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In the previous post, we saw a few ways to lead worship without music. But, what if you still want to use music without musicians?

Then, the solution you'd want is backing track software.

Backing tracks have been around for some time now, but in recent years, the tech to use them has advanced substantially—so much so that it’s quite easy and convenient to set things up quickly and start leading worship. There are many worship specific backing tracks software out there—I have mentioned Band-in-Hand before; then there’s Worship Backing Band made by the cool folks at Musicademy, Fly Worship etc.

In this post, we’ll look at WorshipSong Band—a versatile, cross-platform and flexible solution to setup and use backing tracks in worship. You can install it in on almost any kind of hardware/OS—iPAD, Android tablets, Mac and Windows machines. And, it’s also totally affordable ‘cos it’s available at the price of FREE!

Let’s take a look at WorshipSong Band's features

Watch the video for an overview of WSB:

  • Supports 12 tracks with a separate click track and ambient pad feature to playback pad loops between songs
  • Tracks can be mixed (presets available), pitch shifted, and looped in any order
  • Ability to spontaneously move between sections of a song with a foot pedal (looping, song flow, dynamics and song order can be controlled)
  • Chord charts can be integrated and distributed to the entire band and also transposed on the fly
  • You can also project lyrics to an external monitor—WSB can therefore double up as a church projection software too

A standout feature is the open file format that’s used by WSB freeing us to use backing tracks from various other content providers like WorshipSong.com, PraiseCharts.com,WorshipBackingBand.com, Multitracks.com, LoopCommunity.com. This gives us access to a wider selection of songs. If you want to use your own tracks, that’s possible too!

I’ve been playing around with WSB for a week now and totally like what I’m seeing so far. Mark Snyder, who runs WorshipSong Band was kind enough to provide a coupon code, which allowed me to download and test it with many songs in different keys, tempos and styles. Though I am using a very basic Android tablet, it still managed well enough.

The only issue I’ve encountered so far is with the store to buy tracks. Twice after the purchase, the download links failed because of connectivity issues at my end and forced me to buy the songs again and get new download links. If I were not using a coupon and had to actually pay for it, I would have had to pay twice! Hopefully, this will be fixed soon. Mark subsequently confirmed that he's changed the settings to allow multiple download attempts, how's that for customer service!

I also hear that a new feature to change the tempo of a song is also on the way along with an integrated metronome. According to Mark, "With this, for many resources, you will be able to use it as a built-in click track.   In this case, you could buy something like a Praisecharts Rhythm track (for $2 each if you buy in bulk) or any other split track, then play the built in pads and the built in metronome, and have a great resource for very little money per song with access to a huge library.  You would lose individual instrument control but for the price that's a good tradeoff.  And you could mix and match these with full multi-tracks.  The technology is really designed to make backing track software affordable everywhere." Considering the high price points of backing tracks, this would ease the burden for smaller ministries.

If there’s an additional feature I’d like to see in WSB, it would be the ability to add vocal cues, which works nicely in Worship Backing Band. That apart, WorshipSong Band is excellent at being the band when there is no band! I’d happily recommend it to anyone looking to get started with using backing tracks for worship.

What’s your favorite worship backing tracks software?

Image: http://pixabay.com/

WorshipSong Band - When You Need to Fill in for Missing Musicians or the Whole Band!

By Gangai Victor →

bible

That dreaded moment when we have to lead worship and the nearest musical instrument is at least a mile away!

Have you been there? If yes, you'd know the feeling!

We depend on music and musicians to fill the worship environment so much so that without them, it feels kinda empty, right!

On the other hand, such sessions are good times to remember and put into practice an important truth: music is just one among the many vehicles available to express our worship.

So how do you lead worship without music?

5 Ways to Engage People in Worship Without Music

 

1. Songs

Use simpler, shorter and familiar songs—teaching longer and complex songs without a musical instrument is a daunting challenge and I am yet to see anyone do it successfully (myself included). Use choruses or responsorial songs where you sing one line and the people sing the same line or a different line back to you (E.g. Hallelujah Glory, He is the Lord (Show Your Power) etc.)

2. Scripture

Use loads of scripture—verses from the Psalms work really well as also other 'songs' in the Bible like the Magnificat for instance.  Read the verses aloud, designate one verse as a 'chorus' and encourage people to repeat it back as a response when other verses are being read. For example, if we are using Psalm 8, we could fix the 1st (and the last) verse as the 'response'. "

"Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8: 1,9)

The worship leader can then read each verse one by one and pause after each verse for the people to respond with "Lord, our Lord, how majestic..."

3. Praise Prayers

In a small group, we can also request quick praise prayers from the people; short testimonial praise/thanksgiving prayers with a few moments of free praising at the end of each prayer.  In case, your group is not too comfortable with shouting out free praise prayers, use one or two lines from a song as a refrain instead —a good example would be "God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You."

4. Chants

Contemporary Christian songs are not the only musical genre for worship! There are other types of beautiful music too—like chants. They are short, easy to learn and you can repeat them easily to create a meditative/reflective atmosphere. Lookup YouTube for TaizĂ© worship videos to start with.

5. Listen

It's good to call for times of silence in corporate worship too. As much we like to do many activities when we worship, waiting on the Lord in silence is also equally important—because it's in those silent moments that we are able to listen to the voice of our Lord. So it's only right that we give Him time to speak to us, right?

The goal for corporate worship with or without music from a worship leader's perspective remains similar: to engage people and facilitate them to participate actively and authentically. Hopefully, these ideas will help you become more comfortable to lead worship without music.

How else can we lead worship without music? Why don't you leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: Pixabay

5 Tips to Lead Worship Effectively Without Music

By Gangai Victor →

android-worship

It’s always fun to write about Android apps—‘cos there’s constantly something new to discover with more than a million apps in the play store!

You could check out my earlier articles here and at Church Mag for various lists of android mobile apps useful for worship leaders and songwriters. In this post, you will find some old and new android apps that I believe are greatly useful for you—especially if you’re a worship leader, musician or songwriter.

8 Top Mobile Apps for Worship Leaders, Songwriters and Musicians

gotandem1. Spiritual growth: Go Tandem

I’ve written about Go Tandem before, a product built with 7 years of research. Now it’s available as a mobile app too to help us avoid spiritual neglect! Take a short Spiritual Growth Assessment, based on which you will receive up to 12 messages each day via text, audio, and video customized to your unique spiritual needs, designed specifically to move you closer to Jesus on a daily basis. Other features include, push notification to ensure you don't miss a message, ability to save and share your favorites and notes to write down your thoughts. Free download.

bandinhand2. Worship backing tracks: Band-in-hand

If you want a full band sound without a full band, this app may just be the solution! Excellent selection of songs to buy from. Each song has 7 tracks + 1 click track. You can create your own mix for each song (and save it for the next time), change the song key (5 key options available for each song), make/edit your own set-lists and mute/unmute any track. Probably the cheapest rates for songs ($5 to $20) when compared to other PC/Mac software currently available for this purpose.

The only downside is, the song arrangement cannot be changed unlike something like Multi Track Pro Wav Player. If flexible song arrangements were added, this would be a killer app! The app is a free download, songs need to be purchased separately. A single B-I-H account can be used to link up to 3 devices to share purchased songs between them.

fastune3. Guitar Tuner: Fastune!

Probably the only polyphonic tuner app available at the moment. This means you can strum all 6 strings simultaneously and Fastune! will tell you if you are in tune or not, how about that! If your guitar is out of tune, Fastune! will instruct you to tighten or loosen the exact string in need—makes the tuning process super quick and easy. Free download.

jetaudio4. Music player: Jet Audio

No matter how many music player apps I try out, I always keep coming back to this one. Plays almost every audio file format out there! Other features include 10-band graphic equalizer with 32 presets, Wide, Reverb and X-Bass sound effects, crossfading, gap-less playback, sleep timer up to 24 hours and more! Free and ad free Plus versions available; I wholeheartedly recommend the Plus version, it’s well worth your money.

metronome-beats5. Metronome: Metronome Beats

A tablet-friendly, simple and interactive metronome app designed by musicians for practicing and playing musical instruments. Facilitates any tempo selection from 1 to 300 beats per minute, tap tempo, display of Italian tempo markings, subdivision of the beat with up to 16 clicks per beat, accented first beat of the bar and visual beat indication. The pro version includes a “live” mode to create and play set lists. Free download.

reverse-phonic6. Rhyming dictionary: Reverse Phonic Rhymes

This app gives you rhymes and near rhymes based on the pronunciation of your search word. Contains a good database of over 250,000 words. Also has the ability to set how close you want the rhymes to be. Free download.

music-maker-jam7. Composing & creating demo tracks: Music Maker Jam

A cool app to make demo tracks for your worship songwriting. Comes with four free musical styles (you can buy more), wide range of professionally produced loops, flexible arrangement up to eight tracks. Change the tempo, pitch and mix your songs using cool real-time effects. Just shake your tablet or smartphone to reorder the tracks and create a new version of your song—useful to find fresh inspiration. Features include switching musical styles every month for free, using loops from different music styles at the same time in one project, recording a song and sharing it with friends, using your own background images for your tracks and more! Free download.

swiftkey8. Keyboard: Swiftkey

Imho, this is the best mobile keyboard ever! Personalized word predictions (it learns from your usage), smart autocorrect, customizable layouts, themes and emoji support  are some of it’s fun features. Once flow (swyping) is enabled and you get used to it, it becomes the fastest text input tool on a mobile device—and all you need is one finger! When you’re writing songs and need to jot down your lyric ideas quickly on the go, this app is just what you need! Free download.

What are your favorite mobile apps for worship and songwriting?

Image: computerandyou.net

8 Excellent Android Apps for Worship Leaders, Songwriters and Musicians

By Gangai Victor →

worship crash_thumb[8]Jamie Brown's recent blog post "Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship" has hit quite a nerve in the evangelical community and has provoked lots of discussions! Since then, two other bloggers (David Santistevan and Dan Wilt) have weighed in with their opinions, basically defending "performing", which Jamie believes is the problem. While all three posts are interesting reads and highly thought provoking, I am adding my two cents here especially because I am from a non-evangelical church.

Is there a real problem?

If a self-confessed worship nerd like Jamie who regularly keeps up with new worship music releases is unable to participate in 'congregational' worship because most of the songs were unknown, then yeah, I think it's reasonable to conclude that there is a problem—if you believe the participation and engagement of the congregation is integral to corporate worship that is!

David Santistevan focused his post on something else: "What’s the real problem? Our hearts don’t know their need for Christ. We are not desperate. We are not broken. We don’t approach Sunday with expectant, faith-filled, repentant hearts. We aren’t hungry for Jesus."

While these are real issues in every aspect of our walk with Christ (not just Sunday worship), I cannot help asking if our hearts know their need for Christ, if we are desperate, if we are broken, if we approach Sunday with expectant, faith-filled, repentant hearts and if we are hungry for Jesus, would a bunch of new songs magically become familiar songs to sing along?

Worship leaders need to be sensitive to the fact that Sunday worship and a concert are two different things.

A place for performing

Is performing a problem at all? Dan Wilt doesn't think so. In fact, he actually makes a case that everything need not  be corporate and accessible citing the examples of Handel’s Messiah and Michelangelo’s Dome.

I agree that the church needs to encourage creativity, arts and other expressions of innovation except that inside the realm of corporate worship inside the church, we need to decide what is essential: active congregation or passive audience. Unfortunately, the latter occurs most of the time when performing is given a free license.

A Christian concert, art expo or other special events are wonderful places to unleash all our novel ideas and expressions, but Sunday worship requires a lot more restraint in the interest of the gathered community.

So when is performing a problem?

When the 'worship' band becomes so oblivious to the congregation that they have to sing stuff that people don't know all or most of the time, which was Jamie's experience at a conference.

When is performing not a problem?

When it's guided and pastored by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; when its focus is on community and engagement; when it facilitates people to see Christ and not the band.

The future of worship

So here's my non-evangelical perspective:

In my humble opinion, the future of genuine worship is in looking at the past. I mean, let's look to the early church. They didn't have time to debate lighting, sound, screens, fog etc.—probably because they were too busy living and dying for Jesus! While we are more occupied discussing which musical style best expresses our worship, they lived out their worship with sweat and blood when the odds were terribly against them!

And what was their community worship all about? “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

  • Community prayer
  • Teaching of the Word
  • The Eucharistic meal
  • Fellowship

Not the stage, band, record deals, fluorescent lights, music industry etc. Doesn't this give us a better perspective on what really matters and what doesn't? A little reprioritization wouldn't hurt, right?

Instead of worrying about things like whether to use in-ears/stage monitors or still/motion backgrounds, why not start (re)learning from our past? Can we put on the mind of Christ and look at bringing back the Table and the Word to the center of our worship and keep the band from getting in the way?

Then, our worship might be on to something.

Of course these are just my opinions, I am more interested in hearing yours, so why don't you leave a comment and share your thoughts?

Image: http://pixabay.com/

Thoughts on Jamie Brown's "Are We Headed For A Crash?" and the Future of Worship

By Gangai Victor →

vp1

It’s easy to lead worship these days, right?

Learn a few songs, gather a few musicians (if you can play acoustic guitar, it’s even easier!), read a book and you are ready. To top it all, there’s also a world of learning material and resources available online, which we can leverage to train ourselves.

But I am betting you already know that.

In fact, I’m betting you also know that functional excellence is just one side of the story and you’re looking for more.

As for me, just like you, I’ve also met many worship leaders who are all about the ‘song’ but very little of anything else. Whenever this is the case, there are two definite outcomes:

  1. The shallowness and lack of substance will start showing through
  2. Worship will become predictable and lifeless leaving everyone—especially the congregation—frustrated and bitter

In this post, I want to share some suggestions on solidifying our worship sessions so that they consistently turn out to be times of refreshing; times of encountering our awesome God to offer Him the glory, honor and adoration due to His Name.

3 Crucial Tips to Add Depth to Our Worship

1. Study

Worship leaders must continually strive for a deeper understanding of God, worship and the Church. The prophet Hosea wasn’t kidding when he prophesied that we can perish due to lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)!

In our various endeavors to stay relevant with the latest tools, techniques, methods and songs, we can easily lose sight of Christ, His saving work and His Church and adversely affect our worship.

To craft worship that becomes a living expression, we need knowledge—especially of the revealed Word of God, the history of our faith, what we believe, why we believe what we believe and the role of the Church in the journey to eternity.

Let’s start putting in the hours of study that we are seriously in need of.

2. Reprioritize

I wrote about life priorities in this post, but we need a similar outlook in ministry also. The next cool new song or presentation software or musical techniques should actually be secondary priorities in worship.

But, given the nature of music ministry, they tend to take too much prominence at times. For e.g. what is treated as most important in the worship of your Church? The worship band or the mystery at the Table? Songs or scriptures?

We need to check ourselves regularly and reprioritize whenever necessary to ensure our highest pursuit in life and worship is always Christ and not some temporarily cool novelty.

3. Balance

Our ministry also needs sensible balance in almost every aspect—fast vs. slow songs, new vs. old songs, performance vs. participation, hymns vs. contemporary songs, music vs. silence, planning vs. spontaneity and so on…

Functional aspects aside, we also need to balance far deeper realities:

· Human worshippers gathering as a divine church

· Human worshippers worshipping a divine God

· Visible worship towards an invisible God

· Missional action backed by silent contemplation

Without balance, our worship will get skewed towards the ordinary. In our worship practices, balance is best achieved when our goal is genuine, inspired revival of our Church and not just keeping up with what someone else is doing.

My friend, the worship leader’s role is far beyond planning song transitions for the next week. The responsibilities of fostering a living worship culture, safeguarding the most important elements of worship, teaching the congregation to worship, raising up other ministers and more should also concern us greatly—for the wellness of our church and the glory of our God!

But then, these are only my thoughts, why not share yours in the comments? How do you think we can build more substance into our worship sessions?

Image: www.wallpaperswide.com

3 Important Practices That Will Transform the Way You Lead Worship

By Gangai Victor →