Friday, June 13, 2008

Church Band Seminar Round-Up

Here is a round-up post of all the videos I have been posting from our Church Band Seminar that we did a few weeks back. I wanted to put it all in one place for easier access to those who might find it helpful. Please pass this post along to musicians in your church or anyone else you think might find it helpful.

In terms of the personnel, these three guys that I interview and dialogue with (Tim Rosenau on guitar, James Gregory on bass, and Scott Williamson on drums) are some of Nashville's finest studio musicians and have played live, or on the recordings of too many Christians artists to name here. Just take my word for it: These guys know what they are talking about. The video quality is not the best, but the audio is there for the most part and that is the important part.

Opening Thoughts:
Here is what I communicated to the group before we started diving into the nuts and bolts of playing well in a band. Here is the essence of what I said:
Before we begin this morning I wanted to draw your attention to a great potential danger that we need to be aware of.

Music is a very easy thing to idolize. We can bow down and worship it so quickly. Why do you think we have worship wars in the church? We have our musical idols and if we can’t bow to them it doesn’t feel like worship! "I HAVE to have this type of music or I just can’t worship." The moment you add something extra biblical to worship as a requirement you better check your heart really quick.

The essence of idolatry is worshiping created things and not the Creator, so this seminar could feed that if we are not careful. You could walk away from this today and be equipped with tons of great things to implement personally and with your band, but beware that this does not lead to self-focused worship.

Push for the opposite. Not that we should throw down our instruments just because the danger of idolatry is there, but rather, let the gifts that God has given you and is working in you push you to look back to him in thanks and praise. Let your gifts draw you and your people to look to God (and not to self) and praise the Giver. The Giver gets the glory, the glory does not go to the gift, it goes to the Giver.

Being able to play music well in this genre (which is what we are going to be focusing on today) is great, but is a very small facet of the kingdom of God. May the primary ideal be submission to the spiritual and physical reign of the King. Not that music and kingdom submission are mutually exclusive, but they quickly can be if we are not careful.

So before we begin let’s try and put this seminar in it’s proper place. If our churches have rockin' music, but don’t do Matthew 22 and 28, we have totally missed it. But if we are doing Matt 22 (loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves) and doing Matt 28 (All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciplines of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you, and I will be with you always even to the very end) then we are probably on the right track with first things first.

So we need to put this seminar in it’s proper place. But it does need to have a place.

We need to have it because there is a complete lack of education for guys to learn how to play in this genre. If you want to learn to play jazz, I can give you a list of guys in the area 25 deep, if you want to learn to sing opera, you can get that here, if you want to play classical piano we’ve got resources for that. If you want to learn to play pop/rock, what do you do? You get some guys together in the garage and “JAM”. This usually is an exercise in the blind leading the blind. The point is that there are few resources for training in the genre that most of us use week in and week out.

But we have a tough gig. Usually it goes like this: Show up for 1-2 hour rehearsal, learn arrangements for 5-7 songs, then be expected to be ready to go a few days later in front of a few hundred people. It might be with different players every week. It’s easy to see how most worship bands are kind of a free for all. We do what we can just to get by or somewhat functional.

That is why we need to learn from guys who are farther along in their musical journey than most of us here. These guys do this kind of thing for a living, that is why they are here.

But again, don’t let all this lead you into wrong emphasis for yourself and your church.

What Are You Listening To As You Play?

With A Chord Chart, How Do You Figure Out What Part To Play?

The Importance Of Leadership In Rehearsal

Serving The Melody With The Musical Part You Play

How Do You Approach Dynamics As A Drummer?

Playing With Confidence/Making Mistakes
Here was a cool spontaneous moment from our seminar. One of my drummers, Ian, stopped us and made the point that he heard Scott the drummer make a bit of a mistake but that it seemed to morph into something that was actually kind of cool. This led to a great discussion of the importance of playing with confidence and being willing to take some risks musically. I think this was one of the coolest moments of our day. At the end of this clip you can hear our arrangement of "All Creatures Of Our God And King".

The Importance of Playing With a Click
I asked Scott what he thought about playing with a click (a metronome) for personal practice and during music leading in the church. We all chimed in after his response.

Just as a side note for those who might not know... When we refer to "tracks" we mean musical parts that are coming from the computer and not found on stage. We use a click track in our in-ear monitors to keep everything aligned between what the computer is programmed to play and what we are playing ourselves.

Playing Fast or Slow - Which Is Harder?/ The Power of Subdivision

The Importance of Recording Yourself / More On Listening

The Importance of Knowing The Lyrics To The Song Played
We had just finished playing the song "Before The Throne Of God Above". I recommend this arrangement.

Serving the Song

Overplaying Illustrated

All in all, I think this years seminar went really well. Actually it exceeded my expectations. I look forward to doing this next year and continue to help musicians grow in their abilities for the glory of God. Feel free to pass this link around to musicians in your church or other folks you think might benefit.


Marc said...

This is great stuff Zach! Thanks for your efforts.


Anonymous said...

Found this post from Justin Taylor's link - great blog!

Question: Is there any way to get downloadable video (or audio) of these sessions (mpeg, wmv, mp3)???

I'd love to share this material with our worship band.

Gavin Brown

Vitamin Z said...


The best bet would probably to do some sort of internet file transfer or mail a CD with the files on it. Do you use iChat?


Anonymous said...


Sorry, I've got a PC.

Would something like GoogleTalk work?

If not, I could give you temporary access to our FTP.

I appreciate the help.


Anonymous said...

Another great tip: play outside of church and learn how the rest of the world does it. I can spot a church musician a mile away.

travis ham said...

Thanks for the great resource Zach. I found this via Bob Kauflin's blog and just linked to it on my own blog. This is some foundational stuff that every church musician needs to hear again and again.

Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for posting this. I found your site through Bob Kauflin's blog and have put a post up on my site to encourage people to check it out.