Where in the set do I introduce a new song

wherever-you-lead-me-anju-ebanksI try and introduce new or unfamiliar songs to the congregation at the beginning of a worship set. At this point in the service people are generally still getting their thoughts together and are just beginning to get their focus on the Lord. So for me this is the best time to introduce a song. We are at the beginning of the journey into the Father’s presence. When I’m preparing for a journey I can’t wait to actually get into the car and drive. Before the key turns in the ignition there are check lists to tick off, people to organise and so on but once we’re in the car the journey begins and I start to relax. This is how I see the beginning of a time of worship. I feel it is a good use of time; I can’t break a flow that has not yet been established.

I always like to teach the song rather than launch into it. I’ll tell the congregation that it’s a new song, then I’ll sing them a verse, get them to sing it back to me, sing them a chorus get them to sing it back to me and then take it from the top. I generally introduce the tag if the song has one when we arrive at the tag, just pull everything back and sing it to them and then invite them to join in. It’s ok that there’s no real flow, it’s the first time they’ve heard the song.

Once we have sung a new song I tend to move to more familiar songs, you can almost feel the congregation breathe a sigh of relief. I reckon they’re thinking ‘hooray I know this one now I can enter into worship.’ This is where the flow begins to be established the congregation close their eyes, sing away and get lost in God’s presence.

Once I’ve introduced a new song I use the 3.1.1 rule to see if the song will work in the church or not. You use the song for 3 weeks; you rest it for a week and then use it again the next week. If the congregation own the song by this point it’s a keeper.

Finding a new studio

I took a day off before beginning the search for a new stdio.  I was exhausted  in everyway!

I didn’t have to look very hard for the new studio.  I had heard about a studio in Forest Hill so did a google search and found Perry Vale Studios, they specialise in guitar music, I new Perry Vale well but didn’t know that there was a studio on it’s door step.  I gave them a call.  I really liked the sound of the studio, they had good facilities, the studio owner had a lovely approach to me and my project and he had heaps of experience having been in the recording business all his life. 

On Monday I transferred all the files to the second studio.  I met Pat Collier at Perry Vale studios.  Pat said that I needed to hear all the tracks so that I could work out what worked, what didn’t and what still needed doing.  We also discussed how long he thought it would take to mix the tracks, how much it would cost, what times where available (generally a day in the studio is 9 hours long with no lunch breaks.  Most studios offer lock down days, which means for an agreed rate you keep working into the early hours until you have achieved your goals for the day).  We also discussed when I would pay the studio.  The done thing is to pay up  after your last consecutive day or if you are using the studio hourly or for intermittent sessions pay up at the end of your session.  You should agree payment methods too.

Other things that I found helpful when looking for the studio were:

1, Do you and your team work well with the engineer?  If the answer is yes great if the answer is no I suggest you keep looking.  Your project will be compromised if you don’t get this one right.

2, What are the facilities like?  Is there somewhere for the band to chill out?   Is there a kitchen and tv?  Can the whole band sit with the engineer in the control room?

3,  Are there isolation booths for drums and electrics?  If you’re recording more than one instrument at a time isolation booths are useful.

4, Agree start times, what time will the studio open so that everyone can get in and get prepared work should start at the agreed time, you are paying for late starts and bad planning.  Be flexible but expect to get what you are paying for.

5, What equipment does the studio have?  How are they recording.  What amps do they have etc (not my strong point).  Is there a piano available?

6, What editing equipment does the studio offer.  For example if the studio doesn’t have auto tune modules (they do not come as standard with Pro Tools).  You will be paying for someone to manually tune vocals.

7, How much experience does the engineer have and is that important to your project?  It maybe less important if you’re recording a demo but may be extremely important if you are recording an album.

8, Where is the studio located?  Does that work for you and your band?  Are there alternatives?  I chose not to go out of London because I didn’t want to incur accommodation costs.

9, Get everything you have agreed down on paper, this is a business, you’ll be glad you have put things in writing if things get confused, sadly they often do.

So back to  the project, Pat did a rough mix of one of the tracks and sent it to me so that i could evaluate his work and decide if I wanted to work with him.  I decided that I wanted to work with him.  Pat then sent me rough mixes of all the tracks and I sent him tracks that had been sent to the band so that he could familiarise himself with the sound I was after.

Recording the album – day 2

On day two Rob and I arrived at the studio for 9 am, Rob now had his producer hat on, he has an amazing ear for musical detail.  Rob heard errors in the recording that nobody else could. 

I had arranged for Tim (Keys) to come in and lay his tracks, Steve was due in after Tim and Amy Jane (viola) was popping in to lay her tracks while Steve was taking a break. 

Tim had been at the first rehearsal and was confident that he could lay his parts in a couple of hours, but because the songs had evolved so much since the first rehearsal it took much longer than anticipated.  If time and money are driving factors make sure your musicians are at all, or as many rehearsals as possible.  Another option would be to get someone to fill in for them and then bring them up to speed.

On day two we began to fall behind but by the end of the day all the keys, electric and viola parts were down and we were back on track.  Everybody was working really hard. 

steve-at-the-controlsSteve at one point recorded himself, which I thought was amazing.  He was in the control room with the rest of us playing the guitar while the amp was in the live room (this is a standard set up in recording studios).  steve-in-the-control-roomIt must have been quite pressurising for him with us all watching him, he’s a cool cucumber.

When Amy Jane popped in we listened to the scratch tracks that we had come up with at  our one on one meeting, Then she recorded her parts.  She normally plays in concert halls with lots of other musicians so the recording process felt a bit alien to her, she adapted well.  

It was really important to reassure all the musicians as they recorded and gave of themselves, because its such a nerve racking thing to do, the whole process can leave you feeling really insecure.  We ended day two with Steve coming up with some inspired stuff on the electric.

Recording the Album 3 – rehearsals

At the first rehearsal everyone got to know each other. Some of the band members already knew each other.

I had asked my friend Rachel to come along to all the rehearsals and to the studio because I wanted someone around who would look after the needs of the band in terms of us being fed and watered; Rachel has a flair for food, what can I say. Her taking this role on meant that I was able to concentrate on the music. Also I was glad of her female company, men and women just don’t think alike and although all the band are wonderful men I did feel out numbered.

I had sent out mp3’s to the band before the first rehearsal, taking on Rob Medley’s advice about letting the band live with the songs for a while. We took a little time at the beginning of the session to listen to the songs live. Then we began throwing our ideas about, everybody contributed the the session.

I knew exactly where I wanted to go with a couple of songs so they took shape quite quickly. “Wherever You Lead Me” came together really well; it took off in the rehearsal, I think that was because everybody could relate to the song and it’s ‘all out serve to God’ message The other songs needed more work.

We played through all the songs at the first rehearsal. The foundation had been laid.

Recording the Album 2 – research

I had lots of meetings with lots of people with different specialisms. I met up with Debbie Laycock (Ichthus) to check my theology. I played my songs to Chris and Jennie Orange (Ichthus) and Mike Burn (family worship). I took along a CD of rough tracks and printouts of the chords and words so that it wasn’t a performance.

I wanted to know from these guys if I had an album. Luckily they said yes. I also highlighted points in the songs that I wasn’t happy with. Brian Doerksen says “that a songwriter always knows what’s wrong with a song”.  Chris, Jen and Mike all made helpful suggestions for the areas in question. I also asked the guys for any tips they had for the recording process. Jen said “take lots of food”, Chris said “expect it to consume your life” and Mike said “ expect everything to go wrong. All good preparation, I have to say. 

Recording the album 1 – prep

Jo Puleston had given me some advice about the album a couple of years ago, Jo is a recorded artist and worship leader.  One of the things she suggested to me was to send the songs I wanted to put on the album to Christian leaders whom I trusted.  This was to see if I actually had an album to put together.  It was good advice as it meant the songs were tested and submitted to my peers and leaders before I embarked on an expensive recording project.

Once I had the final songs for the album everything seemed to happen really quickly.  I met up with a few potential producers; I didn’t really know how to put the album together.  I also met up with Chris and Jen Orange who gave me lots of pointers.  Chris suggested that I get Henry involved in the project. (Henry has recorded with Graham Kendrick, Godfrey Birtell and the Oranges) and so was more experienced in the studio than me for one!

I’d already met up with Rob Medley who is an experienced and gifted musician and a good friend.  Rob has worked with Graham Kendrick, Chris and Jen Orange and is currently playing for Judy Bailey.  He gave me lots of advice and agreed to co-produce the album with me.

Rob suggested that I get the songs out to band members so that they ‘lived with them for a while before we came together’.  He also said that we shouldn’t use valuable studio time to put the songs together but instead schedule some rehearsals, in this way the band would get to know each other and begin to own the project.   

After meeting with Rob I went home and started doing my homework.  I began by looking up Tim Hughes blog and Al Gordon’s blog.  I was aware that they wrote daily blogs when they where recording their albums.  I’m so glad they both blogged their recordings as I learnt so much from them.   In particular I took Al’s advice to relax and have fun.  It was useful to know that the core musicians were all jamming together and how each instrument was isolated in separate rooms or behind screens.  It was clear from Al’s blog that they were working really hard and that they were working long hours.  I got a sense from Al that he just went for it vocally which I found useful, singers can clam up when it’s time to be recorded!

From Tim’s blog I took much the same advice.  I liked what he said about being keen to capture a sense of worship, excitement and passion in all the songs in his recording.  I knew that I too wanted that, and was now deciding that I wanted the core band to record at the same time so that we would capture that sense of worship as we recorded.  Tim also said that when he records vocals he ‘tried to capture an image in his mind, a thought or scripture’ so that he could ‘keep a worshipful perspective’ which ‘helps to dig deep capturing more passion and emotion’.  This was invaluable when I came to record vocals.

As a result of reading their blogs I began to look for riffs, climaxes, places of quietness and celebration in the songs I would be recording.  Thanks guys.

Second Rehearsal

The second rehearsal was a mixed bag.  Some of us went to the pub for the first hour which was good as we got to know each other a bit more.  I thought I’d see if it would be helpful to chat over arrangements and parts but it was good just to talk and get to know each other.  By the time we got to the hall we were relaxed and laughing at each other.  

I started a song on the wrong note and sounded awful.  Steve the guitarist tried to rock up a song but had forgotten to switch the juice on.  Rach my friend the most important member of the band (she’s feeding us) tried to sing a male part for one of my songs (it wasn’t a nice sound especially when Steve joined in) and Hen tried to drown us out with his drums.

I’d spent the day working out links possible intros, outros which songs had obvious motifs and which songs I wanted Steve to come up with guitar motifs.  So we had a lot to do once we started to play.

I recorded the whole rehearsal so that I could capture anything that was worth keeping.  I’m happy with most of it.  There’s one song that I’m really not happy with I don’t like the groove we’re getting into with it so we need to push on with this one.

Our third and final rehearsal will be in the studio two days before recording which is in threeish weeks time.

The first rehearsal went well

Hi there

I’ve had such a busy time in the past couple of weeks I haven’t had a chance to update you with everything thats been going on.

I managed to get a great team of people together to play on the album.  We had our first rehearsal on Tuesday night.  We only had three hours to rehearse so I was expecting it to be frustrating and not hugely productive.  

To  my surprise we ran every song and came up with some great sounds for each track.  Some tracks lent themselves to particular sounds so we didn’t have to spend too long on them and others need  more work.

I had researched some albums and found sounds that I wanted on the album before the meeting.  I had also decided on structures and tempos which saved a lot of time once we were  up and running.

My friends Rob and Hen are helping me to articulate the sounds I’m after which is great and the rest of the band are coming up with musical ideas for their instruments.  

I’m feeling confident about the album now.  I was worried and doubting before the rehearsal but having heard a band behind the songs I can say that I think the album will be good.  I’m so excited!

I will introduce to the band in the next few posts.

I’ve just finished preparing for a meeting with my prayer partners tomorrow.  I want us to pray over every aspect of the album.  I’ve just looked up bible scriptures that the songs support and am looking forward to praying into these tomorrow.  

Speak soon