1556268_10153789419835182_246928123_o
One Year Blog Challenge

Four Steps To Creativity

1796074_716569895050515_1965713772_o

One of my passions in the church and as a general rule is that we learn how to get creative well. Too often we settle for less when God deserves our best. It starts with this statement: we need to be learners. Here are four steps that I believe are crucial to learning how to be creative:

Step 1 – Inspiration

Of course, in order to progress in any creative field, we need to be inspired to do so. I was inspired to learn the guitar by the shellbacked acoustic my step-brother left in the living room of my dad’s house once, combined with a Green Day song called “Time of Your Life”. Two creative geniuses back in England, Andy White and Lee Rowbotham inspired me to learn about graphic design because I wanted to replicate the amazing work they were creating. I learnt how to record music because I was inspired by some more friends: David Cottee and James Hosker. Whether it’s a song, a friend, an ambition or a frustration, we need to be inspired!

Step 2 – Imitatation

Regardless of the creative avenue you long to explore, I’ve found that one of the best things you can do is copy those that are ahead of you.

Shamelessly.

The idea is not to publish it and breach various copyright laws and so on; but rather to dissect and analyse the work of someone with more experience than you. Writers – study an excerpt of an author you admire – why do they choose those words? Designers – note the fonts, spacing and the use of colour in a design you love. Songwriters – what effect does that octave jump in the melody have on the song, why did they use the chord progression that they did and how does that impact the song? How does the electric guitar fit with the keyboard in the arrangement?

…I could go on.

Dissecting a piece of work is like lifting up the bonnet (hood for my north American friends) of a car and taking a look at its inner workings. We can reverse-engineer it, learn what makes it tick and in doing so, try and understand what steps to take to recreate it ourselves (at this point, recreating the piece is basically a game of ‘spot the difference’ between your work and theirs).

An example for me personally was in my guitar playing a few years ago. I just couldn’t understand why, when I played the same notes that the members of Hillsong United played on guitar, it sounded totally different. I spent hours trawling the cyber-space until I learnt about some of the effects they used to get their ‘sound’. It was then a case of researching, practicing and experimenting until I could understand how they achieved the tones they did. Another musician I studied lots was John Mayer – to me, he’s the best guitar player in the world, so I would learn his songs as note-perfectly as I could to try and understand the theoretical concepts that underpin his style.

 Step 3 – Implementation

The next step in this process is to take the concepts that you like and apply it in your own creative space. For example, as a designer you may spot that the background of your chosen study piece isn’t simply a block of colour – rather, it gets darker around the outside. This is called a ‘vignette’. Where appropriate, this technique can be distilled from a larger piece of work and applied to your own future work.

Going back to my guitar example, I learnt a huge amount about how different sounds create different feels. Emulating other bands helped me to learn about what sounds my guitar was capable of so that when we came to write our own songs, I had a larger toolkit at my disposal. For example, there is a particular electric guitar part that comes up again and again in 6m-4-1-5 progressions. No, you don’t need to know what that means. The same is true of the chord inversions that John Mayer frequently uses. 

Step 4 – Imagination

With a toolkit filled with the techniques used by the people that inspire you, now is the time to put your own creative stamp on whatever it is you’re interested in. This could be a time to deviate from previous models, tweak, mould and pull together various ideas to create a rather more beautiful Frankenstein’s monster of creativity with your name on it. Or perhaps it’s a time to break new ground, to try something previously unseen or unheard of – but this is a well-informed and deliberate choice rather than an unaware and unwitting one.

In the last year or two, I’ve finally feel that I’ve created a sound that I’m comfortable with as a guitarist – a sound that’s ‘me’, and not a cookie-cutter imitation of another. When asked, I usually find it easiest to describe it as the middle ground between John Mayer and Hillsong United but in truth, there are far more influences than that. Shapes or positions on the fret board, pedal uses and sounds and various other techniques have collected over time. This is certainly the hardest step and be under no illusion – it takes time. I’ve been playing guitar for eleven years and am only just finding my own sound! It may be quicker for you; it may even be longer!

Originality is our ultimate destination, but please don’t take that to mean that you should ignore the mountains of fantastic work that has gone before you. Learn from the people that have paved the way for you!

Uncategorized

A Canadian Update

2014 has been quite a whirlwind. Nine months ago, I was in the midst of planning New Year’s Resolutions for a precarious trajectory that was due to shatter at any moment. However, God knew that and there were other plans afoot. I last posted on this page from Singapore following a life changing three-months of theological training. The memories linger but time, as ever, marches inexorably forward. Following a month back in England and a week celebrating the marriage of two of my closest friends in Lithuania, I arrived in Canada to study at Millar College of the Bible. This is my home now – at least until April. Who knows what the future holds after that?

So, given the prolonged nature of my stay here and following a number of requests, I thought I’d send out a brief update as to where I am, what I’m doing etc. If you find this boring, I don’t blame you. Scroll to the bottom and there’s a video that might be a little more interesting…but only a little.

The School

Almost all the students live on the stunning campus, facing a gorgeous lake and next to Mount Bastion. There’s an indoor gymnasium, outdoor football pitch, volleyball and basketball courts and various places to relax which is fantastic – though when the cold weather sets in the students probably won’t use them so much. As for my room, I’m sharing with three other guys – each of us have a bunk with a desk underneath (where I’m currently sitting) and the bathroom is attached.

I’m a ‘freshman’ in the school of around sixty students. My weekday routine usually involves waking at 5:45 and after showering, studying for an hour before breakfast which, with every other meal, is served in the campus dining hall. Lectures begin at 08:00 and finish at 12:30, with a brief break for chapel at 10:00. So far, we’ve covered ‘Bible Overview’, ‘Essentials of Discipleship’, ‘Written Communication’, ‘An Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels’ and ‘The Torah’. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, though much time is taken up with assignments and required reading. This is partly because I have two Open University modules (one in marketing and one in introductory Mandarin Chinese) starting at the weekend so I want to cover as much as possible before that! The teaching is phenomenal, as is the wider staff in general. It’s a fantastic school to be a part of.

The Outdoors

As well as the aforementioned outdoor opportunities, we also have the privilege of being able to grab a kayak or canoe whenever we want and take to the lake, which is by far been one of my favourite things to do. A few weeks ago a group of us crossed the lake and back, which took us about two hours. I loved every second!

One of the optional modules I signed up for was ‘Outdoor Edge’, a class that incorporates theology with the outdoors. As part of that course, we’ve been able to go rock-climbing, waterfall traversing and last weekend we went on a mandatory camping trip to Clearwater Falls. Although it was incredibly tiring (and very cold), the scenery made it totally worth it. Also, the men managed to fit thirteen guys in a ten-man tent, which, believe me, is no small achievement!

The Worship Team

Having been almost six months since I finished my job at Kerith Community Church, it’s also been that long since I served regularly in a worship team context. Although I had the opportunity to lead at a conference in England as well as the Kerith youth camp, I’ve been itching to serve in a regular capacity again. I’m hugely grateful to be on one of the chapel teams at Millar, as well as getting the opportunity to serve in a music director capacity for ‘Emmaus’, a team put together with the intention of doing external ministry. For my long-term followers and friends, you’ll understand how excited I am for this opportunity as it reminds me of the Ethos era that holds such a prominent place in my heart. I’m serving as a keyboard player for both teams, which I’m sure will amuse my friends back home – but I get to play with my techno-geekery so I’m extremely pleased with this opportunity!

Other News

As with Singapore, I feel settled remarkably quickly. One of the most amazing things about the global church is the sense of community wherever you go and that has certainly hugely blessed me. Of course, I miss my family and friends, but I feel totally confident that I am exactly where God wants me to be for this time. I’m currently making plans for the breaks – the first in October and of course, Christmas. I’m not 100% sure what I will do but I’m sure it’ll be an adventure!

Finally, thank you so much for all of your messages and encouragements over the last month. I hugely appreciate hearing from you and although the time difference is a bit of a nightmare, it really means a lot.

I will be posting video updates at periodic intervals, but because of the level of routine and the fact that I have only left campus five times in three weeks, there is simply not enough to post every week! For now, I hope you enjoy this second video update! Thanks again,

Dave

Uncategorized

Leaving the Singapore Ward

Technically, I’m an actor.

Yeah, that’s right. I got into the business a long time ago – in fact, I have to be honest with you. I think it was purely for my looks.

As a premature twin, my brother and I were very small babies. Leaving the comfort of the space we’d been renting (our contract ran out, or something like that…it was a little cramped for two of us anyway – very cheap though and free food), we found ourselves spending the first few days getting to know this new world by being stared at in special incubators. Excuse me if my memory is a little hazy on this, but I believe this is where we got our big break. I don’t remember how, but somehow but we ended up butt-naked at the end of what I can now tell you was an extremely mediocre movie. Not that I cared. I was still adjusting to the light; still getting used to the feel of the air around me; still a long way from figuring out what on earth was going on.

Ok, so that was as far as my acting career got. Now I’m twenty-five and I’ve just finished a three-month stay in Singapore to attend the School of Supernatural Ministry (SSM). During this time, we studied who God desires us to be, how He is at work today and how to step out in faith with the gifts God has placed in us. I’m a few hours from flying back to England and that picture of me as a baby keeps coming back to me. Why?

When I was nineteen, I had an encounter that prompted me to choose to follow Jesus for the rest of my life. That decision is one that I have not regretted, even for a single moment. The Bible says that I became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); that I was born again. Although that may be true, in some senses I feel like I didn’t leave the womb immediately. I’d inadvertently stumbled into Kerith Community Church in the search of friendship, and I found Jesus. Or rather, he found me. I adored the community and passion for God at that church and my very first moments as a new creation were amongst the people that formed this particular expression of faith. Kerith Community Church nurtured both me as a person and my relationship with Jesus to such an extent that I will never truly be able to express my gratitude. They were the womb in which this new life was able to grow, protected and supported. They were my harbour; but as a wonderful lady prophesied over me a few years ago, ‘a ship is not meant for the harbour, it’s meant for the high seas.’

Kerith Community Church is a phenomenal place that I do miss considerably (and am super excited about returning to for a few weeks), but it seems that God didn’t intend for me to be there forever. In April, I left the Kerith womb and just as in my first moments in this world, I found myself heading for the incubator: The School of Supernatural Ministry.

To me, it is very apt to describe SSM in this way. At Kerith, I was protected and nurtured and when I left, the school didn’t seek to undo anything that had been done or un-teach anything that had been taught. Rather, as an incubator continues the growth process, so did they. I have gained a much deeper understanding of God and of his Word, the Bible. My faith for breakthroughs, miracles and powerful encounters with God has never been higher. My confidence in the things of the supernatural – of healing, prophecy and words of knowledge to name a few – has increased more than I could have imagined and what’s more, I feel fully assured of who I am in Jesus.

In this incubator I am not alone. I have been hugely inspired by phenomenal staff and teachers, pushed and encouraged by the best classmates I could have hoped for and blessed by countless others along the way. As I prepare to be reassigned to a Canadian incubator in September, I know that there are friendships and bonds here that will not be easily broken. I do not say that lightly or flippantly! It really was simply that impactful a time.

In this incubator I have been exposed to a totally new culture and fallen just as totally in love with it. Singapore is a wonderful country that I am reluctant to leave. Morten T. Kelsey said that ‘The church is not a museum for saints but a hospitable for sinners’, and I believe that right now, I’m simply moving to a different ward. I have the privilege of studying more about Jesus over the next year but I do believe that at some point in this indiscernible future we are perpetually striding towards, I’ll come back to the Singapore ward to help in the wonderful work that is happening here. What an exciting thought.

It’s been an incredible adventure and one that I wouldn’t change for the world. I’m so grateful to everyone that has made this time learning about the King of Kings so powerful. Thank you.

Besides, I would’ve made a terrible actor so probably best that that ship sailed without me!

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Thoughts On Untold Beauty

In the last year I’ve had the immense privilege of seeing some of the most beautiful places on earth. From the sprawling skyscrapers of Singapore to the awe-inspiring Alps in Europe and Rockies in Canada. I’ve witnessed the majesty of both the Taj Mahal in India and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Then of course, there’s Albania and Estonia; two of my favourite nations…and others besides. It’s been an honour.

I know what you’re thinking; and yes, this is a boastful post – but not because I’ve been able to travel. The single thread that connects every single one of these places is the wonder of our creative God. So often I’ve been dumbfounded by the intricacy and splendour of his glorious creation that I can do very little else other than fix these overwhelmed eyes on the Master Craftsman. The One who moulded the mountains with his own hands, caused every blade of grass to push up from the soil, set the waves in motion  and inspired the placement of every single brick by human hands. When I look at the beauty of the world, all I see is the Designer. I can’t help but boast in him!

Over the last few days, I’ve been drawn to this verse in the Bible:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn among creation. For by him, all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

- Colossians 1:15-16

Of course, the passage is talking about Jesus, but as I focussed on this verse, I realised something that’s as obvious as it is astounding: God created the visible and the invisible! So often, I am almost moved to tears by the phenomenon that is the earth – the physical, visible realm. I can do little else but worship upon seeing such beauty – and yet it’s only part of the wonder of our God! How much more untold beauty is hidden from our eyes?!

For some reason, something else I keep thinking about is the iconic scene from one of my favourite childhood movies, ‘Hook’, in which Robin Williams (as Peter Pan) can’t see the food that everyone else is eating. It’s not until he engages his imagination that he’s able to see the outrageous feast before him. As Christians, one of our mandates is to bring the magnificence of Heaven from the supernatural realm into the natural – the more we allow ourselves to be open to the work the Holy Spirit, the more we will begin to become aware of the unfathomable beauty of Heaven. The invisible will become more and more visible – and the world will never look the same! What a wonderful thought!

One of the privileges of studying at this incredible school in Singapore is that I have had the opportunity to experience what was previously invisible to me. I can’t wait to experience more!

 

Furka Pass, Switzerland

Furka Pass, Switzerland

Taj Mahal, India

Taj Mahal, India

Taj Mahal, India

Taj Mahal, India

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul

The Rockies, Canada

The Rockies, Canada

IMG_0328

Marina Bay, Singapore

 

One Year Blog Challenge, Uncategorized

Thank You Kerith Community Church

In two days, I’ll be flying to Singapore where I’ll have the privilege of being able to focus on studying. I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity, but naturally a little sad to be leaving the church that I’ve called home for the last six years. I’ve given my all for this local church – for this small expression of the global movement in which God is doing some truly spectacular things. God, indeed, is not dead. Someone asked me why I was so ‘into’ the church the other day and I think all I can do in response to that question is highlight, purely selfishly, what Kerith Community Church has done for me as a person in the last six years:

I am a better friend

 

I have experienced true friendship in a way that I’m not sure I ever had before.  My friends love me for who I am, not what I can offer them; they’ve taught me to do the same. My friends go the extra mile to show me encouragement, support, loyalty and patience even when I don’t deserve it; they’re teaching me to do the same. They’ve taught me that no one is fundamentally bad; rather, they are simply good people who make mistakes sometimes. I used to have a deep mistrust in people. My friends have shown me that people are worth taking a chance on.

 I am more skilled

 

I arrived as a musician. I’ve learnt so much about recording, graphic design, leadership, teaching, video editing, touring, songwriting, theology, communication and many more skills besides.

 I will be a better husband

 

I’ve learnt so much about how to relate to people; in particular, how to build a loving, honouring, trusting relationship. There are so many couples in our church whose relationships totally inspire me. As a result of my time as Kerith and the stunning examples around me, I will be ten times the man I would have been for my future wife. That’s genuinely life-changing!

I will be a better parent

 

When I first came to Kerith, I was thoroughly uninterested in working with anyone under the age of 16. Working with Ethos, the youth band at the time was a stretch. Working with Revolution, the even younger youth band was a struggle. Every rehearsal for weeks, I’d leave with a headache. Slowly, I began to feel a real passion for young people – the opportunity to contribute to a young person realizing the immense potential that is inside each and every one of them is a staggeringly exciting prospect that I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about now if I tried!

In the earlier years at Kerith, I also tried my hand at babysitting –

I figured I’d have to get good at looking after children at some point! I distinctly remember people laughing at me about it; they just couldn’t imagine me with children. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with every age group at church and got to lead the 5-11s group a number of times…I love it! In fact, on the day I return from Singapore I’ll be heading straight to the ‘New Wine’ conference to lead worship for hundreds of 3 and 4 year olds. What a shift!

In fact, one of the most heart-warming moments of the last few weeks was saying goodbye to two of the children who ran up to me and gave me a big hug. How cute is that?! I couldn’t imagine looking after children/young people before I came to Kerith – now I’m really looking forward to having my own (although I must admit that I’m not in any great hurry)! I’m so grateful to Kerith for all I’ve learnt about parenting from the incredible opportunities and countless brilliant parents that have taught me so much.

 I am a Christian

 

Of course, I am so grateful to Kerith for providing the environment in which I could encounter God for the first time. I was a pretty staunch atheist when I first set foot inside the Kerith Centre. Slowly, I began to realise that God was not as ridiculous a concept as I had thought it to be. Believing in God didn’t mean renouncing science and better yet, I could have a personal relationship with him. I chose to follow Jesus in 2008 and since then, he has thoroughly transformed me from the inside out. I am grateful that He leads and directs me, comforts and sustains me. I am proud to say that God is all I need and as I start this new season of adventures, it is solely in pursuit of Him, nothing more.

How could I not be passionate about a place that has been so influential to the last six years of my life? For every person that has impacted my time at Kerith, whether great or small, thank you so much. I really will never forget it!

1796074_716569895050515_1965713772_o 1477643_10154028010320182_3587380614755505300_n 602010_10153128592810182_1518296495_n 708482_10152454526670182_521489009_o IMG_1588

(P.S. If you’ve never been to Kerith Community Church before, I thoroughly recommend going along on a Sunday to take a look. You’ll be so welcomed! Click here for Kerith’s website)

Uncategorized

Life-Changing

Hi everyone,

Aside from two posts on acoustic guitar and music theory, I haven’t written much on here for a while; to be honest, I think I was pretty exhausted after writing a blog post every day for a year, so it has been nice to take a bit of a break! But I’ve not been idle. In fact, some of the biggest changes my life has ever seen will take place in the coming months – I’d like to share with you a little about what’s happening. The easiest way to do that is to quote from my ‘GoFundMe’ page (which I’ll explain a little more shortly):

The Past and the Present

My name is Dave Betts. In 2008, shortly after a powerful encounter with God, I started volunteering for a fantastic church in Bracknell, England…Kerith Community Church. After a year, I was given the position of Music Director and after two years of volunteering, I was able to work as part of the paid staff team.

It’s been an immense privilege; I’ve had the opportunity to play, write, arrange, record and teach music with an incredible team of adults and young people both in the UK and overseas, as well as working in recent months with the graphic design team. I’ve learnt an awful lot, both humbled and hugely grateful for such a brilliant five years. Unfortunately, however, I was made redundant with four other staff members in January. This is due to financial issues and whilst I’m naturally disappointed, I truly believe that Simon and the Eldership team at Kerith have made the best decision for the good of the church in the long term. I finish working in mid-April.

The Future 

I was on a ministry trip in Canada with Michael and Esther Ross-Watson when I received the news, which turned out to be a real blessing as I had lots of time to think, talk and pray about what would be next. I believe that even today God speaks to us and while I was away, I believe God spoke very clearly about the direction He wants to take me in. I believe He wants me to spend some time studying the Bible, in order that I would be more effective for Him. I began serving in ministry so quickly after choosing to follow Jesus that I very much had to learn as I went. After five brilliant years as Kerith, I believe studying at a Bible college is the next step for me.

God has already opened doors in astounding ways; providing all the finances, accommodation, flights and living expenses for a short course at the School of Supernatural Ministry in Singapore from May to July.

I’ve applied for a Bible College in Canada that I spent some time in while with Michael and Esther. It was an exciting place that I have no doubt will stretch and grow me in new ways.

It’s all go! I finish working at Kerith on the 11th April and fly to Singapore on the 2nd May. After a month back in England in the Summer I’ll catch a one-way flight to Canada where, if everything goes to plan, I’ll stay.  But who knows what God has in store!
I’ve been working pretty hard to get everything in order before I leave; from ensuring that I’ve done all I can to support the guys at Kerith (in particular, Revolution) to systematically selling anything that I don’t need anymore, it’s been a busy time. There are few things I’d love to share with you in particular though:

 

GoFundMe

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to go to Canada without God seriously breaking in. Fortunately, I truly believe that he will! GoFundMe is a place where, should you feel an urge to support me in any way you can financially, you can. I would be unbelievably grateful, but as I’ve said before, I trust God to provide so please don’t feel any pressure!

 

YouTube / Soundcloud

I took a few days off a couple of weeks ago to film some YouTube tutorials on music theory and how to play the guitar. It was an intense week but I managed to film over 50 tutorials covering everything from the very, very basics of guitar to some much more advanced principles such as the CAGED system. My plan is to release two videos a week for the majority of the year! There are also some new songs that I’ve written both for church and secular – the latter I got to write with Marija Kamarauskaite, one of my closest friends which was a real privilege. I’ve also put a ton of compositions up onto Soundcloud too – see the links below.
Why am I doing this? Well, I’ve had the immense privilege of meeting many people from many churches around the world who have asked for help with learning to play the guitar and traditionally haven’t been able to help them. By recording these tutorials, it means that I can teach people from wherever I am in the world – including those guys in Revolution. One of my greatest passions is that they continue to do as well as they are doing. However, it’s also just a great place to be able to showcase what I’ve been up to over the last few years; an  ‘online CV’ of sorts.
It would really help me if, should you so desire, you could subscribe to my YouTube or Soundcloud channels:

 

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/bettsdav

 

SOUNDCLOUD: http://www.soundcloud.com/davidcbetts

 

SO. That’s all that’s going on in my life right now. I plan to use this blog as a journal over the next year as I explore this totally new and exciting season. As ever, I’d love for you to join me along the way! I’ll leave you with a video of one of the songs that Marija and I wrote last week:
 
Uncategorized

How to Nail Acoustic Guitar in Less Than Three Months

Learning to play the guitar is much easier than people think it is.

Yes, I said it. Of course, there are seriously advanced techniques and skills to be acquired, but it is one of the simplest instruments there is to get to a basic competence level. By using the information below in tandem with my previous post on music theory, I believe you could play along with at least 90% of contemporary music today. Maybe you won’t be shredding those crazy solos yet but if you’re looking for a starting point, this is it.

Step 1 – Learn Some Music Theory

Music Theory is not ‘sexy’. I get it, you’re one of the 100,000 beginner guitarists I’ve heard trying to play that Metallica solo or that AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses and even John Mayer line before you understand the basic principles surrounding the construction of music. Steady now, young padawan. First, you should understand the force before you can use it…and never, ever wear a top hat. You are not Slash.

I recently wrote a post that covered all of what I would consider the basic principles of music theory – these are particularly relevant in a church setting, but they are useful for many other settings too. I strongly suggest that you read, bookmark, practice, read again and keep coming back to that post until you really understand it. Whilst it doesn’t cover improvisation for solos and so on, it will build strong foundations that will help make it much easier in the future. For now, we’re sticking to being rhythm guitarists anyway.

Step 2 – Learn the Note Names of the E and A Strings

For total beginners, you may have noticed that there are six strings on your guitar. From the lowest sounding string to the highest sounding string, the notes progress as follows: E  A  D  G  B  E. It is often written on guitar tablature (a form of notation using numbers and often abbreviated to ‘TAB’ – find out more here) as follows:

E

B

G

D

A

E

Learning the note names from fret 0 to fret 12 (exactly an octave higher than fret 0) on the E and the A string is often overlooked, but vitally important exercise. The knowledge of these strings will enable you to play almost any song in any key with only a handful of chords under your belt. We’ll look more at this later.

What’s more, by knowing the note names of the E and the A string, you can very easily learn the note names of every other string. Skip this part if you aren’t interested (as it’s not relevant to acoustic guitarists just yet) or already know about this.

Every note name on the guitar with ease:

D string

Same as the E string when played two frets higher. Eg, E fret 3 is G. D fret 5 is also G.

G string

Same as the A string when played two frets higher. Eg, A fret 3 is C. G fret 5 is also C.

B string

Same as the A string when played two frets lower. Eg. A fret 3 is C. B fret 1 is also C.

High E string is obviously the same as low E. It should however be mentioned that whilst these are they same notes on the various strings, they are not always the same octave.

 

Step 3 – Nine Chords to Rule Them All

 If you’ve looked at the music theory notes I mentioned earlier, you’ll know all about keys and the Nashville system. If so, great. If not, don’t worry about it just yet – this part will still be useful but won’t be as useful without that knowledge.

As acoustic guitarists, I personally believe that G and C are the most important keys to learn initially. These keys will allow you to play any song in any key once you’ve learnt the fourth and final step. The links between the two keys mean that there are only nine chords to learn to get going, which makes things much more simple. Start by learning these open chords:

G  Am  Bm  C  D  Dm  Em  F  F#m

I’m not going to tell you how. Between YouTube and Google, I’m sure you can figure it out! Otherwise, this post would be huge! Don’t tell me it will take you more than two months to learn nine chords!!

Step 4 – Get Capo Capable

 

trigger-guitar-capo-1 

This is a capo.

It’s going to be your best friend while you start out. In fact, I’ve been playing guitar for twelve years and it’s still my best friend. Maybe I need more friends.

Essentially, a capo can raise the entire pitch of the guitar so that wherever you place it becomes the new fret 0This is where your music theory knowledge comes into play…and where all of a sudden, playing guitar gets a whole lot easier.

Our chords in the key of C are:

1    2m   3m     4    5     6m    7m

C    Dm    Em    F    G    Am    Bm

Our chords in the key of G are:

1      2m     3m    4    5     6m    7m

G    Am    Bm    C    D    Em    F#m

*The astute among you will know that chord 7m is technically a diminished chord, but for the sake of ease, we’ll avoid that for now.

Well, this is fine if we’re playing in the key of C or G – we have everything we need. But what if a song is in E? How can we play this song without having to learn a load of new chords? Simply, by following this process.

Using a capo to play in a different key

When we play a G in the key of G, fret 3 on the E string is our root note ( a ‘G’).

When we play a C in the key of C, fret 3 on the A string is our root note. (a ‘C’)

Step 1 – Choose starting chord, move the chord shape to the desired root note

In this example, our G chord shape rests on a G root note on the E string. By moving the whole shape up the fretboard (G#, A, A#, B) we find that the root note of our G chord shape becomes a B at fret 7.

Note: this wouldn’t work in the key of C for this example, as you can only raise the pitch (not lower it) to use a capo.

Step 2 – Place the capo 4 frets lower

If we were to play the chord as it was, it would sound pretty awful. This is because of the open strings. Instead, by placing a capo three frets lower, the chord begins to sound as it should.

Note: think of it as ‘current fret – 3 frets’. In this case:

fret 7-3 = capo on fret 4.

Step 3 – Play in the key of G or C

In this case, we are playing in the key of G. However, although chord 1 is still ‘G’ as far as what we play, the chord that is produced is actually a B. Likewise, chord 2m is still played as an Am, but the chord that is produced is actually a C#m.

This is very easy with the Nashville system as you never look at specific chords – you simply place a capo and play the song as if it was always in G. However, it is good practice to learn the theory as it is very likely that you will be given a chord sheet with the original chords in and have to transpose on the fly. Be prepared to do this!

A few examples for good measure

 The same principle applies to the key of C, only using the A string as our reference point (‘ahhhhh, I hear you say’). Let’s look at a few examples using these steps:

Example 1 – Song in the key of E

Step 1

We would technically use a capo for both G and C, but C wouldn’t be quite so high, which is probably a good thing. We’re not playing the mandolin.

By taking our C shape and moving it up the fretboard (C# D D# E) we find that the root note of our C shape becomes an E at fret 7.

Step 2

Fret 7-3 = capo on fret 4

Step 3

Now when we play the song in the key of C, it will actually sound like the key of E. Perfect!

Example 2 – Song in the key of F#

Step 1

We wouldn’t be able to go high enough to play in the key of G, so we must use the key of C.

By taking our C shape and moving it up the fretboard (C# D D# E F F#) we find that the root note of our C shape becomes an F# at fret 9.

Step 2

Fret 9-3 = capo on fret 6

Step 3

Now when we play the song in the key of C, it will actually sound like the key of F#. Fantastic!

  

Example 2 – Song in the key of D

 Step 1

We could actually play in both C or G here; at this point it becomes personal preference. Perhaps there is another acoustic guitar player lower down the fretboard, so I’m going to choose to go higher up. G it is.

By taking our G shape and moving it up the fretboard (G# A A# B C C# D) we find that the root note of our G shape becomes a D at fret 10.

Step 2

Fret 10-3 = capo on fret 7

Step 3

Now when we play the song in the key of G, it will actually sound like the key of D. Glorious!

 

Now to Practice!

 This post, combined with the previous post on music theory should be enough to help you go from total beginner to being competent in a large number of settings. This is by no means exhaustive – you will need to look at strumming, finger-picking and other such aspects on playing the guitar yourself. My intention is not to tell you everything you need to know in one sitting – rather, to equip you with enough skills to be able to play along with (even at a basic level) with almost any of your favourite music. Music is an art, an enjoyable hobby and a gift that should never become a chore. I strongly believe in practice routines, scales and technical development, but only if there is an outlet to truly enjoy what you’re doing too.

I hope that this benefits you; I’d love to hear from you if it does! All the best.

Uncategorized

Basic Music Theory for Worship Teams

I have to tell you, I’m a bit of a nerd for music theory. I love it. Or more accurately, I love what it enables you to do as a musician. Over the years I’ve taught a fair few people the basics of music theory and I think I’ve found a process that works. However, that’s usually on a one-to-one basis. I’ve tried to balance the line between comprehensive and simplistic the best I can, in a hope that someone will learn from the information below. Be prepared. It’s a big post, and I’m fully expecting that those who are interested will read this much more than once. If you aren’t interested in learning about music theory, this post really isn’t for you. Sorry to get your hopes up! I hope you find this useful:

“What key is this song in?”

That question. Possibly the question I am most frequently asked when in rehearsals. In fairness, it’s not unreasonable. Talking about this question can be both extremely simple and quite complex, so I’m going to talk about it in three parts. The first part will talk about why we find it so difficult in a modern worship context to understand what key a song is in, as well as provide a brief history as how this problem arose in the first place. The second part is the simple solution to working out what key a song is in. Skip to part two if you’re not interested in the history part. Part three builds a little more theory into the answer, which will help with more complex songs and hopefully, your general knowledge of music theory.

Part One – The Problem

In the 11th century, a monk called Guido Monaco (known as Guido of Arezzo) literally changed the way we look at music. After inventing an ingenious method of singing modes and scales (called the ‘sol-fa system’, which many vocalists will be familiar with), he devised a method of notating pitches on a stave. A single red line indicated an ‘f’, with the letter itself resting at the beginning of the line – the first ever clef. A few hundred years of development led to the first flat key signatures during the medieval period; finally evolving in the 17th century into the key signatures all classical musicians are familiar with today. These key signatures, perched on the stave at the beginning of any piece of music, instantly states the key of the song. So why is it that I’m asked this question so often?

For a number of reasons, stave notation is not quite so dominant in popular music as it is in classical music:

  • Pop songs are much shorter than classical pieces; condensed in order to accommodate the waning attention spans of a commercially all-important radio audience. The decrease in length greatly simplifies the task of memorising songs, so in many cases, stave notation is not quite so vital to the performer.
  • The performers themselves can also be of widely varying levels in terms of their theoretical knowledge; in fact, some of the world’s greatest known pop and rock stars have little to no knowledge of music theory and play entirely by ear. Notable examples include the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, a hugely influential ‘grunge’ band of the early 1990s, and Chris Martin of Coldplay, one of the biggest-selling bands of the last decade. As a result, they haven’t needed to rely on music notation to compose music in quite the same way.
  • A classical orchestra can use up to a hundred different instruments at any point. It would be impossible to communicate all the different parts and dynamics quickly. In contrast, a generic pop/rock band has between three and seven instruments with very different ranges and roles, making it much easier to arrange.
  • Pop songs are more simple and repetitive. The nature of a standard pop song’s arrangement is that it generally depends a lot more on the use of entire chords on a single instrument than in classical instrument. Therefore, notation can be simplified to basic ‘chord charts’ – charts that simply quickly state the chords and the point at which they are to be played rather than individual melody lines.

What about worship teams?

This brings us into a worship context. A worship team is almost always entirely reliant on volunteers, with musicians of varying standards and theoretical knowledge, playing shorter songs in comparatively small bands. Consequently, the need for traditional stave notation is not as essential as it once was. A chord chart can easily be all that’s required, but often doesn’t indicate the key of a song (although, increasingly we have begun to indicate the key of the song at the bottom of our chord charts at Kerith Community Church).

So assuming we only use chord charts in whatever context we are in, how do we quickly work out the key of a song? 

Part Two – The Solution

Most songs (particularly worship songs) only use diatonic chords; that is, chords from the key. There are seven chords in each major key, with chord one indicated the root of the key. These facts only apply to diatonic chords, but they are simple enough:

1. There are three major chords in any major key. Chord one (I), chord four (IV) and chord five (V).

2. As chord IV and V are next to each other in the alphabet, chord I is the chord furthest from any other major chords.

Example 1

The title song from the Kerith Worship CD, ‘Magnanimous‘, uses the following chords in the entire song (not all in the same order):

Em  C  G  D

1. The three major chords in the song are C, G and D.

2. C and D are next to each other in the alphabet.

3. Therefore, the song is in the key of G.

Example 2

Another Kerith Worship song, ‘This is Love‘, uses a few more chords, but the principle is the same:

Am Bb  C  C/E  Dm  F

1. The three major chords in this song are Bb, C and F. Don’t be confused with the C/E chord – it is called a ‘slash chord’, and just a different way of playing a C chord; if in doubt, look at the left note and ignore the right note.

2. Bb and C are next to other in the alphabet (ignore flats and sharps when looking at the letters).

3. Therefore, the song is in the key of F.

A common misconception is that you can work out the key of a song by simply looking at the first chord used in the song. Whilst it is true that many songs establish the key of the song by using chord I as a starting chord, this is not always the case and is very risky!

Part Three – The Explanation

At its most basic, the key of a song tells us the scale that is being used; indicating both the starting point (or root note) and the series of tones and semitones that follow. For example, the C major scale is as follows:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

As you can see from the keyboard pictured below, between a the majority of the notes are black notes. These are the . As there is only a semitone between E & F and B & C, it is not possible to add a smaller interval between them, so there are no black notes.

763

Therefore, the formula for a major scale is as follows:

T  T  S  T  T  T  S

T = Tone

S = Semitone

When inserted into our C major scale, it looks like this:

C (T) D (T) E (S) F (T) G (T) A (T) B (S) C

Using our knowledge of tones and semitones, we can create a major scale from any starting note. The process is as follows:

1. Decide which key you need to work out.

2. Write out all the note letters in order.

3. Using the formula, add any sharps or flats.

Example 1

1. We’re going to work out which notes are in the G major scale.

2. G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

3. G to A is a tone, as it should be.

A to B is a tone, as it should be.

B to C is a semitone, as it should be.

C to D is a tone, as it should be.

D to E is a tone, as it should be.

E to F is a semitone, but it should be a tone. Therefore, we sharpen it, or raise it a semitone to F#.

F# to G is a semitone, as it should be.

So our G major scale is G  A  B  C  D  E  F#  G.

Example 2

1. We’re going to work out which notes are in the F major scale.

2. F  G  A  B  C  D  E  F

3. F to G is a tone, as it should be.

G to A is a tone, as it should be.

A to B is a tone, but according to the formula, it should be a semitone. Therefore, we flatten it, or lower it a semitone to Bb.

Bb to C is a tone, as it should be.

C to D is a tone, as it should be.

D to E is a tone, as it should be.

E to F is a semitone, as it should be.

So our F major scale is F  G  A  Bb  C  D  E  F.

Number Time

As well as describing scales by their letters, we can describe them by their degrees. The C major scale looks like this:

1   2  3  4   5  6   7   8

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

So, in the key of C, F is the 4th degree of the scale, B is the 7th and so on.

Chords

Once we know how to build scales, we can begin to build chords. A chord is a group of (usually) three or more different notes sounded together. The most commonly used of all chords is the triad, consisting of three notes (‘tri’ meaning three). There are many types of triads, but the most frequently used are the major and minor triads. The first note of the chord is called the root note – this is the note that gives the chord its name, and is usually (but not always) the lowest note of the chord. From there, we add the 3rd note and the 5th note from the root. For example, in the key of C:

If C is our root note, E would be our 3rd note and G would be our 5th. Therefore, our chord would contain the notes C, E and G.

If D is our root note, F would be our 3rd note and A would be our 5th. Therefore, our chord would contain the notes D, F and A.

The process continues until you have seven chords (look vertically):

G  A  B  C  D  E  F  G

E  F  G  A  B  C  D  E

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C  (notice that the notes are ‘stacked’ on top of each other)

1  2   3  4   5   6  7   1

As you can see, all major and minor triads have the same basis – Root, 3rd, 5th. But if you hear a major triad and then a minor triad, you would instantly hear that they sound very different. Whilst a major triad sounds happy, a minor triad has a much sadder tone to it. Why is that?

The 3rd

The fundamental difference between a major and minor triad is in the 3rd. Returning to our keyboard picture, let’s take the following chords:

G            E

E            C

C   and   A

If C is ‘1’, the number of semitones (or half steps) between C and E is 5.

If A is ‘1’, the number of semitones (or half steps) between A and C is 4.

That difference of a semitone is pivotal to the entire chord. Consequently, a 3rd that is five semitones from the root is called a ‘major 3rd interval’, while a 3rd that is only four semitones from the root is called a ‘minor 3rd interval’.

So in the key of C, the chord with A as its root is a minor chord. Therefore, we call it ‘A minor’ (or ‘Am’ for short). However, major chords are simply referred to by their letter (eg. C).

In the key of C, our chords are as follows:

C  Dm  Em   F   G  Am  Bm

1      2     3      4   5    6     7

(Note: Chord 7, Bm, is slightly more complicated, but we’ll worry about that another time)

This order of chords is actually the same for any key:

Major  Minor  Minor  Major  Major  Minor  Minor

Another way of writing this is by using Roman numerals; upper case indicates major chords and lower case indicates minor chords, but it is by no means the only way:

I          ii          iii          IV          V          vi          vii

1         2m     3m         4           5         6m        7m

Maj   min    min       Maj      Maj       min        min

The benefit of using this method is that we get used to seeing the chord number as well, so it is easy to write chord progressions that can be quickly moved to any key.

Example

Take the example of ‘Magnanimous’ used earlier. The majority of the song uses this chord progression:

Em C  G  D

Using the method we looked at earlier, we can tell that the song is in the key of G, as C and D are next to each other. Using the G major scale, we can work out all the chords in the key:

1. Write the scale:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F#

1. Use the following formula:

1     2m  3m  4    5    6m  7m

G     A     B    C    D      E     F#

1. Add the minor symbols to the lower case chords:

1     2m   3m    4   5   6m    7m

G   Am   Bm    C  D   Em   F#m

Here are all the chords from the key.

We can also tell that, using the Nashville number system, the chord progression is:

6m 4 1 5

We can use this information to easily transfer the chord progression into any other key. This is called ‘Transposition’.

In time, you will start to recognise chord progressions in certain keys. Many chord progressions are repeated in literally hundreds of songs.

To Conclude

This is by no means an exhaustive lesson in music theory – simply a whistle-stop tour of what I believe is all the essential information for the average worship team member to serve comfortably in most settings. To repeat my comments at the beginning, I’d expect that this wouldn’t suddenly enlighten you after simply one read. This stuff takes practice. My hope is that you can return to this post whenever you want to refresh or improve your understanding of music theory until it becomes second nature. Then you can progress way beyond this stuff to the really quirky stuff!! I’d love to hear any comments, revisions or thoughts on this – is this helpful?

(apologies for the poor formatting, I blame WordPress)

Uncategorized

Why Children’s Workers Need To Man Up

Let’s start with something that I feel is little bit of an elephant in the room…

I’m a man. I love children. I hate that for many people (in my generation at least), that gives rise to all sorts of sordid connotations. Far too many times have people made sarcastic, hurtful jokes when I mention that I’m serving in the children’s ministry or that I thoroughly enjoy working with children. The problem is, I used to make the same kinds of comments once too! Is that why there are so few male children’s workers?

Time to man up

In the church I get to serve in, we have some phenomenal female children’s workers, creating a supportive, nurturing, loving environment for well over a hundred children each week. In fact more broadly, I’ve met many exceptional women who do outstanding work with children; until I was eleven, all of my teachers (bar one for around three months), were female. I’m hugely grateful for the quality of teaching I received. Women are nailing children’s work, but I strongly believe that men need to step up to the plate. Whilst there are some outstanding men in our church children’s work, there are simply not enough men supporting the growth and development of children in our society.

I guess I’m talking most to the males in my generation. The male students and those in their early-twenties who are somewhat understandably in hot pursuit of fame, fortune and/or success. I earn a living as a musician; I have to admit I sort of know what it feels like to want those things. But I have never been more convinced in the power and influence of one of the ‘grown-ups’ showing children how special they are – that they matter.  We’re called as Christians to serve the needy, and who could deny that children are in need of passionate, strong adult role models of both genders? Jesus even highlights the importance of children in Mark 10:13-16:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

A call to arms

This is a call to arms for men. Ok, those arms might be plastic swords and foam footballs – possibly even shaving cream and a silly hat (see pictures below) – but the children of this world need more positive male influences.  The Department for Education has ‘found overwhelming evidence that children’s life chances are most heavily predicated on their development in the first five years of life.’  Shouldn’t we be a part of this crucial stage in whatever way we can?!

Click here for an interesting video I found on the subject

IMG_3760

Getting ‘gunged’ in our church kids work. Costume not my own

708482_10152454526670182_521489009_o

Hanging out with Meg while her mum worked next to us

IMG_2965

Naomi (and her Dad) Skyped me so she could show me what she’d learnt on guitar. So cute!

602010_10153128592810182_1518296495_n

Chilling with the Partingtons

IMG_3733

I spent a few great months living with Meg’s family

All photos used with the parent’s permission.