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Posts tagged Worship Music
Assembling Your Guitar Pedalboard

Pedals, pedalboards - words that perk up the ears and quicken the pulse of almost every guitar gear junkie guitarist around.

We all dream of having our ‘ultimate dream rig’ - whether it's our favourite Boost and Drive pedals (even Fuzz, for those who are of that inclination?), or the ultimate Modulation pedal for a divine ethereal effect, and of course our various time-based pedals like Delays and Reverbs.

And who can ignore the ‘packaging’? Choosing a board to accentuate the look on the pedals, LED lights for aesthetics, and so on... It's a rabbit hole, and it's bottomless

Nevertheless, here are some thoughts that I have put together based on my own personal journey to share. It is by no means conclusive, and definitely not the gold standard of guitar pedalboard set-ups, but rather some of the thoughts and experiences that I have collected as I have walked my musical journey.

Tone is king!

Before we even talk about a board, we have to understand that TONE is everything. What tones and sounds are you looking to craft and get out of your pedals?

Knowing what tone you want will help you in decision-making when it comes to purchasing pedals. But how do we understand the tones that we want?

Listen, listen, listen. Keep listening broadly and make a note of guitarists you enjoy listening to, and the tone they produce. After you do that, do research - see what fellow musicians think in terms of assembling gear to achieve those tones. Then, don’t just take people’s word for it, but try it out for yourself. YouTube is great, but inconclusive; always play-test the product in person so see if it sits well with your ears. We are all wired differently and we all listen to music differently, so it's important that you like what you're listening to as you're playing.

Building the components of the board.

With that said, here are some basic principles that I always consider when building my board, starting with signal flow.

Boost pedals -> Drive pedals -> Modulation EFX - > time-based EFX (We're going to leave out the Volume or Wah pedals for the time being)

As a general rule, we always put our Boost and Drive pedals right at the front of the chain, before any Modulation or time-based pedals. The rationale for this is simple: Boosts and Drives affect our tone directly. It's what we want to fix and determine first, before sending that tone through Modulation, Delay or Reverb. 

If we get our tone right, Modulation and time-based EFX help to bring it from good to great, but poor tone cannot be fixed/covered up by anything that follows.

Boosts

There are various boosts or pre-amp pedals out there, and it is really up to your individual taste (again coming back to the idea of tone). There are some extremely clean boosts like the RC Booster, that gives a nice, clean jump in volume, before sending the signal to other boosters to fatten up the sound. Some people even use some drive pedals, turn the gain real low to give a semi-dirty boost. This fattens up the tone before going to the drive pedals.

Drives

Different people have different tastes when it comes to drives. Drive pedals come in varied versions, from high-gain sounds to fully distorted or even fuzz sounds. Some of us have a combination of 2 or 3 drive pedals to have various stages of overdrive or distortion. In most cases, I would have a lower gain pedal followed by a higher gain pedal to increase the ‘dirt’ in the tone. Also, I could add a final piece which would be a fuzz, but that said, fuzz pedals aren’t as versatile and are seen as an ‘acquired taste’.

Modulation

In recent years, Modulation pedals have come back in a strong way. Such has been the emphasis on atmospheric sounds, especially in worship music, that these effects (and reverbs) have come to the fore for the guitar player. My personal preference is that modulation should be subtle (too much and it may end up like bad KTV sound). I mainly use these sounds in conjunction with reverbs. The Strymon brand has been really popular in the last few years for such effects, and using various combinations can really push the boundaries of the audio spectrum. The only limit is your imagination and creativity!

Time-Based EFX

Delays! Everyone loves delays…ha! Some purists dig the analog, tape-sounding type of delay. However, the trade-off in getting that coveted analog delay tone is the inability to digitally control the time or tempo of the delay (imagine manually trying to turn the knobs to set the tempo to the bpm - while playing!)

On the other end of the spectrum are the digital delays where there is the very-necessary ‘tap tempo’, and various presets and even MIDI information to be explored.

Again there is no right or wrong answer to which end of the spectrum to use. You have to find the delay pedal that suits your needs in terms of sound as well as ease-of-use. Strymon, Eventide and TC Electronic have proven to be very popular in recent years.

Volume

To round it off, some of us like to use a volume pedal. Do bear in mind that a volume pedal ‘sucks tone' out of your sound. It really depends on your intended application, and how crucial is it to your playing. That said, there are workarounds and pedals that help to preserve as much of the tone as possible, if you still prefer using a volume pedal. For instance, JHS has provided a solution for that in terms of a modified Ernie Ball volume pedal.

Putting it all together. 

After choosing your pedals, you have to assemble your board. There are ready-made boards available (like PedalTrain) commercially, or you could look for carpenters to make custom boards. It really depends on your budget and what you are looking for.

One final component - wiring or cabling, which is just as important as choosing your pedals. Good cables can enhance your signal, reduce noise, and hence improve your tone. It is also important to keep wiring tight and tidy, as it then makes it operating the board easier.

With that, your board will be ready to go!

Even after saying that, there is no end to the search and quest for perfection. There are always better effects, better cables, and nicer pedal boards; your musical and tonal preferences may even change over the years...

The most important thing is to keep listening and keep experimenting, as music is very dynamic; it's always evolving. Keep experimenting, budget well, and remember, it's all in the quest for ‘great tone’.

 

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Learning to Celebrate the Success of Others

One of the most exciting events the Awaken Generation Team has the privilege of hosting every year is our annual ‘Mid-Year Showcase’ – where a few of our songwriters, together with the musicians from other streams get to work together to arrange and present the original songs they have been working on throughout Semester One. It is definitely a huge highlight for us as Mentors to see our students get the opportunity to share their creative work in front of an audience, and ultimately revealing an aspect of the Father through their testimony and sharing. One of my greater highlights though is actually witnessing a beautiful culture emerge amongst my songwriting class – a culture that celebrates the gifts and successes of their peers.

No doubt that creatives or humans, in general, will be confronted with an uncomfortable feeling that arises from insecurity one time or another – a feeling of discomfort when you see someone else succeed (especially in your area of gifting) leaving you feeling inadequate, insufficient, and left behind.

God is in the business of breaking off this spirit of jealousy, envy, and ‘kiasu-ism’ from our lives. I believe God wants to rewire our ways of thinking (Romans 12:2 – ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’) in this area, to set you free so that you can rejoice and celebrate with those who succeed around you.

 

Here are 3 truths I’ve learned to start walking in freedom in this area:

1. Know that God is a God of ‘More Than Enough’!

If God chooses to bless someone, that does not mean He now has less to bless you with!  Our God is Jehovah Jireh, a God of unlimited resource and of abundance. If someone else gets blessed or receives a breakthrough, learn to get excited instead, because if God can do it for him/her, He’ll be able to do it for you! Meditate on the truth that He is MORE than enough for you.

 

2. Develop a heart of a spiritual father/mother/mentor

Brothers compete with one another, but a father’s desire is to see their children’s successes surpass them in every way. Grow in your mindset as a disciple-maker, and know that your greater purpose is to sow into and raise up effective leaders in the Kingdom of God who will go further than you. We are part of the same team and want to see the bigger vision of God’s kingdom established on earth, and we need one another to achieve that!

 

3. Trust that God has a unique plan in your life that only YOU can fulfil  

Look at your thumbprint – no one else in the world has the same thumbprint as you do! I believe this is an external expression of your inner destiny that is in the same way, completely and utterly unique. Psalm 139:14 says that you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. As much as I would like to, I am simply not able to reach the same people as you, because I’m not you; I don’t have the exact same gift mix, personality, culture, DNA, spheres of influence, calling, and position as you. No one else can fulfil your destiny, except you! So, choose to break off the spirit of comparison, and learn to steward what God entrusted specifically to you and steward it well for yourself, not comparing yourself to others.

My prayer is that the Lord will make you a CHAMPION for others. May God give you grace to be an encourager – just as Barnabas was to Paul. Allow God to take you into the fullness of the destiny He has for you, and know that it is His desire to promote and prosper you in every way.

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5 Things That Make for Awesome Lyric-Writing

 “It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.” (‘Words’, The Bee Gees)

Music has always been a big part of my life – there’s usually a tune of some kind in my head no matter the time of day. But melody aside, it’s the lyrics of any song that really sticks with me even for years. Whatever the mood of the day, there’s always a good lyric to express and bring clarity to what’s really going on in our hearts, and this is all the more so when it comes to songs of praise and adoration unto God.

So, for all you aspiring songwriters/wordsmiths, here’s a list of ‘5 things/steps’ you can take to hone your craft and make your lyrics awesome: 

(1) What’s the Big Idea?

As with all things, perspective is important. With each line or completed verse, ask yourself how it addresses, contributes to, or propels the main message/idea of the song. Each lyric is like a brush of paint on a canvas – how does it add to the picture you are painting? If there is one image or phrase that you want to leave your listeners with by the end of the song, what would it be?

If you find yourself struggling to answer these questions in a sentence or two, chances are that you might need to spend a little more time reflecting on what you are really trying to say.

(2) Go Back to the Source

When you seem to have hit a roadblock with what you are trying to say through your lyrics, go back to the source of inspiration what was it that caught your attention and inspired you in the first place? Whether a picture, phrase, passage of scripture or moment of revelation, return to it and take the time to unpack your thoughts slowly. Linger there and invite God in, asking Him: “Where are You in this?”

Chances are, no one is really pushing you to finish your song (unless it’s an #AwakenGen Songwriting assignment!), so converse with God over it and listen in closely. What is it that you have heard from the heart of the Father and what is it that you really want to say in response? I do believe that God is speaking to us all the time, but we need the discipline of slowing down to listen closely with intent (“Speak, for your servant is listening.” - 1 Sam 3:7-11). 

(3) Write Relationally

Once you’ve sorted out your big idea, put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and write. Write down everything that comes to mind first – there’s always time to edit it later, so don’t curb your creative expression by pre-judging yourself and cutting off the flow.

I find that it helps tremendously to also be clear who you are writing to. As you write the verses, chorus, bridge, bear in mind: who is this really directed to? (check out Deuteronomy 31:19-22 for a great example) Be specific – it is for the Church? The broken and hurting people? Is it a reminder to yourself, or perhaps, a love note to God? If it is a prophetic word that’s meant to be like a wellspring to dry bones, who should it be channeled to (Isaiah 50:4)?

We write to express ourselves and have that desire for expression only because we are made to be relational. Understanding who you are speaking to/writing for will help shape the words you choose, and the way you structure them.

(4) Metaphorically Speaking (Show, Don’t Tell)

Now, for the nitty-gritty. Once you’ve got a working draft down (remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect!), examine each line closely and consider whether there is a better way to express it. A fantastic rule I’ve learnt from AG Songwriting mentor Ian Chew, is “Show, don’t tell”.

There are myriad tools you can use to achieve this purpose – alliteration, contrasts, rhyming, symbols, metaphors, description of sensory experiences, wordplay, etc. Experiment, and don’t be afraid to try new methods that are out of your comfort zone; get into the habit of re-examining your creative inclinations/idiosyncrasies and challenge yourself to express things in a fresh way. One of my favorite things to do is write down a sentence and flip the keys words in that sentence to explore if they somehow bring a different angle to what I’m saying. For instance: “Do you know who I really am?” vsDo you really know who I am?

I believe that good songwriting is oftentimes about laying hints and teasing a listener into exploring and unfolding the mystery themselves. Like a cat with a ball of yarn, release just enough so that the listeners pull on it and unravels the rest on their own. And guess what? It’s totally biblical! Jesus was always speaking in parables. For instance, in Matthew 20:1, Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is “like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers” – what on earth does that mean??

He’s always leaving some kind of mystery for us to discover. If the most Creative Being in the universe adopts these methods, count me in. 

(5) There’s Always Time for Rhythm and Rhyme

At different points of the writing process, stop – look through what you’ve written and read it out loud. Songs are meant to be auditory so don’t just look at it on a piece of paper or laptop.

Does it flow well, or does it somehow feel choppy and misaligned? You will have a sense of it somehow. While our lyrics don’t always need to have rhymes, it should carry an inherent rhythm (or meter). The internal rhythm of the words that we write and the flow of our expression is very much the heartbeat of the song, and this especially true whenever we endeavor to write lyrics from the heart.

It’s like the principle of ‘Selah’ in the Psalms: Pause. Listen. Realign.

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Lastly, (‘bonus’ point, yay!), our input almost always equals our output. I find that the more widely I read and listen, the more inspired I am to write. Build into your life the discipline of writing and create space to do it. The pen is not just mightier than the sword – it is a different kind of sword that requires sharpening as well.

As you write, keep your ears, minds, and hearts open to how God might be moving all around us. It’s a great discipline to have a notebook at hand, just to make sure we don’t fail to capture the things that God is showing us. He’s always speaking – even singing – around us, and I believe that our role as songwriters is merely to listen in and be a scribe to the songs that He’s hidden all around us.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.” (Isaiah 50:4)

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Click here to find out more about Awaken Generation's Songwriting stream!

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Developing a Pastoral Heart as a Worship Leader

By Trisha Khoo

As you read the title of this blog post, you may wonder why a worship leader would need a pastoral heart. Wouldn’t that be the pre-requisite for someone with the title of “Pastor” rather than a worship leader? I used to shudder whenever I heard the term “pastor” used in the context of worship leading, or worse, if someone used it on me. The pressure was almost crippling. But as I further understood the role of a worship leader and what it meant for the congregation I led each Sunday, I was gradually convicted that to steward my call well, I needed to develop a pastoral heart.

The English word 'pastor' comes from the Latin word pastor, which means 'shepherd'. And the primary role of a shepherd is to care for, lead, guide and protect his sheep and anyone who fulfils these functions serves as a shepherd. As worship leaders, we may not occupy the office of a pastor, but we have the most awesome task of putting scripture, prayer and faith-filled declarations on the lips of our congregation members weekly. The very songs we lead in corporate worship can be used by God to encourage, convict, align and draw people to Himself. This is especially powerful when it is coupled with a unified message brought from the pulpit. So what is necessary for developing a pastoral heart? Let me give you 3 points to ponder over.

First, we need to realise that Jesus is the ultimate Shepherd. In John 10, He declares Himself as the true and good shepherd and exemplifies what a shepherd is and does. Psalm 95:7 says “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” When we lead in corporate worship, we serve the function of under-shepherds to the True Shepherd. We operate under His authority. As He has called us to lead, He will empower us as we step out in faith to shepherd His sheep. Now, that’s liberating!

Second, understand that our task is to lead our congregation to Jesus, not to ourselves. It is important for us to intimately know and be known by our Shepherd. Put simply, if our hearts are aligned to Jesus, we will lead and shepherd from a place of revelation; and our congregations will follow us because we lead them to the very One we follow ourselves. And that’s powerful!

Finally, we care for our sheep and learn to put their needs above our own. Here’s where practical issues like song choice and style preferences need to be considered. For example, the latest Bethel song would sound amazing and the band will do a superb job with it. But if it’s going to distract, or worse… hinder others from encountering Jesus in the time of corporate worship, we miss our mark. Or if we choose songs that have questionable theology, we also do our congregation a disservice. We need to know the people we lead, care for them and be responsible in our roles as worship leaders.

So be encouraged. As you invest in developing a pastoral heart, you will serve your congregations well, and the True Shepherd will be glorified!

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Revival Nights: Why We Do It

By Ian Chew

Looking back from 3 years ago when Awaken Generation hosted its first Worship Night to today, I am humbled and thankful for how God has moved powerfully in our meetings every single time. We’ve seen many touched by the tangible presence of the Lord, people getting healed and set free, and even non-believing friends encountering God’s peace and love. One of my favourite moments was when over 20 different churches represented in the room started praying for one another. It was truly a “glory to glory” experience.

This year, we’ve rebranded our Worship Nights to “Revival Nights”, and here’s why: We believe there is a significance when worship and prayer converge unto Singapore’s vision for revival in the nations. We earnestly echo the dreams and desires of the generations in seeing Singapore fulfill its Antioch call, and in witnessing a spiritual outpouring as never seen before. Just to add, I am personally convinced and convicted that the next great revival of our time will be ushered in and marked by worship and incense that rise from the united Bride of Christ.

“The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives—stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:

 “He is good; his love endures forever.”

 Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”

– 2 Chronicles 5:11-14

We love to see the body of believers coming together in worship; regardless of church or denomination. When we gather “regardless of divisions” and come to a place of agreement in the spirit, there is a corporate anointing that is released from heavenly realms that permeates throughout the body of Christ (Psalm 133). God is attracted to unity. In fact, when the priests, musicians, and singers, stood together to minister to the Lord, His glory so filled the temple it became overwhelming. What transpired in this event led to an unprecedented rule and reign of peace for Israel in King Solomon’s time.

As Bill Johnson says in his book Experience the Impossible, “Worshipers are positioned by God to summon nations to their destinies.” When we host the presence of the Lord on earth, it influences and shifts spiritual atmospheres over our city. In worship, we are essentially recreating the conditions of Heaven here on earth; and anyone who comes into it has the opportunity to be transformed by it. The level of faith created in such an atmosphere of worship is unlike any other.

Most importantly, we strive to never forget to keep the main thing the main thing. We worship God simply because of who He is. Doxology is the ultimate goal. At the same time, we recognise that our Revival Nights are not an end in themselves – rather, they serve as a rallying point, a launching pad, an incubator of dreams; that God would awaken, stir, and set believers off on a trajectory towards the revival narrative He is writing in the nations today.

We consider ourselves incredibly blessed that we get to be a part of the story, and my prayer is that you will fulfill yours too. Amen.

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Click here to register for our next Revival Night!

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