Posts in Music
Sacrifice For The Good Of Mankind!, or, Paper Is Easy, Brains Are Better

I've decided to give up two personal conveniences for the good of others and the betterment of myself. Both of these conveniences have to do with my public work during Sunday gatherings at church.

I'm giving up capo'd chord charts.

When I lead music from the guitar, I often use a capo. It allows a guitar player to use the most appropriate and best sounding voicings (or chord shapes) in the best keys for congregational singing. There are several problems with this though. First, no one else in the band plays with a capo. My chord sheets says "G" but everyone else's says "B." That makes it more challenging for me to communicate. I have to transpose as I speak to my team, which, for some reason, doesn't always work right. Secondly, I have on more than one occasion placed my capo on the wrong fret of my guitar. I then played all the right chord shapes in the wrong key. Again, the rest of the band doesn't have this and consequently has no idea where I am and cannot play with me. As a solution, I have decided to just memorize the shapes in each capo'd position and play with charts that are labeled for the absolute key.

What this allows me to do is both communicate with the band easily (because we are reading the same chart) and increase my ability to play the correct chords wherever I am capo'd without having to rely on the transposed chart. They can understand me, I become a better player.

I'm giving up sermon notes. 

I am taking a preaching class this semester and in one of the textbooks the author strongly encourages his readers to get rid of sermon notes. He does not advocate memorizing the sermon, but simply memorizing the outline. I usually preach with an outline about a page and a half long. I was given the opportunity to open up Kroc Church's study of the book of Galatians and got to preach for the last two weeks through chapter 1. I did not use notes either time. It was a lot of fun.

This practice has done two things for we so far. First, it allows me to keep better eye contact with the congregation while I am preaching. I have noticed an immediate difference in my ability to read the congregation. Secondly, it forces me to write a simple outline. If I'm going to memorize it, it can't be 8 points with 3 subpoints each. It has to be simple. Hopefully a simple outline is easier to communicate to the congregation.

So there you have it. Two ways I'm trying to become better at what I do. Hopefully these steps won't come back to bite me one day in a horrible wrong key/forgotten outline mishap. Perish the thought.

They Don't Serve Breakfast In Hell, or, It's Good To Be Disc Jockey

I was a 1990's CCM fan. It was really all I knew. It was also what my peeps were into. I largely left the CCM genre in the 00's, but the 90's were it. I oversee our in-house radio station at work. While the song selection is chosen by recommendation by the staff, I end up getting to craft most of the vibe of the station. Consequently, there is a good selection of songs from that list of albums that get into the rotation on Kroc Radio. Why, because of my personal nostalgia.

Anthropomorphisms, or, F Major's A Lovely Lady

Do you ever give genders and personalities to inanimate objects or concepts? Throughout history, ships and cars have been designated as "ladies." There are probably many other examples of common things that we think of as being male or female and give human characteristics to. Here is an example. I don't know why, but for as long as I can remember, I have assigned gender and personality to notes in the musical scale. I have never really identified a correlation between my anthropomorphisms and the way the notes sound, but there might be a link.

C Major is male. He is unassuming, but confident. He can be passionate and lively, in the right situation, but he can also function equally well as the wallflower at the party. He has a couple good friends, F and G.

D, who is a close friend with G but can't stand F and doesn't get along with C, is also male. He is sweet, charming, a little boyish and silly. He catches the eyes of the ladies more so than C, but he's not as nuanced and interesting once you get to know him. G is a close friend, as well as A.

E is somewhat of a pompous jerk. If he drove a car, it would be a fast one. If he had a house, it would be a big one. He makes up for lack of depth and character with the sheer awesomeness of his presence. He runs around with a lady on each arm: A and B.

F is classy. She is a full figured woman, with all the right kinds of tastes. She appreciates the calm confidence of C. She has a temper, but it is shaped by wisdom and poise. She can't stand B though, and does everything in her power to wreck her day.

G is warm and gentle. He is equally at home at a party or in a reading room. C and D are his two best friends.

A is a lot like G, but she would never admit it. She loves the reckless confidence of E and the crazy antics of D. She is light and airy and is always brightening rooms and turning heads.

B is brazen, unforgiving and conceited. She is condescending and outright mean at times. There is nothing that can stand in the way of her getting whatever she wants, and she has the means to live her life as she pleases. She keeps E around for laughs, but she doesn't really care about anyone but herself.

There you go. I promise, since I was a little boy, I have thought of the notes on the piano is just those terms. If you know anything about music, it's apparent that the notes hang out with one another based on their relationships as tonic, dominant and sub-dominant chords in the scale. The notes don't get along when one key sharps or flats another. For example, B is so self-centered because in her key, all the notes but E are sharped. I don't know why my mind interprets that as relational strife, but it does. I'm sure this has to do with learning to play in the key of B on the piano. It's one of the hardest ones for a young student to master. This kind of thinking is so ingrained in my mind that I always have a brief second thought whenever I play a song in B. I don't like B. She's a jerk.

So, is it just me? Am I alone in my crazy anthropomorphisms? I think not.

The Gathering, or Your Horn Is Cramping My Style

Every 15 years or so (at least that's what I'm told) The Salvation Army in the western United States holds a territorial congress. This is a big weekend full of meetings, concerts, theater, workshops, food, etc. The first weekend in June was my first congress. It was called "The Gathering" and that's what we did: there were over 5,000 Salvationists present from Alaska, down the west coast, Hawaii, Guam, the whole territory was represented. It was pretty cool. This event immediately followed Boot Camp at the same location, the Pasadena Convention Center. A couple thoughts: 1. At Boot Camp, Kara Powell of Fuller Youth Institute taught on how church can be compared to the "adult table, kids table" arrangement at holiday meals. All the basics are the same, but the kids are segregated and separated. The tone and feel of their meal is markedly different from the adults. Bill Davenport actually pointed this out to me, but Boot Camp was the kids table. Everything there was specially arranged for the youth workers in attendance. As soon as The Gathering started, the tone and feel of the week changed drastically. This isn't necessarily a criticism, just an observation. I'd like to criticize it, but I'm not sure if I can.

2. That brings me to #2. I hate it when, at the close of the message at our church, people get up to leave. It's my assumption that they don't understand the importance of musical worship, they are self-centered and not concerned about the body as a whole, church is all about their private consumption of an entertaining message, blah, blah, blah. It really gets on my nerves. I especially dislike it when I believe that individuals choose to come to church late or leave early because they don't like the style of music being played. I make the musical choices that I do for a lot of reasons (which I might write about later) but I find it annoying when someone's perception of what good music is doesn't allow them to see through their preference and worship with the assembled body.

Having said all that, I was that guy at The Gathering. My party almost always came late and definitely left early. I was absolutely interested in hearing the word of God delivered by the General (our international leader) but totally disinterested in the pomp and pageantry of the rest of the meetings. Now, I could come up with a list of "holy" reasons why I have "theological" or "philosophical" problems with the liturgy of the event, but the bottom line is I just don't like it. It doesn't relate to my past or current experience; I have trouble connecting with the forms used, and the rituals are foreign to me.

There are many people in the army that have problems with the way we do church. I definitely have my thoughts on this, but my realization at The Gathering was that I can very easily become the guy that I am so easily annoyed with. All it takes is a liturgy that is not my "style" and I become the person that I so easily accuse of carnality, self-centeredness, or lack of understanding of corporate worship.

The truth is, there were a whole lot of people at The Gathering that were blessed by the services as a whole (I still loved what the General had to say). If I had been in charge of the corporate worship experience, it would have gone differently, and I would have probably created an environment that was foreign and disinteresting to many in that population.  With 5,000 people from a whole bunch of different backgrounds, you can never please everyone. I don't have any wisdom on that front. I do hope though, the next time someone walks out of service in The Kroc while we are singing "From The Inside Out" or "The Stand" when I think everyone should be rushing the altar, that I am a little less judgmental and a little more understanding of the foreign culture that I am presenting to some in our church. If my role is to lead our people in corporate worship, I need to be aware of how to guide them into the forms that I am presenting and help them navigate what is foreign. Maybe "when we've been there 10,000 years" the church will have this multi-generational thing figured out. I look forward to it.


Well, I'm a week past the Resonance Music Ministry Conference. It was a lot of fun. God really blessed the day. I heard a lot of great feedback from the artists/guests, workshop leaders, and conference attendees. Still debriefing with key people, but it sounds like there is a good possibility that we will do it again next year. My OCD personality is already putting together options for the agenda next year. Here's hoping that it's easier this time. One of the things that I am learning about myself through big events like this is that it's more difficult to balance these things with my family life than I would like. Being pretty introverted like I am, dealing with a lot of people, while enjoyable, is very tiring. That being said, when my 19 hour work day on Saturday was over, I really needed to spend some time alone to decompress. Like at least 19 hours to decompress. The problem is, my family has missed me all week, and they really need me. I haven't quite figured out how to deal with that yet. Maybe I will have it figured out by next year.


So, tomorrow it will be 2 weeks until the Resonance Music Ministry Conference at The Kroc Center. I have had the opportunity to attend several really good conferences for church musicians.  They were all in Southern California.  I flew down, learned a lot, was really inspired to write music and play and record and better myself (and buy new guitars).  The problem I always had was that I could never transfer that excitement to the rest of the team that didn't get to go, and that's a real bummer.

So, after about a year of prayer and planning with a great team of worship pastors from the Coeur d'Alene area, Resonance is going to bring that great conference experience to the inland northwest.  It's my sincere hope that worship leaders from around the area will bring their whole teams for the encouragement, teaching and fellowship that this one-day event will provide.

Our morning speaker, Dr. Harold Best, has written two books that have greatly impacted my understanding of music: Music Through The Eyes of Faith and Unceasing Worship.  I am thoroughly excited for what the Spirit will lead him to bring to us.

Our morning worship leader and evening speaker, Evan Wickham, probably hates it when people say, "Are you Phil Wickham's brother?"  He is a great songwriter and musician in his own right.  A couple of my favorites of his are below.

Throughout the day Brenton Brown and The Worship Republic will be leading workshops that will culminate in their leading us in music for the evening session.  Brenton is a great songwriter who, in my opinion, doesn't get the credit for all the great songs he's written.  Here's a few:

As of today, we have 199 people signed up for the conference, so space is running out.  It's going to be a great day and I'm really looking forward to seeing what God does.

Amp Upgrades

Just in time for Holy Week services, I upgraded my amp! I am currently playing through a Guytronix Ardmore head into an Avatar 1x12 cab.  The Ardmore is a 7 watt, el84 amp with one 12AX7 in the preamp stage.  I built it from a kit a couple years ago.  It's a pretty cool, albeit simple, little amplifier. It has a single volume and tone and it takes my pedals really well.

The first change I made was with the preamp tube.  I was using a sovtek 12AX7.  I replaced it with a JJ 12AT7.  This change effectively lowered the gain of the amp allowing me to get a little more clean out of it before it started breaking up.

The second change I made was to the speaker in the cabinet.  I have been running a 15 watt Weber 12A100 Alnico for a couple years.  It has a weird 2.8k spike in it that just wasn't working with the chimey nature of my amp.  I replaced it with a 30 watt Weber Blue Dog Alnico.  It really smoothed out the overall character of the sound.  The sound guy at church noticed immediately.  It sits in the mix better and isn't as annoying.

Happy Easter!

MusicZak AdamsComment
Passover by Joe Day

We begin rehearsals for the Good Friday service at Kroc Church yesterday.  One of the special songs we are doing is called Passover.  It was written by Luke Abrams and Jeff Bettger of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  We are covering a version recorded by Joe Day (also from Mars Hill) on his album Grace.  It's a great song.  Check it out: 

MusicZak AdamsComment
"Gear Lust"

I am a musician.  I love to listen to music.  Play music.  Sometimes though, I think my favorite thing to do is to shop for instruments. It's strange how gear can capture your heart.  I currently own 3 electric guitars (Ibanez Artcore Semi-Hollow, Fender Telecaster, Danelectro Convertible) 2 acoustic guitars (Martin D-16 and Taylor GS8) a Fender Champion 600 and Guytronix Ardmore amp, 1x12 Avatar cab w/a Weber Vintage series speaker, a board full of pedals, a Schlagwerk cajon, a wurlitzer piano, plus a whole synth setup for my mac.  The list of gear I have own in the past is 10 times that long.  None of that includes all of the fabulous gear that I have access to at my work.

The crazy thing is that I always want more.  I am never fully content.  Right now I am eyeing a new Gibson hollowbody guitar, 3 different guitar amps, a replacement speaker for my cab, new tubes for my amp, a couple new pedals, and even some new cables.  Most of these things are completely unaffordable for me too...really all of them.  Yet the "need" for more never goes away.

I have a lot of respect for guys that have "a sound."  You name a musician and you know what their setup is.  It's as iconic as they are.  There are whole genres of guitar tone named after them because that's "their sound."  They get that by grabbing a guitar and an amp and playing if for all its worth.  I need that reminder.

Now, there isn't anything wrong with new gear, different gear, better gear.  But I always need to be examining my motives for wanting gear.  Is there really a problem with my guitar?  Is the best solution a $2400 new guitar, or a $25 new bridge on the current one?  The solutions to my musical problems are more likely than not cheaper than I want them to be.  Maybe even free.  Often in my head.

That being said, if anyone sees a really good deal on a Fender Bassman, let me know.