Category Archives: Resources

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2017


Every year, around this time, I offer a list of contemporary song selections for the upcoming year based on the lectionary readings. Here is a link to download my list for 2017:

Download Link

Enjoy!

This is an excerpt of what the file look like:

Sing to the Lord a New Song in 2017

 

Contemporary Song Choices for 2017 based on the Lectionary Readings
Date Song Title Writer Scripture Ref
Jan 6 Epiphany Mighty to Save Reuben Morgan Isa 60:1-3
One Small Child David Mecce Mt 2:1-12
Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) Chris Tomlin Mt 2:9-11
Jan 8 The Baptism of our Lord One Small Child David Mecce Isa 42:1
Jan 15 Epiphany 2 Jesus, Son of God Chris Tomlin Jn 1:29
Hear the Call of the Kingdom Keith Getty Acts 13:47
Jan 22 Epiphany 3 Whom Shall I Fear? Chris Tomlin Ps 27:1-3
Children of Light Stanfill, Reeves & Ingram Isa 9:2
Children of God Mac Powell 1 Jn 3:1-2
How Great is the Love Paul Baloche 1 Jn 3:1-5
Glorious Day Mark Bird 1 Jn 3:2
Jan 29 Epiphany 4 Speak O Lord* Keith Getty Mic 6:8
God of Justice Tim Hughes Mic 6:8
Lord I Need You Matt Maher 1 Cor 1:30
Unwavering Matt Maher Mt 5:1-12
Feb 5 Epiphany 5 Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) Chris Tomlin Isa 58:6
Here I Am Lord Dan Schutte Mt 5:14-16
Hear the Call of the Kingdom Keith Getty Mt 5:16
Feb 12 Epiphany 6 Beautiful One Tim Hughes 1Cor 2:8-10
The Same Love Paul Baloche 1 Th 4:7
Speak O Lord Keith Getty 1Cor 2:8-10
Feb 19 Epiphany 7 Living Stones Michael Schmid 1Cor 3:10-14
Your Grace Finds Me Matt Redman Mt 5:45
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How Can We Keep From Singing Your Praise?


How Can We Keep From Singing Your Praise?

Attention WELS and ELS Churches Using Contemporary Music!

I would like to create a database of churches in our fellowship that are currently using contemporary music.  As this list grows, we can use it to contact one another for help, for prayers, for resources, or just to have someone to talk to that share your beliefs.

I am calling this project “How Can We Keep from Singing Your Praise?”  Because…

God has put a new song into our hearts!
We can respond to the Gospel with a new song!
We are kindred Spirits!
God blesses Unity!
We see the same truth!
We sing the same truth!
How can we keep from singing your praise?

Recently, a WELS worship leader in TX asked me who else was doing contemporary worship in the WELS besides me.  I knew of only a handful of churches and none near TX.  How pathetic is that?  Hence the need for this list.

Please consider adding your name to the list and also feel free to pass the link to other WELS/ELS churches that you know are using contemporary music.

If you need a definition for using contemporary music and worship I would try this test out. Have you used the Getty and Townend song titled “In Christ Alone” and accompanied it with anything other than an organ (as in piano and guitar)?  Have you heard of Chris Tomlin? Have you hosted the Branches Band at your church?  If you’ve answered “yes” to all these questions, then go ahead, be bold and sign up. Oh you can just go ahead and sign if only one of these are true and you want to belong to this group because we are not exclusive!

You can add your contact information at the following link:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1naL6UarniBx9PRs16GoONpjZrAMtxxubgVY6n9tAFqY/viewform

Thank you and may God continue to bless your music ministries!

PS – This list of contact information will be kept private and will only be shared with those people who sign-up.

Introducing Contemporary Music


Introducing Contemporary Music

Is your congregation ready for contemporary music in worship?

Not all are. Just look around and note the ages of the people seated in the pews. And let’s just get this out on the table – some church leaders are dead set against it. This is sad but it’s not your battle to fight.  Pray for your Pastor and your leaders.

A few more thoughts….

1. Have a plan before you start.  Answer these questions in your own mind first:

  • Why is this newer music needed?

For more information:

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/contemporary-christian-music-as-outreach-2/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/styles/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/i-do-not-like-this-newer-music/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/new-to-contemporary-music/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/what-god-likes-to-hear-in-our-music/

  • How will the congregation benefit?

For more information:

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2012/08/14/sing-a-new-song-this-sunday/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/try-a-little-variety/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/musical-style-should-not-split-a-church/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/worship-styles/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/wels-worship-poll-results/

  • How will the worship life of the church be affected?

For more information:

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/fellowship-with-musical-diversity/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/the-practical-implications-of-differing-musical-styles/

2. Pray for help, blessings and guidance.

3. Share the vision for the new music with the congregation as well as its biblical basis.

For more information:

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/responding-with-scripture/

4. Focus on an ADDITION to the current worship versus elimination.

5. Train members how to sing contemporary music. Consider involving the teen and youth groups if possible. Start off with simple tunes.  Start by having the band offer the songs as pre-service selections and during the offering for several months before asking the congregation to sing.

For more information:

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/a-scoring-system-to-determine-if-a-new-song-is-congregational-friendly/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/thinking-about-either-starting-or-joining-a-contemporary-praise-band/

6. Ease into the change slowly; perhaps with one service per month, or even one song per month.

For more information:

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/blended-worship-planning-101/

https://sjbrown58.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/how-to-start-a-blended-worship-service-program-at-your-church/

7. Learn from the introduction. Ask your worship team these questions:

What worked well?

What could have been done better?

Where there any issues?

8. Ask for congregational feedback.

How to Modernize a Hymn – Part one of a two part series


How to Modernize a Hymn – Part one of a two part series

I don’t think there are many Christians, even those who use nothing but Contemporary music, that doubt or question the depth and the beauty of the lyrics contained in our wealth of hymns. But sometimes, they are difficult to comprehend or are just too musically foreign to those that we are Called to reach.

There is a process to modernize these hymns and to put chords to them but it’s not easy to do and there are a lot of subtleties that only come with experience and knowledge. In this two-part series, I will try to address one basic approach to do this.

In this first installment, we will consider a step-by-step approach written for a beginner’s level and the second installment will show an example where these types of techniques have been used successfully.

So let’s start…

Step One – Put Chords to it

Here is the process you will need to add your own chords:

  1. Identify the key signature by looking at the number of sharps and flats.

No sharps or flats – key of C or Am
1 Sharp – key of G or Em
2 Sharps – key of D or Bm
3 Sharps – key of A or F#m
4 Sharps – key of E or C#m
5 Sharps – key of B or G#m (rarely used)
6 Sharps – key of F# or D#m (rarely used)
1 flat – key of F or Dm
2 flats – key of Bb or Gm
3 flats – key of Eb or Cm
4 flats – key of Ab or Fm
5 flats – key of Db or Bbm
6 flats – key of Gb or Ebm (rarely used)

  1. Know the typical chords used in each key signature (these are referred to as the harmonized scales):
MAJOR SCALE   R   -   2   -    3    4   -   5   -   6   -   7 
   C  maj.:   C   -   Dm   -   Em   F   -   G   -   Am  -  rarely
   Db maj.:   Db  -   Ebm  -   Fm   Gb  -   Ab  -   Bbm -  used
   D  maj.:   D   -   Em   -   F#m  G   -   A   -   Bm
   Eb maj.:   Eb  -   Fm   -   Gm   Ab  -   Bb  -   Cm
   E  maj.:   E   -   F#m  -   G#m  A   -   B   -   C#m
   F  maj.:   F   -   Gm   -   Am   Bb  -   C   -   Dm
   F# maj.:   F#  -   G#m  -   A#m  B   -   C#  -   D#m
   G  maj.:   G   -   Am   -   Bm   C   -   D   -   Em
   Ab maj.:   Ab  -   Bbm  -   Cm   Db  -   Eb  -   Fm
   A  maj.:   A   -   Bm   -   C#m  D   -   E   -   F#m
   Bb maj.:   Bb  -   Cm   -   Dm   Eb  -   F   -   Gm 
   B  maj.:   B   -   C#m  -   D#m  E   -   F#  -   G#m 

MINOR SCALE   R   -    2      b3  -   4    -       5      b6  -   b7
   A  min.:   Am   -   Bdim   C   -   Dm   -   Em or E    F
   Bb min.:   Bbm  -   Cbdim  Db  -   Ebm  -   Fm or F    Gb
   B  min.:   Bm   -   C#dim  D   -   Em   -   F#m or F#  G 
   C  min.:   Cm   -   Ddim   Eb  -   Fm   -   Gm or G    Ab
   C# min.:   C#m  -   D#dim  E   -   F#m  -   G#m or G#  A
   D  min.:   Dm   -   Edim   F   -   Gm   -   Am or A    Bb
   Eb min.:   Ebm  -   Fdim   Gb  -   Abm  -   Bbm or Bb (B)
   E  min.:   Em   -   F#dim  G   -   Am   -   Bm or B    C 
   F  min.:   Fm   -   Gdim   Ab  -   Bbm  -   Cm or C    Db 
   F# min.:   F#m  -   G#dim  A   -   Bm   -   C#m or C#  D
   G  min.:   Gm   -   Adim   Bb  -   Cm   -   Dm or D    Eb 
   G# min.:   G#m  -   A#dim  B   -   C#m  -   D#m or D#  E
  1. Know what each line and space represent on the treble and bass clefs. (See below)

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons

4. Now the hard part. If you know the key signature by the number of sharps and flats (item 1 above), then you know the basic chords to look for (item 2), and now you should be able to identify all the notes in each grouping of chords on your sheet music by using the chart in item 3. You will also need to know the notes that comprise each chord. Here’s a little help:

A…………….A-C#-E
Am…………..A-C-E
Bb……………Bb-D-F
Bbm………….Bb-Db-F
B……………..B-D#-F#
Bm…………..B-D-F#
C…………….C-E-G
Cm…………..C-Eb-G
C# (or Db)….. C#-F-G# or (Db-F-Ab)
C#m (or Dbm).C#-E-G# or (Db-E-Ab)
D…………….D-F#-A
Dm…………..D-F-A
Eb……………Eb-G-Bb
Ebm …………Eb-Gb-Bb
E……………..E-G#-B
Em………….. E-G-B
F……………..F-A-C
Fm………….. F-Ab-C
F# (or Gb)……F#-A#-C#
F#m (or Gbm).F#-A-C#
G…………… G-B-D
Gm………….G-Bb-D
Ab………………Ab-B-Eb
Abm……………Ab-Bb-Eb

5. Many hymns that don’t have guitar chords do so for a reason, and typically it is because every note in the melody line theoretically requires a different guitar chord. If this is the case, your song will sound too choppy with a chord change on every beat. Songs that lend themselves well to guitar accompaniment typically have a chord change at the start of the measures or sometimes at the mid-point of the measures. For example, a song in 4/4 time might have a chord change before the first and maybe the third beats. Even if you’re hymn requires a unique chord for each note in the melody line – don’t do it! If 4/4 time, stick to the chord changes on the first and third beats. Also, listen for the “strong beats” and put the chord changes on those particular notes.

6. When you have finished putting chords to a musical piece, sit back and look at the song in its entirety, as opposed to the note-by-note study that you have just finished. Look for overriding chord patterns or progressions. Sometimes, you can delete certain chords that you have identified and use fewer chords that fit into an overall theme for the song. It also sometimes helps to replace the chord names with Roman numerals and then to look for repeating patterns.

This technique should get you started. There are other more advanced issues such as numbered chords (C2, C5, Csus, C7, etc.) and slash chords (D/A, D/F#, D/G, etc.) but these can come later.

Step Two – Consider adding a Chorus and maybe a Bridge

The Chorus:
Most hymns only have verses. Lots of verses. These verses tell a story. Sometimes it’s nice to respond to these verses with either a chorus or refrain and sometimes it’s nice to alter the musical accompaniment with a bridge.

When writing a chorus, think of it as an answer to the story being told in the verse. Also, the chorus is usually sung a bit higher than the verse and with more energy. Choruses are usually the “hook” of the song; they are the part that people will remember and sing throughout the upcoming week. The chorus will have a stronger chord progression than the more fragile verses and the chorus will typically use more of the tonic key notes than in the verses. Choruses can also talk about feelings, or how you should feel about the story being told in the verses. A good example of a hymn with a great chorus that you undoubtedly know is “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Another good example would be Chris Tomlin’s recent adaptation of “Amazing Grace” with his iconic chorus “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior, has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy reigns. Unending love. Amazing Grace.” Wow!

The Bridge:
The bridge offers melodic, lyrical and even harmonic variation. Bridges can be a welcome addition to hymns because the verses and even the chorus can be very repetitive. Oftentimes, bridges in songs written in major keys start with a minor chord and vice versa, and they almost never start with the tonic chord.

Next you will need a formula for the structure of your new hymn. Consider something like:
Verse 1, Verse 2, Chorus, Verse 3, Chorus, Bridge, Verse 4, Chorus, End

But there are unlimited combinations.

Step Three – Consider updating the lyrics

Read through the hymn lyrics. If they are in our CW hymnbook, they will be pretty awesome. However, some hymns use too many churchy words, too many archaic words, phrases no longer in use, old English, phrases that just didn’t translate well into English from the original language the hymn was written in and what I’ll call reverse poetry. Keep all these things if the hymn sings well and makes sense to you. Only make changes if the lyrics require you to research and study them immensly before you get the picture. Our hymnal has actually already come a long way. There were massive revisions between our current hymnal and it’s predecessor so you might be OK in this regard.

If you change lyrics, make sure that you do not change the message, the rhythm, or the meter (the number of syllables per measure). You may find a rhyming dictionary and a thesaurus to be helpful in this regard.

Step Four – Consider adding a Musical Turn Around

Most hymns just seem to run into a musical brick wall at the end of a verse and then awkwardly go back to the beginning. Update this! Add a short musical turn-around, perhaps just a measure or two, but find a way to musically tie the ending back to the beginning.

I know that many of you reading this post are in my denomination and have probably heard the band known as “Branches.” They have a great example of a musical turn around in their arrangement of “How Great Thou Art.” Just listen to Andy Braun and the band use a few simple chords to turn the end of each verse into a transition to get back to the beginning and you will know exactly what I am talking about. Braun’s turn-around makes an incredible hymn even more incredible and that’s the point of this effort.

Step Five – Consider Jazzing it Up

There are many ways to do this. Consider modulating the last verse up or down a whole step, or even a minor third, depending on the mood of the song. Or, take an instrumental break in between verses or simply add an intro. Another idea would be to use some chord extensions like ninths, elevenths, thirteenths or even major sevenths. Another thing you can do is add a few slash chords with inherent bass runs to connect the chords together.

Step Six – Say a Prayer of Thanks; you’ve made it.

Whew! That was a lot of work; but that hymn you’re considering redoing is worth it.

Tomorrow we will consider an example. “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” that was redone by musician Michael Schroeder in 2010.

The Psalm of the Day


The Psalm of the Day

Our traditional liturgy has a chanted responsive singing of a Psalm each Sunday.  To me, this is a powerful and enjoyable part of our traditional worship services that I did not want to dispense of in our blended worship services but the format just did not fit.  We tried several different approaches of including a musical Psalm reading and eventually landed on a format that has been working for us for over a year now.  Here’s how we do it:

Our approach is to read the Psalm responsively and pair it with a contemporary song that’s based on the Psalm text. The musicians start by playing through the song softly and in the background.  The Pastor starts the responsive readings shortly thereafter as the musicians continue to play music in the background.  The Pastor and the congregation continue to alternate passage readings along with the musical backdrop.  At a pre-determined point (as defined in the bulletin), the readings stop and the congregation joins in singing the song while the musician’s  increase the volume of the musical accompaniment levels.  After the congregation has sung through a verse and chorus, the alternating responsive readings continue.  This process proceeds until the Psalm reading is completed.  A sample of this technique follows:

Psalm of the Day Responsive Reading (from Psalm 100)

Song:  “A Shield About Me” (BOB#2)

Note: soft accompaniment starts

M:       I love you, O LORD, my strength.
C:        The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
M:       My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
C:        He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
M:       I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
C:        and I am saved from my enemies.

Note: Musical volume picks up as the band joins in

Congregation Sings: Verse, Verse, Chorus

Note: Keyboard plays softly in the background.

M:       In my distress I called to the LORD, I cried to my God for help.
C:        From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
M:       He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
C:        he drew me out of deep waters.
M:       He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
C:        from my foes, who were too strong for me.
M:       They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support
C:        He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Note: Musical volume picks up as the band joins in

Congregation Sings: Verse, Verse & Chorus

– – –

Personally, I find God’s word read over a musical backdrop to be very powerful and effective.

Here’s some advice for the musicians to play in this type of format:

1. Keep the volume soft during the reading portions.
2. Choose songs that have a nice simple flow and that are not too complicated.  Songs with verses and choruses work well but avoid more  complicated pieces that also include bridges or other parts.
3. The Psalms are emotional and the mood of the music should be chosen to match the mood of the readings (heartfelt, anger, joy, sadness,  remorse, introspective, uplifting, confessional, etc.)
4. We limit our band to just the keyboard player to back up the readings and the full band joins in during the singing.  This helps to identify the exact point where the congregation is expected to join in with the singing.
5.  While you are playing during the reading; try to listen to the readings and let the tone of the readings shape the mood of the music (loud, soft, fast, slow, etc.).  Don’t be afraid to put a musical space (Selah) in your music to highlight some real powerful portions of the reading.

It’s interesting that music in scripture is sometimes associated with affecting people’s hearts.  We see this in 1 Chron. 25:1, 1 Sam. 10:5-6, 2 Kings 3:14-16, and Eph. 5:18-19.  Maybe the Spirit can use this form of musical accompaniment described above to cause your people to hear His words more intently.

We do need to be just a little careful here because we don’t want the music to be manipulative or to take center stage; after all, scripture does not need to be flavored by music.  But if done properly; with quiet, simple and beautiful music, you will find that this technique  can slow the pace of the readings and allow our busy minds to settle down a little – at least it does for me and others in my church as I’ve been told.

Lastly, as a musician, it is an honor to accompany the Word with song!

Strong Worship Songs


Strong Worship Songs

There is a new BLOG whose objective is to identify music in the Contemporary Christian genre that are filled with biblical truths and are fit for use in today’s churches that recognize the inerrancy and importance of scripture. Further, the BLOG writer categorizes the songs by the church calendar to make it easier to find appropriate music and he also includes scriptural references for each song. The BLOG is about a  month old and only has a few songs, but with time I am sure that it will become a valuable resource for worship leaders and Pastors. You will find the BLOG at the following link:

http://strongworshipsongs.wordpress.com

CW Hymnal Resources – A Ministry of Tim Bode


 CW Hymnal Resources – A Ministry of Tim Bode

Tim Bode is the Minister of Music at Christ The King (CTK) Lutheran Church located in Southgate MI.  CTK Lutheran appears to have four Praise Bands named North, South, East and West Bands.  Wow!  Tim has created a website of musical resources for Lutheran hymns and for some liturgical pieces as well.  Included at his website are some of his own arrangements of the hymns with parts for piano, guitar, flute and many other orchestral instruments.  He also has MP3 files and some MIDI files for download as well.  Check out his website at this link:

http://home.comcast.net/~timbode07/musicdownload.html

Thank you Tim for all the time and effort that you have put into this resource and for sharing it with the world.

Christ the King’s Website: http://www.ctk-church.org/

A Pastoral Use for Youtube


A Pastoral Use for Youtube

The following is an excerpt from a Pastor’s electronic newsletter to his congregation:

This Sunday our musicians will be introducing a new song by Chris Tomlin called “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”  This song is rich in content as well as musicality. Please preview and enjoy this song before Sunday by clicking here to watch it on Youtube.

This is an excellent idea and a practice that I wholeheartedly endorse.  I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve used youtube to learn a new song, so why not use this resource to help out the entire congregation in advance of a worship service that uses a new song?  Just go to http://www.youtube.com search on the song’s title that you are trying to find then send the link to your congregation in your electronic newsletter.  It’s a wonderful use of today’s technology to help glorify God.

By the way, here’s the song that this particular congregation will be singing and it is indeed beautiful:

Thanks Pastor M for this idea and God’s Blessing on your birthday!