Starting with the Heart

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In this series, we’re looking at keys to success for anyone in church music, whether you call yourself a worship leader, music director, creative producer, or music pastor.

At the core of who we are and everything we do lies the heart. Our passion, our motives, our emotion, our WHY. Scripture urges us to…

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Visual Roadtrippin’

As we’re wrapping up a big transition in our lives, my brother-in-law asked me yesterday what my favorite part of our coast-to-coast road trip had been, which made me start to put a mental list together of all the wonderful things we experienced on the journey. (I mean, 1 favorite thing? Really?)

Here are 8 of ‘em…

IMAGE_24598. Maps. I’m fascinated by geography; the idea that you can span so many places over a short amount of time is awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_73807. Pictures. Documenting journeys like this has never been so fun. Sarah and I were always in search of the perfect state picture for our collection.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Tune! [Limited Free Download]

Excited to share with you a fun & simple tune I’ve been playing around with for Cora. (She’s been a terrific sounding board!)

I wrote it one day when Cora was a little upset. Sometimes a fun little phrase, a mobile melody, and dancing around is all you really need! Hope it’ll make you and yours smile. :-)

You can stream it below, but for just three days–through May 7th–you can own it for free! Just use this link to download => “Ba-da-dah Boom (Everything’s Okay)” [Free Download]

 

5 Lessons Learned in Transition

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Our young family of 3 has been walking a pivotal journey of transition over the past few months. It’s been one of those transitions that hinges together two eras in our lives—the former our childhood and early adult life in the Sunshine State, the latter our hopes for roots and a thriving future in the Golden State. One has been a period of formation, self-discovery and learning, while the other offers an opportunity to hone in our impact and… well… keep learning!

Today, Sarah, Cora and I embark on the last leg of that transition as we hit the interstate asphalt between Orange County, Florida and Orange County, California. As I look back on 19 weeks of change, here are a few lessons I’m taking with me from our stretch between worlds.

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April 2014 [Monthly Soundtrack]

New music! (And semi-new music!) March was fun, but the new Spotify playlist for April is up! From my stash to yours, I’d love to share with you some tunes that have been making my ears tingle this month.

Major highlights this time around include Pharrell’s groovy collaboration with, you guessed it, Daft Punk. While “Gust of Wind” isn’t a total April newbie, it’s a goodie for sure! Also worth noting, the opening track from Foster The People’s latest album is a gem, blending spurts of tribal rhythms with good ol’ driving rock.

Do yourself a favor and give these a listen! Check out the full list embedded below or at the following link: April 2014 [Monthly Soundtrack]. For a cumulative 2014 playlist that’s updated monthly, follow this one: Favorite 2014ers

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So You Want to Be a Killer Music Director?

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I’ve been surrounded by music in the context of church for as long as I have memory. I’ve experienced a lot of it: “Alabaré a Mi Señor” in Hispanic congregations, traditional Southern Baptist, liturgical protestant, “contemporary worship” of the 90s and 00s, and the sounds of Hillsong Church, the Passion movement, and Jesus Culture that continue to shape church music well into this decade.

When it comes to rehearsal and preparation for leading people in singing, the approaches to get the job done are just as diverse as the massive spectrum of musical styles.

But I’ve learned that at the end of the day—no matter the setting—your church’s music quality rises and falls on one common, critical factor. The answer to one question can be all it takes to distinguish between excellent and substandard. How prepared is the music director? Continue reading

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6 Gems in Classic Jazz Piano

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The day I fell in love with jazz was the day I first listened—really listened—to a jazz piano solo. It was right at the top of Buddy Rich’s big band performance of “Ya Gotta Try”. Barry Keiner hammered out a killer piano performance on that 1977 recording and I couldn’t stop listening to it. Chris Sharp, my high school jazz band director even wrote out a piano solo for me to play along with the group. I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve studied jazz, performed it, talked about it with friends, and most of all, enjoyed listening to it. More than anything, I’m just a guy in awe of what the greats have been able to accomplish. They’ve woven together legendary strings of notes that tell a story in seconds. They’ve grouped individual tones with great harmonic complexity, mirroring the nuanced shades of human emotion. So much power in 10 fingers!

I want to share with you a handful of personal favorite albums that lit a love in me for the art and the instrument. Even if you don’t play it, even if you’ve never fully listened, just one take could make you an instant fan.

BillBill Evans - At the Village Vanguard

Why I Love It: Because it’s Bill Evans. Hailed for his rich depth in his harmonic vocabulary, Evans stands out as one of the best pianists in the history of jazz. This album highlights a few tracks from his historic live recording at the Village Vanguard.

Favorite Track: “Gloria’s Step [Take 2]”

 

Art Tatum – The Best of Art TatumArt

Why I Love It: By almost all accounts, this guy is the gold standard for jazz piano. This collection brings together the best of the supreme virtuoso’s work.

Favorite Track: “Night and Day”

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Blueprints: 5 Steps to Planning on Purpose

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Recently, I shared the importance of taking action with the resources you have, no matter how limited they may seem. If you’re in a line work which demands that you create content or solutions to add value, there are plenty of things beyond your control. But successful leaders take responsibility for the things they can control, consistently executing with excellence.

So how do you ensure that your work is excellent? How do you make certain that the things you can control are tight? Continue reading

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Switching Keyboard Sounds… without the Dead Space

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Over the years, one of the biggest problems I’ve dealt with as a musician in church is how to switch keyboard patches smoothly. I’d fumble over number keys to change over to a smoother pad, only to kill the vibe in a room at the end of a sweet moment of worship. Or that one time I methodically timed my sound-switch only to realize—to the horror and bewilderment of the gal in the front row—that the new sound was drastically louder than the old one. Yikes!

On some keyboards, it seems impossible. On others, it may take a little digging to figure out a method. But on the Yamaha Motif series, the solution is built right into the interface. It’s called performance mode.

Performance mode allows you the flexibility to carry out a variety of actions, from switching patches to layering and splitting your keyboard, from playing simple, custom sounds to performing as a one-man band with complex arpeggiators. There’s a ton of power at your fingertips!

A little while back, I posted a YouTube video to serve as a basic tutorial for how to layer sounds on a Motif. I also showed how to use this feature to your advantage, particularly in a worship setting.

No more dead space. No more moment-blockers. No more shocked attendees jumping in their seats! Although, don’t we all need a good kick in the pants from time to time?

 

I should note that this kind of thing can also be applied by anyone using a MIDI keyboard connected to a computer that hosts your sounds. All you need is a keyboard with some sort of way to control multiple volumes—sliders, faders, knobs, etc.—and some software that supports playing multiple instruments at once. Ableton Live, Reason, Main Stage and Omnisphere are great ones just to name a few.

Happy layering!

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What’s It Gonna Be?

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It’s all too common to live in scramble-mode when you’re overseeing a worship experience, isn’t it? You know, that crazy state when you feel like it’s all you can do to pull off the weekend in view, much less take on planning ahead. Things change, communication falters, equipment hangs up, your drummer bails out—it feels like it’s all out of your hands. And before you know it, it’s time for rehearsal. Scratch that, it’s time for the service!

But what about those elements that are in your hands? What about the domain that’s been entrusted to you? There are things you can control right now, things within your scope of responsibility, things which will rise and fall under your leadership. Continue reading

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