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Old 03-02-2002, 09:44 PM
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trpullen trpullen is offline
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Default Need Help Moving Forward (Warning - Worship Leader Content!!!)

We have a fairly unique situation at our church. While most Praise Teams I have seen are usually along the one leader, several background vocalist ilk, we are actually an ensemble with:

2 - sopranos (singing lead, one is our director)
2 - altos
2 - tenors
2 - bass

piano
keys
guitar (acoustic)
electric bass
congas/perc
drum kit
and the occasional electric guitar

Now for the issue. All vocalists are strong and read very well. We use the Songs for Praise and Worship Hymnal (do not project words yet) and the vocalists need their parts written. They grumble when we suggest doing anything with a unison vocal line and they panic if I suggest they "make up" a harmony part from a lead sheet. I have a ton of great stuff that we could be using for special music and praise choruses but it is left untouched because they are afraid to try it.

Any ideas on how to get them off books?
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Old 03-02-2002, 11:03 PM
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I had a similar problem at a youth camp where I was worship leader. We had a keyboardist who was a classically trained pianist. Wonderful...could play anything as long as there were notes. I was a guitarist and all I had were chord charts, which I expected the keyboardist to be able to read. No can do...never did get it.

Maybe you could suggest doing some new stuff with a solo leader. Choose the singer whose voice suits the particular song and maybe the others will join in with some self made harmony. If you can let them listen to the CD, that might help too. I've seen the multiple worship leader thing work a lot of times.
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Old 03-02-2002, 11:40 PM
Mike G Mike G is offline
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Tom:

I see your delema. I wish I could offer some advice. The worship team vocalists that I have been associated with never read music. Not that they couldn't...just didn't. My former Pastor used to try to dicourage us from being glued to the page. I personally felt that it didn't allow me to truly get surrounded by His presence. Ask yourself if you think worship is too technically complicated. Lately I've been feeling that simpler is better because you can be more free.

It's too bad that they are afraid to try new material. Perhaps you could weave it in slowly. Maybe during practice you can work on just one song and introduce it when they are comfortable.

In my last team, we learned one new song a week and introduced it that Sunday. We found that making tapes of practice on Tuesday nights gave us time to work on our own through the week. Then met for a run-through Sunday morning.

I know this doesn't help you but thank God that He has given you so much talent. It's a good problem to have.

Do you pray prior to practice? We pray for quite some time and always felt that helped direct our worship. Like anything, commit it to Him and let Him make it happen. Then it becomes true worship when the Lord leads...no music, eyes shut, in His presence.... His Holiness Surround Me....Can't wait for church tomorrow.
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Old 03-03-2002, 05:40 AM
Aruthas Aruthas is offline
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Tom, I can see what they are "afraid" of. I sang with a good vocal ensemble in the past (they were good, I was there because they were desperately needing a bass singer ), and the reason I prefer that to singing solo is because I just love singing harmonies. I have recently tried to teach how to sing harmonies to a couple of my friends, and that is a really hard task. Many people just don't have the feel for it, don't know what to sing if they don't have the lead, unless it is written. A good arranger is priceless.

That being said, the simpless harmony that a 4-parts choir can do and will sound great, is to have the sopranos and tenors singing the lead in unisson, while the altos and bass sing a third lower. This won't work for an entire song though, you'll still have to adjust some parts that will yield a weird sounding "chord".

Another thing you can try, is not having everyone singing at the same time, exchange the lead between sopranos and tenors for example. You can also do canons, that should work well for a lot of spiritual material. Hope I have been of any help.
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Old 03-03-2002, 04:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mike G
Tom:

...Ask yourself if you think worship is too technically complicated. Lately I've been feeling that simpler is better because you can be more free.
Not really all that technical. Just stuck on books. As a bassist, I have my parts all memorized, they cannot make that leap.

Quote:
It's too bad that they are afraid to try new material.
Not afraid of new material. We introduce new stuff all the time. Just as long as it is SATB printed stuff.

Quote:
Then met for a run-through Sunday morning.
Wow...not that luxury. We meet on Wednesday for practice. The contemporary service is at 9:30 between the 8:10 and 10:50 Traditional services. No run-throughs on Sunday AM.

Quote:
I know this doesn't help you but thank God that He has given you so much talent. It's a good problem to have.
And we do....all the time. We actually have 5 really good drummers. We never have an issue. How is that for a problem?

Quote:
Do you pray prior to practice?
Yes and before the service too. So far, no singers praying themselves off the book..hehe.

Thanks for the ideas though.
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Old 03-03-2002, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Aruthas
Another thing you can try, is not having everyone singing at the same time, exchange the lead between sopranos and tenors for example. You can also do canons, that should work well for a lot of spiritual material. Hope I have been of any help.
Also, did I mention a little ego thing that makes them all deathly afraid of being "back up" singers? I really don't want that taken wrong. They are not big headed by any stretch....they just want to be an ensemble and I suppose we musicians (who don't mind sitting out a little when called for) can respect that.
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Old 03-03-2002, 07:15 PM
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Bob Womack Bob Womack is offline
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I'm not comfortable with seeing people typifying one philosophy of musical performance as more "holy" or spiritual than another. You have to understand that these are two approaches to music, two different mindsets, and they occupy their own realms and don't cross-over well or often.

Classically-trained musicians are trained to read sheet and interpret it, working as closely to that sheet as possible. Their creativity is expressed in how precisely they reproduce what they are directed to sing. They observe the other group and think they are undisciplined and incapable of consistantly reproducing a performance.

Pop musicians are taught to improvise and express themselves by working out their own arrangements. They consider themselves too tightly constrained if they are forced to read and stick to a sheet. They usually don't play the same thing twice. They see the classically-trained group as unable to come up with something fresh.

If you ask a classically-train person to improvise, you are constraining him. If you ask a pop musician to stick to a sheet, you are constraining him. Both, however, have their place in the world of worship and neither is unholy or unspiritual. In your case, what you need to do is get someone to create and write out your vocalist's arrangements.

Here's an interesting fact: Bach wrote many of his church organ works by creating improvisations at church and writing down the ones that turned out to be popular.

Bob

PS. From my wife, a classically-trained first soprano: Be glad you don't have a mixed bunch of vocalists - they would drive each other BATS! She knows, she sings in our church's praise ensemble.
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Old 03-03-2002, 07:38 PM
Mike G Mike G is offline
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Bob:

Good points. I'm the one that doesn't play anything the same way twice. I play with a classically trained Pianest/vocalist and. although we bumped heads a few times early on, we have developed a great respect for each others place in worship. She has become more contemporary by emulating some of my technique and I have learned a great deal about theory etc. from her...especially vocals. What humbling experience it was when I agreed to start singing a couple of years ago. I totally respect an accomplished vocalist.

Blessings
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Old 03-03-2002, 09:39 PM
ScottyMac ScottyMac is offline
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You might think about going to a worship conference together. Five members of our team went to a Hosanna/Integrity conference last May, and it was a wonderful experience for them.

While we don't do a lot of Integrity music, just being together and listening to how others do it was a major improvement. As they each filter through the various sessions of the conference, they will hear from others what you are trying to do.

It's sort of like a prophet not receiving honor in his home town. If someone outside of your worship team says it, it might have more validity. There are about 10 of these conferences being held around the country this coming May.

A worship team differs greatly on how the church has always done music. While I don't claim that one way is necessarily better, it is obvious that most churches are beginning to adopt the team mentality and present more contemporary music. This is difficult for those engrained in the old school of a piano and organ, and who only do music the way it is written.

I've had to work hard with our keyboard players, who are both piano players from the traditional way of thinking. The battle still rages. More as it happens.
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Last edited by ScottyMac; 03-03-2002 at 09:45 PM.
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Old 03-03-2002, 11:00 PM
kenliu kenliu is offline
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Tom -

My first thought here is that before you can train your singers to sing without written music, you'll first have to convince them that it's a good idea. If they don't WANT to do it, they'll never put forth the effort to learn how.

It's a little unfair to just tell someone who is used to sight reading to improvise a harmony line in the middle of a practice session. I think it will take a concerted effort to train people to learn how to improvise and to get comfortable with it.

Having said that, my suggestion is that you help them develop their ear training. Find a recording with four parts, and have them try to learn it purely by ear. This still isn't improvisation, but it will help the singers to get a feel for what sounds good.

Next, I would pick a song that has a part that is relatively easy to improvise over. The chorus to "Better Is One Day" comes to my mind. In that song, you can play a two chord vamp (IV-V) while singing the line "better is one day" when you get to the end of the chorus. Have one person sing the lead part and have others try to improvise a bit. You'll just have to use some positive reinforcement and encourage people to try. Note that this kind of thing requires people to check their egos at the door...it's sure to sound bad at first.

Of course, all this will require you to dedicate some practice time to learning how to improvise.

Ken
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Old 03-03-2002, 11:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bob Womack
If you ask a classically-train person to improvise, you are constraining him. If you ask a pop musician to stick to a sheet, you are constraining him.
Bob - I agree with what you're saying, up to a point. I think that a mature musician should understand that both approaches are simply tools for making music, and that there are benefits to both. One is not necessarily better than the other, but one approach might work better than the other in different situations. I think Tom is trying to get his folks to broaden their musical horizons by teaching them how to improvise, not to abandon the use of written music.

Ken
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Old 03-03-2002, 11:13 PM
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By the way, if anyone has an opportunity to attend a worship conference by Maranatha music, I highly recommend it. I'm not a big fan of Maranatha label recordings, but their worship training was awesome. All of the clinicians are definitely pros and know what they're talking about. One of the vocal clinicians at the conference I attended was a vocal coach for some top ten (as in Billboard) recording artists, but she was totally able to come down to my level and help me out with my singing. Maybe that's why she's a top coach!

Ken
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Old 03-03-2002, 11:48 PM
Lonesome Picker Lonesome Picker is offline
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BobW,,

Great post. It really hit the mark with me this week. Earlier in the week I played for about 500 people (in a very free form setting) at a Church function. Two other acoustic musicians and myself, played some contemporary tunes, including Amazing Grace to the tune of peaceful easy feeling. I have mentioned this tune on the forum before, people just seem to raally get into this song. Anyway, I no sooner got home than the music minister calls and wants me to sit in with a new group he is putting together. We have " a few days" he says but I could really use you. OK... "I step up in faith". To make a long story short, he pulls out 13 songs from a new "updated" Methodist Worship HYMNAL"....AAAARRRRGGGGG! As I am looking at the Gmsus4 and DM11 etc.. (of course hymnal transpositions to guitar are so fine!)I am thinking, no problem I will make my own transpostions.

Well BobW,

I agree with all the things you have said about classical mucicians, and the "play by ear" types. I played at an event last week for about 500 folks and as soon as I got home, I got a call from the music minister. Ron? We could really use you in our new Worhsip Service.
Hymnals again, I thought (), but I felt obligated to "step up by faith" and contribute what I could. How many weeks before you want to perform, I asked. Three days. How many songs? It will be a medley. Reverand, how many tunes? Thirteen. We are going to have a "run through" on Sunday at two. We can count on you right?
Hey, I'll be there.

A 90 minute practice prior to the event, was just enough to confirm for me that if I didn't hit that chord on exactly the "8th note downbeat", well, the song might just be ruined.. Ok, so I am exagerating. Sigh.... I am at my best in freeform where I am free to play a little differently each time I play a song. I play from the heart, and that is what guides my voice, my fingerpcikin, and my strumming, depending on my mood and the mood of the group, each song will be just might be a little different. Of course there are some standard tunes that you are going to play like clockwork. Of course traditional classical musicians play ALL their music like clockwork, and that is where the tension/disonance is for me.

As you said Bob, we are difffent, but all led by the spirit. It is just amazing how different we feel though, when we start mixing our music and our styles together. By the way are classical musisians allowed to even have a style? Again, great post, and good thread.

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Old 03-03-2002, 11:54 PM
Lonesome Picker Lonesome Picker is offline
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OOPS!

Sorry Guys & Gals..

It is 1:51 AM here in NC. I am working late. It seems I just double posted in my previous post! Jeez, I don't think I ever did that before. I wondered where my comments went while I was typing. Now I know. Anyway, Mea Kulpa, Mea Kulpa, Mea Maxma Kulpa.

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Old 03-04-2002, 06:14 AM
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My wife and I just celebrated one year on our worship team. When we started, the band was just starting up again after a 3 month hiatus. We practiced for 3 months before we performed. It was a great time to become family and to gel as musicians. That I know is not an option for most Worship teams.

We have 12! singers (max). Out of those, 2 sing lead 80% of the time. They are the professional musicians of the bunch. 8 of the 12 can/do sing lead. It is very hard on the egos sometimes when it may go weeks before we can take a turn. I get to sing about every other week. Got to sing 2x this past Sunday. Even one I wrote about 20 years ago in college. Cool! Got to remember that it is for HIM, not us. My wife and I both read music and it was very hard at first when we were told, just make something up in harmony! Now it's a blast and easy. If only it were that easy for me to learn lead guitar . I'm getting better and very much improved in the last year, but a long way to go!
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