Archive | —Musicians & Vocalists

Ryan Foglesong and David Zimmer Talk about WorshipGod11

This past June I was out at the Resolved conference in Palm Springs, CA, where the music was ably led by John Martin and Enfield. They’ll be joining us for one of the main sessions at WorshipGod11. Ryan Foglesong and David Zimmer play bass and drums for Enfield and will be teaching two seminars at WorshipGod11 on Strengthening the Drum/Bass Connection. Here’s what they had to say about their role with Enfield and what they’ll be covering at the conference. If you’ve been thinking about coming to the conference, you have until midnight tomorrow (July 31) to register online. …

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stock image hands palying a full sized piano keyboard

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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Training Video for Jesus Lives

For a few years now I’ve wanted to produce training videos for Sovereign Grace songs that would break down a song into learnable sections for guitar players. They would also serve guitarists who have a hard time translating a full band album arrangement into something that can work for their small group. Matt Richley and Nathan Edwards (behind the cameras), two of three interns we’ve had this year, have been working on this project and finally finished the first one. In this video, Matt unpacks how to play the song “Jesus Lives” from our recent album, Risen. We’re already working on more videos and in the future hope to produce a few for …

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Interview with Greg Hagan on Becoming a Better Guitarist, PT 2

Yesterday, I posted Greg Hagan’s answers to two questions about how to become a better guitarist. Greg not only has years of experience using his gifts to honor God, he’s able to articulate what helped him grow as a player. He’s a great example of a life-long learner, described in Proverbs 9:9: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” Here are the other two questions I asked Greg to answer. What 3 practices have most helped you grow as a guitarist? 1. Listening and visualizing the fretboard. As you imagine a guitar part or melody, or listen to a recording, visualize …

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Interview with Greg Hagan on Becoming a Better Guitarist, PT 1

The main guitarist for our upcoming Risen album (due out in mid-March) was Greg Hagan. Greg lives in Nashville and when he’s not playing in the studio also tours and has had years of experience leading congregational worship in his local church. I appreciated his work ethic, his knowledge of chord voicings, his proficiency in different styles, and his sense of melody. But he’s not only a versatile and phenomenal player. He’s a humble man and was an absolute joy to work with. I also learned that Greg had attended a GLAD concert when he was a teenager that helped open his eyes to the ways different kinds of music can be used to glorify God. …

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Music – Gift or God?

Back in November I had the privilege of speaking at the Christian Musician Summit in Seattle, WA. In one of the main sessions, I spoke on the topic of Music:  Gift or God? and mentioned that I’d post my notes on my blog. I had forgotten until someone emailed me the other day asking for them. So here’s what I shared… Music is a very good gift. The 13,000 songs on my iTunes are testimony to that. My eyes have often welled up in tears as I’ve been affected by a lyric, a chord progression, or a musical texture. I’ve thanked God for the gift of music more times than I can remember. Whenever I think about my love for music, I’m reminded of …

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Tips on Becoming a Better Drummer

I was in Nashville recently, recording basic tracks for our upcoming album “Risen,” due out in March. The drums were superbly handled by Ben Phillips (and no, that’s not a picture of his set). I asked Ben if he’d answer a few questions to encourage drummers who are growing in their skills. He kindly obliged and the questions and answers appear below. How long have you been playing and who are some of the artists you’ve played for, live or recorded? I’ve been playing drums for 27 years. in that time i’ve had the privilege of playing or recording for steven curtis chapman, toby mac, francesca battistelli, natalie grant, josh wilson, plumb, rush …

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Becoming a Better Bass Player

This week I’ve been in Ben Phillips’ studio in Nashville with Sal Oliveri and Joel Sczebel (from the Sovereign Grace Church in Surrey, BC), recording drums, bass, and guitars for Risen, an album of congregational songs that focus on the theme of the resurrected Christ. Due out in March, Lord willing. The three players (Ben Phillips – drums, Joeie Canaday – bass, Greg Hagan – guitar) were amazing and a joy to work with. When I say “amazing” I mean we tracked 12 songs in two days, that the guys played creatively, often nailed the song in 1-2 takes, seemed as eager as we were to come up with great parts, and did it to honor the Lord. Like I said, …

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How Do I Get New Song MP3s to My Band Members Legally?

Tim wrote me to ask a question every one who works with music in the church has probably asked at least once, if not a hundred times. I was wondering how you handled the distribution of burned CDs in your music ministry. Is there anyway to do this legally? I would love to download and distribute songs on mixed CDs for two main reasons: 1) To help my musicians be familiar with new songs before rehearsal 2) To encourage Christians I am counseling to listen to songs that admonish/encourage/help them worship God in the specific area of their spiritual life that they are struggling in. I sent Tim’s question out to some of the guys who help …

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Looking for a Synthesizer?

Recently, someone contacted me about purchasing a synthesizer. My current knowledge of electronic keyboards is woefully outdated, so I passed the question on to Roger Hooper, who is the synth-player in my church and a long-time friend. He’s also a gifted composer and film scorer. Here’s how Roger responded: If the purpose of the keyboard is to do the non-piano stuff, you’ll save a lot of money going the non-weighted key bed route. I am primarily a pianist, but I’ve found that in either playing in the worship band (I also play out in the DC area), a non-weighted action is much better for playing organ parts, and the synth parts as well. Korg, …

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How Does a Worship Leader Cue the Congregation?

A while back I received an email from Paul asking: One of the central roles of a worship band is to help the congregation to sing. Do you have advice on how a worship band can best cue the congregation? What kinds of things could I tell my instrumentalists and singers to do to help the people come in on the first words of a song or verse? How would you in general encourage congregational singing? Paul’s question highlights one of the differences between leading a group of people to praise God from their hearts and simply playing and singing music for them. While people can certainly join along as we play our songs, it’s helpful when we make …

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Ben Gowell’s Tips on Becoming a Better Electric Guitarist

I first met guitarist Ben Gowell when he played on our Worship God Live album back in 2005. He regularly plays for  Paul Baloche and Sara Groves, and is currently on tour with Michael W. Smith. In other words, he’s pretty good. But really makes him special is that he played on our second kids’ CD, To Be Like Jesus, and co-produced and played on Walking with the Wise, coming out later this month. I’ve always been struck by Ben’s humility, his love for the church and his family, and his commitment to playing skillfully for the glory of God. So I asked him recently if he had any thoughts on how an electric guitarist might improve his skills, …

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Three Keys to Becoming a Better Studio (or any kind of) Drummer

Our upcoming Spanish project, Alli en la Cruz, was recently mixed in Nashville by Billy Whittington, a gifted and humble engineer who has participated in other Sovereign Grace projects. He was assisted by John Behrens, who interned with me this past year, and Mauricio Velarde, whose songs and vocals are featured on the album. When I asked how it was going, John mentioned that he asked Billy how we could grow, since all the players have limited studio experience. Billy kindly shared his thoughts on “what makes a great studio drummer.” They were clear and to the point, partly because he has had to spend a lot of his “mixing” time lining up drum …

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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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How I Got Here

Ben, a 28 year old worship leader, is in the midst of some career decisions. He emailed me the following to me:   You seem to be actively employing several different gifts and passions. You’re sort of a hybrid preacher/producer/worshiper/blogger guy.  You are living outside the box – and that’s exciting to me. As I dream of what my life and career could look like, my most
 satisfying career would look a lot like yours does now. However, I don’t
really know how to get from where I am now to where I’d like to be.  I
 wonder how it is that you’ve come to the place where you are now: leading 
worship, producing albums of your church’s …

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