I awoke this morning thinking about the cool vibe we had onstage for the worship set in church yesterday. I was playing electric and–alongside the normal drums, bass and keys–we added a banjo and a mandolin to compliment the worship leader’s acoustic guitar.
It’s great to work with twenty-somethings because I (a fifty-something) get to crawl into the heads of young musicians to lean how they view the musical world. The cool thing is, there is a back-to-tradition musical trend these days that is very refreshing. The inspiration for the instrumentation yesterday were the Avett Brothers. The musical twist on the normal worship song set was very inspiring for us musicians, and hopefully for the congregation.
With the digital world we are living in, there are advantages and disadvantages. One disadvantage is it’s easy to duplicate real musical instruments through digital sampling ( a great tool in the right hands). The results of creating a digital facsimile of an analog instrument helps various, somewhat unattainable, musical flavors to be instantly available to the the song creator. He or she can roll through a virtual smorgasbord of sounds to access a bagpipe or a penny whistle for a Celtic-styled song, for instance, all triggered through a midi keyboard. Another disadvantage: just anyone can set-up a recording studio these days in one’s bedroom with a computer. The digital opportunities we are blessed with, though, are no substitute for real musicians playing real instruments, and skilled music-makers creating recordings with old-school discipline.
The actual Hammond organ with a Leslie 145 rotating speaker, mic’d in stereo, really created a warm bed for the acoustic instruments to lay in yesterday. The drummer was keen to play with brushes and blasticks to create a rolling rhythm without dominating and overpowering the dynamics. I played my Les Paul with a bit of tremolo and little distortion to add to the low-key vibe. The musical instincts of each musician helped the arrangements to ebb and flow. The knowledge of when to play and when not to play was evident amongst everyone Sunday. The total effect of sensitive, skilled players and singers was, far and away, superior to what any novice may attempt to duplicate with scads of virtual sounds and unlimited tracks at their disposal.
Great music is created by great musicians and singers–and it’s usually advantageous to have those musicians playing together, looking at each other in the same space. For that, there is no substitute. I look forward to many more of these experiences in the future.