Archives For Music

I’ve been acquainted with Shannon Lewis for quite a while on Twitter and when I found out that he and his wife had released an EP of original music I was quite excited about it.  But, me being the procrastinator I tend to be, I didn’t get around to buying the recording.  However, after reviewing Joe Day’s Grace Shannon contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to do a review and of course I said yes!  Listening to Shannon and Cyle’s music has been a pleasure, and I’m so glad to be privileged to write a review.

The first thing that I have to get out of the way is that I’m finally beginning to do some of my own recording and I must say, it is NOT EASY.  So, I have new appreciation for recording artists and while I can share my opinion about things, the very fact that anyone even CAN make a recording that’s good enough to listen to gives them more credibility than me!  So, I’m very thankful to offer my humble opinion, and hopefully, soon, I’ll be able to review with a little more actual recording experience under my belt.  I digress – on to the review!

While Shannon is a worship leader and these are “worship” songs (insert your own definition of whatever that’s really supposed to mean), I find this EP unique in the fact that it is the only one in my collection that PREPARES me for worship.  Most other “worship” albums cause me to immediately jump into vertical (me-to-God) worship without much preparation at all.  Of course, if I’ve been diligent to be in the Word before a time of worship it’s much easier to jump right in, but after listening to this album a few times I started to realize that sometimes making a musical, face-first dive right into a worship album might not be the right way to go.

This fantastic EP features a sound that is truly the sound of Saint Lewis, as I have a hard time comparing it to anyone (and that’s a good thing!).  Driving guitars, soaring vocals from Shannon, lovely support from his wife, and creative instrumentation and loops make this a wonderful listen.

Shannon starts the record off with a proclamation and reminder that “All in all it’s been all about You.” This track sets the tone for the rest of the recording, that it is indeed, all about the Father’s love and not about what we can “say about” His love.

“Rejoice in Me,” the next track shifts the listener deeper into preparation by having the Father speak to the listener directly.  I’ve found myself singing “If you Rejoice in me, then I will give you all you need” over and over many times!  I love the line, “Life and death, your eternal breath, it’s all wrapped it within me.”

We are again helped to prepare for worship with “Wandering Heart” a passionate cry to “bring my wandering heart to Yours,” further reminding the listener and worshiper to refocus on the first love of their faith.  Also LOVE the groove of the bass line on this track.

“Quiet heart,” a very creative “ambient” track on the recording seems to me like it is the summary of the whole recording.  The delicate vocals, soothing instrumentation, and child-like proclamation of Scripture at the end make this the perfect piece of music to prepare for worship.  I love the Common Children/Hammock-esque feel of this piece.

The theme of a father’s love continues with “Fly,” a lovely prayer for a growing child with some unique ways of incorporating the sounds of new life into a forever-recorded piece of art that the child can appreciate for the rest of his life.  Fitting perfectly into the heart of the Father’s love that had already been captured in “Rejoice in Me” and “Quiet Heart,” I can hear both Shannon and his wife singing to their child as well as our own Heavenly Father singing the song to me.

“You Came Running,” the beginning of a response time after the listener has had a great time of preparation, is a very fresh take on the prodigal story with soaring guitar lines and a great vocal hook in the chorus.

The last two tracks, “Call me to Live” and “Coming Kingdom” are both great prayers as well as really good showcases of Shannon’s talent as a singer and musician.  I love the power of Shannon’s vocals on “Call me to Live” and the contrasting simplicity of just having vocals and guitar in “Coming Kingdom.”  This last track also gives a perfect finish to the overall use of the album to prepare us for worship.  The new way in which the Lord’s Prayer is interpreted brings fresh inspiration for Jesus’ call to us of “This then, is how you should pray.”

The only things I find difficult with this album (and these are minor things, for sure) is that it tends to get slightly repetitive in a few of the choruses.  I also don’t find that most of this album would be easy to incorporate into corporate worship.  But, as I’ve already mentioned, no other album that I’ve heard does the job of preparing me for a time of worship as this one.

I highly recommend this recording.  You can purchase it through iTunes, directly from Shannon’s site, and for the rest of January 2011, download 3 songs from it (plus an extra) for free through NoiseTrade!

We’ve already looked at the general structure of a lead sheet as well as building basic chords.  I wanted to take some time to say hi through video and show you how helpful inversions can be while playing from a lead sheet.  Take a look at the video above for a closeup look.  

(By the way, this is my first attempt at video and I don’t have amazing equipment yet.  If anyone wants to donate a FlipHD to a worthy cause of making more videos like this, I’d be most grateful! :-) )

The lead sheet I used in this video is Jesus, Thank You from Sovereign Grace music and can be downloaded for free here

Previously we learned how to look at the key signature, rhythm, and structure of a lead sheet.  This time we’ll take some time learning how to build chords and understand chord names within a lead sheet.  Take a look at the video to learn how (email readers, you’ll need to visit I am an Offering to view the video).

I’m beginning to build a page full of helpful sheet music that you can feel free to download and use.  The common chords and inversions sheet music can be found there.

What are some common struggles you have faced when learning to read and play from a lead sheet?

The lead sheet I used in this video is Jesus, Thank You from Sovereign Grace music and can be downloaded for free here.

I run into many musicians who are classically trained and aren’t sure how to read lead sheets. I wanted to post a series of videos that teaches you the basics of reading lead sheets as well as learning how to play the chords written on them.

Check out the video below (Email readers, you’ll need to visit I am an Offering to see the video.)

The lead sheet I used in this video is Jesus, Thank You from Sovereign Grace music and can be downloaded for free here.

Guitar, piano, and sheet music

If you play piano for worship you’ve probably been in one (or both) of these situations.  Your worship leader or band leader has asked you to play “up an octave” so that you don’t “fight with the guitar” or you’ve been asked not to use your left hand at all if there’s a bass player or other low instrument playing with you.  I’ve been on both sides of this situation (telling piano players these very things and being reminded of them myself as I play under the direction of a different worship leader) and wanted to break down the “why” of why this is important.

More Players, More Need for Clarity

Typically when playing piano, someone is used to having free reign of where each hand plays on the keys.  Each hand works together and doesn’t play “on top of” each other.  Imagine if you added a third hand to your piano playing.  Where would it go?  Would you put it in the exact same spot as what your right hand is doing?  Your left hand?  Besides being the only person on the planet with a third hand, which would be awkward (well, maybe a little amazing, but probably more awkward), it would be even more awkward to try and put two hands in the same spot on the keys and expect something that sounds clean to come out.  When another instrument is added to the mix and the piano player plays in the same octave range as that instrument, the pianist is essentially playing what amounts to both hands in one place on the keys.  The sound of the two instruments has begun fighting to be heard clearly.

Think of the Orchestra

People who write and arrange music for an orchestra must be thinking about how to blend and balance instruments in this way all the time, only on a much larger scale.  They must think about how to let the low strings be heard over the low brass, how to keep the whole brass section from overpowering the woodwind section, or when the flute or oboe should cut through the rest of the instruments to be heard clearly.  Essentially worship teams, and members of the worship team, must learn to do this same thing every time they are “arranging” music, only on a smaller scale.

Use the Whole Keyboard or Fretboard

Instead of feeling picked on as a piano player, realize that you have an opportunity to be a musical servant.  It’s much easier for a pianist to play up higher on the keyboard or not play the left hand at all than for guitar players to learn new chord shapes or for bass players to play melody lines.  The pianist has command of 88 keys and has the privilege of learning how to play them in a way that the guitar, bass guitar, and piano can all be heard clearly.

If you’re a guitarist, learn the different chord shapes that lend themselves to playing in a higher position on the fretboard (this is one area that I’ve committed myself to improving as a guitar player myself).  The pianist can then play in the middle of the keyboard where they’re used to playing. Learn to become a humble servant to both your fellow musicians and the music in order to create a much more clear and less muddied sound that draws attention to the lyrics instead of the music.

Does what I’ve written make sense?  How can you apply it to playing along with a vocalist or playing during prayer?

(photo by angelocesare on Flickr)