Archives for posts with tag: guitar

It’s appropriate that I begin my thoughts by defining what I mean when I refer to worship. Yes, whatever we do for the glory of God is an act of worship. However, my focus will be on the use of music in worship. I want to parse my thoughts on how we express worship of God in the context of what primarily happens during Sunday services.

Music is one expression of worship. Style has no bearing on worship. Music is a means to glorify God by enjoying Him. Corporate singing is a taste of what Heaven will be like. It can be a connection to the saints of old. It strengthens the unity of the Body of Christ. Music allows us to understand deeper meaning than words alone. Worship is a means for learning and relearning theology. Worship can heal the soul.

We are called to worship through song numerous times in the Bible. Worship is an act of obedience. It is a call to repentance. Worship does not need to stir emotion to be worship. Worship reminds us of God’s past greatness and His future plan. Worship is about God’s story. Our story intersects with God’s, but it is not the focus of worship.

Worship is difficult to define. I don’t claim to have a complete definition of worship here.  I’m not sure we will fully understand worship before we stand in the presence of Almighty God.  So what have I missed? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve used this space for writing anything. In some ways what I am about to embark upon seems like a departure from the sorts of things I’ve written about previously. I have been thinking a lot about the theology of worship lately and I plan to use this space to work out my own beliefs on what is perhaps the most important thing a Christian can do. I won’t commit to any particular frequency or number of posts on worship, but  I suspect that will become the primary focus of this blog. I welcome any questions or challenges to my thinking and since I plan to work out my faith through writing I doubt that all my writings here will be my final thoughts on worship. I don’t intend to change anyone’s mind with this blog, simply to refine my own thoughts and theology.

A bit of background first, I grew up in churches that sang mostly hymns as well as some choruses (though only a few that could have been considered modern). I learned music from an early age and started playing guitar starting in 8th grade. Very quickly, even as a part of my early guitar training, I was tapped to help lead worship (read: worship in music). My love of modern music (in nearly every style) led to a love of modern worship music. My love of songwriting gave me a deep sense of the importance of lyrical content.

Since college I have attended churches that leaned into the contemporary style of music though not all of them exclusively sang contemporary songs. If I am honest with myself I have been attracted to the rockstar status of some worship leaders, even if they weren’t particularly famous, and desired a similar status for myself. I sense God is leading me away from that, though perhaps not from contemporary style.

Though I firmly believe everything we do for God is an act of worship, my main concern is with corporate worship in music. I am concerned with the content of the words and the aesthetics of the music. I am concerned with the ways in which we present worship music, both to local congregations and to the world at large through the “Christian” music industry. I am concerned with how music is led. I am concerned with the visual elements that invariably accompany Sunday morning services, both through stage design and architecture. I am also concerned with how we may all better live our lives out in worship to our Creator, but this point in particular I do not intend to address.

So please think with me as I consider what God would have for us as worshipers.

The StudioLately I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in my studio. I’ve been listening to mixes (check this rough mix out for yourself), thinking about album art (does anyone still create album art?), and figuring out exactly how I’m going to release this very independent record. I’ve been contemplating having you; my friends, family, and faithful readers/listeners, be my album art production team.

Here’s how it works: Grab your smartphone and start snapping pictures that communicate the concept of The Finishing Touches. Upload them to Instragram (follow me @ercsguitar) and use the hashtag #ESquiresAlbumArt. Then on May 31 I’ll select my favorite and it will become the album art for my acoustic album which I have just named The Finishing Touches. If your Instagram is selected, I’ll send you a download code for an unreleased song. So start taking some pictures!

pedalsAs most millennials I have a bad tendency to get all my news from Facebook.  Sometimes that means I come across articles that someone else has drudged up from a while ago. So while this response is pretty late to the game, but I think it’s still worth talking about.

Here’s the original article:

Let me start off by saying I really appreciate where the guy is coming from. It’s obvious he’s trying to follow the conviction of the Holy Spirit and think about the issue as clearly as possible. That’s great. I also agree that a direct rip off of  someone’s boutique pedal is morally ambiguous at best on the part of the manufacturer and they should probably find something better to do with their time.

On a different token I’d also like to explain where I’m coming from as a musician. I believe you can make great music and get some great tone with a lot of budget gear and I don’t mean a direct rip off of someone’s boutique pedal. The most I’ve spent on a on a pedal ever is about $200 and it literally had “all the bells and whistles.” So all that said let’s get on with the response.

I think his argument breaks down a bit. (As a side note, if you haven’t read the original article the rest of my post isn’t going to make sense. Here it is again.) I’ve done a little pedal building before and I have some friends who understand a lot more about it than I do. I think it’s a cool hobby for a musician to get into. Most of what I’ve done is modding existing pedals to add features to them. But from what little I know about the subject, I can tell you that there are really only a few ways to make an overdrive circuit, or a tremolo, or you name it. Going with the overdrive motif, you can usually tell what circuit the pedal was modeled on. There are your Tubescreamers, your Rats, your fuzzes, etc. The principles of electronics dictate that there are only a few ways to do things.

I’ve got a clone of an orange squeezer on my pedal board, it was perhaps the first compressor made specifically for guitar. Pedal Nerds will know that originally it wasn’t even a pedal, you plugged it into your guitar and then plugged your guitar cable into it. Mine’s been modified to have two different volume settings with the compressor always on. Not exactly a direct clone, but what about the old school MXR red compressors? It’s circuit is strikingly similar to the orange squeezer. In the music world if there is a specific end you are trying to achieve, there is a very narrow path to get there. I don’t think that should exclude people who come to a similar circuit by legitimate means. I would question the morality of someone who reverse engineers a circuit simply to copy and resell it and those that support such endeavors by purchasing their stuff. For the hobbyist, I personally don’t see a problem with figuring out great circuits of the past. It’s a good way to learn, but don’t stop there, go out and figure out how to make it better.

Now on to a more direct response to the article.

‘The builder brought this on himself by charging too much to begin with.’ – Agreed. Just because the guy is charging an arm and a leg doesn’t make it right to steal it.

‘I’m using it for worship.’ – The ends don’t justify the means… ever. I think the Robin Hood thing broke down pretty badly. Maybe all those poor people should have been trusting God to provide their needs instead of stealing from the rich and maybe they should have been standing up for their rights to not be stolen from in the first place.

‘I’m buying it used…the damage is already done.’ – I think this one depends on where you draw the lines and every player has to figure that out for themselves. I personally think a direct clone isn’t such a great idea, but taking an original or duplicating a circuit to improve upon it is. It’s taking something and making it your own.

“It’s not illegal…you can’t prove it in court, and it’s next to impossible to patent circuits.” – Agreed (with Karl’s response to that objection). Legality does not equal morality. It’s next to impossible to patent circuits for good reasons that I’ve addressed above. Also, I was told recently by a patent attorney that it can be pretty cost prohibitive to get anything patented. So that’s something to think about for the small guy building original pedals out of his garage. Maybe his pedal is getting cloned because he can’t afford to patent it much less go after the guy who’s doing so.

“The cloner is a great guy.” – Maybe, maybe not. If he’s engaging in the morally dubious act of directly cloning pedals, I’d question just how great he is, nice guy or not.

“All circuits are clones anyways.” – Not all circuits are clones. Many circuits are similar. On the other side of the coin, sometimes two “identical” Tubescreamers can sound very different simply because of parts tolerances. There are always ways to hack a circuit and make it your own. I’d suggest erring on that side.

I found it interesting that he used Zachery Vex as an example of a boutique manufacturer. It’s not unknown that Mr. Vex cut his teeth as a hobbyist. In fact his Fuzz Factory is basically a modded out Fuzz Face. Should he and everyone else that’s done something similar (the list is not short) be forced to pay some sort of fee to Dallas Arbiter? I’m not so sure they should. But if someone is just straight ripping someone else off then maybe they should reconsider.

Ultimately, as worship musicians we should hold ourselves to higher standards. I’m writing this as I listen to my pirated copy of the Beach Boys discography. It’s a little bit convicting. Where you draw the lines may be different than where I do, but that’s between you and God. I think I have some music to delete.

SongwritingSince we moved back to Indiana I’ve been slowly getting back into song writing. Often it’s difficult to find time to myself for the task. I don’t write well around other people, even if they are occupied with other things, and when the TV is going it makes my guitar seem a bit intrusive. (Or maybe it’s the other way around).

Regardless, I’ve been using my iPhone’s voice memo app to jot down the ideas lest I forget them before I can get back to the guitar again. And it occurred to me to use that medium (since my computer is on the fritz from the fire) for releasing some sort of EP. I’ll probably end up releasing it for free via Bandcamp, but if you feel like floating a few bucks our way I’d appreciate it. I hesitate to call it a benefit album, but I’ll be straight and tell you that Progressive has been none too helpful in paying out our insurance claim after the fire. But that’s a story for another day.

I’m still kicking around a track list for the album and it may be a couple days before I can get it cut, but hopefully it will all work out. If you have any thoughts or suggestions leave them below.