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Unread 09-02-2013, 07:10 PM   #16
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I don't think there's anything wrong with striving to be better, but at the same time I don't think that the worship team is a battleground for a musical quality war.

In situations where churches have bad music more often that not I find that they are doing one of two things:

1) Not playing to their strengths
2) Not playing to the song

What I mean by this is that I've played on worship teams that didn't function as a band. One singer, who was better than the rest, would constantly sing louder than the others. One team I was on got better after a handful of the most talented members were kicked off of the team. Why? Because they were exactly as you described, self-serving. They didn't want to practice. They just wanted to show up and perform, because they were too good to practice with the rest of the team.

By "not playing to the song" I mean that much of the popular music that churches are doing now tends to be simple, and many churches are afraid to "make it their own". It sounds like the church you're in is a bit more open to playing to the band's strengths instead of just trying to emulate a recording. I know some churches are afraid to veer from the recording because they have a strong, local CCM radio station in the area and everyone in the congregation knows the latest worship tunes from the radio. Such is not the case where I'm at (Southern CA). If we started playing the latest Hillsong track with a reggae feel, I'd guess that at least 90% of the congregation would think it was supposed to be played that way.

When church music teams play to their strengths, they can excel. When a church takes a choir and tries to force them into a modern CCM box, it usually comes off campy at best, awful as the norm. I've heard women that could do an absolutely beautiful rendition of "How Great Thou Art" absolutely butcher a simple Redman or Tomlin tune because they were forcing a chorale vocal into a modern context where it didn't work at all.

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Unread 09-02-2013, 08:02 PM   #17
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I don't think there's anything wrong with striving to be better, but at the same time I don't think that the worship team is a battleground for a musical quality war.
I mostly agree. I do not mean to come off as some kind of egoist. All I am saying is I try to approach worship music with the same, if not more, professionalism as I would secular music. That includes most of all playing to the song and the room. The fact that most of the songs we play are outside of my personal tastes makes it even more important to do justice to the genre. This includes playing within the style of music and all the elements that make it what it is. Playing the roots work for some songs but for many of them it requires playing riffs that are inherent to the style. Some songs where roots are necessary attack and precision can make all the difference. I try to recreate all the subtleties of the original bass line and if need be add support to the rest of the musicians. There are times we do re interpret the song but for the most part I do not make it my own ( I have my own projects for that). I try to make it what it was intended to be. I would never suggest forcing the wrong style on a song, as you indicated it usually is a disaster.

In any case, doing anything for the Lord becomes a battleground in one way or another. Whether you battle egos, lackadaisical attitudes, or lacking abilities. The enemy is all over any attempt to spread the Gospel. So in that respect it is a battleground. One in which I think we are losing to the other side. The battle is not with each other. We must function as a team as you say. If some member of the team is lacking we should step up and help them. If another member has an ego we should address it in a loving but honest way.

The problem is that we have far too many excuses as to why things aren't better and most of them are legitimate. I just can't figure out why this is the case. If we Christians believed half of what we claim to believe this shouldn't be.
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Unread 09-02-2013, 08:09 PM   #18
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I think a huge part of the problem is that music has become synonymous with "worship" whereas other things that are still "worship" (like working in children's Sunday school) are termed "ministry".

From there we get this idea that "worship is universal" and "everyone should participate in worship", and in turn this means that when you turn someone away who can't hang with the rest of the band you're accused of "stifling their worship offering". You'd never get that accusation if you turned someone away from the children's ministry that couldn't connect with children.
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Unread 09-02-2013, 08:39 PM   #19
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Unread 09-02-2013, 08:40 PM   #20
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I think a huge part of the problem is that music has become synonymous with "worship" whereas other things that are still "worship" (like working in children's Sunday school) are termed "ministry".
I find dueling schools of thought on that in the worship ministry as well. Some believe your heart is all that matters whereas others, including me, think your mind has to be involved as well. Worship includes a lot of acts that are sometimes more practical and technical. I think these are just as important as heart attitude.

When Solomon built the temple God had appointed skilled craftsmen for the task. Under fear of the Lord they did not let just anybody participate in its construction. Today I think we have lost the fear of the Lord and settle for mediocrity.
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Unread 09-05-2013, 11:52 AM   #21
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Taiko I cede your point. This does seem to be the norm. The question I have is why is worship music an amateur's game? Is it that we feel a sense of inclusiveness or is it a lack of more experienced musician's getting involved?

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It is an amateur's game because the average local congregation has less then 100 adults, thus there is a small pool to draw from. Secondly the church is one of the few institutions left which will prefer amateurs in the learning phase over DJs and recorded music. Finally the public schools have deemphasized arts education as part of growing a whole man in favor of teaching standardized test which can be easily measured by the politicians funding them

For the most part the only people exposed to music education cold, not the I must play group because I feel the gift group, are those whose parents spring for those piano, violin or other lessons. And even in that scenario many do it only because they think it will give their child an advantage when it comes time to compete for the few seats in the "elite" universities and there will be little other music in the house besides the pop hits as background noise
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Unread 09-05-2013, 12:12 PM   #22
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By "not playing to the song" I mean that much of the popular music that churches are doing now tends to be simple, and many churches are afraid to "make it their own". It sounds like the church you're in is a bit more open to playing to the band's strengths instead of just trying to emulate a recording. I know some churches are afraid to veer from the recording because they have a strong, local CCM radio station in the area and everyone in the congregation knows the latest worship tunes from the radio. Such is not the case where I'm at (Southern CA). If we started playing the latest Hillsong track with a reggae feel, I'd guess that at least 90% of the congregation would think it was supposed to be played that way.

When church music teams play to their strengths, they can excel. When a church takes a choir and tries to force them into a modern CCM box, it usually comes off campy at best, awful as the norm. I've heard women that could do an absolutely beautiful rendition of "How Great Thou Art" absolutely butcher a simple Redman or Tomlin tune because they were forcing a chorale vocal into a modern context where it didn't work at all.
I'm in SoCal too, besides a low powered CCM station you can get in the valley but not the basin and Stevie Wonder's station which you can get in the basin but not in the valleys playing urban gospel on Sunday. It is a wasteland compared to what our brothers in other locations report.

I always assumed that for most of our congregation most songs are first heard by the local church Praise Team and then the iconic recording may be sought out except for that minority who only listen to sacred and church music. however while the congregation is fine it is the team who listens intently to the iconic recordings and in some cases they are listening for a specific cue
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Unread 09-05-2013, 12:16 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by taiko

I'm in SoCal too, besides a low powered CCM station you can get in the valley but not the basin and Stevie Wonder's station which you can get in the basin but not in the valleys playing urban gospel on Sunday. It is a wasteland compared to what our brothers in other locations report.

I always assumed that for most of our congregation most songs are first heard by the local church Praise Team and then the iconic recording may be sought out except for that minority who only listen to sacred and church music. however while the congregation is fine it is the team who listens intently to the iconic recordings and in some cases they are listening for a specific cue
Yep. In San Diego there's a station you can pick up in the northern end of the county, but weakly elsewhere in the county.

I know a lot of the time when I listen to worship music (which isn't often to begin with) my thought process operates around the idea of "how would I play this song if I wrote it?" Sometimes that means I leave the song alone, sometimes it means big changes...

But really, I'm not a worship leader in any capacity. I'm just a musician an I do what I can to support the team from the rhythm section.
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Unread 09-18-2013, 12:31 PM   #24
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I totally hear what you're saying. I think there are two things at play that I've experienced:

1) 90% of bass players I've played with in churches are guitar players who were asked to play bass to fill a need. Unfortunately, a lot of these guys think they can play bass because all you do is play one note at a time, and they don't bother to really learn the technique/theory/roll of the bass. It's seen as a simple instrument, so it isn't played with respect.

2) 99% of worship music these days seems to be the exact same style... U2/Colplay style, throw an ambient guitar line on top, build into a big washed out bridge after the second chorus, repeat forever. The style often calls for a bass player simply playing 8ths or 16ths on the root to provide the foundation since the guitars are playing something light on top. I miss the days of variety and interest in worship music... it feels these days like, of you've heard one worship song, you've heard them all.
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Unread 09-18-2013, 12:34 PM   #25
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it feels these days like, of you've heard one worship song, you've heard them all.
This is why half the time I don't listen to the originals much/at all before developing an arrangement, and my music team specifically creates arrangements that suit us rather than replicating originals.
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Unread 09-18-2013, 02:49 PM   #26
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This is why half the time I don't listen to the originals much/at all before developing an arrangement, and my music team specifically creates arrangements that suit us rather than replicating originals.
I'm really working hard to get to this point, but I'm getting a lot of flack and resistance from my bands. I have a couple people who get upset anytime we don't do the song exactly like the recording, because that is how they practice it. I also have some people who get upset anytime I try to use chord substitutions, or any extension beyond a 7th
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Unread 09-18-2013, 07:23 PM   #27
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1) 90% of bass players I've played with in churches are guitar players who were asked to play bass to fill a need. Unfortunately, a lot of these guys think they can play bass because all you do is play one note at a time, and they don't bother to really learn the technique/theory/roll of the bass. It's seen as a simple instrument, so it isn't played with respect.
This has been my observation as well.

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2) 99% of worship music these days seems to be the exact same style.
This is also very evident. It seems to me very redundant to play the same sequence song after song, week after week. It would be nice if they mixed up the "formula" a bit.

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This is why half the time I don't listen to the originals much/at all before developing an arrangement, and my music team specifically creates arrangements that suit us rather than replicating originals
I sympathize with that approach but I do feel a need to capture the signature lines of the song as well as the overall style, character, and feel of the original. Once I feel I have done that then I will add what I feel is appropriate. So far nobody has complained. I also would not substitute any lines that will change the song. If the band practices the song to the recording anything I come up with MUST fit into that framework.

We don't have fixed teams so the styles change quite a bit depending on who is playing that week. We only have 1 rehearsal during the week before we lead worship on Sunday so it does not give us much time to personalize the material or even to develop any type of group styling.

With that said, the roll of the bass is not to become the lead but to bridge the gap between percussion and melody all the while filling out the sonic frequencies of the band as a whole. People should notice a good bass player, just not what he is playing (specifically). No matter how intricate, complex, or cool the line is if it does not sit in the mix it should not be played. If it does the have at it. This is easier said than done. It took me decades to be able to seamlessly fit in with any style or group composition I am presented with. I worked hard to understand the roll of the bass and build the technique to cover any style I need to. Having some amount of talent also helps. I think what is most important is knowing what is appropriate for any given situation and only adding elements to the song that fit seamlessly. That takes some experience and often it requires being able to adjust on the fly or in the moment. If you can do that smoothly and appropriately, you should be able to add to the song without getting flack from others.
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Unread 09-19-2013, 03:00 AM   #28
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I sympathize with that approach but I do feel a need to capture the signature lines of the song as well as the overall style, character, and feel of the original. Once I feel I have done that then I will add what I feel is appropriate. So far nobody has complained. I also would not substitute any lines that will change the song. If the band practices the song to the recording anything I come up with MUST fit into that framework.
I would feel more inclined to be truer to the original if I was under the impression that more of the congregation listened to the originals. If the congregation is more familiar with how our team plays a song than they are with the original, then they aren't likely to complain about the differences.

Also, within the context of my music team, our instrumental mix isn't appropriate for most of the original arrangements (I only have one cheap delay pedal, and it doesn't always work), but we do have musicians that enjoy expressing worship through the creation of new arrangements. Some of the songs we play, we play differently every time we lead.

Needless to say, I'm very happy with the direction my music team has taken.
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Unread 09-19-2013, 09:04 PM   #29
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I would feel more inclined to be truer to the original if I was under the impression that more of the congregation listened to the originals. If the congregation is more familiar with how our team plays a song than they are with the original, then they aren't likely to complain about the differences.
Fair enough. Where I am from the congregation is very familiar with the originals due to the local radio stations. You can hear them played in nearly every store in our rural town. The perks of being the county seat I guess.

I really sympathize with the lack of proper equipment not to mention the lack of personnel. We make the best of what we have though. From the bass perspective it doesn't take any special equipment to pull off the originals. Save a low b string. I rarely use any effects at all outside of compression and cabinet modelling and only because we run direct.

I am encouraged to hear that you do not fall into the common mode of playing on the roots. My goal is to achieve some semblance of musical expression within a highly constrained and preconceived format. That is the hardest part of playing bass in a worship format. Perhaps that is why so many bass players stick to the roots.
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