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Archive for the ‘Keyboard’ Category

The bands I work with probably get tired of hearing me say it – but I’m not sure it can be said enough: “Less is more.” Having the musicians/singers be picky about when they play/sing does a lot for the dynamics of a song. But it also does something on a spiritual level. It allows other members’ gifts to shine through. It allows everyone the opportunity to practice the “prefer others more than yourself” attitude (an essential attitude for any collection of worshipers).

From Greg Atkinson:

If you’re  a worship pastor that leads a band and you let your musicians play 100% all the time, you’re dropping the ball (you know I like to shoot straight). I mentioned that when I visit churches I often look for a laptop on stage. But one of the first things I look for is who is not playing. The difference between an amateur musician and a professional is knowing when not to play. It’s the whole “less is more” thing that I always preach.

Maybe this is something that your church band struggles with. Maybe you have a pianist that used to be “the band” and is used to playing the full 100% of the music. Now that a guitar, bass and drums are added in, she doesn’t know that her role must decrease and she must adjust the amount of action or busyness that she plays with in order to allow the other instruments to equal to 100%. This is what I call the 100% rule. You only have 100% to divide up – any one player can’t play like the 100% is up to him/her.

Let’s get practical: Often to make a point, I will go to the extreme. I used to do this with my camera operators and video directors all the time. When working with church bands, I will often ask players to “sit out” or restrain from playing for a LONG period of time – in order to get the point across.

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Parts 1 and 2

3. In keyboard driven worship the guitar players need to listen and play a complementary part and not the same rhythm. (This also applies to a multiple guitar scene).

When the keyboard is the driving instrument in a Worship Band (or just on a song), the guitar players need to do something different rhythmically. If the keyboard is playing steady eighth notes, the guitar should play whole notes, or half notes, or a lead part with a varied rhythm. If the keyboard is playing dense chords, the guitar should play a lighter voicing or even a single note figure. If the keyboard is playing sustained chords, the guitar should play a rhythm using open chords or a palm-muted power chord part. As always, there are exceptions to this rule – there are times when you would want all the instruments to line up rhythmically to create impact or buildup at a high point within a song. You probably don’t want every instrument playing the same rhythm the whole time in a song.

A note about frequency range: The guitars and keyboards tend to occupy the same frequency range. The guitar occupies the middle frequencies of the keyboard. Keyboardists can stay above middle C and be fine most of the time. If the guitar boosts it’s mid frequency this will help distinguish itself from the keyboard.

When you’ve got 2 guitars in the band, it’s good to break up their rhythmic approach and chordal voicing as well. If one guitar is playing open chords and strumming, the other guitar can:

  • capo and play different voicing of the chords
  • play palm-muted power chords in a higher voicing
  • play an arpeggio of the same open chord or a varied voicing
  • lay out (a novel concept)
  • play a counter melody using single notes

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Read “Worship Band Tune Up, part 1” here.

2. In guitar driven worship, the keyboard should use pads and strings so not to conflict with the rhythm of the guitar.

Depending on what God gives you, your band may be more guitar driven than keyboard driven. The instrument “driving” the band is the one that the lead worshiper usually plays. It’s also the instrument that starts most songs, and sets the rhythms that other instruments play to. If you’re blessed, you have a band that can be both guitar and keyboard driven, depending on the need of the song. Then you can add variety and depth to your worship music.

When the guitars are instrumentally “driving” the songs, the keyboard has to be played differently. This requires a keyboardist with sensitivity. They have to know when not to play notes in the left (bass) hand. They have to know when to switch pads so not to compete with the tone of the electric guitar. They have to know when to drop out altogether.

Humility is truly a wonderful contribution to a Worship Band.

So if the guitars are playing a heavily rhythmic strumming pattern, the keyboard should play something else and not try and copy the rhythm using a piano patch. Simple, single-note melodies work well in this setting. If the guitars are playing a flowing, eighth-note, finger-style pattern, the keyboard should play long, sustained notes/chords. If the guitars are playing palm muted, chunky riffs, the keyboard should find alternate voicings for the chords and look for countermelodies in the pockets between chord changes.

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If you’ve got a couple of keyboards/synthesizers floating around your church, chances are one of them is a Kurzweil. The latest Rolling Stone (February 19, 2009) has an article about Ray Kurzweil – the guy who basically fathered everything we know about modern musical synthesizers. In the 1980s, Kurzweil used his knowledge of computer pattern recognition to create realistic orchestral instrument sounds on a keyboard (synthesizer).

What Ray Kurzweil is known for these days are his futurist theories. An excerpt (p. 57-58)…

In our lifetime, Kurzweil believes, machines will not only surpass humans in intelligence – they will irrevocably alter what it means to be human. Cell-size robots will zap disease from our blood stream. Super intelligent nanotechnology, operating on a molecular scale, will scrub pollution from our atmosphere. Our minds, our skills, our memories, our very consciousness will be backed up on computers – allowing us, in essence, to live forever, all our data saved by super-smart machines.

He also has developed a line of health supplement pills that he takes 150 of throughout the course of a day, intended to prolong his life “until we have the means to reverse-engineer the information processes underlying biology – giving us the power to ensure our immortality.” (p. 61)

I only bring this up (not to knock the man) to point out that some people believe immortality is possible apart from any traditional faith system.

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