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Church musicians

Discussion in 'Ask Todd Johnson [Archived]' started by quiey, Jan 23, 2006.

  1. quiey


    Feb 16, 2004
    In your interview you stated that church musicianship is pretty low. I've actually had the opposite experience. Some of the best musicians I've ever heard and met were in church. Also a lot of the guys who I will play secular gigs or sessions with who are awesome musicians either cut their teeth at church and/or still play at church. As a private instructor I found that musicianship was about the same for my students who wanted to play at church or who wanted to play else where. I do understand that at a lot of churches the musicianship is not up to a modern day J.S. Bach but is that just the church or musicianship in general?
  2. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ
    Hi Dale,

    Hey, thanks for your comments! Actually, I know a bunch of phenomenal "church musicians" etc. ....and there are churches full of them.....THANKFULLY!!!:hyper: Can I get an AMEN?!

    But, I also hear/see a TON of folks......who mean well.....but are lacking in preparation.....practice....musicianship skills etc. They're not bringing their best "offering" to the alter....know what I mean?? That's my frustration....The praise choruses etc. are really stuck in a rut....I'm dying to hear better song writing....some better harmony.... To me, so much of the music has been dumbed down to the point that it's really frustrating.

    God has given us a HUGE smorgasboard of harmony, styles, grooves etc. It's a shame we don't take advantage of more of it on a regualr basis.

    and......like you said....it's not just the church, but musicianship skills in general are down....across the board. Mediocrity is not only rewarded.....it's cherished and celebrated.

    But, as Christians, we are called to a higher standard.....at least the way I understand it....I don't mean to be preachy here, OK.....But we're called to bring GOD our best.

    I realize we all fall short........we're imperfect creatures....we're definitely "flawed".....well, I am anyway!!:help:

    Hey, I don't mean to be so negative.....please don't misunderstand me.... There is also some great music out there that glorifies God......in a variety of styles.....I guess I wish there were more of it.

    Hey, one of my missions in life is to try to help educate bass players (specifically) to become better musicians.....and hopefully they'll glorify God with their talents.

    Plus, this is just my humble opinion......and my experience.

    I'm thrilled to know that you're using your talents to glorify God through your music and your teaching.

    Thanks again for your insightful comments!
  3. Don't_Fret

    Don't_Fret Justin Schornstein

    Dec 10, 2003
    I completely agree, Todd. There needs to be a spirit of excellence in the church. Just because we're playing at our local sanctuary and not at Madison Square Garden doesn't mean we shouldn't give our best. The church used to be home to the most cutting edge music in the world, and now we're often stuck following the mainstream.
  4. bassjigga


    Aug 6, 2003
    I'm with you on this one too Todd. The music is the only part of church I don't like (I myself don't play there). The odd thing is the musicians at the church I attend are actually very good, they are just playing poorly written music.
  5. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I find that a lot of the church music we are playing are really simple compositions. Sometimes that allows you to embellish things a bit, or sometimes, you end up thumping roots for ten minutes. I really don't mean to insult the writer's inspiration, but I would love to hear some new stuff. I like getting a challenge when learning new stuff.
  6. JoshB

    JoshB A great man is always willing to be little. -RWE

    I consider myself lucky that I play in a church where experimentation with our sound is encouraged. What I find discouraging is that it seems like "church" music seems to be 5-10 years behind the curve.

    I dunno. None of that changes the fact that I strive to bring everything I have to playing there, but it does tend to frustrate me sometimes.
  7. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    This is the situation I face. Unfortunately, due to the deacon/elder situation in my church, we are sometimes discouraged from changing things too much. Sometimes we liven up an old standard, which is fun. But we have had some scowls on some occasions. Sometimes it's not worth the fight to play some music rather than have some stubbron church leaders gunning for you. It's unfortunate how politics seems to infect almost everything.
  8. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ
    I think the main thing for all of us to focus on (musically speaking) is trying to constantly improve as musicians.....to bring God our best effort......not just settle for being good enough to play the songs we're asked to play....but make a real effort to maximize our talents and to realize our potential...to master our instruments to the point where we don't have technical things getting in the way of our ability to communicate musically to our audience (the congregation etc,) .....or get in the way of our "worship".

    I know this is what I'm striving for anyway......

    I'm happy to say that I'm at the point where I can play what I hear (at least a large majority of the time anyway....;) ) and it's really a blessing.

    .....it has really helped me feel a much deeper sense of "expressing myself.....worshiping through music.

    ..... it makes improvising or soloing so much more intimate.....so much more expressive if I can play what I'm hearing or feeling at a given moment.

    ....rather than thinking about a "scale" or a "fingering" or "what key are we in???",....or...... "where's one???" Ha! :D You get my point.....

    I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to play in a "jazz praise" context with my good friends Jim Martinez and Kristin Korb.....It's great to play jazz arrangements of hymns....hear the words and melodies....and THEN.....be able to express my "worship" in a solo. As long as my heart is right, then it's a beautiful thing!!:hyper:

    I've got a hunch this what you're all striving for too.

    Keep up the good work.......:bassist:

    Well done, good and faithful servants!!!
  9. i play at my church and i have been playing there since i started playing bass three years ago. over that time i have seen the musical ability of myself and everyone else grow greatly. we are at the point where we always know what the other people are thinking and we can just go with the way that we feel lead by the holy sperit. i LOVE playing at church because it keeps me on my feet and i learn something new every sunday that i play.

    we always do songs different than others do, we do stuff in different keys and change the timings and everything. the only stuff that we keep is basicly the words. some of the songs that we do are ones that some of us have written.

  10. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I just got back from practice tonight, and I really had a good night. There were a couple of rough spots, but we were pretty good tonight. I was fiddling around with a pedal of mine, and I got some good grind out of it that I have never heard before. One of our guitarists wasn't there, and I had to strive to fill out the spaces. Really pushed me a bit to improve. I did a bit of soloing, and I know I need improvement. It was fun.
  11. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ

    Cool........sounds like you're in a productive, creative environment. Well done.

    Keep up the good work!
  12. Well part of the problem (at our church at least) is that many of the more 'senior' members of the congregation are resitant to change, which is a shame. But, as one pointed out to us, they have put up with a lot of change over their lifetime.

    Oh yes, and general songwriting (as in lyrics) is pretty awful, they like use the same phrases in songs; just because it's for God, doesn't mean it has to avoid problems.
  13. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    this thread seems like it has been taken straight from my thoughts... the poor compositions, the elders objecting to change, the low level of musicianship... i face each of these problems at church each week. i used to let it bother me, but now i realise that i am playing to glorify Jesus and the talents he has given me.

    i'm not there to prove a point to anyone; and only one other person on the music team is actually trying to improve as musicians; but so what? coz now i realise that i am playing to glorify Jesus and the talents he has given me.

    :) :bassist:
  14. Hman


    Jan 8, 2002
    San Francisco, CA
    The modern worship style...ie Chris Tomlin, Lincoln Brewster, David Crowder and the passion movement is what the young basses going after.. I'm lucky at our church that our pastor is a guitar player and he's really into the modern worship sounds. So, we are changing with the style and the older basses just have to change with times and take more lessons.

    We are going to have continue training from Church bass instruction ie. Norm Stockton for our bass players...:D

    Todd...are you available??:help:
  15. mike sancho

    mike sancho SANCH

    Feb 10, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Ah, the debate continues. At my church we are continually walking the line between excellence vs. perfection and worship vs. performance. It's a fine line but I think that churches need to have a bar set in terms of ability. It does not have to be set high but there should be some basic requirements.I will not ever question anyone's heart but there should be a standard for worship music and musicians. God deserves our best at all times. Some churches actually have criteria in place where you must spend time in children's worship, adult ministries where worship is needed before you step into sanctuary worship. All the while your sort of training for the day when you can move into the sanctuary. I agree with this sort of approach. Some musical backround and ability shouldbe a requirement. Mediocrity should never be the norm for a church interested in reaching out to people. Todd, great to have you at TB. How about a trip to Milwaukee for a clinic??
  16. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ

    You've got it EXACTLY right...do your work for the Lord, rather than for men!!

    We should encourage each other to continually strive for excellence...with integrity. It's really that simple.

    It's tough sometimes, but God never promised it would be easy.

    Keep up the good work!
  17. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ


    Good for you.......but be nice to the "older" bass players.....I AM ONE! HA!;)

    I'm definitely available if you should need my services. Let me know how I can serve you.
  18. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ

    I'd love to come to Milwaukee. I'm going to be in Chicago and Indianapolis at the end of March .....first of April. Drop me a note off list....maybe we can put something together since I'll be that close.

  19. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I have been wanting to do this exact same thing for years, but where I am (geographically and musically) it seems that it won't happen soon. Have you heard Grant Green's "Feelin the Spirit"?

    I am happy to have stumbled on this thread. The musicianship in our church is really poor. Its not even for a lack of talent. Its primarily due to the personalities of the two worship leaders. It bothers me, but I don't really know what can be done about it.

    I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one.

    God Bless all of your services and worship ministries....and please pray for mine!
  20. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    You know, I've been in a situation where the church emphasized musical excellence to the point where neither I (the leader) nor the band was really able to worship. Now the band had been introduced to Christianity that way... I wasn't. Of course, most of the band were professionals who probably wouldn't be in the building otherwise... I ended up being fired because I refused to keep the complexity at a level where we couldn't worship. After all, what's the purpose of church if not worship?

    Anyway, I'm now leading in a church where they have a slightly lower musical standard, and it's a great deal better for me. I like to be able to shift the mechanics of playing into the background and just worship. The funny thing? This band grooves better and sounds more powerful (IMHO), and they're all amateurs! It's interesting how God works.

    For what it's worth, I do think that it's our responsibility to present God our best offering, but if our offering of praise isn't sufficient, no offering of musical complexity is going to make up for it.

    Bottom line- people should never come to church for the music, IMHO. If that's what brings them initially, awesome. But if you keep going week after week just to hear some incredible band and keep getting annoyed by that annoying talking in the middle, I think priorities are out of whack. As musicians, we just have to be really in tune with God and really know what's going to draw others into worship, and what will detract from it.
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