Becoming a desired musician (Thought #1)

Although I haven’t been leading worship as many years as some others I know and haven’t played many large venues like some others I know, I do believe I can share some insight on simple things to keep in mind as a musician regardless of the venue and musical position (instrument).  Whether you are the leader or backup guitar player, I think this series of thoughts will help you be more of a desirable musician.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional musician and don’t claim to know it all.  What I am sharing is through experience and being thrown into the fire.  It may or may not help you in your endeavors, but God Bless anyway!

Thought #1 – Memorize the songs

One of the greatest ways to communicate your desire to play is showing you know the song prior to rehearsal and not just say you heard of it.  Once you have received the song list, you jump on Youtube, search for the chord charts, practice away, and learn all of the various nuances in the song.  When I mean ‘knowing the song’ , I am implying you have practiced it, memorized it, and can play it in various keys on your own; depending on your instrument.  I believe that the type of musician that isn’t eager to learn the music prior to rehearsal, doesn’t listen to the songs, or the musician that waits for rehearsal to learn the song is the musician who will have a difficult time adjusting to what the band is doing or desiring to do and may ultimately hinder the band from having a successful rehearsal and potentially a successful event.  I also believe the type of musician I described is very prideful and can hurt the band by this.  

Memorization is one skill that will help you stand out among others and allows you to have the freedom to play the song using various tonal colors on your instrument.  In the majority of the venues I have played, my instrument has been the acoustic or electric guitar, which can sometimes be overbearing with effects pedals, if you don’t know the song and how it flows dynamically.  You may say, man there are so many songs out there, and I have to memorize all of them?  Don’t worry, in relation to praise and worship music, which is what I play, there is a standard structure to them all.  Learn the pattern and you will be able to learn a lot of songs played at church.

It’s been a while!

Wow! I can’t believe my last post was from October 5th. Many things have changed in relation to life – family, church and work. I have to update my gear list and actually use the website for what it was intended for; a resource for musicians. I do apologize for the delay in posting demos, reviews and other blog posts. I will be working on them as soon as I can have my studio fully up and running. In the meantime, please take a moment to browse through the site. I would appreciate your feedback. Feel free to contact me through the website or the gamut of social media platforms. God bless and talk to you soon!10600650_1043501052375169_5844648226420764814_n

A Thought On Soundcheck Etiquette

Disclaimer:  If you’re offended with what I write, don’t be.  The purpose is to get musicians to be more considerate.  Sadly, even Christian musicians do this.  It’s ultimately disrespectful to the soundtech and the musician soundchecking.  Get over yourself and realize that you’ll get your turn too.

Sometimes soundchecks end up making you feel like you’re at a busy Guitar Center.   It is so annoying when you’re soundchecking and every single musician in the band wants to show off the latest lick, fill, or vocal run they learned.  It honestly ends up wasting time.  If the sound engineer tells you to stop playing, please have the decency to listen because you’re cutting into precious time.  I’m not a sound engineer, but I’m always looking out to make sure sound is taken care of.

Additionally, for the Christian musician, please play something that will give the sound engineer an example of what you’ll be playing for the event. Give the sound engineer your max volume, so they can factor that into their FOH mix.

Overall, this is to make the experience of the event less hectic and more productive.

“Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”

In a vocal coach CD I learned the phrase “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”.  I know the statement is fairly corny, but there is so much truth within the five words.

Proper signifies that there is a right and a wrong way to do things.  There have been many occasions where I’ve “Mickey-moused” certain things just to get a task accomplished.  I believe that to set yourself apart, you must first do things properly.  I learned from a friend a few years back that shortcuts are a Satanic means of getting to the goal without working or suffering through the task(s).  He used various examples like cheatinggambling, and steroids.  Those are all improper methods to reaching a desired goal.

Preparation connotes working towards the goal.  I understand that it sometimes feels good to just be spontaneous and random, but if we want to properly do things and accomplish them correctly, it is vital that we prepare.  Maybe it’s just me, but musically speaking, one would never just “wing-it” during an important gig or overall professional event.  I’ve played with musicians who glissando [a continuous slide up or down between two notes]and guess notes even though I’ve taken time to type up the chord charts and place them in their respective positions relative to the song.  There have even been a few occassions where I’ve led a rehearsal and someone still manages to not know where we are at.  It is so frustrating.  Maybe that’s why I’m such a micromanager.

Prevents promotes the feeling of safety.  We, as musicians, must see proper preparation as a means to prevent a potential mess.  My piano teacher always told me, “Robert, you need to practice and memorize your music so that you prevent any mistakes”.  She also stated, “If you do make a mistake, just don’t show it”.  It is so humorous to reflect on her words because having been a musician for quite some time now, I’ve had my fair share of faces, mistakes, and lack of preparation.

Poor, in my opinion, is the result of the lack of the former three words.  It is a poor shame when an individual or overall band lacks the proper preparation to prevent any foreseeable mistakes.  I don’t easily get embarrassed.  However, I feel embarrassed when I see another person make mistakes that could have been prevented with proper preparation.  Honestly, the word poor shows how destitute an individual is musically.

Performance in any venue must contain the previously four words.  As Christians, we play for the Lord, but he is the overall judge of what we play.  Although the phrase “Proper preparation prevents poor performance” isn’t necessarily a Christian phrase, I believe it should be integrated in our daily lives as musicians and believers.  Our work is unto the Lord and not to men, so why should we bring an offering that is blemished with improper and poor preparation.

I have seen with my own eyes the great value in quality rather than quantity.  We are to bring a sacrifice unto the Lord that is pleasing to Him.

“Far more than playing”

I believe with all of my heart that the worship leader role is not just for any Christian musician or singer. They are literally a shepherd of the flock on stage. They must maintain a certain attitude regardless of the situation.

For an upcoming event, I have learned about the necessity to be more spiritually ready than musically ready. I know that we are to be skilled in our instrument to be bring an excellence to the King, but I also know that the Lord is seeking worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Our ability to play an instrument should never exceed our responsibility as a servant of Christ.

From my observations of personal instances and other activities, I have encountered an imbalance of ability and responsibility. Many musicians in worship bands mainly focus on standing out rather than standing within the context of the band. Recently, I saw a worship leader video by Paul Baloche and his musicians [very professional ones to be exact] all encouraged musicians and singers to be simple. They understood the desire to play out sometimes, but as John Piper stated, “If any part of worship points back to US, it’s no longer worship.”

May our endeavors as musicians for the cause of Christ go beyond what we can do. Our goal must be to assist in creating the atmosphere fertile for an intimate encounter with the Lord and His people and not about us and our music.


After putting the kids to bed last night, my wife and I stayed up a little to talk about all of the situations that have led us to where we  are now. We spoke about the struggles of change and separation from what we were so accustomed to and how, by faith, we followed the direction of God. I brought up the story of how Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers and through his faithfulness to God became second in command to Pharaoh in Egypt. This eventually would lead to the reconciliation of his whole family. His story consisted of betrayal, false accusation and many other things against him, but Joseph remained faithful to God and God honored that. There are numerous stories in the Bible that showed the God-honoring faithfulness of his people and God’s faithfulness to them in return. I see myself, my wife and our two little children just like some of those people in the Bible. Although we serve in a small capacity in our church, the faithfulness we show unto God translates into an unfathomable affect towards the people we meet and serve. The faithfulness I’m talking about encompasses every aspect of our lives – family, friends, finances, etc. Yes, we fail and yes we fall, but at the very end of it all, we remain faithful to God for he continues to be faithful. Don’t get me wrong, life does get difficult and tiring and I honestly don’t think I’ve suffered like some others, but I can directly correlate being saved from all of that suffering because of the continual faithfulness directed toward the God of the universe, the God of my family and the God of my own life. I pray that you continue in your walk in the Lord even when it hurts like “heck” [United reference] and even though you struggle, success is just beyond the horizon, but that success is solely from the Lord. Seek his kingdom first and he will get you through the struggles and into successes!

Worship Leader Beatitudes 1

Be Organized

Organization, many times, has saved me from the frustration of inconsistency and has placed me in an “easy to work with” category at the churches I’ve been blessed to serve in. I completely understand that being organized is not for everyone because of a gamut of reasons. However, I believe wholeheartedly that for the individuals who have the responsibility of directing a worship ministry full or part time, it should be of high importance to grow in the skill of organization for the body you are serving. Please don’t misinterpret this blog, this is not an aggressive “call-out” to disorganized worship leaders. Rather, I hope it is an example of the possibility of practicing organization for those looking for a resource. What I will share is something that has worked in a small to large setting, especially if where you’re serving does not have anything in place.

To better understand where I’m coming from with the topic of organization, allow me to share my background. I’ve been in music ministry for over fifteen years, but I’ve never felt the leading of the Lord to go into full-time music ministry. On the other hand, I am a fulltime husband, a father of two amazing children, a high school math teacher. With all of these roles requiring my participation, I needed a means to build a worship team for a position that was offered to me. I did not have the privilege to go to school and learn about worship leading organization or something to that extent. I do have my degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from San Jose State University, so I believe the organization is directly related to my undergraduate field of study. I mean, it has the word “systems” in it.

Unfortunately reader, I don’t know what your specific experiences are as a worship leader or worship team member, but I know that the standard of organization that I have set for the volunteers and services I lead has saved me and everyone else a lot of frustration and confusion. Now, I must confess that even with a standard of organization for your worship team, you are not exempt of issues that may potentially arise (i.e. cancelation the night before because of an unexpected event due to illness, injury, etc.). On the other hand, it provides a buffer for you or anyone on your team to adjust and adapt accordingly.

When I think of the process in which the Lord created the Heavens and the Earth, it was very organized. He didn’t jumble everything together hoping for the best. From the separating of the land and water to the creating of the birds of the air and the fish of the sea to the division of light and darkness, God was very structured in all that he did then and continues to do so now. I fully believe that we ought to have the same direction.

Okay, so here’s my process of organization. [If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t work for you, maybe it can be a starting point towards another viewpoint of organization.]

As of recent months, I have been utilizing Planning Center Online to invite the worship team volunteers and to post my setlists with chord charts and video links, which has served to be very useful. Prior to using Planning Center Online, I created a calendar for the coming month, which had blank spaces for the musicians and singers (e.g. Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Drummer, BGVs, etc). I used a calendar template from Microsoft Word, typed in the band member categories and just copied them to the Sundays and Wednesdays. Prior to populating the calendar I contacted the worship team members and asked for their specific availability on Sundays and/or Wednesdays and hoped for their full commitment to their availability. The reason why I asked for their availability was to be considerate of their schedules because they were volunteering their time. This process still continues for me every month. I understand that not everyone is blessed to have an assortment of musicians and vocalists, but with the goal of implementing a structured system where you are serving, it will provide for the future when you are blessed with more worship team volunteers.

Once my calendar was finalized I would write a concisely encouraging email that is sandwiched with love, truth and love. In the email, I would include instructions like aligning their calendars accordingly and communicating any changes to their availability ahead of time.

Overall, this process has served to be helpful for the whole worship team and I hope it serves to be helpful for you as well. If you have any questions, comments or just need prayer, please feel free to drop me a line.

More of God and less of me

As this year moves forward I am realizing more and more that a life without God is an afterthought that has plummeted into the abyss of a theoretical black hole. I refuse to have a life without God. I refuse to live up to the standards contrary to God’s ever-speaking Word. If I am seen as a monastic minded religious fanatic, then let it be so. If I am to be a true disciple of Jesus the Christ, let me live a life that loves God far more than anything or anyone. I must, as Christ said, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees”, because, as Paul said, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. My motto for this year is “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all of His righteousness, and all of these things shall be added unto you”. Amen.

Just stay calm and keep going on [Advice for guitarists]

Last night at the Movement I had the opportunity to lead students in praise and worship. The first two songs were amazing. There was a lot of movement and screaming. Everything was going well until our fourth song on the setlist.

Now a few months ago, one of my good buddies @Russ Sedam [amazing guitarist] told me he always brings a spare guitar to gigs just in case something happens. After thinking it through on the way home from work yesterday, I realized I needed to bring an extra guitar just in case. His wise words were ringing in my head before, during, and after worship time. The reason being is that I broke my “B” string during our fourth song in the setlist. Thank God I had my Gretsch with me and ready to go. In the back of my mind was “just stay calm and keep going”. To my surprise, when I asked my friends about what happened, they didn’t even realize what went on between Dancing Generation and For the Lord is Good.

Some advice for guitarists [especially the singing ones]

1) Be prepared for anything…I mean anything!

2) Always tune your guitar.

3) Bring extra strings and if possible an extra guitar

-Have it tuned and ready to swap.

4) If a string breaks, especially for singing guitarists, stay calm and collected.

5) Immediately swap out your guitars

– I wish I had a guitar tech (wishing).

6) Have your vocalists and musicians keep vamping while you tune

– [yes, tune!]

7) Finally, get back to work!

Learn it, live it, love it – always be prepared and ready to serve!

Becoming a desired musician (Thought #3)

Tardiness, in my opinion, is a form of disrespect.  It is understandable that situations may arise that are unavoidable, but, for the most part, being prompt to a rehearsal or event, alongside the other thoughts I’ve posted, should be of high priority.

“If you are early, then you are on time.  If you are on time, you are late.”

This is the cliche that I have lived by for so long and I think it should be a motto that many musicians should live by too.  Some people may potentially see your promptness or earlybird-ness as being a brown-noser, but if you want to stand out among the rest of the guitarists, drummers, bassists, etc., and want to become mroe desirable as a musician, then this is one small statement you can make.  

I am not trying to be an elitist or pretend like I know it all, but it always bothered me when musicians, stumble into a rehearsal, and disrupt the flow of things.  That’s it!  Promptness prevents the disruption of flow.  Yes, there are things that happen during rehearsal too, that are unavoidable, but you do not want to become the conspirator of ruin for your band, gig, and bandmates.  

Overall, I believe this 3rd thought should be practiced in all instances of life, regardless of the venue or situation.