I’ve recorded three albums, two of which have been worship projects. I’ve been blessed to make this records with my friends Ross and Jon and I can say I am a better musician and pastor because of my time with these guys. If you like, you can grab those records here.
Now that the project is done, I’m realizing what a huge benefit making records can be. That’s why I think every praise team would record an album. Not only is it fun to take a project from concept to completion, but there are some serious skills gained from working in a recording studio.
We all know the rule – less is more. We’ve heard time and time again that not every instrument should be playing all the time. But we get up there to lead worship and we do just that. Making a record gives you the unique privilege of hearing A) how bad music actually sounds when everybody’s playing at one and B) how songs can go from good-to-great because of a very few dynamic changes. Recording and playing back your songs in a studio environment gives you the benefit of “zooming in” to the song and hearing how each part helps or hurts the whole.
In a live setting, we operate under a lot of assumptions. For example, if a song needs to “rock,” we ask for open-high hats and overdrive pedals; for ballads, go with programmed loops. Those things aren’t bad, but time in the studio will present way more opportunities to increase or decrease a song’s size. Too few of us think about subdivision – how the beats of the song are being played. And this doesn’t just mean percussion. Guitars, pianos, strings can all subdivide the beat and add groove and size without pushing or pulling the dB to uncomfortable results. In the studio, a band gets the chance to serve in more ways than on stage.
Maybe that song doesn’t need four choruses at the end. Recording your music without a crowd there to sing along lets you see which parts stand on their own. When making an album, you’re trying to create something people will listen to over and over (and without a couple hundred people singing along.) The studio also lets you stretch your arrangement muscles a little bit since you’re probably not as hemmed in by congregational concerns. (But please keep the record singable…)
This is the biggie. If you record with your band, try to do original material. It’s an amazing challenge for you and the musicians and also creates a fresh collection of songs. I appreciate covers done well, but if you’re gonna’ record, write some songs to put on there. You won’t be disappointed!
If you’ve never considered recording, bounce it off your team – see if they’d be down to record an EP or small collection of songs. I’m betting they’ll surprise. Plus, it’ll bless your church!
Anybody got recommendations for good local church worship CDs? Who’s out there doing good work we should know about?