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I hate to practice. It’s no secret, I’d rather be playing live with other musicians than sitting in a room playing with a recording, or working on scales and technique. Let’s face it, practice is boring and repetitive. It is, however, necessary. In order to build the skills needed to perform, you need to learn skills.
Simple, but boring.
Some of the things I do to spice it up is I’ll take a break and hit shuffle on my music player. then I play along with whatever pops up. Sometimes I’ll put on the TV and play along with the show and commercials, trying to change the feel of the scene.
What are some of the things you do to make practice easier?
It’s been a while, but I’m back. There have been a few changes, all for the better. Here are the new changes:
1. We are starting sound check 15 minutes earlier.
2. We are doing a REAL sound check. Yep, one actually run by the sound engineer in a orderly manner.
So far, they positive changes that have had positive impact.
Have you made any changes?
Are they working?
I’ll try to post after ever worship team experience and keep you up to date on our progress.
Lessons in real life. Or in other words, that is not how it’s done. Today’s church worship service was a bit shaky. We had decided at rehearsal that the new song we had just learned was ready to perform. Normally we would not learn something on Thursday and play it on Sunday. To add to the degree of difficulty, both the worship leader and lead guitarist were not in attendance on Thursday. It is just a bad idea. But against all odds, it worked. the song went well. Too bad I can’t say the same about the songs we already knew. We had an issue with the timing of one song, and in another, the drummer went to the chorus while the rest of us went to the bridge. Then we had a misstep that stood out. The musicians are all on in ears. The acoustic guitarist and the keyboard players have open air headphones, but the drummer, myself and lead guitarist are on actual in ear monitors and cannot hear anything that is not in the mix. There was a pause between the third and fourth songs. One of the congregation started to speak, a common thing after worship, but we did not hear it. It lead to 30 or 40 seconds of use playing the intro and wondering why the rest of the group was holding off. We eventually stopped but it was very awkward. I have been asking for ambient mics on stage for this very reason it has never happened. I hope that is becomes a lesson learned and not a mistake to be repeated.
What interesting things have happen to you ?
Despite my best efforts, I haven’t posted in awhile. The worship team has settled into a groove of sorts and things are running OK. The never ending battle between how things look and how they sound is still being waged. To recap this, there is a disagreement between what the musicians want and what the powers that be will allow. Our stage has been stripped of most of the sound making equipment. There are electronic drums, no amps of any kind and we are trying to cover a 30 foot section of the stage that the 8 singers occupy with 2 very old, very poor sounding stage monitors. The reasoning is it looks better. I know it makes the musicians job harder. I have gotten used to using in ears but I miss the feeling of live music. The band has gotten used to it too but the singers are still on wedges and they are suffering.
Has your church made the choice to go for looks over how things sound? What choices did aht force and how are you handling them?
Important tip. Know the location of your cell phone. Everyone has a cell and all of us take them on stage. Today I made the mistake of placing mine in my suit coat pocket. I then laid the suit coat directly on my DI. A minute or so later I heard the telltale sound of a GSM phone searching for the network. Actually the whole congregation heard it too. As the sound crew frantically tried to get my attention, I realized it was my phone, but I forgot where it was. I searched my pockets and remembered the suit coat. I reached down and grabbed my jacket as the sound faded. I moved the jacket and tried to look calm. Oh Well. Next week I’ll make some other mistake.
I’m considering using a computer during worship. At first it would be to run a click track and to play back songs. It seems that the drummer and I are always bringing up a song on my iPhone to get an idea of the tempo and maybe to jog the memory on how the song starts. It could expand into loops for the songs that use loops.
I’ve seen many live shows and this year almost every band at the main stage at Kingdom Bound used computers. It honestly looked like an ad for the Apple Store. Every musician had a laptop and 95% of them were mac.
Are you using computers in your worship?
How are you using them and what programs are you using?
Sit back and let me tell you a story. It’s about how not to be ready for service and how not to handle the issues. We’ll run through the service from the my eyes and then cover the errors and how they could have been handled.
We are required to be ready to do sound check at 9 AM. That means that we need to be onstage, instrument in hand, in tune and ready to play at 9. We are asked to be on stage at 8:45 so we can line check, tune up and chit chat before 9. I was there at 8:45 and ready to go at 9.
At 9, we still had no drummer so we started without. The first song starts with mainly drums and keys, so we jumped ahead. The drummer shows up a few minutes after 9 so we go back to the first song. We have 2 keyboard players most times and this song has a distinctive part that is played by the keyboard player who is not here (she did let everyone know she would be absent weeks ago and reminded everyone this week). Our worship leader plays keys and decides she will cover the part. We start playing. As usual, the levels in the Avioms are a bit off. Most of the players do not send full volume to the board and thus do not send consistent signals week to week. The drummer is complaining that he cannot hear himself and male lead singer is doing the same. After a few minutes of complaining, the sound guy runs a line check on all musicians.
We are now running late and have 12 left minutes to sound check- by now, I have been on stage for over 35 minutes and have played one song. We finally pull our act together and finish sound check 18 minutes late. It has taken over an hour to sound check and the whole team is frazzled. We jump in the music room and pray.
In the prayer room it is announced that the keyboard player from the youth group will cover the keyboard part in the first song.
We head out on the stage and get ready to play. It takes about 30 extra seconds to get the new keyboard player set up. The drummer clicks us off…..
The next few seconds are surreal. The drummer starts, but there is no keys. Since we have two keyboard players, the second starts playing the organ part, but on a piano patch. The guitarist walk over and tells him to stop, but he doesn’t. The song progresses to to the verse, the singers start and we all settle in, or so we thought. The next song begins with only the acoustic guitar, and the rhythm section comes in on the second part of the verse. We start, but after about 2 measures, the drummer stops, waits for the pick up beat and comes in. We finish the song and then struggle through the third.
We finish what has to be the worst worship set in a long time and wait for the offering so we can go lick our wounds.
Pastor walk up to the pulpit and starts talking. I have in ears and I can’t hear him, which is weird because he is assigned a Aviom channel and I could always hear him before. I pop out one ear and realize that his wireless is not working. There is no back up mic so he does his best to be heard. We have announcements at this time and the announcer’s wireless is working. The pastor is supplied an new 9 volt battery for his pack and a handheld wireless mic just in case. The offering goes well and we retreat off backstage.
In the backroom, it is disclosed that the lead singer/acoustic player’s aviom was not working. It also turns out that the keyboard and the aviom the youth keyboard player used was not working either. Some one must have tripped on the power cord and took out the keyboard power strip, which powered the Korg and the Keyboard Aviom. The lead singer/acoustic player’s aviom is piggybacked of that aviom and since they need power to do that, his was dead. He could not hear anything and just did the best he could. The Youth group keyboard player came out to a dead keyboard and no monitor. He did his best, too.
The worship leader sensed that there was a problem with the korg and told the other keyboard player to play the part. The guitarist, not knowinh this, told him to stop. The keyboard player listened to the worship leader.
On the second song, the drummer tried to control the tempo of the acoustic player, but since the acoustic player had no monitors, he never noticed. The drummer had to stop and come in on the pick up to get back in time.
OK, now to point out the many problems and offer solutions.
- replacing a musician at the last minute. This was just a bad idea. It should not have been done. This one move lead to confusion on stage. It is not his fault that he did not know why nothing worked, he never used any of this equipment.
- lead singer/acoustic player’s aviom not working. He should have todl one of the singers who could have alerted the sound crew. The sound crew should have noticed the problems and checked it out. They have the ability to talk to the musicians and could have asked us with out being heard by the congregation. We should not have done a whole service with this issue. We should have a stage mic that talks directly to the sound booth. As it is we have no way to get their attention without looking like idiots waving our arms on stage.
-There should always be a back up mic, battery and pack at the pulpit. Also all wireless pack should have new batteries EVERY SERVICE. I know they cost money, but purchased in bulk they are less than a dollar each. Money well spent.
-Everyone needs to be on time. We need to do line checks before sound check. You need to send the same signal to the sound board each time. I turn up the volume knob all the way. I have a volume pedal so I can tune (I know that I could use the mute button, but I have a rack tuner and this is just easier) I keep the same settings on my sans amp, so I send the same signal level each time. I know it is harder for the keyboards because each patch has different levels. We seem to have the most problems with the guitars. Seems that they don’t use the same settings. The electric players always use volume pedals and they seem to “hold back a little something” for the leads. The acoustics these days all have an EQ section in them and the players seem to run the volume at about half way, but they rarely seem to find the same middle point.
-One last point, the lead singer/acoustic player and drummer always complain that “I can’t hear myself, turn me up” When they are reminded that they alone control their mix, they state ” I am all the way up, everyone else is off and I still can’t hear me”. They have avioms. What they are saying is actually true. They simply cannot hear themselves. The problem lies in the headphones they have. Both use headphones that are open ear design. They let in too much ambient sound. If you use Avioms, get in ear monitors or use sealed headphones. If your church will not supply them, buy your own. You can get a decent pair of sealed headphones online starting around $20
OK,enough ranting for now. It is funny how a few small things can lead to a totally messed up service.
Here it is. My review of the sans amp Bass Driver DI. It works.
What? You want more? OK
I’m really happy with the sans amp. It has done everything I wanted. It improves the tone, and it increases the output to the sound board, which makes the sound guys happy. After fiddling with the knobs and lots of comparisons, I’ve found a setting I love. The bass sounds warmer, closer and more even, the high notes are strong, sweet and smooth. The low notes have more body but are not boxy, nor do they boom. When I dig in for some growl, it responds smoothly. When I bypass it with the foot switch the bass sounds like it is in a big room. The controls are intuitive, but reading the manual helps. There are 6 knobs, one foot switch and three sliding switches.
Level- This controls the of the output.
Blend- The blends the straight signal with the Sans Amp Tube Amplifier Emulation Circuitry. I have it set to 95 %
Bass and Treble-Active boost and cut +/- 12 db I have the treble at +3 and the bass at +6.
Drive- This adjusts the amount of gain and overdrive, similar to pushing a tube amp.
Presence- tweaks the harmonics and attack.
Foot switch- Bypasses the Sans Amp Tube Emulation Circuitry
Instrument Output- Selects line or instrument level for the 1/4 output
XLR Output- Selects line or instrument level for the XLR output
Phantom and Ground Connect- Lifts or connection the ground. This also effect the phantom power if the sans amp is the only thing used between the bass and the board. If there is no other connection to ground and you lift the ground on the sans amp, phantom power will not work.
One male XLR connection and one female 1/4 connection.
One female 1/4 connection that is hardwired to the 1/4 input. This output is not effected by the sans amp settings.
On a side note, I am using a Godlyke Power-All PA9 to power the sans amp. You can use a 9 volt battery, or phantom power, but I did not want to rely on the phantom power.
I’ve come to understand that not everyone is like me. That’s probably a good thing. One of the huge differences I see is how you approach being a musician. I’m the “what key is it in” type. I know quite a few that can only play using written music. Let me explain.
The only thing I need to be able to play any song is the key. I can usually figure out the rhythm and chord changes as I go. Granted, it’s better if I actually know the song, but knowing the key gives me a starting point to add musically to the song. I have no problem playing a song that is totally new to me. I find it exciting and if I am doing it in front of a few hundred people, well, cool!
This concept boggles the mind of anyone who is the second type.
This may be you and I mean no harm. The second type is a fantastic musician who can play anything, as long as it is written out. You hand them the most confusing piece of music and they play it perfectly.
Tell them “It’s a blues riff in B, follow me for the changes” and they look like a deer in the headlights. Luckily most musicians fall between these 2 extremes.
So what does this have to do with Church? Plenty. If you can only play from a written piece, you may have problems when the worship leaders morphs “All the earth will sing you praises” into “Amazing Grace” unannounced. You’ll be diving for your sheet music while the rest of the team just goes with the flow. Also bouncing back and forth between the worship leader and a the sheet music could lead to a missed cue and have you playing the chorus when they have looped back to the verse.
On the other hand. If you never look at the music and just play by ear, you could wind up playing a F# minor where the team has changed it to a D. Not a huge mistake and you may not notice it, but it will change the feel.
So what is the answer. Ha, trick question, there is no right answer but the best answer is to learn to read the music, learn to follow the worship leader, learn the song so you play it without the music, learn theory so if the key changes you can still play the song- (the I to V change is the same in all keys!) Learn what intervals are and what they sound like. Learn that just because music says it’s Verse Chorus you may play Chorus Chorus Verse. Learn to be prepared. Learn to be flexible.
Oh, and learn to be patient with the other musicians who don’t think like you.