Read this post by Pastor of Gathered Worship Aaron Slaten about Mission Athens Music’s time in the mountains!
In October of last year we started talking about the band from Christ Community Church recording an album. There were many reasons we wanted to capture the music of our band. Here are four of them:
Once we decided recording was a good idea, we set out to make it happen. We used the website Kickstarter to raise money for our album, and within 30 days had raised $7800 for the project. I called my friend Brian T Murphy and asked him to produce the album. He graciously said yes. Brian is the founder of ‘Red Mountain Music’ and ‘New York City Hymns’. We scheduled to record the album starting on March 1st.
Late in the evening on February 29th, 2012 Brian and I started to transition the mountain house into a recording studio. The master bedroom became a live tracking room, the loft room became a drum/bass room and the master closet was turned into a vocal booth.
On Thursday we began to lay down scratch vocals and acoustic guitars. These tracks serve as a map for the song. We did scratch for 8 of the 12 songs we would record in one day. Justin Kimmel & Rachael Mirabella joined us for this process. We re-worked one of the hymns we were planning to record and then we all went to sleep around our new bed time…2:30am. Seriously, our bed time fluctuated between 2:30 and 4:30 am all week.
On Friday we finished up scratch vocals and guitars and recorded a few random parts for songs. As people started to show up on Friday night the house got more lively. Slade showed up early evening and Brian got him to experiment with a chord progression. Words can’t describe the beauty in this piece! Get ready; it will be the opening track on the record. We started tracking drums at 7:30 pm and finished for the night at 2:45am. David and Kevin cranked out 8 songs that night. It was impressive.
Saturday was a full day finishing up bass and drums and then moving to electric guitars.
Sunday was one of the most fun days of music. One of the songs we recorded was ‘Power in the Blood’. While we were doing all of the scratch vocals on Thursday, we had this idea of it sounding like a bunch of friends sitting on the back porch singing. On Sunday, we took that to another level. We had 12 people in the house, and Brian got every person to grab a percussion instrument. One by one we all took turns recording our parts. The instruments ranged from spoons, mason jars, pill bottles, and a People magazine (and many, many more). After percussion we moved to stomps and claps, then gang vocals (no one was harmed during these) and then a gang music jam session. This song is going to be and was so much fun. We worked on a couple harmony tracks since most of of female vocalists had to go home Sunday night for work and midterms. One little hiccup on Sunday - I started to get sick and lose my voice. Definitely not part of the plan on recording week.
Monday morning we woke up to a relatively quiet house and that was helped by the fact that all I could do was whisper. My voice was gone! We spent Monday finishing up violin, a couple female vocals and trying to slow down a bit since we had been working so hard the previous days.
Tuesday I had an antibiotic called in for me to help clear up whatever was happening with my throat. Tuesday we spent the day tracking acoustic and electric guitars again, a little piano and a couple of vocal harmonies.
Wednesday and Thursday were almost identical. We worked on lead vocals, piano, organ, pads, synth and harmonies. We did have to go back and record some bass that night. The most personally frustrating thing happened on Thursday when we realized that one of the songs we were recording was a full step too high. This literally blew my head up! I spent way too much time trying to get this vocal and realized it was the key, not my voice. Our last track recorded was rain falling and at 2:45 am on Friday morning we finished recording the album. We were all THRILLED!
I am so excited to share the finished project with everyone. My hope is that you will enjoy the album and each person will be able to engage with the lyrics in our songs and that the love of Christ would ring loud and true in your ears.
Almost every time our band leads worship I usually look at someone and say, “Let’s bring the thunder.” It is also usually accompanied with a fist pound. Before you stop reading because you think I am lame, finish reading so I have a chance to either affirm my lameness or convince you otherwise.
One day I realized that it probably sounds funny to say “bring the thunder” right before we led worship. It could sound really arrogant, but it’s not. So I started to explain myself.
I remember watching the movie Cars with my son and the main car Lightning McQueen called another car “Thunder” because it always comes after lightning. I honestly was confused. I had never really thought about the order of thunder and lightning. But when I did, I saw a great picture in my head of what happens when we lead worship.
As a band we are not:
As a band we are:
We are merely the thunder after the lightning. The lightning I speak of is this: through the work that Christ did on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and through his resurrection we now have life.
I love that there is no pressure on me as a leader to perform, motivate or save anyone through my music. My job is to be the resounding thunder that is in response to the the dramatic, never-ending and never-giving-up love of God.
I feel like over the past almost 6 years our church music has seen some significant changes. We have grown as musicians both in musicianship and spiritually. We have been asked regularly over the past three years when/would we record some music. For so long I felt like we had nothing to say that wasn’t already being said. However, I have had a few conversations over the past year about why recording is important for a church that persuaded me to record. For me the main thing that changed my heart towards us recording was my answer to this question: do you have something new/unique to say? No, and that’s ok. Because we do have timeless truths and we can communicate them in a fresh/clear/new ways. So we will take timeless truths and communicate them in a clear/fresh way that will be encouraging for God’s people.
It’s going to cost around $7,500 for recording, mixing, mastering, making physical copies of the CD and this is where I need your help.
We’re using a website called Kickstarter that helps musicians and other artists raise money for projects they couldn’t otherwise afford. We put our project on their website yesterday - check it out here - http://kck.st/zOkYQe . Following that link will explain how we’re raising money through the website and how you can get involved! You can watch the video and read our letter there. We really hope that you will join with us. If you have any further questions, or are confused by the Kickstarter website, please e-mail me at email@example.com . I’d love to hear from you!
If we don’t get the $7,500 we don’t get ANY of the pledged money. So please partner with us.
I am always interested in what gear other guys play, so I figured I would post what I use. If you have any questions for me please feel free to ask.
06 Breedlove Custom: Redwood top and Koa back and sides
1962 ‘short scale’ Gibson B24
I use the Breedlove as my primary guitar.
I like this because it always me some control over the EQ of my guitars sound when the sound guy isn’t that experienced or when I am playing through a poor sound system.
1st who doesn’t use the Shure 58?
I typically use the Audix mic after I mixed a worship leader in early 2005. I found the mic easy to mix and noticed it cut through very well. It’s really expensive. I bought mine for less than half price as a demo and I love it. I also would recommend the Audix VX-5 and Shure Beta 87. Both are condensers and require phantom power.
Boss TU-2 tuner. Love it, super simple and dependable. The TU-2 has been replaced by the TU-3.
Morely ABY: switcher. This allows me to use two different guitars and 1 cable. The only issue I have with it is that there is a click with a go between channels.
I have used Shure E-2 ear buds for the past 6 years with custom mold tips. I have recently purchased some custom molded ear buds from LiveWires. I have been very pleased with them so far. I can’t speak to details of them yet.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through the order of our gathering and why we do what we do. We view our gathering as telling one story from start to finish. Our goal is for our gathering to show that God calls his people, we respond; he speaks to his people, and we respond.
How we run our gathering:
I haven’t written any of this to make you think/feel that you should or have to follow our order of worship in your gathering. My hope is that you would read this and find yourself in one of two places: 1) you already are intentional with your gathering and it is encouraging to you 2) your team needs to reevaluate your gathering to make sure you are making every effort to be Christ Centered.
I heard C.J. Mahaney speak once and I remember him saying, “The priority in corporate worship is singing. If that doesn’t happen, you failed” (paraphrased). That was a huge statement for me to hear. There are some nonnegotiables that need to exist in our songs, but if our people do not engage with the songs we sing, we are not winning. And when I say winning, if our people do not engage with the songs we sing, we are not accomplishing our goal of corporate singing.
A few nonnegeotiables are:
*Note: Each song will not completely fulfill each category but you should not have to stretch to make a song work.
If people aren’t engaging and singing, we have to evaluate why not. With that said, we are also not trying to just create an emotion. We’re trying to sing about who God is. The message of who God is should be what creates an emotion and engages worship.
I encourage you to come up with a vision for your corporate worship through songs. At Christ Community Church, we say: Corporate singing should help people become family and follow Jesus by declaring and displaying that God is good, great, gracious and glorious.
What is good in having a clear vision about what you are accomplishing through corporate singing is that it is easy for people to come in, know expectations and thus feel free to worship. And once you have that vision in mind, it becomes much easier to pick songs for your gathering.
I want to say something about training new leaders. This post is not necessarily specifically for worship leaders, though it can obviously apply. This can be helpful to anyone training a new leader. I see training new leaders as a vital part of being a leader. Our church has created a two-year residency program called Protege where we invest in young adults interested in ministry. I want to share with you a couple things I have learned from this process. If you have brought in an intern, have someone working under you, or are training someone to take your place, I hope this is helpful.
Learn How They Learn:
When bringing in someone new, I think the first thing you should do is figure out what type of a learner he or she is. I recently found a website that explains four different types of learners: visual, auditory, read-write, and kinesthetic. [Read here ( http://goo.gl/5u7PO) for a detailed explanation of these types of learners]. Anyone is capable of learning a different way from their preference, but they will learn quickest if they can learn how they learn best.
For example, I am a kinesthetic/visual learner but a poor reader. So if my lead pastor asked me to read through Grudem’s Systematic Theology and us discuss five chapters each week, I would really struggle to read, comprehend and talk through it. My preference is to read shorter books, blogs and watch videos. Basically, I need shorter or visual material to help me learn best.
The leader you are training has to of course be willing to learn, and then your goal is to help them figure out how they do that best. The only way to discover how someone learns new material is by asking questions. Once you have established what type of learner they are you can customize an equipping plan and obtain appropriate resources for them.
For an example of how people learn differently, I will use how worship leaders learn a new song. It took me some time to figure out how I best learn songs. I will share with you how I learn a song and how Justin (a Protege guy on staff with us) learns them. You will see it is a different process but the same end.
How I learn a new song:
serve as a launching point for the beginning of a chord chart.
How Justin learns a new song:
Set Clear Expectations:
Another thing I have found to be super important is being clear what your guy or girl’s responsibilities are. This will keep them from floundering and you from being frustrated when they don’t do what you think they should ‘know’ to do.
I have learned this the hard way with interns. If you are anything like me, you have a certain way you do things. For instance: I roll mic cables a certain way and when someone doesn’t roll them my way, I ask them to stop and show them how to roll the cable correctly. And if I am honest I think everyone should think and do things exactly the way I do. The issue is, most of my frustrations towards people that report to me are caused by my lack of direction, my expectations or the timeframe there is to have the task accomplished. I find that the more specific I am upfront the less likely I am to be disappointed with the outcome of their work.
There are rare ‘outliers’ that you can give minimal direction to and they will exceed your expectations; these people are rare and you should fight like crazy to keep them on your team. Otherwise, I have found that it is best to either make sure the person you are working with takes good notes while you explain what you expect or provide them with a detailed list that you have created. Make sure that you are clear. It is our fault as overseers when we do not equip our people well. It’s tough to watch someone fail and know it is your fault because you didn’t equip them well. If you have done all you can to equip someone to succeed and the continually don’t meet expectations, it is probably appropriate to evaluate if they are the right fit for what you are shooting for.
This is by no means exhaustive, but these are two areas that I see as vital in training new leaders to set both parties up for success.
This post is about conversations that happen while corporate singing is happening. That may sound strange at first, but I think there are three conversations happening at the same time while a worship leader is leading that he or she has to be mindful of.
1) The worship leader must first and foremost be a worshipper. If he is not a worshipper, he will not be able to lead people in worship of God. One trend inside our churches is that we find someone that can play a guitar and kind of sing and we ask them to lead. There may actually be a place for that for a season in a church, but the goal for our churches should be to find a worshipper to lead worship. That sounds like common sense - a worshipper leading worship - but that means that your best musician and best vocalist might not be your best worship leader. A church needs someone that first wants to worship Jesus more than they want a stage.
2) The leader must be able to connect with the congregation to know how they are responding. They also must know when to speak and when not to speak. This is one of the hardest conversations to evaluate. As a leader you cannot stand on stage with your eyes closed so tightly that you are clueless about what is going on with the people you are leading. Nor do you need to be so tied to a chord chart that your eyes never look up. There must be a connection with the people you are leading if you intend to lead them somewhere.
3) The final conversation is the one united voice of the congregation making much of Jesus together. It never fails that when people are in a room with other folks singing and they can hear everyone they say, “I loved that I could hear people singing!” So as songs are led, something magical happens. (You can substitute any word you like for magical. The one thing I do know is that when people sing together something unexplainable happens.) I don’t think it has to do with the lighting, nothing to do with people’s clothes on stage or the amount of people in the room. I believe the “magic” is that at least for a moment we understand that we are not alone when we sing. We sing “you are the everlasting God” not just to tell God he is everlasting but to remind each other. We sing “It is finished, hear the dying savior cry” to let our fellow believers know that because of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, they have been declared righteous and their sins are atoned for. We sing as a body of believers and we grow from that; we grow from each other. This is encouraging to the nonbeliever and believer.
When all three of these conversations are happening well at the same time, the most genuine worship happens.
As a worship leader, you are one of the few musicians that doesn’t perform. A worship leader plays weekly, but not just for people to listen. It is not for the worship leader to feel good about themselves or their musical gifts. A worship leader plays to lead people in singing songs with lyrics that have one single Person as the focus. Our lyrics tell the story of a Savior that has come to be our “great salvation”.
Picking songs is a huge and underrated way that we pastor people as worship leaders.
I see two main ways to pick songs:
1) Song Focused. This is probably the more common way for churches to pick songs. The questions asked are:
2) Christ focused. I think this is the better way to pick songs. The questions asked are:
To be clear, I don’t think guys that pick songs the first way are bad leaders. I think they tend to either be trained that way or have found themselves disconnected from the story of the Gospel and connected with worship of their music. If you have a song focused guy (like I was and often want to default back to) or you are a song focused guy, here are two questions that might help them/you view what you do as pastoring people with your songs rather than just leading songs for people.
Question #1: What moves people? Christ love and kindness.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15: Christ’s Love compels us.
Romans 2:4: God’s kindness leads us to repentance.
Question # 2: What emotion are you trying to create? First, any emotion we want to
be created is created by the Spirit. Second, we are hoping to see Repentance and
Mark 1:15: The Kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.
Mark 5:34: Your faith has made you well.
Acts 20:21: Repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ.
Believing that Christ’s love compels us to live a life of constant repentance and faith, we must choose songs that encourage people towards this end. So we pastor people through our songs.
One last thought on picking songs - We are not pastoring people well if we allow them to sing songs that tell no truth in them. This goes back to choosing songs with solid lyrics. We cannot sing songs that if sung in a pub would be thought of as a song about a guy’s girlfriend. The reason why is because when we are allowing ourselves to talk purely about our own emotions and feelings we are more likely to do two things:
Repeating the lyrics, “And I’m madly in love with you” ten times does nothing for a non-believer in your gathering. Can you see the difference in singing, “The love of Christ is rich and free; Fixed on His own eternally; Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove; Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.” These lyrics communicate the perfect love of Christ and not the imperfect and fickle love of man