Monday, May 18, 2009

A Fun New Toy for Worship

Okay, so I didn't set this blog up to be a forum for product reviews, but I wanted to share some experiences I had this weekend with incorporating

some new media technology into our youth worship experience. Several weeks ago, our adult praise team members informed me that they were going to be out much of the summer. Our piano player use the digital rhythm section on our keyboard to be kind of a "one man band" that we supplement with acoustic rhythm guitar. When he's not there we don't have any kind of rhythm section. Although, I play drums, we don't have anyone else in our church who plays bass. So when the piano player is out, it's just been me on bass and our guitar player on acoustic--until now. As a remedy to our situation, I purchased the Alesis SR-18. It has 100 different drum sets (pre-grouped drum sounds placed together), 100 preset rhythm patterns (that can not be edited), 100 user patterns (preset patterns that the user can edit), and additional storage space for more patterns the user wants to create. My sales rep at Sweetwater Music recommended, as an accessory, the Boss FS6 dual footswitch. Each pattern on the drum machine has an A sub-pattern and a B sub-pattern. Using the footswitch, the user can tap out his tempo, start the pattern, then can play fills on either the A or B sub-pattern or have a fill that transitions from A to B or vice versa. (This footswitch can also be used with any TRS (tip ring sleeve) cable to select channels on a guitar amp or control a keyboard. The pedal can be set for latching or non-latching where the pedal will stay on after pressed or it will only be activated when pressed. This could allow a keyboard player to use it for a permanent sustain function for organ sounds)

The drum machine has two mono outs for true stereo output, plus a third auxillary out as well as a headphone jack. It also has a midi in and midi out/thru. The display is backlit and easy to see. It has plenty of acoustic drum sounds that will be great for using in our church praise services, but one thing I wanted was a set of patterns that I could use with an acoustic drum set in the youth worship times. So this is what we did in our youth service, yesterday. We used an "industrial" patch (similar to a Nine Inch Nails sound) for the intro to "My Glorious" then cut the machine off and rocked in with acoustic drums and full band. Then we used the machine to play a "beat box" pattern (almost like 80's rap with vocal "drums") as an underlying groove for the song "Your Love, Oh Lord" by Third Day. While it took some rehearsing, this was a fun addition to our worship band. The unit was pretty easy to use and with about 5 or 10 minutes in the manual I was rockin' out. I have not begun to nearly tap into everything this unit will do, but considering the amount of time I've spent with it, it's already been a huge addition to our youth worship set-up.

It also comes with bass sounds on every rhythm patch (kind of cheesy, but functional) so if you just want to jam over a groove, you can do it. Or you can program your bass sounds to fit a particular song using the drum/bass pads on the unit. If you just want to use the drum sounds, you can mute the bass sounds on each pattern. Another cool feature is it has an instrument input where you can plug your guitar or keyboard straight into the unit with a 1/4 inch instrument cable. This would be a handy feature if you were in a situation where you were short on channels in the sound board.

If you are frequently in a drummerless situation or you are just wanting to add another dimension to your band's sound, this drum machine is available for around $260 from many retailers. It's predecessor, the SR-16 began production in the early 1990s and had about a 15-year run. Hopefully this one will do the same.

So, what products have changed the way you do worship? What would you recommend? What would you stay away from?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sin and Consequences (What I Learned from Mud Volleyball)

This weekend, I took my youth group to an event at Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, TX called Omega Fest. This was a fun Saturday event that featured a crawfish boil, live music, and a mud volleyball tournament. The sun was hot, the music was great, the mudbugs were spicy, and the volleyball was...well...muddy. You can't participate in a mud volleyball tournament and expect to stay clean. But on a hot summer day, the mud was cool and wet.
As our team was called up, we eased into the cool mud and it actually felt kind of good. It was at least six inches deep throughout the entire court, so none of us were quite sure what was underneath it. After a showdown of Rock, Paper, Scissors, our team got the first serve. I bumped the muddy ball up over the net and it was vollied right back at me just a few feet up from where I was standing. I jumped forward and went down on my knees to get my hands up under the ball. As I watched the ball go back over the net, I realized there was much more than mud in the pit. It seems as I attempted to return the ball, my knees had landed on a pile of rocks under the soft cool mud. After a hose-down and later a real shower I noticed scabs forming on both my knees as I suffered the consequences of a seemingly innocent game of mud volleyball. (The picture above is a shot of my knee taken on Monday after the Saturday match.)
As I pondered my experience, I began to realize that this is how sin is. Just like that soft cool mud (although dirty) looked good on the surface, I didn't realize until after I got in the pit that there were rocks in there. Once the rocks had cut me (both on my knees and the bottom of my feet), I didn't seem to notice it as much as long as I was covered in the cool mud. But when I got out of the pit and cleaned off, I really noticed the pain of what I'd done. James 1:13-15 says: "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." As sin entices us, and we give in, it brings pain in our lives and sometimes it seems like the only way to mask the pain is to keep on sinning (remain in the pit). However, God is light and what light does is expose the pain of our sin. 1 John 1:7 says "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." If you will allow me to extend the metaphor, God is the one who gets us out of the pit and washes us off and allows our wounds to heal. Thanks be to God that he calls us out of the pit of sin and cleanses us from our pain to bring about healing!