Sunday, February 20, 2011

Liturgy and Hymnody Review

Musicademy. Improvisation Skills for Orchestral Instruments in Worship. Chorleywood, Hertsfordshire, UK: Musicademy, 2009. Three video DVDs. $77.99. (LH)

Musicademy. Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar Course. Chorleywood, Hertsfordshire, UK: Musicademy, 2009. Three video DVDs. $77.99. (LH)

I began playing guitar in 1982, learning trumpet in 1985, doing serious vocal solos in high school, attempting piano while at Seminary, and have since tried my hand at 12-string guitar, and violin. And I still find it strange I didn't declare a Major or minor in music. I'm always looking for ways to improve my playing and singing.
We were surprised and pleased to learn about video music lessons out of the UK from Musicademy. You can see some brief samples of two courses below thanks to Musicademy on Vimeo.

The first course is designed for trumpet, sax, flute, clarinet, etc.

I have found two kinds of musicians: those who love to stick with the printed music and those who love to improvise. Both can benefit from this course.
This 3-DVD course is designed for any single melody instrument wanting to play by ear and improvise in contemporary worship. Perfect for woodwind, brass and stringed instruments.
Adapt your classical skills to play by ear in worship without the music!
You will learn how to:
  • Use your knowledge of keys, scales and arpeggios to create improvised parts
  • Play notes that fit in both major and minor keys without sheet music
  • Blend with other instruments without set parts
  • Work out sharps and flats in any key using a foolproof method
  • Use chord tones as the basis of playing by ear
  • Create effective harmonies and new melody lines
  • Develop tasteful playing using melodic hooks phrasing and dynamics
  • Improvise using auxiliary, added and passing notes
  • Use the Nashville numbering system to transpose by ear
Applied using songs How Great is Our God, Forever, In Christ Alone, Happy Day, Faithful One, God of Justice and the hymn Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus. Suitable for all ability levels.
Plus daily practice backing tracks with on screen chord charts.
Six hours of lessons, tips and backing tracks on three DVDs .
Plus tips from Brenton Brown, Tim Hughes, Martin Neal, Chris Bowater, Noel Robinson, Tommy Walker, Noel Richards, Tre Sheppard, Aaron Keyes, Stu G (Delirious). (publisher's website)
Among the six hours of video, musicians will learn something new. Yes, there is a contemporary music bias, but liturgical musicians who most frequently play hymns or liturgical canticles can benefit from this review of musical theory, additional ear training, and extra practice.

I recommend Improvisation Skills for Orchestral Instruments in Worship for composers in training. It is a lot to expect of a musician to feel their way through a largely new song and play something that sounds good while playing in a confident manner. Improvisation and composition/harmonization are parts of the same process. A composer will do on paper ahead-of-time what musicians will learn here to do on-the-fly.

Regular readers of QBR will hear "In Christ Alone" as well as the melody for "Thy Strong Word" as practice hymns. As I write, this resource is now half price.

I would recommend clearer and more convenient downloads (perhaps booklets) from the publisher's website. I hope for additional courses from Musicademy for Orchestral Instruments.

The contemporary/charismatic perspective on these two courses will be noted by Lutheran viewers. Playing doesn't have to be termed "prophetic" to be appropriate for worship. We can thank God for natural musical gifts and give glory to Him by practicing, sharing, and improving our talents. A true heart for worship is given by God Himself (Psalm 51).

Up next, acoustic guitar.

Musicademy Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar DVD trailer from Musicademy on Vimeo.

This is not a beginner course. This is a course for acoustic guitarists who would like do do more than hum and strum. Musicademy also offers Song Learner courses and a Beginning course in addition to electric/acoustic guitar courses. 

Since I began with Alfred, I've had to learn more musical vocabulary for guitar. Do you know what an A9 or A2 is? Lift your first finger on an A minor. It sounds really neat to add the ninth or second to the A chord. How about slash chords like C/E? No, you don't get to pick between an C or an E. Play a traditional three-finger C chord. Then, add the open low E string. Now you have a C chord with an E root note.
Perfect for acoustic worship guitarists who want to take their playing to the next level. A years worth of lessons, tricks and techniques. 7 hours of instruction on 3 DVDs plus animated graphics, close up shots tips from worship leaders. You will learn:
  • Over 60 new substitute chord shapes in keys G,C,D,A,E and B
  • How to build strumming patterns around the groove + 35 usable patterns
  • 18 finger style and 30 strumming technique ideas
  • Play barre chords without the pain!
  • Find four different capo positions for all 12 keys
  • 10 licks in the style of James Taylor, John Mayer and John Martyn
  • 12 unique exercises to help you master Travis picking – great for hymns!
  • Tricks for playing any open chord in B without barre chords or capo!
  • Use 10ths & 6ths to play alternative acoustic chord voicings up the neck
  • Use ‘5’ and add9 chords for power and beauty
  • Understand Nashville numbering to transpose easily into any key
Plus daily practice backing tracks, how to use high strung and baritone guitars in worship and an acoustic guitar buyers guide. (publisher's website)
Personally, I had to take my time with this one. There is just so much new here. Strumming and licks are fine, but since I chiefly play hymns, modern hymns, and liturgical canticles on my guitars, the new substitute chord shapes in a variety of keys were the most helpful.

The theology of worship presented here leaves some to be desired, but I learned much to try on guitar even for use in a traditional, liturgical setting with hymns.

Lutheran viewers will find much to ignore on the interviews. Stuart Townend gave one of the most helpful interviews due to his background as the son of a minister and his own experience in varied worship settings. The focus must remain on Christ, not us.

Yes, Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar is worth your time and trouble. I downloaded the jpg files of the alternate chords. It made me hope for a companion booklet pdf files on a future second edition set of this course.

These two video courses from Musicademy are worth the time invested in viewing and practicing. They are adaptable to our context in the LCMS and using historic hymns and liturgies. As the Presbyterians have reminded this Lutheran, "You don't have to see a musician to hear them" or sing along. I sit in the transept near the organ and piano when acoustic guitar accompanies chapel for our school. Our brass players are usually placed there for Christmas, Easter, and other Sundays. Typically, our violinist, guitarist, and choirs play from the rear choir loft. We don't have a stage and don't play to an audience. Congregation and musicians alike face cross and altar as the worshiping Body of Christ, gathered by Him to receive His gifts and offer our sacrifice of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
There is nothing better than an in-person music teacher, but the new electronic world can bless us with unheard-of opportunities. I had my first Skype lesson with a Lutheran guitarist in Ohio last Friday. And now I can review the lessons Intermediate Acoustic Worship Guitar and Improvization Skills for Orchestral Instruments in Worship as often as I want and share what I've learned with our congregation's musicians, as well as those in the Wyoming District LCMS.

I would love to see the Singing and Keyboard courses from Musicademy for consideration in a future review. In addition, I encourage them to offer resources that cover additional historic hymns and even some liturgical settings from the rich heritage of English music and even that of the Church of England. How would acoustic guitar, piano, and orchestral instruments work in a 21st Century setting of Evensong?

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.