Musician Resource Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

Kim reviews musician training or resources. Musician resources may be DVD training, songbooks or even enhanced CDs with video or music resources.  Basically, the term is for anything that is not a regular listening CD, but has to do with helping musicians and/or congregations learn the music and play it for a local church worship service.

iWorship Service Starters - Integrity Music (2011)

If you are using media in your local church, you have no doubt seen the recently popular "countdown" mini-videos that are often played before services. Most often these are used as a simple clock reminder to the leaders and congregation of when the next segment of the service will begin.  As a tool they are fine, but are more or less inspirational depending on how they are applied. This last week, I looked into my review stack of things to consider for evaluation. The first thing that I was interested in looking at was the 2 volume set of DVD-ROM resources called "iWorship Service Starters"  from Integrity Music.

To be honest, I had low expectations of a resource that I expected to be a countdown clock. Much of the other "countdown" videos I have seen elsewhere were mish-mashes of hyped graphics that looked like a blitzkrieg of images (in ESPN pre-roll fashion) such as you'd see on the Discovery channel's scenes of the universe. At other times calmer countdown videos from some other websites featured blasé wheat field scenes and such that make the ticking clock seem exciting!

But as I looked into iWorship Service Starters resource, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and heard. First, what I loved about it was a focus on actual videos that are intended to encourage and inspire people to begin focusing on worship. Each video is between 1:15 to 1:45 in length (one minute and 15-45 seconds). The content of each video is a combination of scripture verses, biblical truths and song segments (most often the chorus of the themed song).  The videos aren't aimless countdowns, but actually are scripted stories. And that is the point- people can be caught by the subtle but engaging video, and begin to follow the story being told by each video. Near the middle of the video the themed song for that video might kick in and welcome the listener to join right in. It wasn't a distracting presentation, but a focused story that leads a person to start refocusing themself toward the themes of worship, praise and adoration of God.

Actually, I had both Volumes 1 and 2 of the series and went through and completely listened and watched each video on both volumes. They were good, solid invitations to worship, each one of the songs. I found myself, on several songs, thinking "ok, let's go, let's worship!" And I think that was the point of the videos- they are not intended to be just a short countdown, but something of a short story looping on your screen (with or without audio, according to your needs) encouraging people to prepare and focus for worship. Obviously no media tool like this replaces a community call to worship, but I like this concept much better than feeling like I am getting inundated by the church "commercials" or "hype machine" on the video screen as a way to fill up time on the media before the service starts. It feels intentional and it works. I was inspired and ready for someone to invite me to stand and begin worship.

Here are some details. On the two volumes I reviewed (Vol 1 & 2) each volume contained 7 themed song videos (7 different songs). Each DVD-ROM contains both MPEG1 and Quicktime format video files (this means it is compatible for PCs or Macs, and will work on any presentation software you use). Each video itself is available in two formats as well - with or without the countdown clock. I like this a lot. Personally, I am not a fan of the countdown clocks, as I think they actually bring tension to an already driven world. That said, I like the idea of using the version without the clock and let it loop- or maybe preload a few of the videos that have connected themes/songs and let them be a storyline. One specific custom use I would recommend-- pick a video or two of songs you will be using that morning! What a great way to tie in and prepare people to be oriented to the theme you are feeling God is directing you on that morning.

Of course, for those that like the countdown effect and how it helps you get the service started these videos will serve that purpose of both having the inspirational video and providing the last minute and a half of notification for your teams and congregation that the service is about to start.

There were only one thing I would like to see improved or considered for future versions. I would prefer more songs per volume. Seven songs on a DVD-ROM is significant, but really if I want to match a song from my morning set to the video to prepare the congregation for worship that day, I would love a broad selection on each volume so that I felt like I was getting a good value for each purchase. It just makes sense that a broader repertoire of songs on these volumes will make them more and more applicable as a larger catalog is available. I can't complain too much on this, however, because at less than 20 bucks for each volume (I found them on Amazon for just 18.82) it's only about 2.75 per song video, which seems really reasonable.

Overall, this is a very solid resource and I recommend it. It is a nice alternative to the overwrought countdowns I am seeing a lot in churches, mainly because these focus on worship preparation rather than "media hype". As a worship leader, that makes more sense to me.

Amazon Product links:

iWorship Service Starter Vol. 1: http://amzn.to/MEnbe1

iWorship Service Starter Vol. 2: http://amzn.to/K8hq6t

 

blessings!

Review by Kim Gentes

 

Whiteboard Worship Training / Dan Wilt (2011)

Whiteboard Worship Training

Over the last 20 years, I have lead a lot of rehearsals and worked with a lot of bands. I wish I had watched this series of amazing teachings from Dan Wilt on some very practical guidelines to rehearsals. And that is just one topic covered by his new "Whiteboard Worship Training" sessions. WOW.

REVIEW :

Dan Wilt's "Whiteboard Worship Training" sessions are just about perfect. They are clear, excellent content with perfect, punctual and enjoyable presentation. There is a reason Dan is the premier teacher in the body of Christ on all things worship- he is a brilliant thinker and great presenter. The videos are literally 3-5 minutes each, and jam packed with truly usable information.

All wrapped up in his practical style that shows Dan is "one of us", who isn't talking down to anyone, but is sharing from years of experience and the joy of a gifted leader. The first video "How To Lead A Great Worship Band Rehearsal" is FREE. Even if you aren't interested in taking his whole course, go check out this one free video. Really great stuff. Dan has hit the nail on the head with this -- it is how we will all be learning in the 21st Century. Perfect.

 

Format: Online
Producer/Instructor: Dan Wilt 

Check it out online at :

http://bit.ly/iye5ij

 

Learning with you,
Kim Gentes

 

Drum Grooves for Worship - Carl Albrecht (2009)

Drum Grooves for Worship

The subtitle of this DVD is "Essential Patterns for the Top 100 CCLI Songs" and this is a descript summation of Carl's intention on this training resource DVD. Here is the premise- Carl reviewed the most popular 100 songs played in churches today (as ranked by CCLI) and listened to the recordings of those songs. In analyzing the songs, and the recordings of those songs, Carl found that all of them can be played in what amounts to 7 basic rhythm types. For those who don't know who he is, Carl Albrecht is to worship drumming what Tiger Woods is to golf- the perennial contributor that has more accolades and credits to his pedigree than I could put in a review of less than 3 pages. If you have heard any worship recordings in the last 20 years, there is a good chance Carl's name is listed on the drum credits for that CD.

That said, Carl approached this DVD with a laser focus to teach you something that you can actually use. He walks methodically through the seven basic grooves found in the top songs of the church. He instructs you, groove by groove, in not only the fundamentals and techniques, but the terminology and the application into which those grooves will fit in songs that are meant for worship. There are a number of worship resources sprouting up from skilled players, but none from as seasoned of a professional instructor as Carl. This DVD doesn't attempt to add superfluous fluff, but focuses keenly on absolutely making you successful at locking in to these 7 essential grooves. The chapter list includes these main items:

  • chapter 3 - 8th Note Feel
  • chapter 4 - Alternative Rock (8th with 16th note fillers) - ghost notes
  • chapter 5 - 16 note (train groove)
  • chapter 6 - 8th & 16th Note (ballads)
  • chapter 7 - 6/8 time, felt in 2 (majestic)
  • chapter 8 - shuffle/swing feel (triplets minus the middle) - and hip hop!
  • chapter 9 - odd time signatures (3/4, 5/4 etc) - hymns
  • chapter 10 - prayer... "prayer for the saints" on drums (a solo)

As a worship leader, and a former drumming instructor myself, I can't say enough about the importance of the points that Carl makes. Every worship leader who wonders why their drummer seems to drift off beat, speed up going into the chorus, or lose time during instrumental parts should be thanking God for Carl Albrecht. Because, while it is painful to have those situations occurring in your local church band, at least now you have a remedy that can actually help your drummer be the timekeeper you need him/her to be.

Drummers and worship leaders, I can't urge you enough to consider getting this core drumming learning tool. Check it out online at :

http://carlalbrecht.com/store/drum-grooves-for-worship/

In the rhythm,
Kim Gentes

 

iWORSHIP FLEXX - Multipart MPEG Lyric Presentation Videos (2008)

iWORSHIP FLEXX is marketed as "videos that follow your lead". An apt description, iWORSHIP FLEXX are professional videos related to specific worship songs. Each FLEXX product contains several songs (normally 7 different songs on each edition). Each song comes with several MPEG & Quicktime files - each file represents a song segment. Used with software like MediaShout, you navigate through verses, choruses and other song sections by clicking on these custom designed videos. iWORSHIP FLEXX is easy to use and contains exceptionally well produced content.

iWORSHIP FLEXX highlights very progressive video styling and graphics which may be a notch or two above what you are currently using in your services with adding static lyrics on some stock motion backgrounds.  The folks producing iWORSHIP FLEXX have done a spectacular job at making the videos very crisp for their purpose- upbeat songs pop, while balads pull back and let the image breathe without disturbing the visuals too much.  One thing I liked about the offering is that it provides intro segments, which let you cue up the song musically before the lyrics start hitting the screen.  There is also a great extended video segment, letting you run consistently on the screen, even if your band is playing an instrumental section.

Technically speaking, you will want to make sure you are using a relatively new machine with FLEXX video demands.  This model of doing VJ or worship lyric presentation removes the lyrics COMPLETELY from the process-- they are all embedded in the FLEXX video segments.  And that is the point- what you are doing here is simply running a single video for each section of the song.  The concept is brilliant, but does mean you can't have the old PC that ran powerpoint try to chug along on these meaty MPEG or Quicktime videos as you swap through song segments.

Churches that want a more progressive, higher level video experience will love FLEXX.  I would say that some churches may find FLEXX a little too progressive, depending on their song selection.  Over the years I have heard churches get more and more articulate about too much happening on the video screen during worship.  I think FLEXX could be used well, but I am guessing some churches will want to be sure to watch a demo before purchasing for their more conservative environments.

Overall, its a great product, beautifully and artfully rendered, with a perfect mix of technical chops to make it "plug and play" with MediaShout or other higher end presentation software. 

iWorship FLEXX has several titles out including:

 

 

 

Review by Kim Gentes

Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar Course (2008)

Worship leaders and acoustic guitar players need to be wary of a major illness that can infect their playing. This malady is called complacency. It comes to rest all too often on rhythm acoustic guitar players, especially worship leaders. But fortunately there is a cure. And it comes in a nice, low calorie package. It is "Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar".

When I began watching this DVD set to help understand what it was, I quickly realized this was more than a 1 hour DVD with a few "tricks and tips". Instead, "Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar" is a complete, and fully featured 7 hour course that will revamp and energize your acoustic guitar skills. This is a resource that is meant for rhythm players, and especially worship leaders. In fact, much of the items covered in the course, targets common applications for worship leaders such as fresh strumming patterns for common worship song rhythms. But the DVD's do not get you bogged down into bastions of skill sets for long periods of time. Instead, like other Musicademy products, this course flows from point to point and interjects interviews, quick tips and concepts that apply to the lessons being learned.

This is a true course, not just a terse summary of best ideas from a guitar guru. But because it is broken into several lessons, this DVD could be used as a weekly teacher. Plug it in for 30 -40 minutes, work through a few lessons. Then work on that for a week. Come back in a week and roll through a couple more lessons. This DVD set works well as a self-paced course that will propel a rhythm acoustic guitar player. The amount of content in the DVD set is so voluminous, you may not believe it- it is over 7 hours (yes, I said seven) of digital video content, across 3 DVDs. The content starts head-on with strumming and moves through that extensively. All the while, the instruction compliments both single instrument and band contexts. In fact, worship leaders will especially appreciate the regular tips explaining how to apply concepts and skills in the worship team/band settings. Most of the strumming patterns actually accompany a drum click pattern that helps the player understand the rhythm context for their strumming patterns being learned.

Topics move on to chord voicings, complex chords, barre chords and picking techniques. Even included are specific flourishes/licks that an acoustic guitarist can learn and put in their toolkit for appropriate settings/use. At first, the DVDs don't tackle classical music terms and foundations (other than timing), but as you work through the course, you learn keys, notes and timing, even Nashville Number system information. All of this would be far too much information, if the course was not well segmented, nicely paced and easy to watch and take at your pace.

While this course is definitely not for the beginning guitar player, it is going to be very effective for those who play well enough to lead worship in a local church context. It will help take those people into an entire new strata of expression on their guitars, by providing very methodical, though engaging, lessons to invigorate their playing. The details about this course are much rather seen than read, so I highly encourage you to view the important detailed info that is linked to from this page. (go here)

The bottom line- if you are a worship leader, or know a worship leader, this course is a beautiful tool that will help you and work for you in your local church bad context. If you are an acoustic player looking for a sure-fire resource to move you along to the next level- this is it! I highly encourage you to consider the Musicademy: Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar resource.

Product link: Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar Course

 

Review by Kim Anthony Gentes