes… Amateurs practice until they get it RIGHT… But Professionals practice until they CAN’T get it WRONG…  I tend to shoot for somewhere in between… Or whenever the kids start complaining that they can’t sleep with all the noise.  Usually, this is at least another hour in total.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT:  A former Worship Leader I worked with drilled into our team that PRACTICE is what you do on your own time.  When we all get together, that’s called a REHEARSAL… And that is not the time to be figuring all of your parts out.  Rehearsals are about putting the pieces together.  If everyone isn’t ready, that can become a very difficult & frustrating situation for everyone involved.

THURSDAY – SATURDAY NIGHT:  Some of this depends on how well or how poorly Rehearsal went.  But generally, I’ll always get in at least one final run-through on my own before Sunday comes.  More typically though, its two run-throughs. At this point, the run-throughs don’t take as long… maybe 30 minutes each.

So all total, that’s 2.5 hours of commitment at a minimum whenever I’m on Electric.  And that doesn’t count Rehearsals, Soundchecks, or the Services themselves.  That may seem excessive to some of you, but its what I need to feel really confident going live.  Your mileage may vary, but I do strongly suggest everyone do some introspection on what you’re putting into your own personal preparation.


So what’s the biblical perspective on all this?…  Well, there’s lots of good quotes from the bible on bringing God your best…  But leave it to the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament to really put some fire in your belly…

All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you! ~ Malachi 1:13-14

I was going to make some kind of quippy remark about how over the top Malachi seems to be here, but then I remembered…  You just don’t mess around with those Old Testament dudes…

Raiders Face Melt.gif

***Courtesy of Lucasfilms, Disney, & Paramount Pictures…

When I was 10 years old, this scene gave me nightmares for weeks.  So I’m just going to back away slowly with my eyes closed like Indiana Jones told us to & change the subject…


WHAT PREPARATION DOESN’T LOOK LIKE

So as, Epic Train Wreck stories go…  This is the one that the scars run deepest from.  Our Acoustic player was slotted to start the 2nd song in our set that week.  Only problem was that it was in a different key than Song #1… and he forgot to move the Capo.  So Song 2 starts and here he goes starting it in the wrong key.  Like slow moving dominoes, each player eventually figures out that we’re not all in the same key & adjusts to the key that the Acoustic & now Singers are in.  The player on Keys did this by making a quick Pitch Shift adjustment to get to the right key.

Just one problem…  The Keys started Song 3 and guess who forgot to reset their Pitch to neutral?  You guessed it…  So Rinse/Repeat on the slow dominoes of figuring out that we’re yet again all playing in different keys.  Somehow we recover and mercifully, that was the last song before the sermon.

But we did have to come back for a closing song, so we debriefed the whole thing in excruciating detail, but had a good laugh about it in the end.  And btw Keys…  You’re starting off this last song, so don’t forget to adjust the Pitch back to neutral.  Got it?

not-so-muchRinse Repeat.gif

Okay… So maybe that train wreck wasn’t all about Preparation or Lack Thereof…  Definitely some absentmindedness going on… But my point is this… ANYTHING can happen when you “go live” on Sunday morning… The better prepared you are, the more effectively you can deal with it.

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So you’re not Yngwie Malmsteen – Part 1

Here’s a straight up truth-bomb for ya…  I am not a great guitarist…  I am not the guy at Guitar Center that drops everybody’s jaws with his amazing displays of speed, technique, & all around chops…  I’m just not that guy… And I’m totally okay with that…

I figured out a long time ago that this ship had sailed for me already and I made peace with it. I decided that I’d work what skills I did have to be the best me I could be & so far, that’s worked out pretty well.  Fortunately, as a worship team guitarist… we’re not often called upon to produce blazing solos with 32nd note precision…  Unless that is, you see something by Lincoln Brewster pop up in Planning Center…  But we’ll double back to that later…  What I’d like to offer you here are some easy to apply suggestions to help you be the best YOU possible…  So without further ado…


SIMPLIFY

Whenever I run into a challenging guitar part, I will first make every effort to try to nail the part before Wednesday Night Rehearsal.  Just doing this one thing will stretch the boundaries of what you’re capable of over time, even if you can’t nail it perfectly.

However, if I get to Friday and I’m still struggling with it, more often than not I’m going to simplify that part.  Personally, I’d rather play something that’s close & I can nail 9 out of 10 times vs. playing something more difficult that I’m more likely to botch when we go live.

So what does that look like?  Well, here’s an example from the beginning measures of the Bridge for This I Believe (The Creed) by Hillsong.  So first of all, I’m convinced that Nigel Hendroff has 6 fingers on his left hand and finally, we have the scientific evidence that proves it…

6-fingers

So with the pressure of living up to that off of us, let’s look closely at the recorded Lead Line…  This is at the 2:22 mark of the song if you’re listening in Planning Center…

e-------5---8--------8---8--|------7-7------8-7-5----|
b--5\h8---5--------5---5----|----8--------8-------8--|
G----------------5----------|--7--------7------------|
D---------------------------|------------------------|
A---------------------------|------------------------|
E---------------------------|------------------------|

I’ve looked at several different tutorials online & this seems to be the prevalent arrangement demonstrated.  Personally, I take a slightly different approach…

e-----------8--------8---8--|------7-7------8-7------|
b-------8----------8----8---|----8--------8-----10-8-|
G--5-------------5-----5----|--7--------7------------|
D---------------------------|------------------------|
A---------------------------|------------------------|
E---------------------------|------------------------|

So what’s my thought process here?…  For one… I can get through these two measures (which repeat several times) with just two chord shapes…  A 5th chord shape in the first measure… And a D-chord shape in the second measure…  That makes for a very repeatable lead line.

What else am I thinking?…  Well, for one… I’m betting the congregation probably won’t miss that B-string hammer-on…  And once you’ve added in delay, you’re casual worshiper won’t be able to tell the difference between the two with the entire band playing.

Lastly, take note of the subtle change in the second measure where I’ve subbed the 5th fret High E string for the 10th fret B string.  Its the same note, but by moving it to the 10th fret B, I can maintain that D chord shape & play the 10th fret with my pinkie.  If I stuck with the original tab, I’d have to break the chord shape to accomplish essentially the same thing.

This is just one example of many where I’ll shamelessly make things easier for myself to deliver in a live setting.  But the principles can be applied many places…

See you at Part Two…

Inside Jokes

Six months had gone by since I surrendered my life to Jesus and I was still struggling with so much of the “church stuff” that turned me off when I was 18.  But our church had done the Purpose Driven Life study as a congregation and it gave me some hope that hadn’t previously existed.  As the study drew to a close, one of the key points was to find somewhere to plug in & serve.

So on a Wednesday Night in April, I found myself wandering around the church campus praying to God to reveal to me where it was I was supposed to serve.  My wife had already settled into the choir.  My oldest was in the nursery.  So I’m alone, walking around, feeling like I fit in exactly NO WHERE.  After an hour or so of this, I’m started to get really agitated and I’m quickly drawing the conclusion that there’s no point to ANY of this…


24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” ~ Matthew 17

What an odd little story we have here…  Does anybody else ever have that feeling reading the bible?… No?… Just me then…

Let’s get some perspective here & see if what happens…  We know that Peter is one of Jesus’s closest peeps… He was one of the Big Three…  Peter, James, & John…  You know… Mount of Transfiguration…  Raising a girl from the dead…  Garden of Gethsemane…  At all of these pivotal moments, Jesus pulls in his closest allies…

But in this story, Peter is having a moment of doubt about his friend.  Jesus offers him an explanation without him even asking, but he knows this is something Peter will have to chew on for a bit…  So he sends him fishing…

DID YOU CATCH IT?…  He sends the FISHERMAN… FISHING… to work out his doubts.  That’s either the best or the worst Inside Joke ever!


And its not like this is the only example of Jesus enjoying a good inside joke with the boys…

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. ~ John 21

DID YOU CATCH IT?…  Jesus stands on the shore, but conceals himself from being recognized .  The boys haven’t caught a thing?…  Throw your nets on the other side?…  Remind you of anything?…  Like that other time by the lake?… Peter caught on quickly, that’s for sure…

Have you ever considered that Jesus has a sense of humor?  That may unnerve some of my readers, but seriously?… Where do you think we got it from given the whole Man in His Image thing?…


[PAUSE]  I’m no theologian…  And I certainly don’t intend to dive into anything so deep as The Trinity in this blog post…

But I have this mental image that has stuck with me ever since that night.  It’s Jesus as he turns to the Father & the Spirit with this big sheepish grin and say, “Watch this!”…


So I’m just about to give up and call it a night when I hear it.  At first, I thought maybe I was hearing things… Because there is NO WAY that I am hearing For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica coming from the Old Chapel…  There’s just so much wrong with that picture… I mean did the Southern Baptist Convention know about this?…  Was I being punked?…  Like, where is Ashton Kutcher, cause I know he’s around here somewhere?…

Nope…  Just the Youth Praise Band warming up before someone came in & made them get serious about rehearsal…  Which is actually pretty typical as Youth Praise Bands go…

And so through a love of 80’s Metal he drew me in…And launched a journey into Worship Ministry I could have never seen coming… Inside Joke indeed…

Enter Sandman

Mercifully… Piano lessons ended and for the rest of middle & high school, my development as a musician ended with it. Unless you count those two months with the French Horn in 7th grade, but thankfully… it didn’t stick & I’ve been able to mostly block all memory of it.

The thing about all those attempts to learn an instrument boils down to this…  The music sucked!… If you’ve ever sat through an elementary school piano recital or middle school band performance, you know what I’m talking about. And that’s in no way a knock on the tiny musicians…  They’re giving it all they’ve got!…  I’m just saying that hours & hours of 10 Little Indians never really captivated me or made me want to play.  And if I didn’t want to play it, I lost interest FAST!

So what was I interested in playing?…  Somewhere along the way, I decided I was going to go counterculture musically to the world I grew up in… And in eastern North Carolina in the 80’s…  Radio stations came in three flavors: Country, Pop, & More Country. So when I discovered the Headbangers Ball on MTV, I was in love…


As far back as when Cronkite was still on the CBS news, my cousin from SC & I spent one week together every summer and it was always the highlight of my summers. We alternated houses annually, one year in NC… the next year in SC…

As we moved on into high school, he started taking Bass & Electric Guitar lessons.  He had no sooner taught me the chords to Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions and I was HOOKED!…

Only one problem…  I had no guitar  of my own.  So every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or any other family gathering, we’d get together & he’d show me the latest riffs he’d been learning. And I’d play for hours until my fingers hurt so bad I had to stop. Bryan Adams wasn’t kidding…


It wasn’t until my Freshman year of college that I finally bit the bullet. I saved up money all year & in the Spring of ’91, bought a blue Kramer Pacer Deluxe & a 10 watt Crate amp off of a friend of a friend.  It was a great little guitar that I completely underappreciated at the time.  And the case only smelled a little bit like marijuana…

The only real problem was the Spring semester was going to end & I had to go home for the summer…


My dad was a frugal man… People would give him clothes for Christmas… Jeans for instance… And he would store them in his closet, many times still in the gift box, until the jeans he was presently wearing developed enough holes to justify replacing.  This cycle could take up to 3 years to complete…

So the thought of bringing home a guitar & amp that I’d spent several hundred dollars on TERRIFIED me!…

I begged a friend that lived nearby to let me hide the guitar & amp at his house for the summer.  He had a great detached Rec Room at his house that we could jam in for hours without bothering anyone. But after about two weeks of this, I couldn’t stand it…

So one day while mom & dad were at work, I did EVERY chore I could think of without being asked… I mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, cleaned the gutters, & fed the cows…  Yes, we had cows… I did mention the Eastern NC thing, right?  Then I laid the guitar out on my bed (which he had to walk by to get to his room)… And then I left the house as fast as I could & didn’t return until almost dark…


Not often, but every once in a while, people will surprise you… Even your parents…

I came home that evening & nothing was said about the guitar. Like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, I wandered through the house waiting for the shoe to drop. It never did… Eventually, I put the guitar in the case and went to bed.  At least the marijuana smell was mostly gone by then.


A few months later, but still the same summer, I was playing in the bedroom when dad walked through.  He stopped, looked right at me and said, “I always wanted to learn how to play guitar…”  And then he continued on through the house like nothing had happened.  We’ve never spoken about it since, which is pretty typical of our relationship…


I left one thing out earlier…  I also quit piano because I thought he didn’t approve.  Even though he’d never said anything close to these words, I believed he thought playing piano was for sissies, so I wanted nothing to do with it.

I didn’t know at the time what playing guitar would eventually mean for me.  But I do know that without his 9 words of affirmation, it could’ve turned out completely different.  So even though he’ll never read this… Thanks Dad!

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