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WHAT CAN YOU BENEFIT FROM MY LESSONS
Blending Traditional and Contemporary Music
How to Improve your Music Ministry

       The Role of Music Director
      The Role of The Worship Leader

      The Role of Worship Leader Cum Guitarist
      Sound Check
      Avoid Long Prayers

                 Pray for Real
      Remember these Bible verses
      The Role of the Lead Vocalist
      The Roles of the Keys and Pianist
           DO Use Inversions
           DON'T always play the 3rd!
           DON'T Play Everything
      The Role of Backing/
Support Vocalists (Singers)
           Difference between a Backing Vocalist and a Harmony Singer
      The Role of The Bassist
      The Role of The Drummer
      How to Achieve Good Tight Music

 

WHAT CAN YOU BENEFIT FROM MY LESSONS

There are many nice Praise and Worship songs composed and produced by mega-Churches and non-Christian production companies in America and the United Kingdom, perhaps, because they are far more skillful and professional musically. I'm not suggesting that non-Christians should not be involved in Worship music. I’ve heard of non-Christians who have been converted as a result of being assigned to produce Worship music.

 

Nevertheless, Churches should not be more concerned about the music quality alone and not the Spirit of Truth: The Sacred Tradition of the Church. I noted that brothers and sisters serving in several smaller Churches locally are quite weak in their chord progression work. You need not improvise or substitute any fancy chords to a song unles you have a proper knowledge of chord progression and substitution. Many songs could do equally well with just 3 or 4 chords or 5 chords.

 

You may do just as well to stick to the 3 or 4 or 5 original chords of the song. Thus, this site is only for those who wish to learn all about chord progression and chord substitution.I believe the theoretical and application knowledge; principles and examples given here would be helpful to beginners and intermediate musicians currently serving in Church or to those wishing to be trained to serve in the music ministry in the near future. I'm confident that the contents of my lessons would serve as a bridge to help you improve in your worship services.

 

Blending Traditional & Contemporary Music

 

While each individual has their preference of the style of music, the 2 choices usually fall into traditional and contemporary style.

 

So, the challenges for the Music Director (MD), Worship Leaders (WL) and band members is the ability to blend both styles in 1 worship set.

 

Traditional Christian music includes hymns and songs with Biblical text and technical harmony and chord progressions, usually 3 chords.

 

They are more structured than contemporary songs, and they hold dear to the older folks, in particular. However, it doesn't mean that you have to play these songs with the usual 3 chords. If you know the chord progression techniques well, it's a breeze for you to play these songs with contemporary chord proggression with substituted and extended chords to embellish the songs which will surely appeal also to the younger generation Christians.

 

Contemporary Christian music is a broader category and it changes over time, and is typically only popular for a very short time in comparison with the Traditional songs.

 

While Contemporary Christian songs contain more creative chord progressions, my lesson will help you to be as creative, if not more, in embellishing the chord progression of Traditional Christian music to sound as good and as fresh as Contemporary Christian songs, if not even better!

 

Listen to these 2 song examples. You can play each of the songs in 3 traditional chords or with a lot more beautiful jazzy substituted and added chords in the progression. Listen to the difference between the traditional 3-chord progression and the embellished chord progression.

 

There are numerous more examples of songs played both in the Christian Traditional styles and Contemporary styles using additional and substituted chords to create a more vibrant and interesting chord progressions for the same song.

 

If you are a song writer or you are aspiring to be one, my lessons will certainly help expedite and facilitate you in realising your dreams!

 

Once you are well equiped with sufficient knowledge on chord progressions and chord substitutions composing songs becomes very easy to achieve.

 

You only need to create a good and captivating chord progression and then you'll begin to hear the melody line in your mind to flow with your newly created chord progression. So, you'll kill 2 birds with one stone. You have your chord progression and your melody line within a few hours.

 

All you would need next is writing of your song lyrics, which I'll discuss later. You can also collaborate with other lyricists.

 

The final step is to get your song sung, played, recorded and mixed and master! You can also have it just as an instrumental music.

 

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I Have Decided To Follow Jesus
The Old Rugged Cross

AUDIO: Using CFG Chords
 

 

I Have Decided To Follow Jesus Subs
I Have Decided
AUDIO: Subs Chords
 

The Old Rugged Cross
The Old Rugged Cross
AUDIO: Using CFG + C7, G7, D7 Chords
 

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The Old Rugged Cross Subs
The Old Rugged Cross Subs
AUDIO: Subs Chords
 

 

 

How to Improve your Music Ministry

 

Do's and Dont's

While I could teach you all that I can, improvement realisation in your Church's Music Ministry will only happen out of a cohesive team work by members. Note this saying which has so much truth: If there is a Will there is a way; if there is Teamwork there are many ways! Eg. DO NOT attempt to have a finger in every pie yourself, so to speak. If you are a musician in the Church band, behave and serve as a musician.

 

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The Role of The Music Director (MD)

Bigger Churches may need a good Music Director, while smaller Churches may have the Worship Leaders (WL) doubling up as the Music Director.

Being the MD of a worship team is no small feat. The role of the MD holds many responsibilities.

You must plan the worship set, and get to know each band member's role and their musical parts, ability to get the band on track on the original plan.

 

1. Plan The Set in Advance


Do plan your set a few weeks in advance, if ever possible. Doing this gives your musicians plenty of time to do their own homework and to internalise the song set.

 

As soon as your service is planned, you need to inform your team. Provide every musician sheet music and recordings of each song. Make sure that you’ve also heard and played through each song yourself to ensure the accuracy of its tempo, groove, etc. so as to avoid confusion or making last minute changes during rehearsal.

 

If you are also playing the guitar, be sure that you are playing the correct chord progression. If you are unable to play a song's progression, you don't have to play that song. Leave it to the musicians, rather than playing the wrong progression, resulting in chord clashes with the musicians!

 

Explore some of those Online Planning Centre to facilitate all worship team members where everyone can view and access the same service plan, charts, sheet music, and recordings.

 

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The Role of The Worship Leader

If you are a Worship Leader, behave and serve as a Worship Leader. You can select the songs you want to sync with the Sermon's theme, how each song should begin and end, what verses and chorus, etc to sing. If you're leading Worship without a band and you have to play the guitar to provide your on backing, that's fine, but if you're a Worship Leader and you're also leading a band, make sure you're cut out for it and are truly capable of leading the other musicians.

 

If your band already has the Rhythm section, like the keyboardist (keys) and pianist then you do not have to play the rhythm guitar, but you should only play some parts to embellish or fill some parts of a song if you can. In a band, each instrument has it's own place and must blend together. It's redundancy if you and the keys are playing rhythm throughout the whole song.

 

Alternatively, while you're playing the rhythm, have the keys explore different sounds that will complement and embellish the overall sound. Both you and the keys should not be playing the rhythm throughout. Have the keys practise changing the keyboard settings. The keys can add fills or extra bits in response to the vocal.

 

The Role of Worship Leader Cum Guitarist

 

If you're a Worship Leader and is given the authority to manage the band, by providing the Worship song sheets etc.. and making decisions for everything concerning the Sunday's Worship service then make sure you are also responsible for your musicians' well-being. Responsibilities must go along with authority. There's this Chinese saying: "If the top is not straight, the bottom is crooked."

 

If you are performing your leadership role in a wishy washy manner then don't expect members of the band to be truly serious in wanting to give their best. For example, if you often decide on your songs and versions at the last minute, then you're a stumbling block and I must say you're not really serving the Lord, but yourself and you expect the whole band members to serve you according to your whims and fancies!

 

Prepare yourself early and help prepare the other members early by letting them know the songs and keys reasonably early even before any rehearsal. If you're habitually late in providing the song sheets with excuses that you are busy, take note that everyone else in the band has the same 24-hour day like you have and they are all busy too!

 

If you are able to provide only song sheets with chords over the lyrics (and not the proper leadsheet with measures) then check to ensure that they are properly and correctly aligned before you distribute to the musicians, or else each musician would have their own interpretation and change the chords at varied time and ending up in a total mess!

 

If you're not up to the mark of a good leader then musicians under your charge would either be very stressful or they'd also adapt a couldn't care less attitude. Offer your excellence with some time sacrifice and stop giving excuses. "In working with excellence, Christians not only serve God, but also display an attitude of service to the world." - Chris Pappalardo It doesn't mean that your loud guitar strumming alone could cover every chord clashes that occurs.

 

Construct an online repository to store song sheets which have already been well scrutinised and with chords and lyrics well-aligned for easy access by every Worship Team member, or else you'd still be giving your own excuses and still handing out song sheets at the 11th hour with chords and lyrics out-of-alignment even a year or many years later! If you couldn't perform this task yourself, then appoint someone good at this to do it.

 

"When we refuse to live within our limits . . . we wear out ourselves and those who lead with us . . . we compromise our effectiveness at doing the things we have been called to do. To live within our limits is to live humbly as the creature and not the Creator. Only God is infinite; the rest of us need to be very clear about what we are to be about in any given moment and say no to everything else." - Ruth Haley Barton

 

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ALWAYS REMEMBER that every member in the band is serving the Lord and not serving you, by obeying your command blindly and quietly! So, every member must be interested in helping and ensuring that every of his/her other team mates is well prepared in advance and is on the same page, so as to give his/her utmost best to the Lord as a team for His Glory! Being good yourself alone would NOT produce a good Worship Service, but with team spirit, the team together can!

 

What I said above is based on my personal observation of people who are more interested in performing himself on stage rather than worshipping the Lord as a team. If you are really worshipping the Lord you would want to ensure that every member works as a team to help facilitate one another to produce a great worship with near perfection. If you're unfazed about chord clashes because you thought that by playing your guitar the loudest you can cover any errors, then please step aside and do not lead the worship band, but be a lone stage performer yourself!

 

As musicians we all need to constantly check ourselves if we have fallen into satan's trap. An author suggests the following Check List, to see if we are gulity of any or more of these. - Frequently putting all of the attention on yourself - Struggling to empathize with the sorrows of others - Feeling self-pity when you’re not praised - Constantly considering what others think of you - Avoiding people who are better than you at something - Easily finding flaws in others.

 

Sound Check

Leave the sound check to the sound men and also invite the sound man to come on stage to listen to the whole band plays a song or 2 and let him interact with everyone on stage and decide which instrument's or vocalist's volume should be turned up or down. DO NOT have the sound man only sound-check your guitar volume. Everyone in the band (team) should have their volume checked and balanced. Ensure that the stage monitors are working right for each musician and that everyone could hear one another.

 

Avoid Long Prayers

 

There's a time for everything, including prayers. I noted that certain Worship leaders love long prayers during practices and during pre-Sunday worship services. DO NOT be like the Pharisees. People can tell whether your prayers are sincere or just for show! If it's a practice time, devote a large part of the time for practices and spend more time to fine tune the Worship songs. It's better that you allow some time for the musicians to meditate on the word of God, by choosing a topic or specific verse to focus on, rather than saying a long prayer.

 

Pray for Real

 

When prayer is simply a transitional filler, the musicians and the congregation can tell. But they also take notice when a prayer is raw and real. Reach out to God with those real prayers and act as an example to the people you are leading. If you really love to pray, join the Church's prayer meetings or take part in any prayer ministries or pray in secret, as the Lord says: "But you, when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

 

In praying, don't use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking." I won't apologise if what I said here nails on someone and hurts him/her. Truth hurts. I'd rather tell the truth and hurt you than giving you left-handed compliments & false praise and cause you to stumble further.

 

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Remember these Bible verses:

 

- Proverbs 27:5-6 An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. - Proverbs 26:28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

 

- Proverbs 28:23 In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.

 

- Proverbs 27:9 Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

 

- Galatians 1:10 For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. Should you decide to play the guitar in a band while leading Worship, then take note that every band member and you MUST aim to achieve tightness in your playing together as a team.

 

A tight band means no member makes any mistakes, every groove and rhythm is precise, all the pitches are perfectly in tune, chord progression and chord changes is perfectly on time, melodic phrases are tight, etc.

 

DO NOT insist that the musicians follow your chord progression just because you want to play the guitar and the progression in your own way with the chords you know. Be honest to yourself.

 

DO NOT change the chord progression and change the melody line to suit your chord progression. If you don't know the chords well, spend time to learn! Chord progression MUST support and blend in well with the melody line, and NOT the other way round! That said, of course, we don't expect every Church musician to be as professional as full-time professional musicians. Unless you are really as good as Don Moen, if you're a Worship leader and you're unable to truly lead a band, appoint a musician leader to lead the musicians while you focus on the area you're good at.

 

If you are playing the guitar in a band and you know only a limited chord progression while the musicians are playing another different progression, even if it's only 1 chord or one note difference, the clash of chords could easily be heard by musically inclined congregation members! Real musicians won't like chord clashes between members and they are interested to see improvement over time. If they keep quiet and won't want to bring this up despite that it has been happening all the while then there's something more serious that's hidden and is brewing.

 

They probably won't want to say anything because they won't be heard anyway and they simply keep mum and play the songs as best as they could even though the whole worship and worship quality have stagnated and is not really improving further, but is at status quo. Overtime, it will almost certainly deprove. Do not think that by strumming your guitar louder to drown all the other instruments would make the music sound better.

 

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The Role of the Lead Vocalist

If you're worshipping as the lead vocalist with support singers, and if wish to sing the harmonised part, let one of your support singers take over the melody line with louder volume while you sing the harmony part softly or place your mouth further away from your mic, and NOT singing the harmony loudly like the lead vocalist! The Melody SHOULD be louder than the harmonised part and NOT the other way round, or else you will confuse the listeners/congregation.

 

The Roles of the Keys and Pianist

 

DON'T Fight with the Bass player

 

If you are playing the keys or piano in a band that has a bass player to play the bass then you should be playing some fills or the melody, or play the chords with the rhythm guitar only at times. Allow the bassist to nail down his bass. That’s their role. You need to give them space to do their thing. That means making sure your left hand doesn’t clash with the bass players notes. Be really careful which octaves you use and if you’re inclined to use chord inversions, make sure that you follow the bassist inversion choices and not the other way round.

 

For example, if the bass is playing the root C for C chord, you shouldn't be hitting on the 1st version (with the lowest E bass note) or 2nd inversion of C (with the lowest G bass note) on your left hand. It will sound muddy! You lose the value of having a bassist if you insist on continuously working into his/her territory.

 

DO Use Inversions

 

If you know the 1st and 2nd inversions for each chord in a key choose a voicing with your right hand that’s as near as possible to the last chord played. It will weave the whole band sound a lot closer together.

 

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DON'T always play the 3rd!

 

While a basic triad chord has 3 notes, the 1st, 3rd & the 5th, it's the 3rd note that defines if the chord is major or minor. So to give the overall sound a lot more space, try playing sus2 chords with your right hand instead (1st, 2nd and 5th notes and leave out the 3rd all together). Because sus2 chords are neither major nor minor. They can lend a sense of ambiguity to the sound. Perfect if your band already sounds too busy.

 

DON'T Play Everything

 

Don't play all the parts, just because the keyboard has the ability to play the rhythm, melody, harmony, bass line, as well as adding passing notes, texture and colour. Adhere to this rule of the thumb. If you are the only person in the band, by all means play all the parts, but if there are 4 or 5 musicians in the band, play 1/4 or 1/5 of the music.

 

Most church worship bands sound bad not because you’re not doing enough, it’s mostly because you're playing too much! Let the other instruments take care of their parts. Find your part that fits hand-in-glove with what everyone else in the band is doing.

 

The Role of Backing/Support Vocalists (Singers)

 

Backing (Support) vocalists (singers) provide harmonies and vocals that complement the melody line performed by a Lead Singer or vocals for effect on instrumentals. They also provide vocal harmony with other backing vocalists. In some cases, a backing vocalist may sing as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or to sing a counter-melody. There are many types of backing vocalists ranging from the band member who sings a bit to dedicated Session Singers who are employed by major touring artists and recording studios.

 

A good backing singer should be experienced in harmonizing and keeping in time with both the lead vocalist and fellow backing vocalists. Ability to hear yourself, identifying and singing the correct notes plus learning songs quickly is necessary. The term 'Backing' denotes that the singer remains in the background, both in live performance and when mixing a recording. The backing vocals on a song can consist of anything from repeating a word, passage or chorus of the song to providing a continuing harmony in time with the lead vocalist.

 

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Difference between a Backing Vocalist and a Harmony Singer

 

Both provide backing for a lead singer, or vocals for effect on instrumentals. However, a harmony singer is naturally adept at hearing harmony lines over and around the music. They can vocally reproduce what they hear to create a harmony vocal line without requiring written sheet music, or direction from the songwriter or producer although they may be requested to produce a harmony or backing line that has been specifically written rather than one they may naturally hear.

 

There are people who are unable to hear the harmony and find it difficult to pitch their notes when another vocalist is accompanying. This problem can be solved by most through ear training and pitching exercises, practice and experience. A singer who is versatile and vocally competent at both singing by ear and sight reading can be employed for many projects including music beds, advertising jingles, backing major artists etc. As studio time costs money, an artist who can do the job quickly is prized! Nevertheless, singers in the Worship team are not expected to be like the professionals.

 

The Role of The Bassist

 

A bass guitarist is a part of the rhythm section in a band's music along with the drummer and other rhythm players. The bassist collaborates a lot with the drummer and together they form what is called a groove. Besides needing the drummer to play the role in keeping time, the bass player also has a crucial role in the band. The Bass provides rhythmic and harmonic foundation. His/her 2nd major role is to properly define the harmony by supplying the correct foundational notes.

 

It is the bass and lower frequencies that act as the Glue to rhythmic sections or melodies that are played at higher frequencies. Scientists propose that there's superior time perception for lower musical pitch, which explains why bass-ranged instruments lay down musical rhythms. In other words, they are saying that the human brain can comprehend rhythmic patterns easier when they are played at lower frequencies.

 

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The Role of The Drummer

 

Being a drummer is to be the driver, like the wind in the sails which make the ship go! It is well accepted amongst musicians that a mediocre band with a great drummer can still sound great. The opposite is also true. A great band with a poor drummer will not sound good at all. The drummer is the backbone of the band. By providing secure time, dynamic intensity and the right feel a drummer can make a song come to life. This is the reason why producers continue to use live drummers when everything else is programmed.

 

Drummers need to drive the band, and are integral to any band because they are responsible for the rhythm of the song, playing the role of timekeeper by generating the beat and timing of the song for other band members to follow. The ability to identify what style, tempo, speed a song needs and deliver it with the right drumming and feel is an art that drummers need to develop in order to do their job well. Drummers need to drive the band.

 

A band without a secure, reliable, dynamic and expressive drummer is a band without strong foundations. A drummer who keeps solid time makes the rest of the band feel secure and improves everybody's performance. Drummers punctuate, embellish and set-up changes and rhythmic figures to make them come alive. Irrespective of the music genre, part of a drummer's job is to highlight and accentuate the rhythms of the other instruments, pick up on guitar riffs and vocal lines.

 

Drummers have immense power within the rhythm section when it comes to dynamics. By bringing the volume and intensity up or down the drummer has the power to affect the way that everybody else plays, to shape the contours of a song or build the intensity of a guitar or saxophone solo. Providing the right feel for a song is where drummers bring personality to the music.

 

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How to Achieve Good Tight Music

 

For bands to get tight you need to rehearse frequently and play music together as a team as frequently as possible. The more the team members rehearse together the less mistakes will be made. Thus, band members should not be changing loosely so frequently, like having a mix of different members in the band each week.

 

If ever possible, have everyone internalise the music. This will make a big difference. Have everyone practise the music at home and get all their parts right and tight by themselves, even before any so-called rehearsals. Rehearsals are not just a rough run through! The purpose of rehearsals is to fine-tune and perfect a song.

 

If everyone in the band can play it right by himself/herself then it'll be easier for the band to play and worship together as a team. If you have a fixed team, schedule frequent rehearsals, run the songs and find out which parts and sections need work. Take the difficult parts and play them over and over again and discuss among members on where you can improve.

 

If you have a larger number of team members (vocals, rhythm section, percussion etc you might have different sections where just the rhythm or the percussion section gets together. Record yourself and listen back. It's harder to hear mistakes when you're playing, but you won't escape from recorded music and it can show you how you really sound.


 

God Bless!


Amen!

Dr Pierre CHENXU