Being a Worship Pastor I hear a good number of “worship” songs throughout the day. Along with writing our own songs at Cornerstone I’m always looking for new tunes that give our church a fresh voice. Recently I was researching a song we’re implementing at Cornerstone and came across Brian Johnson. I have to say I’m rather impressed!

Now, I’m not the guy who’s totally cynical about church music, although I will admit there’s a corporate vibe that really stinks up the air these days. Most of the complaints I hear center around worship music is that it lacks “real” creativity or that its  “just like every other worship song.” Heck, Hillsong has built the perfect template for hit songs, why wouldn’t we just rip it off? I’m not advocating that method at all, but it certainly happens and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to clone it myself.

Ok, so on to Brian Johnson’s, Love Came Down. For all the haters out there, this album tramples every critique you could throw at it. Here’s what I love about it:

1. Musically it’s extremely simple. Acoustic guitar, piano, cello, percussion and a room of worshipers singing along. No electric guitars using a DL4 to add that worshipful U2/Coldplay vibe we all love so much. In fact there isn’t a fast or driving song on the album to string your emotions along. It’s very simple and honest.

2. It’s creative in it’s own right. Somewhere along the way we’ve bought into the lie that creative means “different.” This album isn’t anything new or mind blowing,  but it is brilliantly creative in what was left out of the project. In fact I’d argue that creativity is more about an honest presentation than the latest Radio Head album.

3. Video. The addition of video re-shapes the entire project for me. I’ve sat in front of my Mac Book for the past 30 minutes watching the youtube clips (http://www.youtube.com/user/brianandjennjohnson) of each song. There is just something about giving the listener eyes to see the project in it’s original context. It also gives the listener/viewer the opportunity to engage the project in the same way those sitting along the outside wall did in the studio.

So, I find this album very refreshing. I love the unhyped, honest and worshipful vibe it carries. It might not change the world or sell 100k units, but it is leading my into the presence of God and reminding me worship music is best in the local church.


I’ve been on the search for new guitar strings over the past year now – specifically for my Crafter Keywest Acoustic. Previously I used Elixir strings but finally gave up on them due to the “cost to breakage ratio!” On my Rick Turner I run D’Addario EXP and love ’em, but something about the EXP doesn’t capture the warmth of the Crafter. So I’ve been on the hunt. Recently I came across these new RED Brand strings and I have to say – “Wow, they suck.” Seriously, they have to be some of the worst strings I’ve ever played. Thin and harsh is how I’d have to describe them and they have this weird pink “hue” that also looks horrible. Usually I’ll leave a set of strings on to see how they “break in” throughout the week. Nope, not here. They lasted a whopping three days on my axe. Aside from the thin and harsh tone they never seemed to “seat” well either. I was constantly having re-tune which is not the norm for this guitar.

So, I’m back to the drawing board. I picked up a set of the new coated Ernie Ball strings and put those on for Church tomorrow. So far they seem rather promising and I’d love to venture back into the world of EB strings (from my bass days).

Anyone else use the RED strings with any success?


Typically we run some sort of “bumper” transition video between the first set of music and teaching parts of our worship gatherings to intro the series or specific message. Well, we began a new series at the start of the year where we wanted to do something a little different – what we’re calling “live bumpers.” Basically just some real fun songs that people would be able to sing along with or at least laugh at while they said hello to one another. The goal was to keep things real up and “alive” for this series – so far its been a real hit! We run a real simple video loop in the background while the band plays: http://vimeo.com/8446257

Last week we played a short clip from Miley Cyrus, Party In The USA. I recreated some basics of the track in Ableton and then had our band play on top of the track. Drums basically played a sweet hats and snare groove, keys held a pad/organ, bass came in halfway through the verse and electric carried the hook. Enjoy.

Download Reference Track.

Download Loop Here. (note: played a whole step up from ref track)


When I first started using IEM’s I was given a set of Shure IEM’s and hooked into a PSM700 (not cheep!) wireless system. To be honest, it was very cool… however I did run into frequency problems here and there as well as had batteries die rather sudden in the middle of a set.

So I was on the search for a hard-wired solution that was also extremely cost effective. I’m really happy to say that for the past year our band has been on a very simple, cost effective monitor system that has been far better than my expensive, wireless system ever was. Call me crazy, but it’s true. The best part is the basic set up is well under a grand ($1000), actually under $800!

Here’s the basic set up:

1) Rolls RA62c Headphone Amp $169.99

We have a Yamaha MC32/12 console for our FOH. We run 6 of the AUX sends from our board to the stage (via our snake). The sends are plugged directly into each Direct Input channel on the back of the headphone amp – which makes each channel on the headphone amp its own mix from the board. Set the dial on the front of the headphone amp to 100% direct input on each channel and use the volume for your overall mix volume. Our snake has both XLR and 1/4 options on the sends. So we just use a simple 1/4 snake ($35 at Guitar Center) to connect each send to the DI on the back of the headphone amp (NOTE: For a while we just left the cables “half clicked” into the back of the headphone amp so we got sound in both ears. Recently we picked up 6 Direct Out Adaptors from Livewire/Hosa ($7) that in effect do the “shorting” for you so you can just plug the cable in all the way.

2) M-Audio IE-10 Heaphones $99/each (x5 = $500)

I’ve used Shure’s singe and dual driver earphones, Ultimate Ears single, dual and triple driver eaphones (which are who make M-Audio IE series FYI), and OSP single driver earphones. To be honest, my favorite by far are my Ultimate Ear TripleFi 10. But they are a bit expensive. I also have a pair of M-Audio IE-10 that sound pretty amazing too. Sure they are single driver and my Triple Fi are, well… triple driver. But the IE-10 work just fine for me and our band! Seriously – they sound great for $99. DO NOT use the OSP earphones. I am actually a big OSP fan.. but their heaphones suck! We picked up a pair as a backup set for the band and they are pretty much worthless. I will say this… they are pretty comfortable. But the sound is tinny and extremely thin. Spend the extra $20 and get the IE-10.

3) Headphone Extension Cables $10/each (x5 = $50)

From the ROLLS headphone amp we run one of these to each musician across the stage. Pretty simple eh?
UPGRADES:
Above is was our basic starting point. Since then we have upgraded and made some additions, most of which are not very expensive. To give each band member control over their overall mix volume closer than where ever the headphone amp is located on the stage we’ve invested in some IXM and RXM body packs by Jump Audio. We had a couple small issues with the packs originally, but the guys at Jump Audio were super helpful and fixed the packs at no cost to us. Today they work perfect as a remote volume control and for our guitarists (who use the IXM) a simple solution to keep things tied into a single cable. Check them out at http://www.jumpaudio.net/ And if you purchase anything let them know that Greg from Cornerstone Rockwall refereed you (PS – I don’t get any thing back from them – I just think they will appreciate it).
Our big upgrade that is coming in the next couple months though is either a Hear Technologies Mixback or Allen and Heath MixWiz Mon board. We demoed the Mixback for about a month and fell in love with it! Seriously stereo mixes and the ability for the band to have control over their mixes is AMAZING.
So without our additional upgrades.
The basic set up should only cost you about $720 for a 5 piece band! Thats way under what my Shure PSM700 unit cost for a single wireless channel! Let me know if you have any questions.
Greg


After a year of waiting I got an email this morning that Celemony released Melodyne Editor to the public today! If you are not familiar with Melodyne, you should be. And the new “Editor” takes things to a whole new level!

I am working on a “first impressions” review of Apple Logic later today and will shortly do the same for Melodyne Editor. Be on the watch. Until then, behold all that is Melodyne Editor:


If you are not subscribed to puremagnetik.com already… you need to be. Every month they roll out a new sound set (instruments, loops, presets, etc) for Ableton and Logic. There have been a couple let downs, but for the most part these guys hit it straight on the head!

A great way to see what Puremagnetik is all about is their free packs. They just released a couple new artist packs you can download here.

Most recently addition to the free artist packs is:

MtTP Guitar – offers two variations on a multitimbral tuned percussion instrument inspired by the acoustic-piano preparations of John Cage.

Format: ALP
System Requirements: Ableton Live 8


Macbook Pro 13″ 2.26GHz

Ableton Live 7

Reason 4

Logic Studio 2

Pro Tools 7.4

‘Ol Faithful Trigger Finger

X-board25 (Small Keys MIDI Controller )

M-Audio 1814 Interface

SSL XLogic Channel Strip (What I run all my real instruments through)

Ultimate Ears IEM’s

Barron Youn “Ability” Footcontroller


I read a great article this morning By Gerrit Gustafson on the Catalyst Space blog. It’s worth the couple minutes to read. The part that jumped out at me was;

“We shouldn’t assume that the visitor is incapable of apprehending spiritual phenomenon.  After all, each one is made in the image of God, and, as Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, He has “set eternity in the hearts of men.”  The worship experience corresponds to that universal “itch.”  That explains the finding of the largest study of American congregational life ever undertaken — the FACT report conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research: “vibrant worship is at the heart of church growth.”

I’ve been wrestling with the concept and idea of “vibrant worship” all day. How would you define “vibrant?”

Read the article here: http://www.catalystspace.com/content/read/worship_the_visitor/


Coming Back

02Nov09

After spending time working on a couple other blogs and creative ideas… I have decided to return to my roots and expand the digitalworship blog… once again with my musings on Ableton Live and now so much more!


Good tutorial from youtube.