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The Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 3

Last month I posted two sessions from the pre-conference workshop I taught at WorshipGod11 on the Piano in Contemporary Worship (Part 1 and Part 2). We finally finished editing the third session. This one took a little more time to edit because people were regularly walking past the window of the door in the video, which is a bit distracting. My good friend Dave Mackenzie performed his video wizardry and edited the movement out. In this session I deal with many of the specific questions I’ve been asked over the years. Those include: chord coloring inversions playing hymns developing your chord vocabulary introductions transitions …

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The Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 2

Here’s the second part of the pre-conference piano seminar I led at WorshipGod11, focused on playing with a band. Dave Campbell and Neil Stuckenschneider helped me out on guitar and bass. I’ve included the outlines notes after the video. Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 2 from Sovereign Grace Churches on Vimeo. Playing with a Band Be aware of the audio spectrum. Guitars – 80-880 Hz Bass – 40-260 Hz Vocals – 110-660 Hz Piano – 27-4200 Hz Fills. Distinct and memorable Don’t tread on others Octaves Use your LH wisely. With the bass player Around the bass player More with just a guitar, …

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The Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 1

Last summer at WorshipGod11 I taught a pre-conference seminar for intermediate level pianists to help them develop their skills while playing with or without a band. In recent years I’ve taught more on the theology of congregational singing than the practical aspects. But I still enjoy teaching on the practicals. So here’s a video of the first installment, with notes included below. Piano in Contemporary Worship, Part 1 from Sovereign Grace Churches on Vimeo. General Principles Excellence. Excellence in all dimension of worship expression, including music, must not simply be defined by cultural standards of sophistication, but …

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What I Learned from Playing a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass

We’re now three weeks into the startup of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. I’ve been having a great time getting back into the pattern of leading every Sunday, planning out the order of the service, having weekly rehearsals at my house, being part of the set-up and take-down teams again, and getting to the Sunday meeting a lot earlier than I’ve been getting there the last few years. And I love it. Except maybe for the “getting to the meeting early every Sunday” part. One of the things I’ve missed as I’ve handed off regular Sunday leading to others is being involved in the day-to-day issues, challenges, joys, mishaps, failures, and …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 5

We can’t help but notice the number of times God addresses idolatry in his Word. He hates it when we pursue, serve, or are emotionally drawn to other gods, which are not really gods at all. Idols enslave us (Ps. 106:36), put us to shame (Is. 45:16), and ultimately conform us to their image (Ps. 115:8). But God’s intention is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Like the Psalmist, we should hate them and those who pay regard to them. (Ps. 31:6). Too often, though, we find ourselves to be the idolaters. Today, I want to share another idol that looms large when we worship God corporately. It particularly applies to musicians. The …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 7

I’m in the middle of a discussion on idols that can tempt us when we gather to worship God on Sunday mornings. Today, I’d like to talk about the idol of REPUTATION, especially as it’s revealed in the lives of leaders. God commends a good reputation in Proverbs: A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. Prov. 22:1 That means God wants our lives characterized by virtues such as godliness, integrity, and faithfulness. However, I’m never to seek my good name at the expense of God’s name. I must never be more concerned about my reputation than God’s. The idol of reputation is subtle. It’s masquerades …

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Together for the Gospel Live II Now Available

Today is the official release date for Together for the Gospel Live II, the follow-up album to Together for the Gospel Live that came out in 2008. This new album contains 16 hymns, old and new, that we sang at the 2010 and 2012 Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY. Together for the Gospel emerged out of the relationships between four men: Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and C.J. Mahaney. They found their experience of fellowship in and around the gospel so rich and encouraging they wanted to share it with others. So every other year, along with a few other speakers, they gather with thousands of mostly pastors, and seek …

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Songs and Thoughts from Together for the Gospel

The Together for the Gospel conference, held Apr. 12-14 in Louisville, KY, is an every-other-year feast of insightful Bible teaching, passionate singing, and rich fellowship. It’s the fruit of a friendship between Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, and my good friend and senior pastor, C.J. Mahaney. That fruit has blossomed to encourage thousands of pastors faithfully serving their local churches. I had the joy of leading the music again this year. It’s a unique experience. A guy at a piano joined by ten thousand voices singing theologically rich, gospel-centered hymns, old and new. We’ve produced two albums from previous T4G conferences …

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Glorious and Mighty Choral Arrangment

One of the highlights of WorshipGod08, and there were many, was the conference choir singing Glorious and Mighty on the last morning. Based on Psalm 96, it’s a song written by Todd Twining and Joel Sczebel, with some lyric tweaking by me. Unfortunately, the audio/video didn’t turn out that well, so I wont’ be posting them. But a number of people have requested the arrangement and it’s finally available. The version I arranged for the conference didn’t have any piano part, just the voices. So I added a basic piano accompaniment if you’re just using piano. I think it sounds best with a full band backing it, though. UPDATED CHOIR PARTS (10/03/08): …

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How I’m Using the Songs from Our New Album

Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God is the latest offering from Sovereign Grace Music. On each album we record we try to strike the balance between creative production and accessibility. But at times it can still be difficult to tell what songs might work best for a congregation. So I want to save you some time here and explain the content of each song and how I’ve led or plan to lead them. 1. Sooner Count the Stars A joyful, mid-tempo, straight ahead song that seeks to capture the “unsearchableness” of God. While this song doesn’t address God as Father, Son, and Spirit, it helps us understand though we only know …

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Should We Play Music Behind People Praying?

Someone in my church recently sent me an email asking why we play music behind different portions of the Sunday meeting (prayers, baptisms, readings, etc.). It’s a good question. We can be influenced by our musically addicted culture, as well as our traditions and practices, to believe it’s impossible for God’s Spirit to move in people’s hearts apart from music. That kind of thinking makes music a mediator rather than a means. God can use music to do his work. But he doesn’t need music to do his work. So the direct answer to the question, “Should we play music behind people praying?” is “not necessarily.” It can easily be mistaken for emotional …

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Learning to Live with Limitations at Together for the Gospel

The Rolling Stones, not generally known for wise words of instruction, reminded us of the truth that, “You can’t always get what you want.” Next week I have the joy and privilege of leading 7000+ Together for the Gospel conference attendees in singing the praises of our great Savior. Typically I lead with a full band, and enjoy the variety that can be achieved by adding various acoustic instruments, synths, percussion, and vocalists to the mix. But you can’t always get what you want. So at Together for the Gospel this year, it will just be me and a piano. Just like 2006 and 2008. Will I be limited? Yes. Will I praise God any less passionately? …

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Reflections on the 2017 Shepherds’ Conference

Last April a friend of mine at Grace Community Church texted me to say John MacArthur was going to invite me to lead the music for some of the main sessions at the 2017 Shepherds’ Conference. I thought he was kidding. There are a few reasons why this particular invite was unexpected. For one, I’m a pastor with Sovereign Grace Churches. John has at various times made clear in his preaching that we have a few theological differences. Also, the music at Grace Community Church, where John has served as the pastor for more than four decades, is primarily hymns led by highly skilled choirs, orchestras, and an organ. On a typical Sunday morning …

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Prepare Him Room Releases Today!

In June of 2013 I received an email from my friend, Marty Machowski. Marty serves on the pastoral team of Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Church near Philadelphia. He has writes children’s books and devotionals, most notably The Gospel Story Bible. Marty asked me if Sovereign Grace Music wanted to produce an album to accompany an Advent devotional and curriculum he had written for New Growth Press. I was instantly intrigued by the idea. Our first and only Christmas album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, came out in 2006 and I thought we were long overdue for another Christmas project. Marty’s devotional had …

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Together for the Gospel Live CD

Last April I had the privilege of leading over 5000 folks (mostly men) in worship a the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, KY. The sound was overpowering at times, particularly when we got to verses that unpacked the salvation Jesus secured for us through his substitutionary death. Since the conference, we’ve been asked whether or not any part of the singing had been recorded. As a matter of fact, all of it was. And we’ve been working on a CD made up of 16 hymns from the conference. They include older hymns like And Can it Be, It Is Well, and How Firm a Foundation, as well as modern hymns like The Power of the Cross (Getty/Townend) …

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