Soon to be a WTR mini-series!

#1 As an electric guitarist in a worship environment, I've been wondering about a phrase we string jockeys use: Cutting Through The Mix. It would seem counterproductive to do this when our job is to support the vocals. What is "cutting through the mix", and who decided it was important?


#2 When we pick songs for worship that we consider to be fresh and original, and fail to see the irony in thinking that sounding exactly like the recordings of those songs makes us in any way fresh and original too, isn't that also irony?


Feel free to rant if you want to. I'd like this series of posts to be a safe ranting zone. :)

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Microsoft = Kaos?

Nope - that was Korg IIRC.

The FEEL is more important that just reading right. ;)

Ha, I think you are right, though how you remembered that I'll never know : ) It sounds like one of Stevo's comments!

#1 There used to be something called "playing fills"...  i.e. playing in the gaps when people aren't singing.

#2 I don't bother trying to sound like the recording. Why would you want to, really? But then, neither do I think I need to be fresh and original. Just need to make it sound nice, really.

#3 Some limited music theory is helpful - it is good to know why some chords fit together, and what key you are in, what scale might work for a given bit of music, what time signature you are in, and so on. Sometimes I wish I could sight read (I know what the dots mean, and I can figure it out, but...).

Do you mean playing something meaningful, decorative or artistic during the gaps?  I believe the art is still alive, though it is rare among keyboardists, who tend to just paw at their instrument - that's why learning and listening to classical music and other music 'outside the box' is good for contemporary players - the brain has to have ideas inside of it so that ideas may flow through the fingertips.

Sight-reading a single line (treble-clef melody with chords) is ferociously hard at first, but as your mind catches on, the gaps fill in and you begin to understand the "system", kind of like doing a Times crossword.  But I feel your pain.  I tried joining a jazz group a few years ago, and while I could make jazz-like sounds on the piano, I began to see that to really do it right I'd have to listen to jazz albums an hour or two every night (in other words, study, just not in a formal school) to absorb the style enough to do the right thing on cue instead of 1/8 beat behind.  Sight-reading has huge advantages; but it does take time and determination, lots of it.

On the first - yes, that's pretty much what I meant.  The emphasis on meaningful, and especially on not trying to cram as many notes as possible into the available space....
On the second: it's not easy on guitar, where there are always several options as to where to play the note. I get away with knowing the tune, pretty much, and being able (often) to play it by ear over the chords.  Christian music tunes are not always very complicated.

I guess if I practiced....

Ahhh... I was thinking keyboard, or singing.  The irregular spacing of guitar strings (EADGBE) makes for mind-bogglement to anyone attempting a melody (though some pick wonderfully, and I have heard Segovia and Bream play Bach fugues on the thing). 

And, actually, reading melody from a lead sheet is no guarantee it will be right, because the lead sheet is often created from the early version made for CCLI or some earlier performance - and with syncopated contemporary music, the exact notes are often a more difficult judgment call than the instant replays you see on TV.

The Chaconne, a piece that threw my preconceptions into disarray and opened my heart to guitar music!  I have albums by Segovia and Julian Bream that still fill my soul with mystery, wonder, joy, thunder, admiration, peace.

Hi All,

Can I ask a really impertinent question?  How come you guys know so much about music threory - is that the correct terminology - do you study books, have lessons etc.  I have to admit that I don't undersand alot of what I read on threads such as these (which is great BTW), especially the technical stuff, although I do look stuff up eg. Nashville system.  My question is though, and it is a genuine question, do any of you feel that analysing the music and thinking about what timing it is in etc., can be a hindrance as opposed to just 'doing' the music.  For example, if you were to come up with a new song for your worship band, how would you go about actually 'doing it'?  What would be the process? I know how I would do it? But how would you do it?

"Theory" is just a way of explaining what is already in actual music, just as "science" describes actual events.  Theory gives you a way of picturing the ebb and flow of music, just as physics gets you to picture the moon pulling on the water and making tides ebb and flow.  But I've looked at those diagrams about how tides work, and I still can't tell you by looking at the moon what sort of tide to expect today -- so I would have to go to a tide table (musical analogy:  "chord chart"). 

I went all the way to master's degree, with lots of theory, but - shhh!  a secret -- I still write music the way I did when I was eight years old and tried to write the notes to the Star-Spangled Banner.  I did it by the seat of my pants, the same way everybody learns to write music.

Is theory worthless? No.  99% of "theory" is learning traditional patterns for how chords and melodies flow in a song (the other 1% is the exceptions).  The emphasis in college is usually chords, because the prof's don't know how to write a good melody.  Nobody does! -- you just hear a melody in your head, and if you know how to quickly figure out which note and the timing, you've got your song written down (I've done it for fifty years, and I still can only write down a phrase at a time). Theory helps you organize your thoughts, and through writing new songs, lots of them, puts patterns into your head that will help you write a good song that communicates.  Theory, then, is a grammar for music.  

Most literary writers understand grammar.  They must, because they themselves have to furnish the finished product.  Occasionally you see a book, Big Title, By Famous Athlete, and a little line that says "with so-and-so."  So-and-So is the person who knew how to translate what the athlete said into proper English.  You can do that, too.  You sit with your guitar, find the song in your heart, play it until you can sing it through, without hesitating on the rhythm, into a recorder.  Give the recording to a friend who knows how to write it down -- or lacking that, just play it for your worship team (make a word sheet) and have them listen, then sing along.  That's how people have done it for millennia. 

Thank you Greg, for taking the time and effort to write this, it makes a whole lot of sense. 

Hi Greg,

- Cutting through the mix is for other voices. It's possible to have more than singers doing worship, yes? So instruments aren't just to support the vocals, they are there as part of worship also. I don't think God only listens to vocal music, he's also interested in instrumental. And why not have his loyal followers do both?

- Fresh and original is a completely contextual thing, yes? It's about what's fresh and new for your congregation - and you. There is a song that we do that I was dreading every time it came up because I was really tired of it. But I finally realized that I could change up the tempo and riffs a bit and turn it into something kind of new. But I think it might be unfamiliar to many and something you might do differently.

As for sounding like an original - if I like the way a song is arranged and like how it's recorded, mimicking the original in our own way is fine for me.


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