Rove's new album Ex Nihilo is on iTunes now. My quick thoughts on producing Rove's debut album.Read More
Filtering by Category: music
Check out this old video of a song I layered violin, guitars and vocals to. It's possibly one of my most favorite tunes this season.
Aviom units can be a big help in cutting down stage noise and increasing the quality of your mix (live and in the studio). But labeling the aviom channels can be a pain. You can personally pencil in each channel if you really wanted to. The other option is to print something out and affix it to the personal mixing units. Our favorite part is the colored distinctions between channels. Here's a template (for those of you on Mac using Numbers). Each printer is a bit different so you may need to adjust it some. Hope it helps! Happy mixing.
Worship is Revelation & Response. I decided to put this phrase across some chalk boards in our green room here at Calvary. This room is where we meet before we step out onstage to serve 1,000 people weekly through musical worship. The chalk boards serve as a reminder of what worship is *supposed* to be about: Revelation & Response. Notice it doesn't have anything to do with perfectly executed chords, crazy guitar licks, LED lighting, or moving slide backgrounds. Worship is an interaction between God and people. Worship is 1) Revelation and 2) Response.
Revelation is the first distinction of musical worship. God initiates revelation.
Our chalk board currently reads, "God does this." In other words revelation is not man-made. The Apostle Paul reminds his readers in Galatia, "From Paul, whose call to be an apostle did not come from human beings or by human means, but from Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from death." What is he referring to? Most likely Acts Ch 9 where God initiates a revelation of himself so dramatic that Paul completely changes the trajectory of his life. Revelation is something God does. He initiates. He reveals things like: his glory, truth, holiness, grace, love, character, and plans. Worship is Revelation.
After God reveals we respond. Response is the second distinction of musical worship.
I love the picture of God revealing his holiness to the people of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. After God's presence rests on the mountain, evidenced through natural wonders, the people respond. Exodus 20:18-19 reads, "When the people heard the thunder and the trumpet blast and saw the lightning and the smoking mountain, they trembled with fear and stood a long way off. They said to Moses, 'If you speak to us, we will listen; but we are afraid that if God speaks to us, we will die.'” Our response can be things like praise, repentance, joy, singing, clapping, cheering, acceptance, and sacrificial giving. On our chalk board we wrote a short list of possible responses. Below that list I wrote the words, "We do this." This is our response. This is where we act.
I'm probably preaching to the choir when writing about the need for people to respond. How many crossed arms, blank looks, glowing faces illuminated from smart phones have you seen in the midst of musical worship? We need to work harder at teaching our churches and our worship arts teams the two distinctions of Revelation and Response. Without our leadership people may continue to set their expectations too low. At best they will see musical worship as a concert. They will expect great spiritual music and emotive moments. But as the last chalk board shows, our bar ought to be transformation. This isn't a concert. This is a chance to be transformed.
God reveals (he does this). We respond (we do this).
Tips for a Good Sound Check
Have you ever stepped into a soundcheck gone bad? It can really color the whole event. The larger the show, the more complex the instrumentation, the more necessary it becomes to have a system in place for how you handle sound checks. Great stage leadership provides 1) role clarification and 2) a defined process for sound checking. The two together can make inspired shows and happy teams. Here’s a small explanation of each as well as some sound check etiquette.
It’s important to help everyone get on the same page regarding sound check. Getting everyone on the same page means defining who does what. In his business leadership book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins refers to this process as “getting everyone on the bus in the right seats.” Healthy teams function through the clarity of their roles, expectations, and contributions. Avoid the temptation of too many cooks in the kitchen and instead flourish within the roles you’ve defined.
Once your bass player understands he doesn’t need to be responsible for front of house vocal eq and your tech understands he will not be dialing in your electric guitarist’s tone knobs, you can move on to some additional role clarification. The most important clarification has to do with stage and tech liaisons.
There should be two strong leadership liaisons on your team - one onstage and one behind the sound board. Some larger teams include a third liaison on the floor - usually a producer/stage manager. During sound checks it’s important the liaisons work together with a single voice guiding and leading sound check. Ideally, this single voice is the tech director or sound engineer as this is the time for musicians to be musicians, vocalists to be vocalists, and engineers to shape their stage and front of house mixes.
There is a general way most teams sound check. Usually it involves moving through the input list one instrument or vocal at a time. Usually everyone on stage will make monitor requests based on the single instrument or vocal being sound checked. Some teams prefer starting with vocals. Others start with the drums and bass. The goal should be to move through as quickly as possible without sacrificing sound quality.
The following are some good reminders for performers when it comes to sound check etiquette:
1) Less is more (only ask for yourself and a few reference items in your monitor to help keep stage noise down)
2) Less stage noise/more in ear monitors (instrumentalists - turn down physical cabinets on stage and turn them up in your in ear monitors)
3) Make sound requests through stage liaison (communicate through your liaison and their mic any requests rather than coming across as "shouting" to tech)
4) Keep it quiet (during sound check participate in each individual instrument/mic check. No talking or playing through other people's sound check)
5) Use universal hand signals (point up for more, point down for less, ok sign when you've gotten what you need, arm/hand up in the air to signal a problem or request)
6) Up the communication (when things are getting rough increase your communication game. Use quantitative and specific descriptions - i.e. "I need 5% more of the lead vocal" as opposed to "I can't hear anything." Even through you’re in a hurry use reflective listening rather than cutting each other off. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need rather than grinning and bearing it. When requesting say, "Please" and when a change has been made don't forget to say, "Thanks")
7) Have fun! Do what you are uniquely created for. Keep it loose and shake what your Daddy gave you.
One of the promises of a digital rig is traveling lighter. You can essentially ditch your heavy amp and pedal board and replace them with a laptop. But if you go that route, consider the following: A laptop rig requires line-of-site to the computer screen, making it difficult to know where to place your laptop on-stage. You'll need to think through the logistics of an audio interface and perhaps a midi foot controller, and all that gear adds up. But you will travel much lighter than with conventional rigs.
2. Custom Settings
I've been using Main Stage 2 (screen shot shown here). MS2 provides multiple ins/outs, multiple plugins, and several pedal/amp configurations at the flip of a switch. I've been using an electric guitar plugin called Guitar Rig 4. As you feel more comfortable with the GUI you can design your own screen layouts to suit your live performance needs. Each song can be saved as an individual patch. This means you can pre-determine tempos, delays, reverbs, modulations, tones, etc. Rather than tap dancing on your pedal board during your live performances you simply advance to the next patch. Having these saved settings can additionally speed up sound check times.
So what’s the verdict? I think it’s mixed. When it comes to tone, most digital gear I've played through is definitely good enough to replace my analogue gear. It sounds great live or in the studio. You'll have to put some serious time into the software to get the right sounds to come out of your laptop. However you'll have the freedom of trying various pedals and amps usually at a fraction of the cost of boutique analogue gear.
I will say however as the front man, the laptop/pedal rig has been really tough to use live. Most of the time the footprint of a pedal board and laptop ends up being too much gear for front-center stage. Additionally, I find a dissonance clicking a foot controller and then having to look to a computer screen for visual feedback regarding what has changed in my settings. In split-second live situations this additional visual feedback takes too much time. I'm finding Line6 gear to be the better digital choice for stage. Boards like the Line6 X3 Live have pulled together the best of both analogue and digital worlds into one box.
Why Feet Matter - People vote with them
I just stuck my head out from my office/studio to see the parking lot jammed with cars. There wasn't one spot left open. Calvary, the location of my office/studio, hosts a mid-week play date called "Playhouse Calvary." Its specifically for families throughout the Bay Area. I think we hosted over 400 or more parents and kids in the few short hours PlayHouse was open. Looking at all those cars reminded me of an important reality: People vote with their feet (and their cars).
It seems today everything is getting smaller. Seth Godin writes a great blog about this. From the music business, to the Church, to sports arenas, our idea of big is shifting. Our world continues to adopt necessary business models which scale smaller and focus on the individual. Maybe you've heard about shallow but wide sales, the long tail, etc. These new models are informed from the iEthos of our day. I wonder however if small dismisses some of us from the best kind of leadership: a servant leadership focused on producing the kinds of things which touch a lot of people (not just some). I wonder if this new paradigm releases artists, producers, pastors, and other creative leaders from the responsibility to birth inspired material and products.
Even with the shifting emphasis on Small is the New Big, there's still the reality of the feet. People still vote with them. People (and their feet) are still a wonderful metric on how well our creativity and leadership are being received.
In servant leadership people matter. People share what matters to them with their feet. That is why every leader ought to develop a healthy foot fetish.
What really are room dynamics? Here's how I just defined them in a recent focus group.
Positive Room Dynamics:
- Critical Mass
- Tipping Point (Engagement)
- Residual AfterGlow
In positive room dynamics, the room reaches a proper critical mass. Simply put there are enough bodies in the room. No too few. Not too many. In general people tend to describe this subjectively as "full" as opposed to "empty" or "jam-packed." Having reached critical mass, something socially occurs - a tipping point of engagement. It's a bit of a lemming effect. People who usually won't clap, shout, audibly cheer or sing find themselves enraptured in what the larger herd is doing... and they join in. Generally something spiritual happens. A sense of community and intimacy is forged. And from their shared experience together people leave the environment with what I like to call "residual afterglow." Its a sense of positive environmental branding. They leave feeling the place was alive, happening, energetic, etc. Generally they want to come back and bring others with them.
Negative Room Dynamics:
- No Critical Mass
- No Tipping Point
- Negative Social/Environmental Branding
In negative room dynamics, the gathering never reaches a proper critical mass and therefore lacks a tipping point of engagement. People move more into a role of autonomous spectators. On an intrinsic level humans sense the missing level of engagement. They sense isolation all around them and they begin to form negative social/environmental branding.
This dynamic is prevalent in every human gathering. The trick is mastering not only the product "on stage" but mastering the environmental/social product as well. If you're feeling as if your meeting or gathering is suffering from negative room dynamics, try moving. Try a different location on campus. Try renting a new space off campus. Discover what the new location does for the vibrancy of your social interactions. I suggest you time your move with a special initiative or date on your calendar. Leaders less savvy to social impacts often aren't "sold" on the power of room dynamics. So tie your creative initiative to some additional values your group is trying to achieve. Whatever you do, do not underestimate the power of where and how you meet. Positive room dynamics are huge in moving isolated beings into energetic communities.
This week I finished producing a single for the band Divine Artistry - a new 3 piece pop/rock band professionally recording their first EP. They focused their resources and creativity around one song, deciding to get their feet wet tracking a single. Together we met in my studio and collaborated on song structure, genre, parts, and tonalities. We landed somewhere around Brian Eno meets Fray with the project moving quickly into full production mode. The picture is a screenshot of around 30 tracks. The secret I think to a good production is really taking the time to explore and refine parts. A lot of budget minded indie artists are looking these days for the cheapest (i.e. fastest) way to get their songs recorded. The downside to only toting cost is it generally conflicts with the time needed to develop an artist & develop their song. As I was bouncing tracks and uploading them to a server for mix down, I was thinking about how similar the recording process is to painting. A few years back my wife Lynsie and I had the privilege to live next to one of today's best known painters. It was amazing to watch this painter in action. Painting happened in layers over a great deal of time. Music, surprisingly is very similar. You have your basic pallet you are pulling from. The art, however, is in how you weave those basic elements together sonically. And this kind of art takes time. All in all I think this particular song took about 32 hours to put together. Does it sound good? You bet. I can't wait for the world to hear it.