blog-Banner.png
Posts tagged praise
Our Light Has Come: The Heart Behind the Album

by Alarice

“Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, But the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn”

– Isaiah 60:1-3

It was the 27th of January 2018. We were gathered in Changi Cove, Isaiah 60:1-3 resounding in our hearts, our minds locked together, fitting together the puzzle pieces of what we knew was to be a powerful prophetic song. It took 8 songwriters to finally piece this song together in a way that we felt best captured the message that was beating in our hearts, both lyrically and melodically.

I love how it took a team; the ‘Body’; a ‘family’ to unlock the pathways that would ultimately culminate in the creation of not only this song, but of several others. The song was indeed birthed out of community; a community that loves Jesus and were ready to listen and attune themselves to His heart.

This was just a glimpse of the journey of what we’ve seen released today as the fruit of labour by a family, a Body of Christ - the release of Awaken Generation’s first full length album, “Our Light Has Come”. More than just the songwriting process, there were the long hours of arranging, creating musical layers and dynamics, and working out the sorts of instrumentations that would best communicate and carry the message of the song. Then there were the many rehearsals that required grit and precision to ensure that what was imagined could effectively be brought to life in an accurate and sharpened manner.

There were the divine appointments of kindred hearts that sacrificially offered their resources and talents to execute this vision, and many hours of prayer-walking and intercession – because we all knew that this album was not unto ourselves, but a greater purpose of awakening an entire generation unto Him.

Perhaps the process of the album itself was just a little reflection of what it means to “arise and shine” - to step out, to use our gifts and offer our ‘little’ pieces to a big God who is more than able to pull it all together; to multiply our Hallelujahs.

Perhaps we are to simply live in the reality of this scripture, now that we are living in the era where Jesus has already been given to us and where His Holy Spirit is being poured out across the earth onto the young and old to prophesy, dream dreams, and see visions (Acts 2:17). And as we live out that purpose, may all the nations “come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn”.

Top
Life As an AG Student

by Serene Lim, Songwriting Student

I didn't know quite what to expect as I began the process of relocating back to Singapore after having lived away for more than five years. Some of the questions going through my mind were: What godly communities could I be a part of? Could I do anything about my music skills this season? What is Father God doing in Singapore and the region?

I certainly hadn't heard of AG while overseas. When I returned, two sisters separately shared a link to AG with me. As I pored through the AG website and watched video snippets of who and what AG was about, I felt something or Someone tug my heartstrings.

Allow me to share three thoughts as I reflect on my journey as an AG student.

Excellent Craftsmen

I am both humbled and impressed by the quality of the curriculum taught at AG. Our year-long course has been interlaced with solid technical skills training, suited to various types of learning, offering plenty of space for self-discovery and expression.

We are privileged to be taught by a group of high-calibre Mentors and guests who are successful in their careers, not holding back with sharing the highlights and ‘lowlights’ of their own journey. I’ve been touched by their hearts for God, the nations, and for us students.

Servant Leaders

The AG core team and Student Mentors are a truly special group. It seems like each of them was finely curated and handpicked to lead here. They teach, impart, and impact with authority and humility. And we never forget to have fun in the process; that’s important for all of us who live down-to-earth, and yet are also heaven-dwellers!

Our leaders and Mentors have exceptionally well-honed music skills, reminding me of Proverbs 22:29: “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” It is however, never primarily about the technical skills in AG, although we are not ashamed to say we pursue Excellence with every ounce in us. It is always, first about the condition of our hearts. This combination of heart and hands is rare and highly attractive.

Dream Big

Destiny is the theme of the AG’s 2018 cohort. By saying yes to God and AG, I feel like I have taken more steps into my God-given destiny. One phrase that has been etched in my heart: 'Songs have the power to transform nations'. As we dare to believe in the goodness of our Father God to release through us - His little ones - new songs and new sounds, unique in the ways He has formed us, He will absolutely do more than we can ask or imagine.

I also see all my classmates creating ripples and waves in their own spheres as the River of Life flows through us. I cherish the friendships formed amongst us, in the midst of all the joy and laughter, tears and fears. As we encourage and cheer one another on, these relationships have transcended church lines, age groups, family backgrounds, and all other differences.

I’ve counted the cost of being a part of AG - the weekly commitment and commute after a hectic day's work, school fees, stepping out of my comfort zone in ways more than one, the frustrations in the midst of sharpening my craft... But it has all been absolutely worth it, hands down.

We graduate from AG in a month's time. I was surprised to feel like I already miss my year in AG, looking back on it with much fondness.

Week after week, we end class with our musical brain and spirit filled to the brim. I often feel there is a release of creativity and courage in our craft. We leave inspired to grow to be the very best in who we are as sons and daughters of God, and in what we do as worshippers and songwriters.

I end with this: Sow and invest into the musical gifts God has placed in you. As we walk with the AG community, we are growing and maturing into fullness together, as a family!

Top
The Metronome: Blessing Or Curse?

by Caleb Kay

The metronome (sometimes referred to as a ‘click’)  is an often-disused piece of equipment in worship teams, and sentiments toward it run the gamut from mere disregard to extreme disdain.

Ten years ago, I was asked to play the drums with a click, because the opening song of a special service needed to be in sync with a video. I struggled and gave lots of excuses reasons why it couldn't be done. I'm sure some will be familiar to readers:

  • It's so rigid!
  • It's distracting or hard to follow.
  • I can't worship with it (and don't you know that's the most important?).

But over the last ten years, I've grown to learn how to play with it, and even how to appreciate the significance of its role in worship music. As with everything in life, there's a learning curve, but I've grown to enjoy it, and have discovered three benefits to using it in a band setting.

1. It's an objective foundation.

Ever had that experience where your band rehearses a song and at the end, someone goes, "Hmm that felt draggy," and someone else says, "No, it was too fast"? How easily swayed we can sometimes be!

The advantage of having a metronome is that you can always set it to the speed of the original song that the team is referencing. If the worship leader wants adjustments, tweak it from there.

We don't have to rigidly follow the original without budging, but at least having the click makes it objective, and not subject to feelings – unlike how I might play anywhere from 2 to 5 BPM slower after a heavy dinner.

2. It's a foundation that frees.

In my early years of using the click in a worship band setting, I found it so hard to play freely because I was so focused on following its timing. But there was a day when we went into spontaneous worship, and in our debrief after the set, all the musicians remarked that the click had "disappeared"!

It was really still playing, but what actually happened was that, as we all got better at following the click, it ‘disappeared’ because we were playing precisely in time. It takes practice, but eventually, your internal clock gets better at playing at a constant tempo.

It might seem counterintuitive, but having the click eventually liberates your team to express yourselves; because you're less focused on keeping time with each other, the metronome becomes a solid foundation for your band to express more creatively - together!

(A question that might come up: "Don't the band and all the singers need to be able to hear the click? What if not everyone hears it?" In such cases, the metronome can still be used as a guide for what tempo to start the song in, at the very least. It should also be used in personal practice time, when you're working out your own instrument or vocal parts at home.)

3. Craft and heart go hand in hand.

"It doesn't matter if I can't play or sing in time; what's most important is my heart! I simply can't worship with the click so take it away!"

I think that this may be the cry of every worship musician at some point of our journey (myself included), but we must understand that as musicians on platforms leading others in worship, our craft is just as much a part of our worship as our hearts' postures. They are not mutually exclusive. As a congregation member, it is easier to follow the leadership of a worship band that plays in time, rather than one that doesn’t.

So keep stewarding that heart of worship, because it starts from a heart that loves Jesus. But get better at your craft, too, because that expression is the overflow of what's within, and to grow in it is to better serve the communities we lead in worship.

It takes humility to honestly assess ourselves – perhaps our craft has not caught up with our heart – and take steps to ensure both are growing in tandem.

I hope this article inspires you to not only consider using the metronome in your teams, but also hone yourselves to become better musicians. I can safely say I’ve seen the hard-earned fruit when teams collectively work towards improving their craft, specifically in the area of timekeeping. Strive towards greater excellence - because Jesus is worthy of that!

-

AG is excited to share that we are kicking off a pilot Drums Stream for our 2019 cohort, and it is now open for applications. If you'd like to apply or find out more, do email info@awakengeneration.sg!

Top
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’.

 

Top
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.

Top