Why do we sing?It seems like a funny question – in our churches, it’s just what we do, every Sunday morning.But really, why do we sing?Furthermore, what does our singing say about our view of God? How does it reflect our relationship with the Lord and with each other as believers? What is the importance of congregational singing?
Keith and Kristyn Getty, modern-day hymn-writers, have teamed up with an amazing list of speakers and musicians to answer these questions and more.If you’ve heard any of the Getty’s music, you probably know the wonderful depth it has both theologically and musically.This coming week in Nashville, more than 4,000 believers from over 16 countries will be gathering for the very first Getty Music Worship Conference: Sing!Now, however, you can join them through the free, live simulcast they are offering, September 18-20!RSVP now and receive a free songbook download with 25 of Keith and Kristyn’s songs.
I know this is a late notice, but I didn’t find out about it until yesterday and was unable to post anything until now. However, you can still get the entire conference on demand because they are also making available all 70 hours available by purchasing a LifeWay Digital Pass as an individual or with a group rate here.
So, what are you waiting for? While you’re there, check out the Getty’s new book titled “Sing!” (If you order through the link, you get a really great discount.)
Saturday, March 18, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time(12:00 – 2:00 Pacific Standard Time), Composer, arranger, producer, and pianist, Greg Howlett is hosting another online class, this time with highly-experienced arranger and teacher Heather Sorenson. (Learn more about Heather here.)
The first hour will feature tips and answering questions, and for the second hour, the two musicians will evaluate 3 original arrangements sent in by students. The cost for observers is a mere $9.99! If you think this is a lot, or aren’t sure you will get your money’s worth out of this, I can assure you that it is totally worth it! You won’t be disappointed with the wealth of information these two experts bring to the table.
Greg is very generous to do host these master classes, however, due to technical constraints, class size is limited this time, so don’t wait!
If you have ever wanted to apply a Gospel Style to your hymn playing, this is for you!
How to take a hymn and “Gospelize” it. Damien takes the well-known hymn, Precious Lord, Take My Hand and applies gospel styles to it. In this video, Damien shows how you can use something other than the basic I, IV, and V, or basic down beat/after beats in the left hand, for hymn playing, this video will expand your horizons a bit!
Learn gospel music techniques at the piano with accomplished pianist Damien Sneed.
Mr Sneed has an impressive biography that includes everything from Classical, to gospel, to jazz, to CCM. You can read more about him here.
This video is posted for the purpose of furthering your musical education and imagination. We believe there is valuable content in this video clip, however, not everything in every video we post is wholly endorsed by hymnprovisation.com. If you do not like it, you are free to turn it off.
I just heard a strength and fitness trainer advocating “training to failure,” and I thought that was an odd thing to say. I had to hear more.
First though, you need to understand something. It should be obvious by now that I am a big fan of improvising in music, and in fact, that’s what this website is about, in part. But not just improvising out of rebellion to the composer, but in order that the music set aside for worship can be the best possible music out there. There are times when improvising isn’t the best thing to do, but in general life throws curve balls, so I think we should look at improvisation as practice for real life situations.
With that understanding as our foundation on this topic, I’d like to explore both what the Fitness Trainer said, but in terms of our musicianship, and also another saying no doubt you have heard which goes like this:
“Practice Makes Perfect!”
Hmm…But does it really?
Like so many sayings we have come to believe because we have heard them so often, which may or may not have an element of truth, this one too, could be true or false.
Let me explain:
It doesn’t take long to think up a situation where it would not be true. If you are incorrectly practicing a piece of written music, or failing to execute a technique correctly, than you won’t get it perfect (even if everything else is right except one little thing). In this all-to-common scenario, instead, practice makes pathetic, because the incorrect rote practice now becomes a habit that is very hard to break.
However, it would be true if you practiced it perfectly through and through, each time, which is what we strive for.
Let’s face it though, how many of us actually really do this? Of course we are human and will make a mistake, but many of us are also lazy, especially when it comes to worship music? I’m not sure why, but in 22+ years of playing in churches, I have witnessed the general unspoken consensus among the musicians, that, It isn’t going to be as good as the symphony, so it doesn’t REALLY matter.
That is a sad indictment, and I hope it isn’t true of you. I’m sorry to say it has been true of me at times.
I’m not sure if it is a lax attitude among laymen because we aren’t paid, so why bother, or maybe you are paid, but you feel it is not enough to practice like a pro. Or maybe it is because we feel like the people who are listening don’t care, which is a mistake in itself because our music shouldn’t be for them, it should be for our LORD.
And He deserves only the absolute very best.
But is that even possible to deliver?
That is really the crux of the matter and a question that only you can answer:
Do YOU give YOUR very best?
Do you do as good as you would if you were first chair Violinist, or a musician invited to play with the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall?
And that brings me to the other thing I want to explore:
Some of us practice daily, while others are lay musicians who practice when they can. God has called each of us to different walks of life, and I get that. However, if He has called you to make music for Him, you should have some sort of a plan in place to ensure that you are giving your very best.
So how should we train?
Each of us will be inclined to one method or another, and some ways may work better for others. That’s understandable. What I want to do is encourage you, whichever course you take, is to train to failure. Not for failure, but to failure.
In other words, train until you can’t anymore. Until your muscles give out from exhaustion, Your brain can’t take it anymore, and there is nothing left to learn.
I don’t typically listen to celebrity trainers but as I said earlier, I happened across a short clip of celebrity trainer, Jeff Cavaliere, advocating “Training to Failure.” Since that seemed contrary to my thought process, I thought I would see what he had to say, and I heard this:
“Train until you reach failure in your technique, where your
technique is good, but you go as hard as you can and if you
have to change your tempo, that’s okay, as long as your form
is still good.
What you don’t want to do is change your… form in order to
keep going, that would not be training to failure.”
Does that make any sense? He’s advocating training with the right technique and not letting up until you can’t go any further.
He’s not saying train so you WILL fail, but UNTIL you fail. Only then should we take a break.
This isn’t just true of athletes. I know musicians who would practice something until they got it right, and then, at that point, they would play it 100 times in a row nonstop. If they got it wrong, they would start over. And that wasn’t even for the LORD!
If we are going to bring the LORD our very best, than this kind of hardcore training is necessary to condition ourselves into the proper technique, the right notes, the perfect tempo, the exquisite dynamics, the perfect phrasing, etc.
I know that some of you won’t even know what songs you may be called on to play next. I played for many years at a church where they called out the hymns from the congregation, so I never knew what I was going to have to play. But still, I had to be ready. And you can be too. You can practice through your whole hymnbook if you are a church pianist, until you know all the hymns by heart. Words too.
I must admit here that I never learned every one of them (partly because I was lazy, and partly because we didn’t sing certain ones) but I know most of them to this day, by heart.
We can be ready for whatever we are called to at a moment’s notice, by taking the time and energy to train like an athlete. In a very real sense, this is a sacrifice of praise.
If a concert pianist would train like an athlete in preparation for a concert, why shouldn’t you or I train like an athlete in preparation for Sunday morning worship of the God of all the Universe, who gave His most prized possession to purchase us?
I’d like to know if you agree or disagree, or if you have another opinion. Please leave a comment below, and if you found this useful, share it with a friend.
Free Master Class This Saturday, February 4th from 1-3pm Eastern Standard Time (10am-12pm Pacific Standard Time).
Faye Lopez will be joining Greg Howlett for an online group Master Class. The class is free to observers, and participants are $25. I would highly recommend this class! I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to take some classes from Faye, and learned a bunch! Plus, she’s the nicest teacher ever! She won’t let you get away with poor quality music, but she will guide you in the sweetest way so you can make it better.
This class includes the added benefit of having pianist, teacher, arranger and producer, Greg Howlett, as well! He is excellent at teaching, and super nice! Greg brings a wealth of experience to the table you will be blessed by!
This is a great opportunity I don’t intend to miss, and you won’t want to either!
88 Creative Keys is putting on the Essentials For The Worship Team Pianist Webinar on Monday, January 16th from 11am-1pm Eastern Standard Time.
The cost is $49 for this two-part, three hour online class taught by Leila Viss, Drew Collins and Bradley Sowash.
I have not taken their classes, but heard of this through James Koerts. 88 Creative Keys offer several webinars throughout the year on all sort of musical subjects such as chords, rhythm, teaching, improvising, etc.
In the first portion of the webinar, Drew and Leila will discuss:
The three roles of a worship team pianist.
The latest tech tools used by most worship teams.
Tips on how to build required skills.
What worship leaders expect of a pianist.
Common mistakes pianists make when playing with a band.
Five characteristics of a strong worship team pianist.
Some tricks of the trade.
In the next portion, Bradley will cover:
What to play when unrehearsed background music is needed.
Heighten your awareness of thinking and playing in musical layers.
More tips for pianists on feeling a groove.
Improvising and/or arranging a traditional hymn for contemporary worship.
For more details, and to sign up for this class go here.
Take advantage of online classes with Greg Howlett and Faye Lopez!
Beginning in 2017, you will be able to take online classes with Greg Howlett, or Faye Lopez, one of Conservative Christian Music’s most prolific composers.
Through Greg’s website, you’ll be able to take private lessons, master classes, and college prep theory classes.
If at all possible for you, I would highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity from some amazing composers and arrangers!
I personally have had some opportunity to take some classes from Faye, and she is a wonderful person, and excellent teacher, coach and mentor in my pursuit of excellence in sacred music
I met Mr. Howlett at the Pine Lake Music, Composer’s Symposium in Atlanta this year. Greg is a brilliant man, and an excellent teacher, arranger, pianist, and producer, as well. Though I have not taken lessons directly from him yet, I would highly recommend him as well!
Either of these individuals would be able to take your musical knowledge and skill to a higher level. As musicians in the house of the LORD, we ought to always strive for excellence. Both Greg and Faye have a heart to see excellent music in church settings and are launching this opportunity so you too can become a more excellent musician.
Jim’s vocal class was well received. In the first session, he had the most students!
For those of you, who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing him, he sings in a natural, easy style, that has really is a joy to listen to! A lot of people are preferring this over traditional classical operatic singing that typifies traditional church music. Jim showed that you can sing both praise and worship songs, and traditional solos, such as The Via Dolorosa, and not still project your voice, and add proper emotion and technique without sounding gaudy. One of Jim’s strengths which I believe added to this conference, is that he comes from a slightly less traditional background, having been a professional entertainer, and then later serving on the music ministry team at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA. He now leads the music at a Messianic Jewish congregation in Irvine, CA., and he possesses the ability and sensitivity to balance the technique and style. He understands both sides and their proper uses and was able to communicate this through instruction and demonstration.
Jim did a lot of private lessons in addition to the group sessions that covered the basic techniques. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of photos from this class.
Everybody loves Mr. Fox! He is a blast to be around, and he knows his stuff! Don’t let his this serious look scare you away!
Too bad there isn’t a picture of the historical conducting devices which you would’ve seen had you been here, but I guess we will have to do this again, and you will have to come to his class, so you can learn not only the history, and beginning of conducting, but also learn some actual conducting skills (if you can between laughing!)
Really, Mr. Fox was another wonderful asset to this conference, bringing many years of teaching and believe it or not, actual conducting experience! 🙂 He is also very expressive, and his students always have a great time and burn calories laughing from the fun in the process!
Mr. Fox also had the difficult task of taking 46 of us, with varying degrees of ability and experience (some not even reading music), and led us in making actual music! It really was amazing that he was able to pull it off!
Each student at this conference was involved in either the chorale, or the accompaniment for the chorale.
In the short time we had together, we put together two anthems and a hymn, which were sung on Friday evening in addition to the individuals and groups that shared their gifts.
We had a number of string players which brought their instruments and did a fantastic job accompanying us, as well as Logan O. on the piano, under Mr. Fox’s fabulous direction.
Thank you to the Smith, Haymond, Osborn and Bisceglia family members who were willing to do a little extra and share your talents with us in the string ensemble!
Really, all of you should be congratulated on your perseverance and hard work on learning some brand new (to most of you) music in just two short days! You all did an incredible job!
On Friday afternoon, we held an instructor forum, with the combined experience of the professionals to answer your questions. As you can see, we aren’t always serious!
We solicited questions on Wednesday, and Thursday, and held the forum Friday.
Our purpose wasn’t to discuss the merits of Traditional vs. Contemporary, or to get into a divisive argument which doesn’t serve to help us worship. Instead, we deliberately steered the conversation toward things of practical value to any musician of any leaning, with the emphasis and encouragement of keeping a heart of true worship. We did seek to define what worship truly is, earlier in the week, and this discussion expounded on that somewhat.
The conference culminated on Friday evening, with a community evening of worship in song, led by the staff and conference attendees. Each of the students had the opportunity to put to use some of their new skills. All participated in one way or another. We had a chorale, special numbers, and community hymn-singing led and accompanied by the students and staff.
After we had sung the last song and acknowledged our incredible director, Mr. Fox, he said he had one more thing to do and handed me an envelope with donations he and Mrs. Lopez had collected so that I could go to the Pine Lake Composer’s Symposium in Atlanta, GA. Only Mrs. Lopez knew I wanted to go to this, and she “put a bug in someone’s ear” suggesting they do this.
I was so overwhelmed! We had just, by the grace of God, had the most wonderful conference, and then to top it off, the kind generosity of so many of the students, which allowed me to go and learn from the likes of Joe Martin, Mary McDonald, Brant Adams, Victor Jackson, Robert Sterling, and Brad Nix. THANK YOU ALL SOOOO MUCH!! it was an incredible “Composium” which I will write about in the next blog post, God willing.
All of you who attended made this a fantastic conference, which was better than I could’ve hoped for and all of you who didn’t make it, missed a great conference! Lord willing, we will do this again in the future.We have identified a number of areas that people are looking for further training in, and hope to be able add those as well. We are currently praying about what the LORD would have us to do. If you would join with us in this, we would greatly appreciate it!
On June 1-3, 2016, we held the very first Powerful Praise! Music Conference, at Opportunity Presbyterian Church, in Spokane Valley, WA!
Forty-six musicians and worship leaders from as far south as Southern California, and as far North, as North Dakota, showed up to learn how to improve their musicianship in order to make God’s praise glorious! It was an awe-inspiring time with representatives of several different denominations including Presbyterian, Baptist, United Methodist, Messianic, and Non-Denominational churches. I really appreciated the oneness in spirit that everyone had-we were here for the purpose of learning to bring our Lord and Savior praise through music, in the best possible ways, preparing our hearts, minds, and bodies (through excellent technique and practice), to bring Him the very best we can.
We had instruction in piano accompaniment, modulations, arranging, master classes, playing the message of the music, vocal techniques, singing with proper form, projection, mic techniques, conducting hymns for congregational singing, conducting choirs and ensembles, understanding your audience, understanding the difference between praising God and putting on a performance, a forum with the experts, and hands-on practice. This is only a partial list of the many, many things taught during this two-day conference.
Our instructors were Faye Lopez (piano accompaniment), Brian Fox (song leading and directing), and Jim White (Vocals). Mr. Tom Wylie was invaluable behind the scenes with technical aspects making things run smoothly, as well as Logan O., and the Shove, Pinkerton, Smith and Haymond families. And I can’t fail to mention the gourmet refreshments and service which were graciously provided by the John Smythe family! Thank you all for your servant’s heart and your gracious generosity in giving of time and resources to help out in making this a success!
This has been the culmination of a vision which has been such a joy to see come together! THANK YOU TO All who participated, helped get out the word, attended, gave of your time and resources, and made this conference happen. It would’ve been a lonely endeavor without you!
At the close of this two day conference, after the choir sang, and we acknowledged our amazing conductor, I was presented with an envelope of donations which they had collected unbeknownst to me, so that I could go to Pine Lake Music’s Composer’s Symposium, I had heard about through Mrs. Lopez. I will tell more about that in part 2. Thank you to all who donated toward this!
As people arrived, they checked in with Tom W. and received their name tag and personalized folders.
Everyone received a name tag and a folder with sheet music (several octavos and a new hymn), instructions, and notes, as well as information on copyrights and church music complimentary of CCLI, and Hymnprovisation.com
We were blessed to have 46 worship leaders, pianists, vocalists, and fellow musicians from South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California! It was a great group of people who sought to improve their skills in musicianship, and to learn how to make excellent music in praise to God.
We began on Wednesday evening, with welcome, introductions, announcements, and a concert by our instructors, Brian Fox, Jim White, and Faye Lopez.
Mr. Fox was Master of Ceremonies, and led in corporate worship at the beginning of the group sessions, as well as conducting the chorale, and string ensemble, and teaching conducting and song leading. We began with the introduction of a brand new hymn by Faye Lopez, Blest Be The Tie, which was fitting for this conference seeing as we had many people from many denominational backgrounds, who all were come together to make God’s praise excellent!
After the the introductions and announcements, the rest of the evening was dedicated to hearing from Faye Lopez and Jim White, as they shared the gifts God has entrusted to them, with us. Part of the purpose of this was to hear what they are able to do with the training and experience they have gained from years of practice, performance, worship, and teaching.
J.W. Pepper was also on hand with four tables of music, books, and resources for those involved in music ministry, and if they didn’t have what you were looking for here, they offered free shipping to conference attendees!
This was intended to be a “hands-on” music conference. Each student was encouraged to try out and implement the techniques they were learning, and each who wanted it, had the opportunity to present, accompany, or lead the singing at the final concert and community hymn sing.
Impromptu singing at the breaks in the wonderfully acoustic lobby!
Piano Accompaniment Class
We were very, very blessed, to have published composer, teacher, and pianist, Faye Lopez, all the way from Bob Jones University, in South Carolina, come out and teach piano accompaniment. The wonderfully expressive Mrs. Lopez, shared from her years of experience teaching, playing, arranging, and writing music. In addition to the regular sessions, she also did a couple of Master Class sessions, where students could present a piece they had been working on, and receive instruction on how to improve their technique, the way they think of the music, the way they express their music and much, much more, in a mutually encouraging, constructive environment!
Students were encouraged share a song they had been working on, with the purpose of improving techniques through excellent instruction.
There were also a limited number of private lessons available from Mrs. Lopez for an additional cost.
During the breaks, there were numerous opportunities for networking, and to learn from others, browse, and purchase sheet music from JW Pepper, practice what you learned, play or sing music in the lobby with others, or simply relax and enjoy the incredible refreshments provided by the John Smythe Family!