Category Archives: How To

Why You Should Polish Your Guitar

A Polished Act

One of the things that I usually do before accompanying worship is to polish my guitar.  I do this for several reasons:

  • I want my instrument to look it’s best for my Lord in the same way that I dress myself in nice clothes for worship.  This is a reflection of my commitment, my reverence and my passion towards my Lord.  Polishing the guitar removes all the fingerprints and smudges of life.  It’s like I am starting worship anew.
  • I polish not only the body but also the back of the neck.  This actually helps your fretting hand to move more easily and quickly over the fretboard.  In real hot and sticky weather I have also added a little baby powder to my hands.
  • I lightly polish the strings as well for both lubricity and because it eliminates “string noise” during worship.  There is a product specially made for strings called “Fast Fret”, I have tried this, it works, but in my opinion polish (like Steinway’s spray) works just as well and is cheaper.

Let’s make our music the best it can be!  Please forward this to your base guitarist, cello, violin and viola players as well!


“The music of the strings makes you (God) glad.” – Psalm 45:8


How to Sing in the Church

How to Sing in the Church

Go ahead, Pull out all the stops
Sing like it’s your last day on this glorious earth
Even if you don’t have the chops
Praise is the main reason for your own wondrous birth

So crone with lot’s of emotion
Sing like no one else is in the cavernous room
This is part of your devotion
Let your heart-felt emotive praises fully bloom

Stay on pitch and remain in time
But also with controlled heavenly abandon
Play close attention to those rhymes
From the first alleluia to the final amen

That ought to do it.
Just Sing!

Tuning Your Guitar in Worship

Invariably, it happens.  You brought your guitar in from the cold car and it warms up as you play it during the congregational opening song and goes out of tune. How do you retune it without being a distraction or drawing attention to yourself?

The easiest way, if you have a good ear, is to just tweak it into tune on the fly, during the song. If you are unable to do this, the best time that I have found to retune is to wait for a part of the service where the people are involved in a responsive reading because there is lots of joyful noise and the focus is on the reading and not the music.

There are also ways to tune a guitar that are relatively quiet. For an electric guitar, if you don’t have one already, get a chromatic tuning foot pedal. When you step on the pedal, it disconnects your guitar from the amp so that you can retune your instrument without even making a whisper of a sound.

It’s a little harder to quietly retune an acoustic guitar but not impossible. I have found that a tuner that clamps onto your headstock is sensitive enough to pick up your sound while just playing harmonic notes. Most guitarists know how to do this but if you are not familiar with this technique and by way of example you can retune the low E string by lightly touching the sixth string 12th fret (without making contact with the fret) and softly strum the string. Your light touch will mute the sound but the tuner will still pick it up through the instrument’s vibrations. You can then tune any of the other strings in the same way. Just play a harmonic of the open strings anywhere else on the fretboard.

You can find these digital tuners at your local music shop or check out Amazon, maybe they will be offering these on sale during their Black Friday Sale Days which actually start today (link below).

Shop Amazon – Black Friday Deals Week in Musical Instruments

While I am on the subject of guitars, have any of you tried using Red® Brand guitar strings? I used to only use Martin strings but I tried a few different brands lately and I really like the sound and the longevity of these Reds. They have a high copper content hence the name “Red”. You can read more at this link:

Red Brand – Acoustic Guitar Strings

A Simple Contemporary Song Tip for Musicians

A Simple Contemporary Song Tip for Musicians

Song Flow
Some pieces of contemporary music can be complicated – containing introductions, verses, refrains (choruses), bridges, repeats, codas and multiple endings all jumbled up as if thrown into a Vita-mix blender. It seems like some of these pieces require schooling in music just to decipher the code. My solution – I will often write out the song structure on the top of my sheet music, for example:

Listed in order:
Intro (played by Ruth) – Verse 1 (sung by Stella), Chorus (all), Verse 2 (Steve), Chorus (all), Bridge (layered vocals; first Ruth, then Ruth and Stella, then all three of us), Chorus (all; no guitar), Ending (Ruth – softly)

Use Highlighters on Your Music
I also will often use highlighting pens to indicate the flow. For example, I usually highlight the repeat markings, the coda markings and the “dal segno” marks which we refer to as “da sign!” (inside musician humor). The highlights quickly draw my eyes to the place where I need to go. For really complicated songs I’ve been known to use different color highlights as well. So the start of Coda for example is highlighted in green and I get to it by highlighting the D.S. al Coda in green as well.

The Bulletin
By the way, we also have our church secretary print a simplified “map” in our bulletin as well so that our congregation can easily sing along, for example:

Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Ending

Now you know the rest of the story!

Moods and Tones of the Season

Moods and Tones of the Season

Season Mood & Tone & Emotions & Key Words Chord Types A Good Hymn Example A Good Contemporary Song Example
Advent Anticipation Expectation Hope
Promise Repentance Light Waiting
Diminished Suspended 4 Sevenths Come, O Long Expected Jesus Behold the Lamb (Shaun Starbuck)

Christmas Eve

Silence Reverence Peace
Major Suspended Silent Night Glory in the Highest (Chris Tomlin)
Christmas Day Celebration Joy
Big Party Excitement
Major Power 5 Joy to the World All Creation Sing (Steve Fee)
Epiphany Ministry Baptism Major 7 How Lovely Shines the Morning Star Offering – Christmas Version (Baloche)
Transfiguration Glory Light Wow Major
Diminished Add 9
Down from the Mount of Glory Speak O Lord(Getty & Townend)
Ash Wednesday Repentance Sorrow Introspective Minor
Minor 7
O Gracious Lord, with Love Draw Near The Scandal of Grace Hillsongs)
Lent Sins
Minor (mid-week) Major (Sundays) O Sacred Head Now Wounded The Power of the Cross (Getty & Townend)
Palm Sunday Praise
Humility Hosanna
Major Augmented All Glory, Laud and Honor Hosanna – Praise is Rising (Baloche & Brown)
Maundy Thursday Love Communion Fellowship Major ‘Twas on that Dark, that Doleful Night Broken and Poured Out (Kevin Bueltmann)
Good Friday Funeral Despair
Sorrow Somber Sadness Darkness Tearful
Minor 6
Minor add 9 Suspended Diminished Seven – Minor9
Oh, Darkest Woe How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (Getty & Townend)
Easter Celebration Wedding
Big Party Excitement Happiness Energetic Upbeat Hallelujah Alleluia
Power 5
Major 7
Christ the Lord is Risen Today Christ is Risen (Matt Maher)
Good Shepherd Sunday Protection Solitude Serenity Tranquility Peace Major 7 The King of Love My Shepherd Is You Never Let Go (Matt Redman)
Ascension Wow
Major A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing Glorious (Baloche & Brown)
Pentecost Inspiring Spiritual Gifts Prayers Major
Suspended 2
Hail Thee, Festival Day Where the Spirit of the Lord Is (Tomlin & Nockels)
Reformation Boldness Confidence
The Church Scriptures Lutheran Traditional Liturgical
Power 5
A Mighty Fortress Mighty Fortress (Shust & Baloche)
End Times Fear
Diminished Augmented Add 9
Forever with the Lord A Mighty Fortress (Nockels)
Thanksgiving Thanks Blessings Major Now Thank We all Our God My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness (Getty & Townend)


Most people, even non-musicians know that major chords sound happy and that minor chords sound sad but it goes deeper than that. Much deeper.

For example,

A minor sixth chord is the saddest chord on earth. I am quite sure that this chord will not exist in heaven.  It sounds of loneliness, separation, abandonment and heartbreak.

An Augmented chord is used to express astonishment, amazement, surprise, magic and transformation.  Substitute it into a Transfiguration song!

The Church Musician

Wow! I get to do this?”
That’s what most church musicians feel when it comes to accompanying worship. We have a keen awareness of our role in the body of Christ. David called it “serving the Lord with gladness.” Like Mary with her expensive bottle of perfume, we do our best to pour it all out, in this case our hearts, to our Savior in worship, dedication, admiration, reverence, awe and love.

This is Who We Are
Musicians are a strange bunch. All cut from the same cloth? Aloof. Artistic. Blessed. Caring. Colorful. Confident. Creative. Detail-oriented. Determined. Difficult to understand. Disciplined. Eclectic. Emotional. Energetic. Expressive. Fervent in Spirit. Focused. Genuine. Hard-working. Independent. Inspired. Involved. Kindred Spirits. Loving. Mindful. Ordered. Passionate. Patient. Persistent. Quirky. Real. Self confident. Sensitive. Servants. Spirit-filled. Tenacious. Thin-skinned. Unique. Worshipful.

This is How We Roll
Musicians just think about music – and we can hear and feel it deep inside.
Music is in our soul, it’s in our bones, and it pumps through our veins with a 60 to 100 bpm tempo.
Musicians help worshippers understand and feel the message in the music.
Musicians are simultaneously servants and leaders.
Musicians dance to the beat of a different drum.
Musicians don’t draw lines between traditional and contemporary, or guitar and organ. We understand and support one another in the worthy pursuit of praise.
Musicians have an attachment to music that goes beyond appreciation. It is a labor of love.
Musicians never stop learning their craft.
Musicians are drawn to creativity like moths to a light.
Musicians want to be part of something vibrant, exciting, lively and fresh.
Musicians live outside the box.
Musicians are thankful for who they serve.

“Like family we are tied to each other!” – Billy Joel

Performance vs Service
The most important quality of a church musician is to have a servant’s heart. We are to be servants and not performers. Humility is the heartbeat of the worship leader.

So church musicians are not after the approval of others. We know that God is listening and that His acceptance is freely offered to all who believe.

A performance mentality enslaves us to the opinions of others. A service mentality actually frees us.

A performance mentality pushes us towards perfection as we seek the praise of others. A service mentality allows us to do our best knowing that Christ has already accomplished everything for us.

“When you have a heart to serve and help others – it unlocks something in you.” – Reuben Morgan

Pastors, pray for your musicians. We pray for you!

Hymns, A Secondhand Emotion?

Hymns, A Secondhand Emotion?

When you speak, I know when you are happy, or sad, or surprised, or angry, or any other host of emotions. It comes out in your facial expressions, your tone and your body language. You would be exceedingly boring without emotion. Singing is no different. In fact, singing with emotion is almost always better than singing without emotion. Good singers know how to convey the emotional power of a song. You will hear this comment time and time again on the various TV singing competition shows. The only precaution I will add is that emotions can go too far, like crying, that actually inhibits your singing. Adding emotions like joy, exuberance, passion, sadness, love and anger can turn good singers into great singers and great worshipers; because emotions come from the heart – where worship matters. More importantly, singing with emotion is the result of inwardly digesting the lyrics that are being sung. It is in fact making the song – your own. Which is what we all should be doing as lip service does not impress God.

One of the first things a singer needs to do when looking at a new piece of music is to identify the prevailing mood of the song.

Let’s look at some examples:

1. “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” – What a brilliant work by Mr. Isaac Watts! This song only uses five notes and if you were to accompany it on the guitar, the song requires only one chord. There is beauty in simplicity here. The lyrics are so well crafted they’ll take your breath away. This song requires introspective thought as you sing your way through it. It will take you on an intellectual journey from sorrow to love to deep appreciation. When I sing this hymn it feels like Jesus has poured liquid love onto me from head to foot.

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”. – Isaac Watts

“Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.” – John Wesley

2. “I Can Only Imagine” by Bart Millard. Written for his father as he was dying. This song brings you into the mind of a person who is contemplating what it will be like in heaven. Uplifting, joy, hope and elation come to mind. A refreshing song to stretch your imagination heavenward. For some reason I can reach a high G note in this song, yet I sing base in the choir! It’s the emotion.

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” – C. S. Lewis

3. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther. A bellwether of strength and confidence. Sing this one when you are tempted to sin, when you need reassurance of God’s word and his sovereign power or just as a faith builder. Courage, confidence, reassurance, and boldness all are involved in singing this masterpiece.

“Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy. Emotion without truth produces empty frenzy. What’s needed is a balance of the two crucial elements.” – John Piper

4. “Amazing Grace – My Chains Are Gone” by John Newton, John P. Rees, Edwin Otthelo Excell, Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio. A little bit of the best from both old and new writers. This hymn is over 200 years old and has been recorded by just about every popular singer you can imagine. It’s as popular now as it was 200 years ago; and it’s all because of Jesus and the incredible power of the Holy Spirit.

When I sing this song I cannot help but think about the slave trade history that was part of the background of the original hymn writer. John Newton was “the worst of sinners.” He personally ruined over 20,000 lives selling 20,000 young Africans; that’s 20,000 people created by God, in His image, and Newton sold them like cattle into a life of unending slavery. He never knew their names, never cared to know their names, in fact history tells us that Newton simply referred to them all as “grunts.” Newton was guilty for grievous crimes against humanity. But God used this huckster to change the course of History. John Newton was lost; but now He’s found, He was blind; but now He sees. Newton was writing about himself. Newton was the wretch. He came full circle. This is a story of one man coming to faith, renouncing the life that he once served. Newton actually died a blind man. Perhaps he sees now while in heaven.

Sing it with righteous outrage. Sing it with relief. Sing it knowing that you are no better than the slave trader himself. Sing it to feel the freedom that grace provides. Sing it to feel the freedom that your sins have been forgiven, regardless of their severity.

On Good Friday, some 2000 years ago, a Roman soldier plunged a sword into the side of a dying innocent man. In fact, this innocent man was God himself. Quite a sin you must be thinking, right? But guess what covered that sharp tipped sword when it was removed from Jesus’ side? It was literally covered by the blood of Jesus. I don’t know if that Roman soldier ever came to faith in Jesus; but if He did, that sin was covered and paid in full. That’s amazing grace!

“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.” – Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio

5. ”How Deep the Fathers Love for Us” – by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Deep sorrow, anguish, toil, shame, undeserved love, release and relief all rolled into one bouncing rhythmic ball of emotion. “Behold the man upon a cross, my sin upon his shoulders. I hear my mocking voice call out among the suffers. It was my sin that held him there, until it was accomplished; His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.” ( Verse 2) Simply incredible! It pains me just to know that most traditional hymn-based churches have never even heard of this.

This is what God thinks of emotionally constipated, stone faced and comatose singing:

“Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” – Amos 5:23

6. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” – by Monks of the Middle Ages??? Perhaps one of the oldest songs in our hymnal, yet fresh sounding enough to be on modern radio. Every time I sing this I am brought back to the 400 years of silence; the anticipation of the promised Messiah. It is with unabandoned joy that I sing the refrain “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, Shall come to Thee O Israel!” And yet, it is set in a haunting minor key. Expectation and anticipation! I am grateful to our ancestors for this piece.

7. “Now Thank We All Our God” – by Martin Rinkart. Oh, the strife this man went through! Martin Rinkart served as Pastor during the 30 years war and during a great plague. It is reported that he was presiding over fifty funerals a day, including that of his wife. Yet in the midst of this, Rinkart was a prolific hymn writer, writing 66 hymns. The exact date of “Now Thank We All Our God” is in question, but it is known that it was widely sung by the time the Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648. It was commonly sung as a grace following meals. Since then it has become a “Te Deum” for Germany, sung on occasions of national thanksgiving.

If you need to feel blessed and thankful, this is the song for you. You can even use this song on Mother’s Day as Rinkart voices thanks for mothers in the song.

“It is doubtful that God can use a man greatly until he has been broken deeply.” – CS Lewis

8. “How Can I Keep From Singing?” – by Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Ed Cash. This is my anthem. This song always puts me in the mood to praise God. Doesn’t matter how blue I am, what’s going on in my world, nothing seems to matter when I sing this piece. It’s joy, happiness, praise, worship, in good times, in bad times, in sickness and in health. This song just picks me up.

“To play a wrong note is insignificant, to play without passion is inexcusable.” – Beethoven

9. “Oh Sacred Head, Now Wounded” – by Bernard of Clairvaux and Hans Leo Hassler. Oh my! What weight. What grief. What pain. What sorrow. Singing this hymn is like walking the road with a bloodied, beaten, Jesus carrying the cross. Honestly it is difficult to make it through this song if you are plugged into the lyrics and what is going on. Good Friday just does not seem like Good Friday without this piece.

10. “The First Song of Isaiah” – Jack Noble White. Sing this song once, and you will be singing it for the rest of the day. Joy and praise Old Testament style. Foot tapping; you might even find yourself swaying to the music even if you are a Lutheran. It reminds me of a driving contemporary praise song.


A Few Words on Hymns vs Contemporary Songs

We should sing these above mentioned songs as if it were our last day on earth! We should live them out.

In my experience, the deepest emotions come out with hymns, not as much with the newer music, although the Spirit certainly can make us feel these in our heart as well. And the strange thing is that the traditional hymn churches tend to shun emotions, even though their music is drenched in it.

I believe that hymns stirred our emotions and continue to do so. When I sing a hymn like “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, I just want to say “I love you lord with all my heart for doing this”, but the hymn doesn’t give me that opportunity. I am left with the emotion, which is fine. The newer songs build on this, and use the feelings in the lyrics and melodies to unlock something fresh within us. In fact, most redone hymns have been updated with the addition of a chorus that expresses our reaction to those incredible verses. Newer songs do use lyrics like “I love you Lord”, “I long for you”, “I need you Lord”. This is the reason that many in the traditional churches claim the newer songs to just be love songs. The contemporary artists are building on the one thing that the hymns were lacking. Hymns were written in a time when it was considered to be a sign of weakness to show one’s emotions. This is no longer true.

A few Biblical precedence for doing this:

Psalm 18:1 I love you, Lord, my strength.

Psalm 116:1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

Isaiah 5:1 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyardon a fertile hillside. (From “the song of the vineyard”)

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Psalm 61:4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 119:174 I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight.

A secondhand emotion is an emotion that has gotten worn out over the years and is no longer felt. Hymns, should not be a secondhand emotion. We should be saving our most profound emotions for our Lord and these hymns of faith are one of the best ways to express it!!! And, the newer songs are the best way to put it into words!!! You should sing both!!! Your Lord deserves it!!!

Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible

By Bob & Steve Brown

I yearn to read the Bible
Usually during that quiet hour
For the Holy Spirit is my invisible teacher
As He opens it up like a desert flower

I read the Old Testament history
Of the battles and prophets of old
I love the Psalms and Proverbs
Where wisdom quickly unfolds

I read of the glorious Gospel
And the deeper epistles of Paul
Revelation then speaks of the future
And my Savior, who’s my all in all

So let the Word of Christ dwell richly within
Study and know you are approved
The Holy Spirit will help you
So that you to, will not be moved

All scripture was given by inspiration
It will guide and give sight
It will surely be a lamp unto your feet
And to your path, a light

The above poem was written by Bobby Brown, author of ”Seated Above Looking Below.”

<a href="”>Seated Above, Looking Below