Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Blog

I've switched over to this now serves as my ARCHIVE blog. Please visit me at the new site!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Songs of Spirituality

Many of you know that I am a musician. I've been playing guitar since I was 11 and started playing on church worship teams when I was 12. Over the past few years I have been playing guitar at LifePoint Church and my direction in life since I started doing that has been radically twisted as my passion and calling for music have taken over so much of my attention. It might be surprising for someone to hear that I never delved into the rationale behind worship music or what it is. I know how it feels, and I speak the language of music very well, but I always took this for granted, and in the past year some conversations have finally prompted me to investigate this further. What I found was not what I expected to find and the whole of this topic cannot be well covered in such a short space, but I will attempt to construct my findings cohesively.

When you ask someone at church why we sing songs in church, you will hear a couple different answers, but they will largely convey the same concept; music is a way we express our love for God. Because we are called to worship God, we believe singing is a way in which we can fulfill that calling. Music is a good way to lead people into the presence of God.
In certain more radical views, which are increasingly popular, it is believed that music is a supplement of true worship, unneeded and too often distracting for our culture. This view has gained momentum because it genuinely pursues a deeper and more spiritual connection with God through worship.
Because worship is, as we say, a lifestyle, worship can be achieved just by living a life of worship and we could lose all music and still worship God with just as much strength and conviction and focus. The modern church culture, which is predominantly consumerist, provides music for people to enjoy in order to attract people to their church. One who is serious about their faith cannot help but be drawn to this perspective for either of desire to pursue God on a deeper level or fear of getting grouped in as a "consumerist Christian."

This is the dichotomy I am most exposed to.

I have also been confronted with a question of the degree of connection people feel to God via music versus other forms of worship. Because people were designed for different things, music has been categorized as just another talent which can be used to worship God the same as any other. For that reason, people can feel alienated by the music-focused church culture we are in and disconnected from worship music in general. Does that mean music is non-integral to spiritual life? Should the church be pursuing less music and more variety?

My reflexive reaction to these issues is sadness. I don't like to think that what I experience through music is not shared by everyone. I don't want to hear that the thing I am so passionate about and called to isn't needed.
But I recognize these conflicts and they have given me reason to delve into the unexplored depths of my passion from a biblical perspective.

What I found is that the word music is found approximately 80 times in the Bible and the word singing is found over 20 times. The book of Psalms is devoted completely to music (well, lyrics, that is) and it is by far the largest book in the Bible. Music, if I need to say it, is important.
I ran across a wonderful quote while I was doing my research.

The most foundational reason we sing is because God sings - Bob Kaufin

This is based off of Zephaniah 3:17 where God says He will rejoice over his people with singing. I never knew God sang until I found this verse. I hadn't even thought about it. But that thought is exhilarating to me. The God of the UNIVERSE who INVENTED music SINGS! So then, His Spirit, which lives inside us, sings over our souls!
If we were made in God's image, and God sings to us, and we have the ability to sing, then we were designed to sing to and for the Songmaster of the universe. (Some of you are thinking, "I was NOT designed to sing, trust me." I'll get to that.)

In Ephesians 5:18-19, a passage so often quoted for why we shouldn't drink is the beginning of what we should do when filled with the Holy Spirit. The first thing Paul tells us is to sing, both for God and one another.
This is so significant to me because I so often hear of how music is distracting us from the focus on God, or how we are too focused on how things sound, or how music is disposable and only a supplement to true worship, and this verse tells me that we sing for each other as well as God and it is something that should happen when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. If music is for each other as well as God, then it should be evaluated! Its also significant to me because people often wait for the music to tell them how to feel, when we should be making music because we are filled with Gods Spirit.

Interestingly enough, "worship music" is not mentioned in the Bible at all, except when King Nebuchadnezzar decreed that when certain music is played, all his subjects must bow to the image he made. So music being a cue for worship is not a biblical doctrine in worshiping God.

Worship is a lifestyle. Our lives should be a living sacrifice, constantly worshiping God in everything we do. So music has to be a form of worship. But make no mistake, music is an integral part of spirituality. We were designed to sing. We are compelled to sing if we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We are called to sing both to God and each other. The Tabernacle in Israel was the chief school of music in a nation which had 4000 official musicians, all ministering through music. Music, for the believer, is a powerful language designed for the human soul.

"The beauty of the music consisted altogether in the melody; the whole of antiquity is full of the praises of this music. By its means battles were won, cities conquered, mutinies quelled, diseases cured."

Music is irreplaceable for believers. We worship God when we sing for God and for each other. God sings to us. God shows His heart and love for the passion and dedication to music ministry the Israelites had.

Am I saying you have to love music and sing to God?
Am I saying that everyone connects to music in the same way or that the majority of music and music ministry is right for everyone?
I am saying that a believer filled with the Spirit should want to sing praises to God. I am saying that music ministry is an integral and irreplaceable part of spirituality. Even if you don't like to hear music and don't like to sing praises, and you are a believer, then you are missing out on some seriously awesome stuff. (I realize not everyone can make good sounds, no matter how hard they try, but that is why we join together as a whole of believers, so that when sung as a people, as many Psalms were, your music is a part of that wonderful sound.)
Singing praise to God is NEVER a distraction from Him. Getting caught up in how it feels to sing to Jesus is NOT losing focus on Him. Because by its very nature, singing to God is worshipful and spiritual. So is singing praise for one another. So my hope for the church body is that we hold a right view of music and pursue the wonderful side of God that is musical, so we can know Him more fully.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Growing Out of Conservatism

I hope this is enlightening for both my liberal and conservative readers.

The whole 'liberal vs conservative' conflict of ideas is one that dominates much of American cultures. I say cultures because these ideologies come with and further form different cultures and potentially differing genetic pools, so to say it affects 'American culture' would not be accurate to the reality that ideologies do not make up what I consider to be 'American culture'. I refer to this conflict as a a battle of ideas and evidence of cultural polarization in America because the nature of liberalism and conservatism is so pervasive in our society that it naturally exists in any random sample of Americans and affects worldviews so much that we live life differently and disunity is the inevitable outcome.

This conflict is a battle for truth in the eyes of those who fight it. Eternity hangs in the balance for them based on whether or not things are as they think they should be.

Not all liberals and conservatives think cohesively, though human imaging would suggest they do. Many of us grew up on one side or the other of this and it is an expression of more than just our voting habits. I grew up in a Republican household (conservative culture with conservative genes) and I will explain here why I am not a conservative anymore.

I was president of Young Republicans in High School, voted most conservative, nominated "Most likely to watch the world fall apart due to global warming", I listened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and watched Fox News because I genuinely thought it was unbiased. I thought those guys had truth rolling off their lips and I loved to hear them bash on stupid liberals and American-hating commies. Grew up in the church, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-environmental regulation, pro-free market, anti-welfare, pro-capital punishment, pro-war, anti-taxes, pro-gun rights, pro-interventionism, pro-meat eating, and anti-UN.
But my stance on issues didn't define my conservatism, rather it was the way I viewed the world and American society. Conservatives grow up with thought processes that believe that people deserve to die for criminal offense, the poor deserve to suffer for not working and making money, our enemies deserve to be defeated for challenging us, and we should be trusted to handle weapons and pollute if it means defending ourselves and gaining prosperity.
These thought process go down further into social life (I have a pact with two friends to never date liberal girls!). The way this manifests is different for everyone, but it can be related to the thought processes I described.

By no means am I trying to comprehensively detail the psychological or ideological profile of myself or a conservative ideology. These are just surface examples that hopefully are indicative of processes you can relate to or be appalled by if you are a liberal (which indicates you think very differently, as I would postulate).

Each of these thought processes are answers to questions. I believe that conservatives and liberals ask very different questions. The liberal sees victimization and oppression in society and questions it. The conservative sees something not working right and questions it. One is a progressive liberator and the other is a skeptical troubleshooter.
I did not understand this difference growing up and going to college. But I began to see things about right wing ideology I did not like.

But it wasn't just a problem I had with right wing ideology. I also had an issue with the way the ideologies had polarized, because polarization causes truth to become secondary to winning. This shows me that while this battle of ideas claims to be a battle for truth, it is really a battle for victory. An important distinction because truth may be sacrificed for the sake of victory. The result is a conservative ideology that is inconsistent with both my technical knowledge as an economist and political scientist and my faith.

The Republican party imposes plenty of economic intervention and spends lots of money (gaining a lot of debt). Capital punishment and war are tools for killing when I believe that all life is precious. The environment has limited resources and we are called to care for it. A disregard for international law is an attitude of being above the rest of the world, when I believe all men are equal and deserve to be protected.

The existence of the religious right disgusts me. Have we become so incompetent as disciples and thinkers that we have to force those who disagree with us to do what we want them to? Do we not live in sin every day and argue for the economic and political freedoms to allow us to continue pursuing our materialistic and consumerist habits? Yet, then we turn around and argue to restrict those we have cast out of our churches and social circles for doing what we have deemed "unclean." (Acts 10:15) For we are to love all men as God loves all men. God does not force people to follow Him. God redeemed us all, despite our disgusting habits like condemning and ostracizing people who live lifestyles we have a problem with. That a political agenda exists at all for people who want to live for Christ is paradoxical in that Christ did not come to change the earthly authority, as He clearly displayed.

So then, one might ask me, "Isn't all legislation a moral legislation of some kind?" Indeed it is, our constitution is based on the morality of our founders which is not unique, but it is not Republican or Christian. So how is it different that we are legislating our morality versus some other morality when some morality has to be legislated? My question to you would be why you are focusing on what morality is being legislated at all. If we are not called to change earthly authority and some moral code will be legislated no matter what happens, I can conclude that the moral code of the government is not important to the person who is concerned with the eternal and not the temporary.
Clarification: I am not saying here that as a Christian you should not be involved in politics or policy decision making, because I believe in having intelligent people making intelligent decisions, but the morality of the government is not of concern to the eternal-minded. Obviously a morality that systematically kills people is an unintelligent and detrimental choice, which we should have intelligent Christians trying to stop, not just dismiss as a non-eternal concern. But we must keep the eternal and temporal in perspective. Sacrificing eternal concerns for temporal concerns is not acceptable. Generally speaking, dictating whether or not gays can get married has done more damage to the image of Christ and His message than good, leading me to believe the temporal concern that people are living the way we want is hurting the eternal concern of whether or not they will ever know Jesus! (Which is more important than any other eternal concerns) But systematically killing people is also a good way to prevent people from receiving the love of Christ. So both of those things I would place in the 'bad legislation ideas' category.

The eternal-minded know that the fate of the world does not rest on how the government deals with the issues you see with society!

As an economist, my technical expertise evaluates both the Republican and Democratic parties as abysmally lost. As a Christian, I have found that legislating what should be the result of a deeply personal search for Christ promotes neither Christ or a right way of thinking for those we oppress with our human standards.
So obviously, this does not mean I am a liberal (I cannot accept the victim/liberation progressive view of history as a vehicle of truth), but I hope this strange journey of mine gets people thinking about how they view our polarized culture and how the worldview battle might be way off focus.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Worship Overdrive and Delay

This is the second part of my series on guitar tone and effects for church teams. Hope you all enjoyed the first one, the feedback was great! I will continue today by talking about the use of overdrive and delay on the pedal board.

Overdrive is overused. That fun, fuzzy distortion that gives your guitar the sick-nasty sound you hear in the studio works great in your basement and in your Aviom earphones, but coming out of a speaker it can sound like some background static if not used correctly.
In my opinion, overdrive is not meant to be used as a constant effect, which is how it is commonly used, I think. Another common use of overdrive is to fuzz up your guitar to make it sound cooler and more powerful. Both of these uses often result in your guitar actually getting blended into the background on the sound system.
There are a ton of overdrive pedals and settings out there, so finding the right one is simple yet very tedious. The 'right' overdrive setting for me consists of finding a sound that adds a ton of volume, a tiny bit of fuzz, and a lot of input gain. This way, individual notes ring out loud and long.
I only use overdrive for solos, hooks, and those special chord sections where you need something that sounds like a wall of mud. This way, the solo comes, and you can just stomp the overdrive, get that extra push and make your solo wail and cry like a beast. When you want to be so far out in front that nobody pays attention to anything else, overdrive solo is the answer. I have a custom OD setting that uses like 30% gain, depending on the mix. The fuzz and the gain are correlated, so I find its best to keep the gain relatively low, or else the fuzz melts your sound into static. The principle is similar to my pre-amp principle. A slightly cleaner tone results in a little more power in the speakers. Just remember that when picking an OD tone that the idea is to get more power and volume behind the note you play, not more fuzz, although the fuzz will come. When you hit a note, you want it to ring out loud and CLEAR, so people hear it better.

Delay settings are probably the most complicated and subjective of all the basics. Really, the only real variables in delay are the feedback percentage, level, time, and stack. A lot of delay pedals will advertise they have all this other stuff, and and a good delay pedal is key to making your delay not sound tacky, but all the other niceties of delay pedals are minor compared to the main variables.
There are several approaches to delay, and different delay should be used throughout songs dynamically. I stack two different delays on my pedal board, a short delay and a standard delay. The short delay I always have active and I set it at 350ms, feedback 60%, and level 60%. This provides a nice short ring to my chords and notes, giving them some thickness that carries the guitar through the mix a little better. This delay is good enough for songs that have a lot of cut and dry hits, but thats about it. For most occasions for church, using a stacked delay is ideal. This sounds best when built as a 'galloping delay', where the echo from one delay rings right before the other, so they build on each other. I stack a standard delay on top of my short delay with feedback 75%, 400ms, and level 70%. Notes played with the stacked delay ring a lot longer and thicker. For most songs, when you're pounding out chords, having a galloping delay will enhance the chord immensely, letting it ring out strong and full. When changing chords, it should almost sound like it takes a second for the last chord to catch up with your chord change.
At LifePoint, the sound guys generally make finding sweet spots with delay much easier because they will add another delay effect from the digital system that won't go into the Avioms, so you won't hear it, but its there.
Using stacked delay on solos also gives your notes that wailing Journey or Bryan Adams gets with their guitar work. I find it very tasteful and the notes will just sing out longer and harder the heavier your delay is.
So, unlike with the pre-amp and overdrive, feel free to be liberal with your delay, experiment with it. You might not like the sound at first, I didn't because I didn't like hearing my notes overlap, but small adjustments in your strum pattern or picking pattern as well as a general feel for how your delay will sound will allow you to take full advantage of the thick ringing of delay. One thing that helped me get used to heavy delay is trying to play in such a way that I wouldn't let the echoes of the pick strikes ring out too much, this can be done by playing new notes or strikes at a consistently high strength so they overwhelm the sound of subsequent pick strike echoes.
On the issue of using a tap pedal to measure out your BPM for your delay time instead of setting the milliseconds, I prefer not to do that. On certain songs, I can imagine that the delay going in time with the song sounds good, but most of the time, the delay going off beat from the notes your playing is what gives it that galloping thickness desired in heavy delay. But a lot of guitarists prefer to tap the beat in, and thats perfectly fine.

This is pretty much all I will cover on guitar tone for a while, unless people want more stuff. I don't use a lot of effects beyond these 3 in a regular church service, so I figured this would be basic and universal enough for everyone to use. Thanks for reading and as always, I'd love to hear some feedback or see some other guitarists post blogs on their stuff.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Do What We Want

"When a good thing becomes an ultimate thing...then it is an idol" - Tim Keller

That quote means so little to someone who doesn't know they have done it. And we all have.
Before I delve into this, I would direct you to my friend Bekah's post, which speaks of something similar, but with a different direction in mind.

We do what we think will satisfy us. What will fulfill us. We do what we love. What do you love? What you spend your time and money on...what you invest your life into is what you love.

I've seen people do a lot of things to satisfy themselves. I thought being loved by a beautiful girl would satisfy me. I mean REALLY loved. Like the kind of love I have for her. I said and did the right things, changed myself, gave myself to her, completely invested my heart, my time, my money, my body, just to make her happy. Because if she loved me, just like I love her, I would be so satisfied. So happy.

I have seen beautiful, amazingly beautiful girls, dress like whores and get totally trashed, among other things, just to get guys' attention. Even girls who deep love do the same. I've seen guys get trashed and treat these girls like trash because they think the achievement of sex is the most satisfying thing.

The athlete that spends all her energy and time and thought about how to be better, because only the best get the glory. The professional manager, climbing a corporate ladder, because if he made that much more, if he had that much more influence, he would have achieved something of real worth. One of the guys doing something crazy for the glory. Drinking and dancing, having someone flirt with you and put their hands on you, just for a taste of some good satisfaction.

What about the Christian who gives away everything and abandons the people around them to do something radical for God? If he was hardcore enough, on fire enough for God, he would be doing something worthwhile.

We do these things because they satisfy. Just a taste of her love brings me to my knees in a glorious, passionate, ecstasy. And I fight for more. I can't get enough. And when I don't get it, I spend a copious amount of time and energy trying to think of what I'm doing wrong. Why don't you love me? Don't you know what I've done for you? Are you not satisfied with my affection?

I had a conversation recently with a friend about why people walk away from their faith. 75% of Christians walk away in the college years and 80% of new believers walk away during the first year.
What the heck? Is Christ really that unattractive?

I would submit to you that we, as Christians, do the exact same thing with Christianity that everyone else does. We go to church and experience a strong attachment, an emotional high, an epiphany, whatever it be. We spend time with our Christian friends and feel accepted and like we are good people. We "do stuff" for God and feel like we are doing something worthwhile with our lives.
But our human nature is in all of that. We compare ourselves to one another, checking to see if we are hardcore enough. We feel this "righteous guilt" (which is some Christianese nonsense, btw) about not doing the right stuff. We devalue ourselves when we sin. We actually question whether God is there or if the church is leading you to Him based on how much we "feel it" that day!

What I'm saying is that the same issues we bring up with the "stuff of this world" which we usually point out as being only temporary fulfillments are the same issues we have in church! In fact, these issues are so bad, our church-y fulfillment so temporary, that 80% of newcomers walk away in one year. Random sex sounds a lot better to a lot of people.

"Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like, and what He is like is of course a composite of all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have entertained." - A.W. Tozer

As someone who has been a Christian as long as I can remember, I can say that getting past temporary fulfillment in or out of the church is a battle. I couldn't even admit that I wasn't ultimately satisfied in Christ. I've been in ministry since I was 12 years old (doing worship teams). Ten years later, I find myself not participating in ministry for the first time since then. And its taken some hard slaps in the face to realize something:
I made her love the ultimate satisfaction in life.

And honestly, it was better satisfaction than I knew in the church most of the time. I was just like Jacob, in the Bible, who worked 7 years thinking he would be rewarded with Rachel, but was instead given Leah, and worked 7 more years to get Rachel. Her love was the ultimate reward for him, worth any amount of years of labor. Where was God?

We talk about the eternal fulfillment a life with Jesus brings all the time, but we so often rely on our own understanding of it. If we rely on our own, temporary understanding of God's eternal fulfillment, it will only be temporarily fulfilling (Prov 3:5-6). Our fulfillment will only come during our Sunday morning service, our 'Christian fellowship time', or our in our hardcore actions for God, when we are stimulated. It is no wonder why so many people cannot engage with Christ and the church and walk away to other things we consider temporary fulfillments.
Finding true eternal fulfillment in God is rarely practiced anymore and truly knowing God is a concept buried among our Christianese cliches that only scratch the surface of God and claim to be deep.
Our culture is not concerned with deep understanding. It is concerned with being right and being satisfied. Maybe we need to realize that being on the right side and feeling satisfied does not mean you have reached righteousness, wisdom, truth, or love. Maybe we need a divine perspective to even begin to understand what it means to be eternally fulfilled in God.

Maybe to really be satisfied, knowing God, and taking joy in being with Him, being in communion with Him constantly, needs to be our focus. Maybe satisfaction isn't what we think it is now.
Maybe, bringing other people into the church, praying for their salvation, and checking them off our lists is exactly what we need to stop doing, and instead, seek after communion with God ourselves first, so that others can see the eternal fulfillment in us, and we can tell them why we have it.

"That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God." - A.W. Tozer

Don't just consider this another call to faith. Search yourself. Vigorously and painfully. Not for the right answers, but for the failures. They exist in all of us.
Because God is asking humanity: Why don't you love me? Don't you know what I've done for you? Are you not satisfied with my affection?
But His affections are infinite. Even if they were something like the affections I have for her, I would be so satisfied in being that loved. But how much more than that it is! Our hearts were designed to love and be loved in such a way that is ultimate and greater than we can imagine. Will we continue to search for it in sex? relationships? success? attention? Or will you devote yourself to finding a satisfaction that nothing in this world can compare to? You have to believe it exists first. The salvation of belief is just the beginning, and we are called to a transformational fulfillment and love far beyond just mere belief and emotional attachment.

"The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters, which at the most, cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing than all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes and instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably. And when the man's laboring conscience tells him that he has done none of these things, but has from childhood been guilty of foul revolt against the Majesty in the heavens, the inner pressure of self-accusation may become too much to bear. The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them. Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any is more hateful to God than idolatry...the idolatrous heart assumes God is something other than He is..." - A.W. Tozer Knowledge of the Holy

I am guilty of idolatry. Are you? Is your church?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Worship Pre-Amp

Since I am sick and cannot sleep, I have little else to do at 4:30 am besides get creative.

I was reading through some of Hillsong's blogs about creativity and musicianship and thought it would be nice to have something like that within our church, where we can share with and learn from each other, as God has gifted us each differently. Being my first attempt at this, I thought I would share something small about a little of my approach to playing guitar for a worship team, hopefully without the pretense that I do it the "right" way. Hopefully this will inspire or encourage someone!

The multi-effects pedal. Its what pretty much all the guitarists at LifePoint use. The POD is pretty popular, but we also see Boss, AXE-FX, and Digitech in the mix too. I can't really talk about the POD or Digitech at all, since I use a Boss, but I hope the sounds I talk about will be familiar to everyone else. I'll just talk about one right now.

Picking a pre-amp is the most important part, in my opinion. Using pre-amp with too much fuzz or too little power will corrupt your sound. I always have my pre-amp effect active when I'm playing on stage, so its easy to see why I think its most important. The particular effect I use is a BG Lead amplifier modeler. I messed with this particular effect by itself for a while to get the sound I have.
When using the Aviom mixers, the way your guitar sounds is completely different in the earphones than how it sounds going through the speakers. This being the case, when I started playing, I had way too much drive on the pre-amp. I was using overdrive all the time. It sounded great in my earphones, but then one day, Jeff Richards and Gary Floto came up to me and told me that since I had so much drive in my effect, they had to keep the high frequencies on my channel low. Low enough that it wouldn't have the desired punch of a good electric sound.

What I did was got a pre-amp effect that sounded so clean that it would sound like playing dry. I turned the drive down to 0 and the BG Lead modeler sounded like a clean tube amp. Then I turned up the drive maybe 10-15% (not a lot, some days I'm at 5). At first, it sounded kind of lame because it didn't have that heavy distortion that makes the guitar rock more. It sounded almost completely clean. But in reality, its not. When it goes through the speakers or my amplifier, the volume alone gives it that epic, mad powerful punch you want.

So don't over-effect your ax. The bottom line is that with a good, clear toned amp model, you will sound much better than running with a bunch of drive and overdrive effects on. Try messing with it sometime, the sound guys might be very grateful if you get a sold tone they can crank!

Drop some feedback or differing opinions on what you do, I'd love to hear from you. I'll talk about other effects later.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Music for Elementary Students

I got asked by Melody the other day to give a short presentation, along with a couple other young people, about why I started playing music, my inspirations, what I do with it, and what I want to accomplish with it. The presentation is going to be for kids ages 5-13.
We are also supposed to give a short demonstration of our abilities. That seems simple, but it took me a few hours to realize that picking a few 'expert' rated guitar songs from the game Rockband might at least be familiar and fun enough to be a good idea.

But the even harder thought process that comes with this is that I have to explain a very deep subject to kids who have, at best, a minute understanding of it. This post is written in a mini-vignette format.

My thoughts went immediately to trying to remember how I felt about music before I started playing guitar. I guess I was always musical. I sang along to my favorite songs of the music my parents listened to. When I was in elementary school I actually started choosing some of my own music. Audio Adrenaline and DC Talk were the first things I owned. But I didn't really take them very seriously at that age (11).

So I'm sitting here thinking, "How did I feel about life and music when I was ten years old and what could an accomplished musician have said to me to encourage me to take an interest in it?"

Trying to relate to yourself as even a middle schooler is not easy. Try it sometime.

How can I explain that my journey of music is a journey of transcendence where my soul has reached higher places and my heart has grasped deeper things than I could ever imagine, or even recount, to a five year old!?

I didn't even really start latching onto music until Linkin Park entered my life when I was thirteen. I started playing guitar when I was eleven because my mom made me choose an instrument to learn and that was the only one I conceded was good enough for me.
And I hated practicing. Going to lessons wasn't particularly 'fun' either. But I did it because I had to and because I did want to be good.

I joined a worship team at church when I was twelve. I think that's why I wanted to be good. I was playing those songs the way I wanted to. With my own strum patterns. With my own Fender acoustic guitar. With my own hands. And I made it my own. My passion for worship or music were not developed, but I was having fun and developing them.

The reality of music is that mastering the techniques and theory for your instrument frees you from the heavy bonds of incompetence and allows you to make music flow from your soul, as every capability of your instrument is available to you to utilize to make a melody that speaks.

The beauty of this expression is that as your soul is poured out into sound, your heart and emotions can feed off of it. Musicians are largely criticized for seeking emotional highs. Guilty and proud of it. God gave us the ability to express and receive deep emotional love. So I'm going to use it as much as I can.

Certainly, growing up around other guitarists and being around other guitarists now generates a sort of competition to be the best. And being great a music can get you a lot of attention. Another thing musicians are generally guilty of: we are attention whores. A sign of a mature musician, however, is humility and self satisfaction with their art rather than seeking the approval of others for their performance.

I find a lot of my identity in my musical ability, the music I like, and my accomplishments as a musician. I am a Christian first and worship leader second. Third, I am a musician. Above all other things in my life, these three get placed first. I claim it because I earned it with the years of work towards it.

Towards the future, writing music is in my sights. It is a rare gift to write songs well. Even rarer to write songs that are genuinely expressive of yourself. I wish to grasp both of these, with some help.

Talking to five year olds about music was easier than I thought. All they need to know is that its work, its rewarding, and I love it.