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Vocal Health

Being a musician, speaker or teacher can have a lot of demand on the voice. I’m here to offer some tips on how you can bring health and build endurance to your voice daily. Today, I'll speak from the standpoint of worship leaders, although these points can apply to anyone who is looking to keep their voice healthy!

If you’re a worship leader, you probably have a demanding schedule; back to back meetings, weekly rehearsals, long weekends and on top of that, busy personal lives. And, you may even have to sing when you're ill. 

The following tips are broken into five main points: considering vocal training, warming up, maintaining physical, spiritual and mental health, supporting your speaking voice, and lastly, cooling down the voice.

Remember, there are other factors that play a role in the health of your voice. I’ll list some but won’t go into detail today. If you’re interested in tips for specific ailments, comment in the section below and I can dedicate a blog to it! 

Some simple and more common factors include, acid reflux, post nasal drip, allergies, thyroid issues, singing at extreme ranges for long periods of time, smoking, drinking, yelling, whispering, chronic fatigue, hormone imbalance and habitual throat clearing.

 

Consider Vocal Training: I highly recommend investing in private voice lessons. When you learn how the vocal mechanism works and you develop the technique to sing effortlessly, quality is gained in the voice without push or strain.

Private voice lessons can give you tools that build strength, control, and a specific language so that you can guide other vocalists. As you build on your strengths, you improve weakness. This is accomplished through tailored exercise regimens and songs to apply a new technical approach. 

The value is worth the investment if you find a teacher that’s right for you. As a voice teacher myself, I find that the empowerment, encouragement, and breakthroughs are not always just in the voice but more importantly, in the mind or in the soul. From there, true communicators come alive and the impact of the gift God has given means more than just being a good singer. 

You can rest and you relax in finding your own voice. Each person has something unique to offer in the very tone of their singing voice and lessons can be part of that discovery. You can ease the frustration to push your voice to sound like someone else and instead bring health to the voice by singing in your own unique range of strengths.

 

Vocalizing 10-20 Minutes Each Day: In regards to keeping a healthy voice, getting into a basic routine of warming up and vocalizing each day will be like going to the gym for your vocal cords. You don’t start a run without stretching and slowly working up your heart rate first. The same goes with singing. You work your way up to a workout. Stretch, walk, jog, run and then cool down. 

Think of it this way, like anytime you decide to start going to the gym, you may find it hard to get the momentum to do it. Your body is weak in the beginning stages. You’re tired, excuses run wild in your head, the temptation to quit rears its ugly head but then you find you’re gaining more control in your muscles, things are getting easier, you see results and begin to enjoy the process. 

So, you have to look at vocal training the same way. Getting into the habit of warming up and stretching out the voice before you start your day not only extends your vocal abilities, but builds endurance. You learn you can do more by just warming up, and then you set yourself up for a less frustrating work out. As I said earlier, taking lessons can bring you a tailored regimen for your specific needs, but I’ll give you a basic idea where you can start.

First, it’s important that you remember that you stay relaxed and let your voice “wake up” and “find itself”. Be mindful of how loud you are. It’s better to have a natural speech level volume then too loud, or you’ll be tired before you even get started! 

Start in your head voice by simply sighing so you’re finding your voice, not reaching for notes. I like to have people start here, because it’s light and natural just to sigh. It’s most important for males to open up their head voice because you never get into that space the majority of the time. 

Start humming in a comfortable range without squeezing or pushing. I like to hum on short slides or walk up and down on a five tone scale. This is just to get the cords to vibrate with ease, move away any mucus that builds up at times, and find a good balance of airflow.

Next, you can do lip rolls or rolling your tongue on slides from the bottom of your range to the top and then from the top to the bottom. This helps stretch and relax the vocal cords, opens up the throat to release muscle tension, and gets an energetic breath engaged.

Start doing sounds that require opening up the mouth. Sounds like "goo" or "hoo" help access your upper register. It’s best to start with sliding so that you can focus on relaxing the throat and releasing any heaviness you may feel from the bottom register. Again, this opens up the head voice with more focus and intention. You don’t want to move on until you can do a slide on "hoo" without your throat constricting. 

Walk up and down your range saying "muh muh muh." Letting your voice ease into each part of your vocal range. Don’t think about hitting notes but instead, inflecting your voice as you ascend and descend. A good example of inflection would be when you get excited about seeing someone, you may say “Oh hi! It’s so good to see you!” You want the same approach when you ascend in pitch. If you approach it this way, you avoid bringing a tightness to your throat in an attempt to reach, and instead you simply find the notes. Lastly, you can start humming, lip rolling or rolling your tongue (like rolling your rr in Spanish) on the melody of a song. This prepares you to sing intervals in a melody so when you go to sing the song, it’s already easier!

 

Hydration, Rest, Healthy Diet, Exercise and Stress Relief: With any instrument, the way you care for it is going to determine the longevity and quality it gives you. Some simple rules; if it hurts, don’t sing, if you’re sick, don’t sing, but if you absolutely have to sing, then sing with what you have, and not with as much as you usually give. Change the key of song if it just doesn’t feel comfortable. Be kind to yourself, have compassion on your voice, and don’t bully or manipulate it to do what it’s not ready to do. Hydration is key, so if you don’t like to drink water, add cucumber, mint, lemon or oranges to make it more desirable. Use steam or take showers before you have to sing to hydrate externally. When you’re dehydrated, the muscles don’t move as smoothly and comfortably.

Get plenty of quality rest! We have four main phases of sleep, the third and fourth being the most regenerative. According to the National Sleep Foundation, if sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation, and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite. Your voice is an actual mechanism of tissue and muscle, so getting to those phases are necessary for daily restoration. You may notice the voice may sound and feel weak, fatigued or slightly hoarse after a late night. Try to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep.

Feed your body with foods that keep your body running. Run your body to clear your mind, discipline your urges and gain a more functional system. Most people know by now that a healthy diet and exercise can help you loose weight, feel better and de-stress. I think it’s a really important step to keeping your voice healthy. When you eat foods that feed your cravings instead of your body, your body gets inflamed, you can fall pray to illness, you loose energy, can get depressed and all these things show on your voice. 

The voice is so special. It’s an instrument that carries a message with it. Because the voice is a literal part of us, it can reveal the state of our soul, mind, and body. So, we must nurture all three so that we can truly sing with ease and honesty. When you’re excited, your voice has a life to it. When you’re scared it can lock up, shake, or even change in pitch. When you’re sick, the voice can become hoarse, weak and fragile. When you’re stressed, your whole body tightens up, you’re not mentally present, you may lose sleep, the body breaks down into illness and because of this, you’ll find your voice is affected. It’s so important to find ways to alleviate stress through prayer, worship, exercise, sleep, breathing techniques or doing any activity that calms you. Have you ever noticed that on super busy weeks, singing isn’t as easy?

 

Supporting The Speaking Voice/Vocal Naps/Avoiding Overuse: The majority of people who use their voices more than the average person aren’t aware that the amount they speak throughout the day impacts the quality and health of their vocal cords. It may be necessary for you to schedule vocal rests depending on what your day looks like. If you have back to back meetings, try to speak less and listen more. You may need to give yourself at least 10-15 vocal breaks in between daily events. Look at your schedule and plan out silent breaks. Try this for a month and see if it makes a difference. Sometimes it’s a challenge to speak less, but I promise it will be a humbling experience. There are different reasons why some people speak poorly. For some, it’s speaking way too heavy (their voice sounds dark and far back in the throat), some speak on shallow breaths, others just speak too loudly. Whatever the case may be, a speaking or singing style that strains the voice causes swelling, which overtime turns into callouses if not corrected. 

 

Cooling Down And Resetting Before Bed: Lastly, but most importantly, it’s incredibly beneficial to get into the habit of cooling down the voice. Think of it this way, when you finish an exercise regimen you don’t just stop and sit for the rest of the day. You walk to decrease your heart rate and stretch to aid in the restoration of your muscles. Think of moments where you may speak for long periods of time, perform or practice a song, vocalize the voice (doing specific sounds on scales that strengthen the voice), or have a long stressful day as the “exercise regimens” for your voice. Basically, cooling down from these moments restores your voice, mind, and body to a relaxed state while aiding in restoration. 

There are a lot of ways to cool down the voice, and when you find a few that really work to relax you, you can stick with those. I’ll teach you a couple that you can start with. The goal is to go from full effort to gradually no effort at all.

Assuming you know what lip rolls are (rolling your lips like a baby, the sound of a motor boat, a continual bububuh), start with just falling down from the very top of your range to the bottom. Then without stopping the slide, ascend with a fast paced slide then slowing down the pace and tapering off the range as you go. I picture this like a car that shuts off while you’re driving it. Slowly, the car looses speed and continues to slow down until finally, it completely stops. By the end of this, you are hardly giving any effort to make the sound and you’re relaxed to the point of going to bed.

Next, do a couple sighs and effortless hums while massaging your neck and jaw. It’s important that you’re not trying to prove something here. Focus on releasing any weight you may feel on the throat and tension anywhere in the body. Sighs are good to do because you’re not trying to “produce” or reach for a note. 

This last one might be strange, but this is a go to for me personally. It’s a light easy laugh either with my mouth shut like a "hm hm hm" or open like a "ha ha ha." I like to massage and pull down on the muscles under my chin and throat while doing this. Sometimes when tension builds up during the day, it’s hard to do a light laugh. If you hear a slight crinkle or vocal fry in your tone, that’s a good thing, but no need to force that to come, or again you’re still trying to produce something. 

Lastly, just take deep slow breaths in, hold for a few seconds, then exhale all of your air out (keeping your throat open and relaxed like a yawn), wait a few seconds, then take a new breath. Repeat this and focus only on your breath coming in and going out. Finish with a yawn and a sigh! You’ll be ready for bed or de-stressed for the day! 

If you’re consistent in the care of your voice, body, mind, and soul while being mindful of these things; ease in your speaking voice, gaining knowledge through voice lessons, warming up with a specific vocal regimen, and cooling down, then you’ll find that your voice endures! 

Check out the links below for further reference! 

Duke Vocal Care Center:  https://www.uu.edu/dept/music/library/safety/VocalHealthInformation.pdf 

Swelling Test: https://www.voicedoctor.net/therapy/vocal-overdoers-and-benign-mucosal-disorders

 

Myriah Jones is a voice teacher and head of the Vocal Department at Oceans Edge School of Worship. She is an amazing singer, worship leader, teacher, mentor and disciple maker!

Creating A Culture Of Honor - Part 2

Last year I had the opportunity to share some of the revelation that God was showing us regarding creating a culture of honor. (Scroll down to view Part 1). As we step into a new year, we wanted to bring attention back to this topic in order to dig in a little deeper. As we consider this topic again, I pray that we will allow God to evaluate and transform us in this area of thinking, as He reveals more of the fullness of His will for our relationships with one another. 

As we first examined the concepts of Biblical honor, we learned that honor is having “this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5) It is having the same love, thoughts, behaviors and actions toward others as Christ has for us. In light of this, honor should be the foundation for how we form our actions, words, thoughts and decisions in our relationships. Seeing others through the lens of honor requires an entire mindset shift about the position we hold in relationship to one another and the kingdom of heaven. Receiving and understanding the position of honor that God has granted us is necessary before we are able to give the same honor away. And when we actually do fully receive the position of honor that God has granted us through His Son, everything is touched by it’s effects.  

If you are a born-again believer in Christ, I want to continue by reminding you of a few things. You have been given a brand new identity. (2 Cor. 2:17) You are no longer dead in sin, you are now alive in Christ. (Col. 1:13) You are no longer bound to sin, you are free from it. (Rom. 6:6) You are no longer a mere man or woman - living for yourself; You are a chosen ambassador for the kingdom of heaven on the earth - His life living through you. (2 Cor. 5:20) I remind you of these things because we will never be able to stand in our true identity and purpose unless we first know and receive them from God.

As the body of Christ, we are the glory (or expressed knowledge) of God on the earth. When God originally created man, He put His very life (breath) in man. We were designed to be an exact reflection of His heart and kingdom on the earth. Man’s sin marred this image, but when Christ took sin upon Himself and overcame death, He restored God’s image back to those who put their faith in Him. These truths help us to understand WHY honor must be a foundational practice and mindset in all of our relationships. Loving one another through honor is a primary desire of God’s heart for His people because it is a natural reflection of Him. The cultures we develop at our churches, homes, friendships, on our twitter feeds or trips to the grocery store are to literally mirror heaven, as His life is lived through us. 

Colossians 2:6-7 says “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” I want us to take this passage to heart and respond in obedience in this area of loving one another through honor. Will you join me in purposing to develop a culture of honor in the relationships around you? If so, it is going to take intention, faith and surrender.  

Intention:

Actively pursue the knowledge of God and His kingdom by studying His Word and spending time talking with and listening to Him. If we are to reflect His heart, we must know and understand it!  

Faith:

By faith, put on the new image we have been gifted through Christ. Choose to believe that you are appointed, able, and purposed for the giving of His kingdom to the world. Receive His love for you so that you can give it away to those around you in like manner.

Surrender:

As we walk by faith, we allow His life to be lived through us. Enjoy the miraculous grace that comes from swift obedience to God’s promptings in your heart and mind concerning your thinking, speech and actions toward others. Continually surrender your own life to His life in you. 

The process of learning about Biblical honor has taught me that I still have a lot to learn, but I know that just means that there is freedom ahead! My mind is in need of renewal, therefore I have learned to continue in the pursuit of understanding while Holy Spirit is transforming me. Will you join me?

We would love to hear what God is speaking to you in this area. Please let us know what He is showing you and how you are applying it in your own life!

 

Jessica Busboom is the Director of Oceans Edge School of Worship, and the Worship Leader for Eikon, both ministries of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. She is an amazing wife, friend, sister, daughter, and mentor to many. 

Soul-Keeping In Ministry

Mark 6

He was surrounded by a large crowd of people, and Jesus sent them all away. He turned them back. The sick, the hurting, the hungry, and the needy were turned away from the Savior and sent back to where they were from. This doesn’t sound like my Lord, is this really in the Bible? Why would Jesus do that?

There are some weeks that seem to end only a moment after they’ve started. The time in a day flies by, and it’s easy to feel as if only a portion of what needed to be done has been accomplished. And while responsibilities need to be maintained, the people in our community have countless needs that still haven’t been met. There are lost, broken, discouraged, and lonely people yearning for community. There are young believers waiting to be mentored. Add into that equation the invitations to get-togethers, parties, catch-ups, and Bible-studies that make their way onto the calendar. Amidst all of these things, we somehow find the time to eat and sleep, but tending to the human soul is often the area that is overlooked. That’s because the warning signs of an unhealthy soul are often hard to detect, but a soul unkept will lead to a life ineffective for the work of the Gospel. 

Jesus said Himself in Matthew 20 that He came "to serve and give His life as a ransom for many." His purpose on this planet was to give Himself away. But our Lord knew that without a healthy soul, He would be ineffective in His mission. All throughout the Gospel, we see Jesus stepping away from the masses in order to spend time with His Father, rest, and prepare for the next opportunity to minister. Though His heart for the people was perfect and unconditionally loving (something we can’t say about ourselves!), the greatest act of love He could offer them at the time was to say no, for a better yes at a later time.

1. Every time we say “yes” to one thing, we say “no” to another.

For some people, it’s just hard to say no. We like to give, offer ourselves, and be available at any moment. But for every yes, there is a no. An effective worker for the kingdom of God isn’t someone who fills every hour of the day. Though a busy day leaves me feeling accomplished, a healthy and successful ministry is not about squeezing into every moment an action or interaction. Jesus had relationship with His Father and listened to Him. He is faithful to tell us when to commit, and when to decline for the sake of doing the better thing. In Luke 10, Mary was found at the feet of Jesus, worshipping Him. But the Word says that Martha was “distracted with much serving.” Oh how such a good thing can keep us from the best thing. When we serve the Lord and one another, we reflect His heart. But don’t miss God’s call to step away and refuel when He calls you.

2. Just because you’re filling a need, doesn’t mean you’re filling it the right way.

Offering an unhealthy “you" could be robbing someone of the ministry God has prepared for them. When I’ve neglected my time with the Lord and my moments of rest, I’m much more prone to dropping all those fruits of the Spirit. Peace leaves first. Patience quickly follows. And joy jumps ship like a coward soon after. I’m more prone to answer back in frustration, lose the love of what I get to do, and grow weary in the process. Though I’m present for the need, I’m filling it with a leaky bucket. Washing a car with dirty water may make it wet, but it certainly won’t end up clean. Take time to allow Jesus to switch out your filter and wash you in the water of the Word (Eph. 5:26). 

3. You cannot advertise a cure to something that you yourself are dying from.

When we minister to those around us, we preach a Jesus that makes our yokes easy and our burdens light. We sing songs of healing, peace, and rest. And perhaps the people that need to sing those songs the most are us! I wouldn’t accept cleanliness tips from someone that doesn’t bathe. And I wouldn’t take financial advice from someone who’s broke. Our message of rest is hypocritical and loses value when the message hasn’t even done its work in us. A worship leader, pastor, or ministry worker who doesn’t take care of their soul is a classic example of the blind leading the blind. You’ll certainly lead them somewhere, but not every destination is a green pasture by still water. You cannot bring someone somewhere that you haven’t been. How can we advertise a cure to something when we haven’t truly found it ourselves? 

How are you at soul-keeping? The Lord may be calling you to do less for the sake of the better thing. He truly cares for your soul. The Messiah-complex of “saving everyone who needs help,” will only mislead people, and burn you out. Plus, if the Messiah himself needed to retreat from the masses in order to spend time with His Father and be renewed for future ministry, then it seems as if we need it as well. Sometimes it can seem impossible to keep up appearances, fulfill man’s expectations, and finish our own daunting checklist. Drop the appearances, let go of those expectations, and let the Lord tell you what the day holds.

 

Bobby Bemis is the Fort Lauderdale Campus Worship Leader here at Calvary Chapel. Bobby is an incredible songwriter, singer and musician, teacher of the Word, and worship leader. He also loves ice cream!

Nurturing Creativity

NURTURE: To care for and encourage growth or development.

Here are three things we need in order to nurture a community of creativity:

1) WE NEED A START

I know this seems obvious, but without a spark of inspiration or a small idea or thought, we simply don’t have anything to nurture.  

A couple of years ago, I was in the market for a new car. After a time of scouring AutoTrader.com and looking around town, I found a Hyundai Sonata in my price range that looked like a fancy Jaguar. What I began to notice after purchasing it and driving it around was that A LOT of people have them too. The point is this, before buying my car I had never seen one before. Correction, I had seen them, but I had no need to pay attention to them. 

This is very much the same as the beginning of songs, once we set our minds and hearts to ‘seeing’ ideas for songs, we see them everywhere. Just like my Sonata. 

I once heard these initial elements called “Song Seeds” and I loved it! These seeds can be found anywhere and they primarily come in 5 forms:

Lyrics - these can come from prayers, reading, sermons, books, movies

Melody - a series of notes played in succession

Rhythm - could be a groove played, or a rhythm of notes you like

Chords - can come from another song, or playing/practicing, creating a new sequence 

Concepts - these are themes we would like to write about, e.g. love of the Father, God has sustained us etc.

Each of us usually has one specific Seed that we see most often - mine are lyrics. But all of them are the right way to start a song! Collect often, pray for them often, and allow yourself to catch that spark of inspiration no matter where it comes from. 

2) WE NEED TO INVEST TIME

I touched on this in one of the last blogs I wrote, but often we water a seed, we spend time on it, we add to the melody, chords, lyrics, etc., but sometimes it is hard to see the growth come quickly. We may find ourselves getting stuck and/or frustrated. I can honestly say that I’ve been there and struggled to come back from it.

But here is what I have learned; every time I invest into a song, even if I think nothing has come of it and it seems the same at the end as when I began, I choose to think that I am thirty minutes closer to the song being finished. I might have three hours of approaching the song and leaving empty-handed before it grows into something beautiful, but I have to see the process through, and even see the empty handedness as okay and not get frustrated by it.

3) WE NEED OTHERS

For me, the best way to nurture creativity is through community. We as humans were built by God for community. We need each other! We need the wisdom of others, we need other’s strengths to meet our weaknesses, we need to receive words of encouragement and we need to give them.

I know that sharing the things you have created with others can be frightening. What we have to do is trust that the product of a healthy creative community far outweighs and outshines the product that can come from us alone.

We have to remind each other that we are all on the same team, that we are all fulfilling the commandment of “singing a new song to the Lord”, we need to celebrate one another, and rejoice in every song seed, every thirty minute 'empty handed’ session, and sing aloud each others triumph in completing a song.

I personally have a few like-minded creatives around me that I run everything by. I trust them, their opinions and their unique gifts. I also trust them to hold me accountable to my creativity. It is in this atmosphere that my creativity grows and is nurtured to a greater level then it could have ever been by myself.

 

Jennie Reynolds is the Artist Track teacher at Ocean's Edge School of Worship. She is an excellent teacher, music artist, musician, wife and friend. Learn more about Jennie

What To Do When Your Church Is Not Responding

Picture this; you, the Worship Leader have spent hours planning and praying through your worship set to make sure you have the right songs for your church in the right keys for your team. From there, you’ve spent even more time rehearsing with your band to get all the transitions and other seemingly minor but essential details squared away. But now you’re walking off the stage after worship asking yourself, “What just happened? Why wasn’t anyone singing? I didn’t even do a new song!”

I believe we can all identify with this situation. We've all been there! And if you are like me, you instantly question everything you thought you knew; your gifting, your calling, etc. But I have good news for all of us, it doesn’t have to stay like this.

I believe that participation in church comes from, and is dependent upon, the health of the relationship between a church and its worship leader(s). And just like a relationship between a close friend or a spouse, a healthy relationship only comes from meaningful conversation and intentional time spent with one another. In other words, you need to know a person and be known by that person for a healthy relationship to exist. So that means, participation from your congregation starts in the hallway, the fellowship hall, or wherever it is that the church is together and interacting with one another. Without meaningful conversation with your church body, you cannot fully lead them.

Now, I understand that this can be a daunting concept. Whether you lead worship at a church of 15 people or 15,000 people, initiating intentional conversation can be difficult. Let’s be real, the numbers can scare us! If you’re an introvert like me, you might be asking yourself, “How am I supposed to have meaningful relationships with everyone in my church?!” The answer: one at a time.

North Point Pastor Andy Stanley puts it this way, "Do for one what you wish you could do for many." The weekly challenge I have set for myself is to have one new intentional conversation a weekend. As each week goes by, I continue building relationship with those I have previously met while also being intentional to meet another person. By doing this I put aside the overwhelming and impractical pressure to meet everyone in a given weekend.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to go and spill your guts to every member of your church (that can come off as insincere and a little needy), but you do need to have conversations that go beyond the small talk that we often find ourselves defaulting to. A few ways to do this are:

1)   Keep the conversation moving! Ask questions that warrant more than a “yes” or “no” answer.

2)   Keep it specific! Ask them about their passions. What do they like?

3)   Listen first, speak second. No matter how awkward it may feel, don’t make the conversation about you.

4)   Give them your undivided attention! Make eye contact. Put away your phone! This shows that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say!

One thing that I have found to be beneficial in this journey is to include my team in it too. In doing this, we as a team are capable of meeting and loving on more people than any one person ever could. Every once in a while, we have a couple people in the green room share who they have met from the congregation recently, and they share something they learned about that person. We then get to celebrate the things God is doing in our church together.

Know that none of this happens overnight. We need to remember that in ministry, we’re playing the “long game”. We’re not looking for the shallow relationships that come from quick temporary results, but rather, we are holding out for healthy and lasting relationships that in time will stretch far beyond the four walls of the church.

God has placed you both physically and geographically where you are to love His people. No one else is exactly where you are, and no one has greater potential to influence the people God has put in your church. Let’s love His church well! Let a unified and involved worship experience be the byproduct of a church that loves each other well.

 

 

Zach Reynolds is the Worship Leader at the Calvary Boynton Beach Campus. Zach is an excellent leader, husband to Jennie, musician, songwriter, and he also teaches at Ocean's Edge School of Worship. Follow Zach on Twitter.

 

 

The Role Of A Music Director

Have you ever been in a situation where you’re about to finish a section of a song, but aren’t really sure about what comes next? You look to your fellow band-mate and they look even more confused than you do, you look to your lead singer (whose eyes are shut, and is giving you no sense of direction), and by the time the next section of the song comes everyone on the platform goes into a different part of the song. This my friends, is what we call a train wreck. One of which could’ve been easily avoided if only we had someone who would take the reins, communicate, and steer everyone in the right direction. 

The role of a music director is far greater than just being the point person on the platform. A music director translates the musical desires of a worship leader before, during, and after a worship set, bringing clear communication to musicians, singers, and at times even the production team. It’s important that a music director knows what the end goal is before these communications even start. It's much easier to effectively and clearly communicate the small steps when you know what the big picture is.

Here are a few practical tips that may help you be a more effective music director:

Establish a Language: Have you ever had to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you? I have, and it wasn’t fun. For some reason, I thought speaking slower and louder would help them understand me, but the barrier here was that we weren't speaking the same language. Making the terminology known amongst your team is extremely important in order to communicate effectively. Things such as the Nashville Number System and knowing the difference in between Stage-Right and Stage-Left (I’m still confused as to which is which) will help you communicate your vision.

Think Ahead: Remember that you are the worship leader's mouthpiece to the band when on the platform. It's your job to keep close attention to whoever is leading during the set and communicate to the band where they want to go. If the worship leader wants to repeat a section, it’s up to you to make sure the band knows, and that it's executed well. Anticipate what is about to happen so that you can clearly communicate to the rest of the team. If there is no direction from the worship leader, you'll have to take the wheel and guide the team.

Be Prepared:  As a musician, it's vital that you come to rehearsal prepared, that you know your parts, and that you are able to perform them well. As a music director, however, you'll need to know everyone else's part as well, not just your own. Make sure you take some time in the rehearsal to listen to everyone else—it’s your job to make sure the song sounds like it should.  Also, take some time to figure out what the worship leader’s vision for the set is before rehearsal, so that you’re not changing arrangements on the spot and wasting time. 

Set Your Team Up for Success: Supply resources that can help them better prepare as they practice on their own.  You want to make sure you are a good steward of your team’s time, and preparation is key to accomplish that. As much as you can, have accurate charts, MP3's, and arrangement notes available beforehand.

Relationships: This may be the most important part of being a music director. Leadership is all about relationships and showing God's love to others. When addressing your team be kind and uplifting, remembering that we are called to build people up, not tear them down. If people know that you genuinely love and care for them, they are more likely to trust and follow you. Send out a text during a week when they’re not serving just to see how things are going and if there's anything the need prayer for. Remind yourself constantly that they are more than a name filling a position on Planning Center, but a brother/sister in Christ and a child of God. Be their shepherd, and they will respect your leadership.

Lead in Christ:  Remind yourself of the why behind the what—you are helping lead God’s people into His presence. It’s important for our hearts to be in the right place as we continuously seek excellence and exalt Jesus Christ through music. Everything that we do on and off the platform must point to Christ. Don’t let the truth of His love be overshadowed by pride or arrogance, but let the love of Christ pour out of you as you lead your team. Do everything in your power and ability to give God your best—but don’t lose sight of what is most important in the process—worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus did everything well. As His disciples, we are to do the same thing, knowing that it's only by the Spirit that we're able to do so. May God be glorified in every part of our lives. Mark 7:31-37

 

Jay Alves is the Hollywood Campus Worship Leader at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale. He is originally from Sao Paulo, Brasil and grew up in Boston, MA. He is a loving husband, father and teacher, and absolutely loves ice cream.

The Collection IV

The Collection IV

A quarterly collection & review of the latest worship releases.
Special Edition: 2016 Christmas Albums.

We love listening through new worship albums. Join the conversation on Twitter by telling us your favorite songs and how they're influencing your community @_calvarymusic. Click on the titles to purchase these albums from iTunes

How To Plan A Set List

One of my favorite aspects of being a worship leader is planning and programming set lists. It’s where creativity kicks in, and we find ourselves dreaming of new songs, great transitions, powerful moments, and a joyful response to the Lord! 

Types of Songs

Each congregation is unique in the songs they connect with, but every worship leader faces the constant challenge to choose songs that are engaging, align with the teaching, and are, most importantly, true. The best metaphor I’ve heard to describe types of songs was to think of them as plants. Different plants have different lifespans, but they are all a part of God’s created order. Each one has purpose and is used to bring glory to the Lord in it’s own way. So, I like to think of songs in plant-type categories:

•    Annuals - Great songs that have a short season (1-2 years).  They aren’t shallow, the church connects with them, but they don’t have longevity at your church. (“This is Amazing Grace,” for us, could potentially sit in this category).
•    Perennials - These songs have a longer season (3-10 years).  More life, sometimes more depth, or containing a truth that people connect with. (Here I Am to Worship, Blessed Be Your Name, How Great is Our God, 10,000 Reasons).
•    Oak Trees - (10-50 years). These are longer lasting songs for your community. They might be seen by the younger generation as “oldies” but, in my opinion, these songs allow every generation to enter in and worship the Lord (In Christ Alone, I Love You Lord, Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful, You Are My King).
•    Redwoods - (50+ years).  Songs that last for generations, speaking of truths and hope in a way that transcends cultures and styles.  (Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, and Great is Thy Faithfulness).

A Balanced Diet

When you introduce or write a song, sometimes you know which type of song it will become, but often you don’t. What’s important is that you offer your congregation a “balanced diet” (or garden, I suppose) for them to participate in as they worship the Lord. The Word calls us to “sing a new song to the Lord,” but we also value the other songs in our church’s history, and we want to sing those as well. 

At Calvary, we look at a month’s worth of services and try to plan for 1-2 new songs, and also 1-2 Oak Tree/Redwood type songs. Often we use new arrangements of older songs so the timeless truths have new creative life.

Feedback

Your congregation, if they’re like ours, will let you know what they think of your choices! You’ll always get people that ask for more annuals (“let’s sing more new songs”), and others that ask for more Redwoods (“too many new songs, I just want to close my eyes and worship the Lord”). The journey to plan balanced and engaging set lists is incredibly rewarding, but it takes constant evaluation and a servant’s heart to lay aside what you want for what the church needs.  

Worship leaders, ask yourself these questions today:

•    How am I balancing new songs (Ps. 33:3) and those older, timeless songs?
•    What feedback am I getting from those around me, and is there any truth to it?
•    Do I feel pressure to always do new, perhaps at the cost of missing out on the great songs of past generations? Or vice versa?
•    Am I stuck singing too many Redwoods, and need to bring more new songs to my church?
•    Is there an Annual or Perennial song that has outlasted its life, and is it time to remove it?

And finally, always remember:  We get the privilege to choose the words and songs that our people sing to Jesus!


Andrew Wooddell serves as the Worship Pastor and Executive Director of Ocean's Edge School of Worship. He is an excellent musician, and a loving husband and father. Learn more about Andrew.

Training Musicians

As a worship leader, training up musicians and other worship leaders is a centerpiece of my role. Training musicians is necessary in order to have a thriving, sustainable worship experience at your church. But I would venture to say that as Christians, that should only be part of the motivation for raising the talent level and excellence of our worship teams. The beauty in my platform as a worship leader is that I get to develop people. So often we view developing great musicians as the end goal. Having excellent bands is not enough for us to count ourselves as successful worship leaders. I think that training musicians is actually just a means, whose end is discipleship. I’d like to offer what I think are some practical steps to make that vision of discipleship come to life.

1. Spend time with your team outside of service and rehearsals.

This should be of utmost priority to anyone in a leadership position. If you position yourself as a leader who spends time with people “offstage”, they are much more prone to value your opinions and respect your decisions. It builds trust between you and your team. In everything from Paul and Timothy to Obi Wan and Luke, the value of organic relationships in a leadership role can be clearly seen and appreciated! Everything else is secondary.

2. Do away with chord charts during services. 

Not even cheat sheets. When I used to lead in youth ministry (where I dealt with mostly inexperienced musicians), I found that chord charts and cheat sheets were a huge hindrance. When your musicians are relying on these tools, they aren’t allowing themselves to actively memorize the music, thus obstructing their perspectives on good musicianship. When I began to take these pieces of paper from them, they realized that they had to understand the guts of the song -- the chords, the rises and falls, the subtleties. I watched them participate in making the music, which is the quickest way that anyone can learn. 

3. Provide them with everything they need to succeed.

Set your team up for success! If you are doing an arrangement differently from the MP3, take the time to cut the MP3 to flow how you will be performing it. Provide chord charts with as many notes as possible for rehearsal. And for the love of all that is good and holy, please communicate often! So many times we blame our team members for mistakes that we could easily fix with consistent communication. Are you doing every single thing you can in order to ensure that your team is well equipped? This can transform a team member who has great potential and willingness into a beastly musician with a heart for your worship experience. 

4. Give them freedom.

I say this with a caveat; you must trust the musician in question. If you’re dealing with a player you feel comfortable with, don’t be afraid to let him or her try that guitar line that doesn’t necessarily suit your preference. Let your drummer do a jazzy fill every once in a while, even if it isn’t something you would choose to do. Giving your team freedom of expression (as long as it doesn’t hinder your overall vision for the songs) is a great way to continue to build trust, and to get your musicians thinking outside the box. 

Hopefully these steps serve as practical reminders for you as a worship leader or band director. Remember to always build genuine relationships with your team members, and to love them well. Happy team building!


Vagner is our Plantation Campus Worship Leader. He leads with passion and loves creating an atmosphere in worship that empowers people to meet with God. Learn more about Vagner.

Keys, Click & Loops

These days, in a modern worship setting, keyboard players have a lot going on: sounds, click, loops, faders, you name it. We’ve created a setup at Calvary for our players from novice to expert that is used to efficiently manage all the moving parts. Here I’ll give a brief explanation of the gear and technology our keyboard players use across our many church campuses. We’ll talk a little bit about keyboards, MIDI controllers, Click, Loops, and interfaces. Let’s dive in!

Keyboards & Controllers:

At the majority of our campuses, our keyboard players use the Nord Stage 2 HA88 for it’s built-in synths, its Rhodes and glorious piano patches. We also use it as a MIDI controller to play presets and custom-made patches in Ableton, Omnisphere and MainStage. To control, enable, and edit these computer patches, we use a NanoKontrol: a small piece of MIDI mapping hardware with faders, knobs, and buttons. It can be used to map volume, on/off triggers, frequency, reverb, delay, etc… Virtually everything in Ableton can be MIDI mapped. The NanoKontrol brings a physical control to the computer and takes away the need to be focused on a computer screen at any given time.

Click & Loops:

Ableton is the primary platform we use to run click (metronome) for the band through an in-ear monitor system and loops in the house. Loops are a collection of audio tracks used to supplement the band with the sounds that cannot be reproduced live. We use them to make songs sound more full by adding some extra synth, bells, or percussion tracks to our already full band, or filling in space left by the occasional absent instrument. For us, these are most commonly MultiTrack stems from the original recordings of songs, purchased from MultiTracks.com and formatted for use in Ableton.  In addition to the loops, we use a few other tracks in our sets:

 

  • The click track is a custom-designed looping MIDI clip that gives us variety in clicks, counts, volume, and subdivision.
  • The Tempo track holds clips that we use as a tempo master for each song.
  • The Stop track holds clips that are MIDI mapped to stop playback for extra precision in transitions.
  • The Markers track acts as a map of the song.
  • The Original Track holds MP3’s for reference in case we need to listen to certain sections of a song during rehearsal.

We custom add these five tracks to every MultiTrack we download.

Keys Rigs:

A few of our campuses are equipped with a rig that consists of a 10-channel audio interface, a 5-channel MIDI interface, an 8-channel DI, and a bunch of internal wiring that lets us run ins and outs in a clean and efficient way. It’s all contained in the box so that it’s easy to transport if necessary, and is always ready to plug straight into without having to make a lot of connections for every service. All of these ins and outs give us the capability to run stereo outs of the Nord, split loops into different channels (separate synth, percussion, synth bass, etc.), sync guitar delays with the master tempo, trigger lights through Ableton, and more.

This (above) is the front of the box where we plug everything in on the front end: the Nord’s 1/4” cables, power supply, whatever XLR’s we need, and any MIDI ins and outs we want. 

 

The back of the box (above) is where all of the magic happens. We run an 8-channel snake out of the audio interface into each of the inputs on the DI. The four 1/4” patch cables run the signal from the Nord, through the front, and into the DI. The MIDI patch cables also run into the back of the MIDI interface. We also use the box to store a USB hub and extra USB cables in case we use a secondary MIDI controller for a service. Everything we need, from a typical service to a larger production, is all tucked away into this small box.

 

Hopefully this give you some insight into how we manage our keys setup and provide resources for our players. If you have any questions or would like to know more, feel free to contact me at ScottyB@calvaryftl.org. I’d love to answer any questions you may have! Happy playing!