Soon to be a WTR mini-series!

#1 As an electric guitarist in a worship environment, I've been wondering about a phrase we string jockeys use: Cutting Through The Mix. It would seem counterproductive to do this when our job is to support the vocals. What is "cutting through the mix", and who decided it was important?

 

#2 When we pick songs for worship that we consider to be fresh and original, and fail to see the irony in thinking that sounding exactly like the recordings of those songs makes us in any way fresh and original too, isn't that also irony?

 

Feel free to rant if you want to. I'd like this series of posts to be a safe ranting zone. :)

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Rant it is then........I really don't get trying to sound like the original.  Ok, I admit, I couldn't sound like the original if I tried, so maybe I'm just looking for excuses 'cos I'm not capable, but for me one of the joys of doing a song is the arranging and working out of it to suit yourself, the musicians you are playing with and the congregation. I think that no matter how good the original sounds, it's not you!!  I just don't understand how any musician/singer can feel satisfied sounding exactly like the recordings when everyone of us is unique with our own sense of style. 

There's no way our band could "sound like the original," but I do get why some churches would want to do that.  If you have a congregation who listens extensively / exclusively to the Christian radio station(s), then they are going to respond differently to a band that sounds like the song they're familiar with than a band that's just playing it (and, in most cases, I'll venture, is not actually bringing anything special to the song themselves).  In another post, I give the example of Grateful Dead cover bands... you're playing for an audience who are very familiar with the original versions of the songs and it makes a difference.  We have (at least) three different GD cover bands here in Phoenix, and one of them nails the music.  Another one does the songs, but can't always handle them properly (like their attempt the other night to do something in 10/4, it just never settled in).  The third one is even less like the original, but then their purpose is to be there when it's Grateful Dead Thursday night at the club and neither of the other bands is available, but the crowd is gonna show up regardless. 

So I "get" why some worship bands try very hard to sound "like the original;" the feeling that sounding like the original improves their ability to connect the congregation to whatever else is going on in the service (and to connect the congregation to 'church" when they're driving home from work on a weekday night and hearing the same songs on the radio).

Well said, Charles -- though I still retain the nagging question, "Why are we singing these songs?  Are we singing them to get people in the front door?  Are we singing them as community?  Must a song exist as a finished, glossy entity to be valid at all? 

"Sounding like the original" validates the taste of those who are "fans" of the music.  it scratches under the ears and says, "You're OK."  Of course, they are free to berate any style of music that is not to their taste, and that's OK.

Oh, yes, that's another classic!  I'm one of those who doesn't sight read, but can't defend myself as I've not much idea of which artists can sight read and which can't.  Funny thing is though, it's often the people who are able to sight read, when finding out that you don't sight read will say something along the lines of 'Well, nevermind Joe Bloggs doesn't sight read either and he's a fantastic musician' - patronising or what?

Well, not necessarily.  Maybe he was able to do things with that thumb that let him do things with other fingers that nobody else was able to do 'cause they insisted on keeping their thumb on the back of the neck.  Eddie van Halen came along and was able to do things on the guitar that nobody else had imagined were possible, previously.

So, yeah, to me, the ability to sight read (which I, for the most part, can't do) is a tool you can have in your tool box or not.  I remember a situation where I was talking to a programmer who was a "hunt and peck" typist and I suggested that our company ought to pay for programmers to learn touch typing, because that would spped up the way they interface with the computer.  Got very offended.

Best response I've heard to comments like the one above is: "Joe Bloggs is a special case.  You're not Joe Bloggs."  Of course a statement like that makes more sense when you substitute hte name of somebody famous - "Joni Mitchell is a special case.  You're not Joni Mitchell."  Still doesn't get through.

AFAIK Jimi also tapped, but the rest of his playing was so far out there that no-one cared about that.

I'd poltely suggest that musical ability and music reading are not really linked, though read *may* help someone with ability to develop (but only if it encourages practice). I've also come across considerable pressure in the guitar world to develop hearing skills, possibly as an alternative to reading music (you want to be in a covers band - where will you find music?).

I'm pretty sure that many of the players who have become well known for what they do would not have developed that way if they'd learned to read early on. I used to read for brass, and it definitely shaped my playing development in a way that was negative to creativity compared to guitar, where it was all about sounding as wonderful as possible.

The keyboard world, even in pop music, is polyphonic (in that melody, fill, bass and rhythm can be represented with notes and/or chord symbols).  Reading exposes you to a world of music that cannot be accessed simply by listening (unless you are a savant).  The one-line instruments (brass, woodwind, string), I think, benefit from reading only in community - as in orchestra.  Even then, your most valuable instruments for worship band play by ear (if they don't, they become a big pain for the leader to try to write something that works with the improvisations of the other players).  Guitar loosely straddles both worlds, but I think creativity only abounds with the reader when that person becomes a virtuoso, and is liberated from reading as a requirement to making music (as a great actor learns a part, but you cannot tell as they do their roles if a line has been memorized or made up on the spot).  For most of us (including myself when I play keyboard in the worship band), creativity is something quite apart from the reading of music - I agree.

Well, THAT's how you do it!  Maybe I can play guitar, after all.  :)

Hooking your thumb?  How else do you play a D2/G with the G on the low E string? [Example: Joe Brocks's "Jesus"]  Some songs are just written that way.

Is there a problem with wrapping ones hand round the neck? There's lots of different styles of playing, and hand wrapping can be useful sometimes.

That comment on legalism makes you, I think, the most original philosopher since Eliza Doolittle's dad!

OK, But then you have to take the G down to a F#.  I don't know about your hand but mine will not allow that 2nd finger to stretch to the 2nd fret.

 

I know Brock wrote the song wrapping the thumb around.  And I think Earl Washington (who played it a lot and actually got co-author billing) wrapped his thumb around also - on a classical neck.

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