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?

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