Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fwd: Worship Fertilizer # 87 :: Don't Confuse An Elephant With A Crab

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Dave Helmuth" <>
Date: Mar 30, 2016 4:33 PM
Subject: Worship Fertilizer # 87 :: Don't Confuse An Elephant With A Crab
To: <>

It sounds impossible, but it happens every week at your church. And it's not pretty.
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Worship Fertilizer from Ad Lib Music

Don't confuse an elephant with a crab!
It sounds impossible, but it happens every week at your church. You try to create music in a style that is different from the one in which it was written. You try to play modern songs with traditional ways of thinking. And it's not pretty.
I was listening to my friend Geoff Twigg teach a band workshop at last month's training event with The Worship Link, and he said something that articulated a pitfall I've seen over and over. It was brilliant, really.
He described the rhythm of a song as its skeleton, as the supporting framework that makes everything else work. I've often said that the rhythm is the foundation, the railroad tracks, that everything else is built on. Grant Norsworthy talked about rhythm as the mattress that a happy child (the melody) can jump upon (which feels very different than jumping on concrete!)
But here's where Geoff's analogy blew me away.

Traditional worship music has an endoskeleton, or its skeleton on the inside. Like an elephant - the rhythm is inside. Everything it needs is contained inside the very melody.
But modern worship music has an exoskeleton, or its skeleton on the outside. Like a crab - the  instruments both complete and support the melody. It's why the instrumental part of the music plays such a huge role in modern worship music and why it needs to be prominent to work.
Think about how a hymn can just about sing itself, with no accompaniment. We often sing them acappella - and they work great! In fact, it's easy to mess up the hymn by trying to play along with it - can I get a witness from a guitar player?!
But now imagine singing "Your Grace Is Enough" acappella. Too hard to imagine? Here...listen to this:
Your Grace Is Enough...but maybe not for this song
Your Grace Is Enough...but maybe not for this song

And then listen to this: 

Now imagine what a crab disguised as an elephant would look like. I broke the Internet looking for one. This is what we do to many songs. It certainly looks neither like a crab nor an elephant! Have you ever heard (or played) a song that didn't seem to be the same song as what you heard in the recording?
crab elephant

Let me translate this. If you're playing a hymn, make sure that you don't get in the way of the rhythm or create a competing rhythm.
If you're playing a modern song, make sure you're playing the music appropriately. If rhythm is the exoskeleton that modern music needs, burying the rhythm behind the piano and guitar (or having the piano and guitar not playing to the bass and drums) would be like a floppy crab with no skeleton (read: a dead crab!) So if you're doing modern worship music, the rhythm is paramount. If you have drums, the drums should lead. Shocking? Perhaps. But that's how this music works. It has an exoskeleton.
Now here's where it gets really messy.
Hymns have everything notated for you...notes, measures, performance indicators. The music is literally all there for the piano or organ to plunk out while we sing the same notes.
Most worship teams play modern music from a chord chart that notes, no measures, no performance indicators. Now, you can get the orchestration for many songs from services like, but how many of your team members would be able to read them?
So rather than reading music, most of us have to learn a new skill: decoding recordings and taking those ideas as a starting point for how our team will actually play the song. The listening part is called "listening in tracks." For example, a drummer will listen to Your Grace Is Enough and note that the kick drum is played on every quarter note of the song (except for the "down" prechorus and chorus) and the hi-hat, which is closed for the verses, opens up for the chorus. The drummer will also notice how the drums set up each new section of the song. Then the team will need to decide if they'll play the standard recording's full-energy intro or some other way that's more fitting to your context.
And there's learning in this for sound techs as well. Should the piano or guitar really be louder than the drums and bass if the drums and bass are the exoskeleton? No. I should notice the crab's shell first, not it's guts! Read more here.
If this is frustrating to you and you're saying "I can't do this, so I guess I can't play modern worship" I feel you! Next week, I'll send you the next Fertilizer that will address this in detail.
It may even be helpful to have an Ad Lib Music Coach come to your rehearsal to teach this to your team! You can simply reply to this email to get more info.
I'd love to hear from you! (just respond to this email) 
This is the 86th Fertilizer! Click here to catch up on previous Fertilizers and here to get a printable version of this Fertilizer.
Worship leader groups
How you can get connected! Read some of what we do at these groups here.

Women Worship Leaders Group
Day and Time: Wednesday, April 6 at 9:00 AM
Recurrence: First Wednesdays
Contact: Melanie
Women Worship Leaders Group - Evening
Day and Time: TBA
Location: TBA
For those of you who can't make the 9:00 AM time, please reply to this email to let us know what day/time would work for you and we'll launch a second group. When we initially sent out the invitation, there were 56 women leaders on it!
Harrisburg Alliance of Worship Leaders
Day and Time: Saturday, April 30 at 9:00 AM
Location: Fountain of Life Church in Middletown
Recurrence: Every other month on Saturdays
Dates for 2016 are: April 30th, June 25th, Aug 27th, Oct 29th, and Dec 17th.
Contact: Sanjeev and on Facebook
Mean Cup Mondays
Day and Time: Monday, April 4 at 7:00-8:30 AM
Location: The Mean Cup
Recurrence: First Mondays
Contact: Jeremy
Lititz One
Day and Time: Wednesday, April 6 at 12 noon
Recurrence: First Wednesday
Contact: Dave

Ephrata Guild
Day and Time: Thursday, April 7 at noon
Location: La Borimex
Recurrence: First Thursday
Contact: Dave

Strasburg Cadence
Day and Time: Tuesday, April 5 at 6:00 PM
Location: Pizza City
Recurrence: First Tuesday
Contact: Rick
Reading City Worship Leaders
Day and Time: Wednesday, April 6 at 12 noon
Lunch Location: Plaza Azteca Mexican Restaurant at 12 noon
Breakfast Location: Wyomissing Family Restaurant at 7:00 AM
Recurrence: First Tuesday morning or Wednesday noon (alternating)
Contact: Kevin
Elizabethtown Cohort
Day and Time: Tuesday, April 26 at 7:00 AM
Location: Folklore Coffee
Recurrence: Last Tuesdays
Contact: Dave
Day and Time: Monday, April 4 at 7:00 PM
Location: The Daily Grind
Recurrence: First Mondays
Contact: Lindasy
State College (TBA)
This new group will be starting soon
Contact: Kristin
Columbus, Ohio (TBA)
This new group will be starting soon
Contact: Loren

Grouped by Days of the week
  • Mean Cup Mondays
  • Quarryville
  • Elizabethtown Cohort
  • Strasburg Cadence
  • Women Worship Leaders Group
  • Lititz One
  • Reading City Worship Leaders
  • Ephrata Guild
  • Harrisburg Alliance of Worship Leaders
Your town! Do you want us to help you start one in your area? We're game! Just email
How you can get training!

Worship Seminar with Tom Kraeuter (Saturday, May 14, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 3:30)
Practical, inspiring, funny, and deep...your whole team will enjoy what Tom shares! Register at

Leadworship Workshop (September 30 - October 1, 2016)
Paul Baloche is coming to Petra Church for his Leadworship Workshop! These 24-hour worship intensives begin with a Worship Night on Friday and a day of instruction on Saturday. The workshop will cover both the heart of worship, as well as address the importance of working on your primary skills as a musician, vocalist, or audio tech. Register here.
So in December 2014, when I started my role as minister of worship at Elizabethtown Mennonite Church, I started a chronicle of my process and learnings there...which have been profound and plentiful! I occasionally share some of them on my blog At Least That's How I Did It. You're welcome to follow along.
Dave Helmuth
You are receiving this email because at some point in your journey, Dave Helmuth, Ad Lib Music, or someone connected to us, helped you grow in your relationship with the LORD through worship. If you ever find this resource unhelpful, simply unsubscribe below and continue on your merry way. 



Dave Helmuth
In simple love and pure devotion to Jesus, we are eradicating isolation and burnout so that leaders bear much fruit!


Phone - 717.468.6428 

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