Playing and singing gospel music

dreadnut

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I love to lead singing with my guitar. This is mainly why I got into guitar in the first place, because I wanted to lead music with my youth group around the campfire.

Other than an occasional open mic, when I'm out with my guitar its to lead singing; at church functions, at retirement homes and so forth.

I'm putting on a workshop in May for worship musicians, and one of the primary things I want to communicate is this:

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SINGING! With our guitars, we are providing accompaniment. We don't drive the singing with our guitars, we compliment the singing with them. The instruments are secondary.

Modern guitar-shredding worship leaders aren't the first ones to get this wrong; church organ players have been drowning out their congregations for eons.

What think ye?
 

Westerly Wood

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IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SINGING! With our guitars, we are providing accompaniment. We don't drive the singing with our guitars, we compliment the singing with them. The instruments are secondary.
this is why i always failed. :) i was ever a better piece in the machine than actually leading anything.

"a man's got to know his limitations"--dirty harry

and why Dread it was always best when Nicola sings and I just play :)...
example: https://soundcloud.com/woody-adams/by-grace-alone-with-nic
 
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gjmalcyon

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For me, the purest form of worship music is voices only: The Benedictine Monks' chants, the unaccompanied Cantor, the Muezzin's call to prayer.

If I want the music to suffuse my being, then sanctified gospel is the way to go.

Take this all with a grain of salt - I am an agnostic so these all represent musical forms with no faith-based connotations for me.
 

adorshki

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"Separate but equal", depending on the "mission".
I can see your point about words having primary importance in worship, otherwise, I've written words that sometimes wait for years to meet the right music, and sometimes I compose instrumentals that are never intended to get words but once in a while I'll realize a new song idea would work perfectly with an old instrumental piece.
If there's gonna be words, they usually come first, along with the germ of a melody.
And maybe 5 times in my life they both kind of serendipitously arrived at the same time.
Edit after seeing GJM's post:
Sometime towards the end of my high school days, the music itself became a spiritual celebration.
Music can enhance or totally destroy lyrics.
And the most spiritual piece of music I know of is John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme".
Only one infrequently repeated lyric, the title.
:friendly_wink:
 
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dreadnut

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In my Grandma's old Dutch Bible, the Psalms are in the back of the book and they are all set to music. They would only sing the Psalms because unlike hymns, they are Scripture. Each one of the 150 Psalms are songs. It occurs to me that although we don't have the original tunes, the lyrics survived. So the old Dutch people had it right - they put their contemporary tunes on the old Psalms.
 

adorshki

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Each one of the 150 Psalms are songs. It occurs to me that although we don't have the original tunes, the lyrics survived.
Um, you're just in the wrong church.
You just need to go around the corner to the synagogue.
:friendly_wink:
Suspect that may have something to do with why Old Testament music wasn't, uh, "preserved" along with the Psalms.
King David actually had a reputation as quite the rocker/party animal, BTW.
A textbook example of a flawed hero.
 

dreadnut

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Um, you're just in the wrong church.
You just need to go around the corner to the synagogue.
:friendly_wink:
Suspect that may have something to do with why Old Testament music wasn't, uh, "preserved" along with the Psalms.
King David actually had a reputation as quite the rocker/party animal, BTW.
A textbook example of a flawed hero.
Good point. I've just never heard any of the original tunes that may have been passed down.

And in fact, this old poetic form is a music of its own.
 

gjmalcyon

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And speaking of gospel music, NPR is running the six-part WXPN World Cafe Words and Music series, "The Gospel Roots of Rock and Soul".

Episodes are here.
 

killdeer43

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I was a singer first. I picked up guitar after encouragement from a guitar player who heard me sing.
And 49 years later, I still appreciate his encouragement. :encouragement:

Joe
 

adorshki

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And in fact, this old poetic form is a music of its own.
And to be fair, the cantor is traditionally unaccompanied as GJM described.
But he is singing old melodies.
 

PittPastor

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Well, here's a topic I can't resist...

I think it depends on a lot of things. I do agree that a lot of "worship leaders" seem more intent on a good performance, than being a good leader for the congregation. That's even more true now in the modern churches where the band is part of the "experience" that the church sells. So, they are expected to perform. I must say, I'm not a big fan of that. And I read a blog that was put out by one of the "leaders" in a mega church that said no one on the worship team should waste their time on an acoustic guitar. Anyone on his team who plays acoustic is just there for show, and they usually drop them from the mix. since no one can really hear them anyway. (I'm not making that up!)

However, I have also noticed that my church sings better when they don't think they will be easily heard over the music. They feel a little intimidated, and music that is loud enough to make them secure is where we try to set things. If we have just a simple light acoustic, you have to be pretty sure of your voice. No one wants to croak out a bad note that is easily heard. So, I think it is a balancing act there. And I think it depends on the group of people who are singing.

I don't play for worship much... every now and then I will. But I try to stay focused on the preaching part and let others do the music. The folks who devote themselves full time to it are better for one thing, and for another I am surprised how much my voice can get worn out when I preach AND sing in a service.

But I also think I don't have a voice that is easy to sing along with. Some people just seem to be blessed with that. I can sing all right, but it doesn't seem to be a blendable voice -- if that makes sense -- like some singers have.

IDK. I know that worship done right is an amazing thing. Years ago, I was at a "Promise Keeprs" event in Denton Texas. Almost entirely men. Maybe 20-30 thousand. And in between speakers, someone started "Holy Holy Holy" and everyone joined in. Acapella of course. The sound of 30,000 men raising their voices singing holy holy holy was something I will never forget.

The paper reported the next day that some cars pulled off to the side of the road, and people got out just to listen, or to join in.

The best stuff in life is rarely planned...
 

dreadnut

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I feel your pain, Pastor. I know you can't make that up; I heard almost exactly the same thing from a church "worship leader" recently. (I put that in parentheses because I don't even like that term. At my church, I'm the "Music Director.")

I don't think it's just because I'm getting older - I still love loud Rock-n-Roll in the right settings. I just happen to believe the church service is not one of those settings.

I guess I draw the line between "performance" and "participation." I've attended too many church services where the band loudly cranked out song after song that nobody in the congregation knew. Fog machines, bright lights, disco balls, I'm not kidding. Makes my head want to explode.
 

fronobulax

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I love to lead singing with my guitar. This is mainly why I got into guitar in the first place, because I wanted to lead music with my youth group around the campfire.

Other than an occasional open mic, when I'm out with my guitar its to lead singing; at church functions, at retirement homes and so forth.

I'm putting on a workshop in May for worship musicians, and one of the primary things I want to communicate is this:

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SINGING! With our guitars, we are providing accompaniment. We don't drive the singing with our guitars, we compliment the singing with them. The instruments are secondary.

Modern guitar-shredding worship leaders aren't the first ones to get this wrong; church organ players have been drowning out their congregations for eons.

What think ye?
I would be careful about how you comment about volume and drowning the congregation out. It is true that many times a leader appears to err on the side of "too loud" but there are also may times when the person in the front pew says "too loud" and the person in the back says "did they hymn start yet?" and the organist or sound engineer has proposed a $300 fix that might help and the governing body says "Nope. Rather spend the money elsewhere. Live with it".

A good musician will be sensitive to the environment and vary the volume accordingly. Does the congregation know what they are singing well enough that the accompaniment can be light or does it need to be "firmer" so that the accompaniment leads them into perhaps unfamiliar territory? Is the hymn text contemplative or is it a rousing "go out into the world"? As PittPastor pointed out, is the congregation timid and will sing out more when they think they personally are less likely to be heard?

If the people who hear you leave with the understanding that one volume does not fit all circumstances and they have become sensitive to the choices they make then you will have done well.

A second point I would make is that it is praise, not a performance. Usually that phrase is used to rein in a guitarist who wants a solo in every piece or needs to swap the Strat for the Les Paul in the middle of the song, but is is also used as an excuse to do less than the musical best. So what that I can't change from F# to G fast enough? So if people leave with a sense of when to strive for performance quality and when to back off you will have done well again.

It is all about the voices and in the Orthodox tradition there are no instruments used at all.

Good luck. I expect a lot of attendees are going to go away with things to think about.
 

Westerly Wood

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i do remember the best times were when it was more an acoustic set and not full band, and hearing the voices, everyone singing and with one accord, were pretty special. good memories, while i am pretty far removed from those days. i am glad i can still play these same songs in my bedroom with no one there at all. :)
 

PittPastor

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i do remember the best times were when it was more an acoustic set and not full band, and hearing the voices, everyone singing and with one accord, were pretty special. good memories, while i am pretty far removed from those days. i am glad i can still play these same songs in my bedroom with no one there at all. :)
Playing on the edge of the bed is still my favorite place to play! My dog doesn't much like it tho. Sticks his head under the bed when I start strumming. Meh, everyone's a critic!

BTW, the song that you posted? Was that just a phone recording? It seemed to pick up some room ambiance. And, yes, Nicola sounded great, but so did the guitar! Filled the room!
 

PittPastor

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At my church, I'm the "Music Director.")
We mostly sing to backing tracks. My son runs it. And we refer to him as our "Worship DJ."

I guess I draw the line between "performance" and "participation." I've attended too many church services where the band loudly cranked out song after song that nobody in the congregation knew. Fog machines, bright lights, disco balls, I'm not kidding. Makes my head want to explode.
Yeah, it's all about "the experience." I have to say, though, hats off to those singers who can perform in those conditions. That stage fog really messes up my throat. I don't know how they do it.

It used to be, when someone would tell me Acoustic Guitar wasn't "worshipful enough" I'd send them a link of Phil Keaggy.

Now I send them this... one of the greatest guitar intros out there. And then when the other strings kick in... wow. Just wow.

 

Westerly Wood

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Playing on the edge of the bed is still my favorite place to play! My dog doesn't much like it tho. Sticks his head under the bed when I start strumming. Meh, everyone's a critic!

BTW, the song that you posted? Was that just a phone recording? It seemed to pick up some room ambiance. And, yes, Nicola sounded great, but so did the guitar! Filled the room!
thanks Pitt. i used a flip video back then, before the iphone tech did away with that devise.
but remember, i put the mp4 into camtasia to crank volume, so could be that too.
here is another of Nic singing, it is outside so definitely some ambiance :)
https://soundcloud.com/woody-adams/love-of-god-is-greater-far definitely one of my fave tunes to play, sing or hear
 

gjmalcyon

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In the early ‘70’s and for a couple of years, I played a folk mass every Saturday evening at the Catholic church down the street with my buddy Dave. “I played” badly overstates my role: Dave rehearsed the two of us, arranged the music, led the singing, and played all the chords (even the hard ones). I hung out to his right and behind him, played what chords I could manage, and tried to not screw up too badly. (This is also when and how I met the girl who would become my wife.)


I remember some Saturday evenings were loud with song and participation and others quiet. The hymns changed with the liturgical calendar (thus not too often), so it wasn’t familiarity (or lack thereof) with the music.


I always chalked it up to the variability of the crowd.
 
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