Monday, June 9, 2014

My Music Stand

Our church uses Manhasset music stands.  

They are durable, work well, and will last for years.  Most folks use them to, well, hold their music, be it a sheet of music or maybe in a small book.

Mine, however, looks like this: 

Everything you see (and some things you don’t) is crucial for me each Sunday.  Besides playing drums, there are many “moving parts” so to speak that need to fall into place in order to play an effective worship set.  The following will go over the process of what I do (or what Brad does when he plays) each Sunday which will include an explanation of everything you see above, its purpose, and the process of playing songs that doesn’t actually include playing the music itself.  In other words, this has more to do with the technical aspect of playing worship music as opposed to simply playing the notes.

One of the first things hooked to my music stand are these.  Instead of having some sort of monitor speaker pointed towards me, I use these.  They may look like ordinary ear buds, but these are in-ear monitors, and they actually serve two purposes:  They let us monitor the music while cancelling out any unwanted sounds.  If you ever notice any of us wearing these on stage, you’ll see us take at least one of them out if we need to talk to one another. 

This is our Aviom system which is mounted to the post of my music stand.  My in-ear monitors plug into this, and it allows me to turn other members of the team up or down in my monitors.  This is a great device that I’ve wanted to use for years, and I’m happy to be able to use this now.  Most of our instrumentalists currently have one of these, and we are hoping to have the singers use these as well in the future.  It’s quite a different experience playing with this system.  Initially, one can feel rather isolated; however, it can be a very helpful tool.  While everyone in the congregation hears everything, I actually only hear the metronome, the bass, Brad’s vocal, and acoustic guitar.  This can change a little from Sunday to Sunday, but this is primarily the only things that I hear during any given worship service. 

Sorry for the glare of this picture.  Many folks may not know this, but we use a metronome whenever we play live.  All team members you see on stage with in-ear monitors are being fed the metronome “click” through their in-ear monitors.  Part of my job is to adjust the beats per minute (BPMs) before each song.  Basically it works like this:  After glancing at my notes to check the BPMs of the song, I use the jog wheel to adjust the timing, and I either use the START/STOP button or a pedal to start the metronome. 

Beside of my kick drum pedal, there’s a small black box with a big red “X” on it.  This is the foot pedal that starts and stops the metronome.  This comes in really handy when we are doing a song that requires us to slow down at the end.  While it is helpful, it does require a certain amount of coordination that I’ve not quite mastered in every situation, but I’m getting there!

Here is our Worship Planner sheet that we receive each Sunday.  The first thing I do before we practice on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings, I find my Worship Planner sheet and I write out the BPMs for each song according to a master list that I have made (I would take a picture of it, but it’s an absolute mess that looks more like Sanskrit than anything else). If there are certain transitions between songs, I’ll circle them if they are noted, or I will write them in (you can see above where Steve prayed at the end of “God Be Lifted High”).  This is really important.  It would be terribly embarrassing to “click in” a song with my sticks whenever someone has started praying.  As mentioned before, I have my in-ear monitors in my ears, so if I don’t have Steve’s microphone feeding into my monitors, I can’t hear him praying; I rely heavily on my notes and my eyes more so than my ears during transitions between songs.

For every song that I’ve learned with our praise team, I have to make myself notes or a “chart” so to speak.  I basically break down each section of the song (e.g. intro, verses, choruses, instrumentals, etc.), and I do my best to describe the pattern that I play.  My charts probably will not make a lot of sense to most, but they help me to remember what I need to do and when I need to do it.  

We learn at least one new song a month, and a current trend in modern worship music (in playing drums anyways) is for drum patterns to change quite a bit from one part of a song to the next.  10-15 years ago, I’d only have to memorize basically one, two, maybe three patterns for each song.  Usually, all verses are played with the exact same pattern, all of the choruses were played with another pattern, and the bridge may or may not vary; there were usually only differences in dynamics more so than the patterns played.  In the chart listed above, I think that I counted eight different patterns that I had to learn…and this is a relatively short song. 

So considering all of these things, this is what my music stand looks like on any typical Sunday.  I have notes on the left, metronome in the middle, the worship planner sheet right, and I’ll actually put song notes on that drum so that I can see them (I usually do this whenever we have fast transitions between each song).  The Aviom system is mounted to the music stand post.

In essence, here is the “order of operations” for playing:

Before service:

1. Find my Worship Planner sheet. 

a. Write down BPMs for each song.

b. Make sure to note transitions between any of the songs.  If none are noted, ask Brad if there are any transitions I should know about.

2. Turn on click track/metronome.

a. Make sure foot pedal is still working and hooked up.

b. Make sure back light stays on.

3. If any songs are relatively new, make sure notes are out and/or easily accessible and easy to find…in the dark (there is NO guarantee that I’ll be able to see anything, so knowing the location of the drum charts is very important.  I may or may not have time to turn on my music stand lights).

4. Make sure the Aviom is working correctly.  Adjust personal mix for who’s playing and singing that day (I don’t put everyone in the mix; I only put enough things in so I don’t get lost in the song).  Make sure the metronome can be heard through the Aviom. 

5. Put at least one stick in the stick holder on the hi-hat stand in case I drop one.

Before EACH song:

1. Get notes ready if needed.

2. Set the BPM on metronome using jog wheel.

3. Cut on the music stand light if needed.

4. Look at Brad.  Wait for the cue.

During EACH song:

1. Hit the little metronome pedal beside of the kick drum pedal.

2. Wait 4 beats, and then click everyone in.

3. If it’s a relatively new song, look at the notes during songs while playing.

4. About a minute or so before the song finishes, glance at the Worship Planner.  Get prepared for the transition between songs (Is it a fast transition or is something going on in between the songs?). 

a. If it’s a fast transition, as soon as last note is hit, stomp the pedal to stop the click, reach over and scroll quickly to the BPMs for the next song.  Double check it.  Look at Brad, and wait for the cue.  Stomp the pedal, and click everyone in.

b. If it’s a slow transition, stomp the pedal, set the BPMs for the next song.  Double check it.  Watch very closely to what’s going on as to not click in too late or too early.  Wait for the cue, stomp the pedal, and click everyone in. 

So, what’s the point of all of this?  First, all of this didn’t happen overnight.  This has been coming to head over a couple of years of planning, researching, and practice!  I can’t begin to describe how incredibly proud I am of our musicians and singers (and an entire choir!) being able to follow along and sing to music that uses a metronome.  I know musicians who have been playing longer than I’ve been alive that can’t play with a metronome, and we have a stage FULL of people with the ability to do so.  I’ve never worked with a group of people who have been so open to change, and it’s an honor and a privilege to serve here at Mount Pleasant.  I’m genuinely excited to see what God will do next at MPBC!


1 comment:

  1. ADM Foldable Extra Light Large Music Stand from Bizarkdeal

    I just got this really nice music stand from Flanger. My daughter is in the high school advanced band and she is practicing music just about every night at home. Usually she tries to prop her music up on her dresser but it's usually a pain to get it to stay where she needs it to play properly. I was so excited to try out this great music stand. It's made of durable metal. Has adjustable pieces that allow you to make it shorter or taller, much like a tripod for a camera, you can open and lock them into place. You have a plastic stand to put your music on. Just slide it onto the mount on the stand. It has pieces that fold out to put your music. You can do a single sheet and it also accommodates my daughters large music folder so there is a lot of versatility in it. Tripod style at the bottom gives it a sturdy base. You can fold it all up though and it comes with a nice canvas travel bag with handles that make it easy to take it with you if you want to travel with it or take it to events or class. She has been using it for several days now and loves it, really has helped her to play better at home when she is practicing.