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Upskilling in Music – Marcus Robertson

1. Dedicate time to practise each day.

By setting aside time each day to practise, you're going to become more solid and confident in your basic skills. Regular time playing your instrument will also help you to learn new skills. Even if it's just playing through the songs for Sunday a couple times during the week, just do it. But also make sure that you're moving out of your comfort zone by learning new skills.

2. Learn New Skills.

Find ways to constantly get better and more diversely skilled at your craft. Even if they aren't usable in a church service context, getting better at complex things makes the easier things way more simple. Learning to finger pick and sing at the same time made me much better at singing and strumming. I think there are two main ways that you can learn.

Get professional lessons. This is my biggest recommendation because it is actually the most effective. Find someone who is better than you and get them to teach you skills. Even if the skills aren't super useful in a church context, they will improve your overall skill level and confidence.

Use YouTube. The internet is one of the most amazing resources for learning new skills. YouTube is an amazing resource because it's free and easily accessible. The hard thing with YouTube is knowing where to start. Choosing songs you already know and would like to learn is really helpful. Eventually you'll find channels that teach lessons you can learn. Subscribe to them. (For me, that channel was TXBA)

 3. Find musicians that you like, and copy what they do when they play and sing joyfully.

Sometimes our outward expression of our joy when we play music is hard to communicate because we don't have the tool set to show it. I've watched videos of Dave Grohl, Jack White, Wil Wagner, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, and Keith Richards (plus a bunch of others) to see how they outwardly express their emotions when they sing and play. Give it a crack. You might even have to practise these things too.

4. Get reliable, honest feedback.

There are plenty of people around HBC who know what they are talking about when it comes to music. Talk to them and ask them to see what ways you can improve. Don't try to do everything at once, but work on things block by block from their feedback. This will require great humility, but it's a practise worth doing every once in a while.

5. Record and Analyse Yourself.

In your pocket right now there is probably a device capable of half decent video and audio recordings; the modern smartphone. Use this to reflect on your own skills and see the places where you can get better. Critique videos and audio recordings and see where your common mistakes are and where you would like to get better.

6. Bonus Tip: I got really good at making it up as I go by listening to the radio and trying to figure out chords to songs as they played. Helped me to listen and know what different chord changes sounded like and how to predict them. It's really simple, but super effective. Makes transposing on the spot 300% easier.


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Band Leading – Jono Kirk

1.     Give permission to engage.

As song leaders our role is to help lift the eyes of the congregation from the things of this world to our Glorious King and Saviour. By engaging in the songs, allowing ourselves to feel emotion, the joy that comes from knowing Christ we give permission to the congregation to do the same.

2.     Relax, Smile and Loosen Up.

A good friend of mine often says walking onto a stage makes someone 50% more boring. With that in mind we need to be conscious that how we conduct ourselves can set a tone for an entire service. People will take their lead from the song leader.  Realistically if you consider time spent out front on any given Sunday, aside from the preacher you (the song leader) are the second most visible person. I like to challenge myself every service to focus on 1 thing that will improve my engagement with the congregation.

3.     Prepare.

Don’t be a karaoke song leader. So often song leaders turn up on the day with no preparation and expect to lead well. This not only dishonours your band, but it really dishonours the God we serve. Given our role is to lead the congregation, song leader prep should be almost more important than band prep. Read the Preparing for a Sunday blog for tips on how to prepare.

4.     Your voice is an instrument.

Whilst we are leading people in singing, we have to realise we are also part of the band and the sound that get produced. How we use our voice in songs can really add or subtract to the overall sound. Talk with your band leader about how they would like you to use your voice dynamically. If you aren’t the main song leader for a song they might get you to pull off the mic for a verse or two, sing a harmony in the chorus or verse 2 or sing up or down the octave to give the congregation a variable melody line.

5.     Creative Cues and Exhortations.

If you are the main song leader for a song think creatively about how you cue the congregation and lead them through a song. If the congregation seem a little uncertain or if you want to emphasize a phrase, then you might sing or speak the next line over the chord progression leading in. Likewise using encouragements and biblical exhortations during a song or transition can be exceptionally helpful in transitioning people’s minds out of the stress of life and into the realisation of who we worship and praise. 


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Songwriting: Marcus Robertson

1. Leave your instruments out.

Don't store instruments away. Have them ready to go. Or just have them out so you can pick them up whenever you want.

2. Write stuff down when it comes.

It might suck, it might be gold, but if you don't write it down you won't know it in two weeks time.

3. Try and suck as much as you can out of each inspirational moment.

If you feel like you're on a roll just keep going. Get as much as you can out of it even if you feel like you're about to dry up. Just keep going.

4. Force yourself to write.

Every once in a while, even if you feel inspirationless, just give it a crack. You might strike oil. Which is liquid gold.

5. Write songs that you like to sing.

Don't worry about what other people think. If it's theologically sound and you love singing it, that's tops. Someone down the line might like it too, but it's OK if they don't. Just write songs.




Music Team: Cameron Thornton

1 - Pursue the type of character that others want to be in the presence of. 

You don't have to be the most inherently talented muso for others to want to play alongside you and look forward to it. Character goes along way, ask my wife, I’m an ordinary sort. Folk that have all the skills but lack the heart and righteous intent can often be the most difficult to get alongside. So invest in people by pursuing Godly character that will benefit those around you.

So how do you do this and what are some examples… 

How - Take time to reflect on your own uniqueness. The specific elements that God has given you or developed in you. You might need to ask the opinion of some close others on this one to help you gain some clarity. The aim is to narrow down exactly what value[s] you bring to the team? Once you have some ideas it’s simple - continue to develop these helpful characters.

Throughout this process it is likely that you will recognise what helpful skills/attributes that you don’t have... pursue these too. You don’t necessarily need to set micro and macro goals and a timeline to achieve them but write down both sides of the process and pass them onto your band leader to create a little momentum.

Next step is to recognise if the things you have noted are attitudes or behaviours. 

Once you have worked that out and considered your list, get stuck in but don’t try to bite them all off at once, do this and you will add to Australia’s obesity epidemic. In all seriousness this will usually lead to failure and you will end up feeling worse off than when you began, not ideal. Tackle one virtue at a time. Start with the one you are most excited about or the one you find most challenging. For example, it could be avoiding unhelpful smack talk or something simple like improving your punctuality to demonstrate to the band that you value their time. Both of these are behaviours and are the outworking of an attitude to honour others. 

This first essential skill is the long game but it really adds up over time and soon you may be known as the wise one of the group that people want to be like because you have become more like Jesus.


2 – Know your parts.

Anyone can turn up prepared. People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Set time aside to polish your parts. Knowing your parts and how this contributes to the whole is a game changer to the vibe of the practice time, which in turn sets the tone for the whole session, and more than this, the whole service.

Your level of preparation will spill into every person that walks into the doors of the gathering. Put it this way - You wouldn’t put a half-baked effort into a set if you knew you were opening up for Pearl Jam. You would work really hard on your own parts so your band effort was tidy as. Truth is you will probably never open up for Pearl Jam [the legendary band that was a driving force in forming a genre] but you are opening up for the word of the Lord, to prepare the hearts and minds of the crowd that are coming along to meet with God’s people. You are opening up for Jesus!! So don’t be sloppy, don’t discourage the band by not putting the time into your parts, because they always know.

It’s worth noting that some individuals try really hard in their own time and are still not quite up to scratch on game day. In this case, good. At least you are giving it a genuine nudge and with this application you will improve quickly. Others have long weeks, sick kids…etc. And for those that have had a rough week, be honest to your band and get around each other. But don’t use it as or look for excuses if you know within yourself that you could have prepared more effectively. 

3 – Seek out the type of tech that will improve your musicianship.

We are all time poor, so use the tech around you to improve your instrument skills. I’m talking apps, pedals, effects and what not. Best part of this is that it is usually interesting or gives the old axe a new edge. So share your findings with your band. Draw others into it and create some buzz. Good vibes lead to more positivity and the catalyst for this could be a simple sample pad or app. 

4 – Imitate better musos than you.

The very best athletes have all been coached and aspired to be like their hero’s/heroines. Do the same. Nuff said

5 – Remember that it’s more than a roster and getting through 5 or so songs and rewarding yourself with a beer at 9pm on a Sunday night.

 If this is how you are feeling, then I suggest you take a break from the ministry. Because it is no longer a ministry for you right now. If you do take a break, fully debrief it with one of the HBC team to understand why you needed to enable you to leave the door open to returning sometime.

Every week the music teams contributes to the eternal plans of our Lord and King. Don’t underestimate the worth of your role. Don’t sell short the 5 songs and chats in between.

Take the time to properly get to know your band:

  • Turn up early, leave late, hang out at other times beyond a Sunday or a scheduled church thing. I have played about 50 gigs a year for the past 10 years in a covers band [and originals for all the haters] with the same two dudes. We are very different people [especially the drummer] but our friendship runs deep because we poured into each other not just the music. But it takes the leadership of one to welcome this scene. And they now turn to me when things go south in their lives and it’s a real opportunity to be there for them and offer them Jesus love in action. We can do the same for each other in our church bands.

  • People vibe from our connectedness from the front. We don’t need to smile into each other’s eyes like Angus and Julia but breeding a culture of unity comes from hang time.

[6 – Buy quality stuff first time].

 Don’t go cheap on ordinary music gear. Save up, sacrifice some other unneeded stuff and buy the good stuff straight up [or second hand if it’s still legit quality]. Buying good gear means you will commit to using it, it will last longer, sound better and is easier to sell in the long run if you are drawn to another ministry over time.




Computer: Neil Foster

1. If at all possible, aim to get the EasyWorship schedule set up well before the service.

For AM I try to do it the evening before. This means that you have a better chance to plug any gaps in good time (if someone forgot to send the sermon slides, or the song choices, or if the muso’s want a new song that isn’t on the database, or if the video you’re meant to be using doesn’t quite work…. Etc!) Plus if you can do it somewhere where there is a wireless internet connection, that saves having to log on to the email and download stuff through a hot spot or other dodgy mechanism.

2. Go through the songs word for word with the song leader.

There are probably different way of doing this, but for AM I like to get the song leader to sit down and literally read out the words they are going to sing so I can check that the slides coincide, no later than 10 minutes prior. Make it clear to the song leader that it is not really good enough that they have a quick glance and think the “vibe” is OK! It is very distracting for congregation members when the words being sung don’t coincide with the slides, and we are there to serve the congregation and help them sing, not to have them marvel at how creative we are in coming up with new arrangements on the spot!

3. My habit is to take the preacher’s script and go through it with a yellow highlighter to mark the slide transitions.

(It is also handy to double check that the number of slide transitions marked on the script coincides with the number of slides you have for the talk! You may discover that it has been edited since the preacher prepared their script and you need to be aware of it.)

4. For songs, a long time ago a wise mentor (Mark Jeffreys!) told me that the computer person should sing along with the songs by watching the slides on the screen the congregation is following.

Sounds obvious but what this does it make you concentrate on what the congregation are seeing, and not get distracted in cuing up the next song, etc. Follow along, and don’t let anyone else start talking to you during a song! Yes, it sounds obvious again, but it is very easy to be distracted and miss the cue. When a song is on you have one job- keep the slides coming at the rate the congregation needs to sing. As a usually reliable guide, where the slide transitions are fast, click onto the next one once the congregation have started singing the last word on the current slide. You singing along again will help that (you can do so quietly not to freak out the sound guys).

5. Pray!

I usually pray when starting to prepare the schedule.

6. A bonus tip! When setting up Scripture verses make sure the Bible version is the NIV!

Easy to forget but also distracting if the reader is using NIV and you’ve put the HSBC up.



Hunter Bible Church's 5 Top Tips for Magnification Team Success!

Strings: Brea Ryan

1. Be prepared for key changes.

The band leader may change their mind about the key on the day and it's helpful for them if we can help this change happen easily. Ways you can do this include knowing your key signatures, knowing the instrumental your playing well enough that you can put it into another key. If you struggle to do it by ear, have the sheet music and a pen ready.

2. Play confidently and loud.

This will help the quality of your sound and tone. It'll also help you have more body movement and expression, which is helpful for the congregation. If you're too loud through the mike the sound desk guys will turn you down.

3. No music stand is preferable.

It's better if you know the music off by heart so you can focus more on how what you're playing fits into the band.

4. Be aware of the harmonies

Other band members are playing around you. You don't want to clash with them.

If you have enough time, it can great to work out what you can play in the instrumental with other musicians involved. Then you can come up with a more interesting instrumental.

5. Sing if you can while playing, definitely when you're not playing anything.

Even just knowing the words is helpful for you to know

6. Bonus Tip! Listen to the arrangements that your band leader sends out.

If there's a melody or harmony you can hear on that track that you think you could play, have a crack at learning it and have a go on the day.