training

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Life As an AG Student

    by Serene Lim, Songwriting Student

    I didn’t know quite what to expect as I began the process of relocating back to Singapore after having lived away for more than five years. Some of the questions going through my mind were: What godly communities could I be a part of? Could I do anything about my music skills this season? What is Father God doing in Singapore and the region?

    I certainly hadn’t heard of AG while overseas. When I returned, two sisters separately shared a link to AG with me. As I pored through the AG website and watched video snippets of who and what AG was about, I felt something or Someone tug my heartstrings.

    Allow me to share three thoughts as I reflect on my journey as an AG student.

    Excellent Craftsmen

    Speaking of hunger – supper after AG with classmates discussing chord formations!

    I am both humbled and impressed by the quality of the curriculum taught at AG. Our year-long course has been interlaced with solid technical skills training, suited to various types of learning, offering plenty of space for self-discovery and expression.

    We are privileged to be taught by a group of high-calibre Mentors and guests who are successful in their careers, not holding back with sharing the highlights and ‘lowlights’ of their own journey. I’ve been touched by their hearts for God, the nations, and for us students.

    Servant Leaders

    A goofy moment with our Songwriting Mentors!

    The AG core team and Student Mentors are a truly special group. It seems like each of them was finely curated and handpicked to lead here. They teach, impart, and impact with authority and humility. And we never forget to have fun in the process; that’s important for all of us who live down-to-earth, and yet are also heaven-dwellers!

    Our leaders and Mentors have exceptionally well-honed music skills, reminding me of Proverbs 22:29: “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men.” It is however, never primarily about the technical skills in AG, although we are not ashamed to say we pursue Excellence with every ounce in us. It is always, first about the condition of our hearts. This combination of heart and hands is rare and highly attractive.

    Dream Big

    Walking out our destiny together.

    Destiny is the theme of the AG’s 2018 cohort. By saying yes to God and AG, I feel like I have taken more steps into my God-given destiny. One phrase that has been etched in my heart: ‘Songs have the power to transform nations’. As we dare to believe in the goodness of our Father God to release through us – His little ones – new songs and new sounds, unique in the ways He has formed us, He will absolutely do more than we can ask or imagine.

    I also see all my classmates creating ripples and waves in their own spheres as the River of Life flows through us. I cherish the friendships formed amongst us, in the midst of all the joy and laughter, tears and fears. As we encourage and cheer one another on, these relationships have transcended church lines, age groups, family backgrounds, and all other differences.

    I’ve counted the cost of being a part of AG – the weekly commitment and commute after a hectic day’s work, school fees, stepping out of my comfort zone in ways more than one, the frustrations in the midst of sharpening my craft… But it has all been absolutely worth it, hands down.

    We graduate from AG in a month’s time. I was surprised to feel like I already miss my year in AG, looking back on it with much fondness.

    Week after week, we end class with our musical brain and spirit filled to the brim. I often feel there is a release of creativity and courage in our craft. We leave inspired to grow to be the very best in who we are as sons and daughters of God, and in what we do as worshippers and songwriters.

    I end with this: Sow and invest into the musical gifts God has placed in you. As we walk with the AG community, we are growing and maturing into fullness together, as a family!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • The Metronome: Blessing Or Curse?

    by Caleb Kay

    The metronome (sometimes referred to as a ‘click’)  is an often-disused piece of equipment in worship teams, and sentiments toward it run the gamut from mere disregard to extreme disdain.

    Ten years ago, I was asked to play the drums with a click, because the opening song of a special service needed to be in sync with a video. I struggled and gave lots of excuses reasons why it couldn’t be done. I’m sure some will be familiar to readers:

    • It’s so rigid!
    • It’s distracting or hard to follow.
    • I can’t worship with it (and don’t you know that’s the most important?).

    But over the last ten years, I’ve grown to learn how to play with it, and even how to appreciate the significance of its role in worship music. As with everything in life, there’s a learning curve, but I’ve grown to enjoy it, and have discovered three benefits to using it in a band setting.

    1. It’s an objective foundation.

    Ever had that experience where your band rehearses a song and at the end, someone goes, “Hmm that felt draggy,” and someone else says, “No, it was too fast”? How easily swayed we can sometimes be!

    The advantage of having a metronome is that you can always set it to the speed of the original song that the team is referencing. If the worship leader wants adjustments, tweak it from there.

    We don’t have to rigidly follow the original without budging, but at least having the click makes it objective, and not subject to feelings – unlike how I might play anywhere from 2 to 5 BPM slower after a heavy dinner.

    2. It’s a foundation that frees.

    In my early years of using the click in a worship band setting, I found it so hard to play freely because I was so focused on following its timing. But there was a day when we went into spontaneous worship, and in our debrief after the set, all the musicians remarked that the click had “disappeared”!

    It was really still playing, but what actually happened was that, as we all got better at following the click, it ‘disappeared’ because we were playing precisely in time. It takes practice, but eventually, your internal clock gets better at playing at a constant tempo.

    It might seem counterintuitive, but having the click eventually liberates your team to express yourselves; because you’re less focused on keeping time with each other, the metronome becomes a solid foundation for your band to express more creatively – together!

    (A question that might come up: “Don’t the band and all the singers need to be able to hear the click? What if not everyone hears it?” In such cases, the metronome can still be used as a guide for what tempo to start the song in, at the very least. It should also be used in personal practice time, when you’re working out your own instrument or vocal parts at home.)

    3. Craft and heart go hand in hand.

    “It doesn’t matter if I can’t play or sing in time; what’s most important is my heart! I simply can’t worship with the click so take it away!”

    I think that this may be the cry of every worship musician at some point of our journey (myself included), but we must understand that as musicians on platforms leading others in worship, our craft is just as much a part of our worship as our hearts’ postures. They are not mutually exclusive. As a congregation member, it is easier to follow the leadership of a worship band that plays in time, rather than one that doesn’t.

    So keep stewarding that heart of worship, because it starts from a heart that loves Jesus. But get better at your craft, too, because that expression is the overflow of what’s within, and to grow in it is to better serve the communities we lead in worship.

    It takes humility to honestly assess ourselves – perhaps our craft has not caught up with our heart – and take steps to ensure both are growing in tandem.

    I hope this article inspires you to not only consider using the metronome in your teams, but also hone yourselves to become better musicians. I can safely say I’ve seen the hard-earned fruit when teams collectively work towards improving their craft, specifically in the area of timekeeping. Strive towards greater excellence – because Jesus is worthy of that!

    AG is excited to share that we are kicking off a pilot Drums Stream for our 2019 cohort, and it is now open for applications. If you’d like to apply or find out more, do email [email protected]!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Spiritual Family: What Does It Look Like?

    by Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong

    From the beginning of humanity, God showed that His design of Family was something special. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of Adam and Eve and they enjoyed His presence. There was no shame, nothing to hide, and in fact, were without clothes! They were completely vulnerable.

    But because of sin, a separation occurred. The natural instinct of Man since then has been to cover ourselves up; to protect and defend ourselves. However, in God’s original design of Family, there was no need to be ashamed of anything – because He is a God of covering.

    When Adam and Eve sinned, it was because they chose not to trust God when He instructed them to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Instead, they chose to listen to another voice. They did not believe that God did not mean them harm, nor that He knows and wants the best for them. They didn’t have a Family mindset.

    But God fights for Family.  He could have chosen to wash His hands off of humanity and restart creation. But ‘He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.’ (Phil 1:6) In order for sin to not have a hold on mankind, the spilling of the blood of an animal was required as atonement. He then spilled the blood of His Son Jesus to permanently reconcile all of humanity to Himself. He is a God who covers. He calls us Family, and He values Family.

    We all need a spiritual family – a community of people who genuinely love and care for us, who point out the veggie leaves in our teeth (literally and figuratively), and who are unafraid to say what’s needed to see us step into our destinies. Here are 4 truths about building healthy relationships within a culture of family that I learnt from my friend, Victoria Jeffs from Day2 International. These points sum up how we can relate to each other in a healthy way and display God’s original idea of Family to our brothers and sisters in Christ:

    1. “I mean you no harm.” It means you only have good intentions for your family members – to see them prosper and succeed. It means wanting to bless them and to be a key part of a their lives. When they’re convinced of this, they become more honest and vulnerable, and more willing to allow you a place of influence in their lives.
    2. “What matters to you matters to me.” There are important things that we are all after. Ask yourself: How can I as a family member help guide and build you so you can fulfil your purposes and dreams? Each of us has different needs. However, though we try to do what’s humanly possible for them, we don’t try to become the Holy Spirit – for it is God who actually makes the change and transformation in their lives.

    3. “I only want what’s best for you.” It means seeing the gold in someone, instead of stumbling over their shortcomings. It’s about looking out for each other. There’s no competition within Family – it’s about helping each other climb our ladders, to be the best that we can be.

    4. “It must pass the test of seasons.” How can we build a relationship with someone unless we’re willing to spend time with them, be vulnerable, or willing to invest in them? Doing all that takes time, patience, understanding, and grace. Seasons involve ups and downs, and Family lasts regardless of them.

    We all make mistakes. That’s why God in His grace covers our lack. Likewise, that’s the example we must follow. Let’s all ask: Do we cover each other despite our failings, or do we openly reprimand and shame? Do we pray for each other, or cast judgmental looks and express disgust in subtle ways? May we grow in love and be living testimonies who rightly display God’s original design of Family.

    Many thanks to Day2 International for the 4 Truths. Do visit their website at www.findyourday2.org!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • 3 Keys To Better Church Sound

    by Caleb Chan

    This wasn’t an easy article to come up with. When I was asked by the team to write this, I felt it was tough to narrow everything down into pointers that were concise, yet informative and applicable.

    Here are some things (technical and practical) to think about as you plan for growth for yourself or your ministry team!

    Clarity

    This should be a no-brainer! One of the most important factors in a good mix is clarity. Our congregation needs to be able to clearly hear what is spoken, sung, and played on stage. We have to ensure that anything communicated is done so with as few hindrances as possible!

    Surprisingly, I still find that many churches face the issue of muffled or boomy vocals, especially during sermons (and quite a number of them seem to have accepted this as the norm).

    Sound Tip!
    Remove what you don’t want! If your sound is muffled, there are frequencies responsible for that. So before you go ahead and boost the high frequencies hoping to bring out the clarity, remove the lower frequencies that are muffling your sound!

    Balance

    When you cook or bake, the ingredients used are usually measured out in order to achieve a certain combination – or balance – of flavours. Too much of one flavour can throw off an entire dish.

    Similarly, when we talk about mixing in sound, balance is vital. Too much of an instrument or too little of the song leader throws the mix out of balance.

    I talk about 2 types of balances whenever I teach/train: Volume Balance and Frequency Balance.

    Volume balance does not mean every instrument and singer is set to the same volume. Good volume balance is ensuring that what needs to be heard can be heard.

    For example: The songleader needs to be most prominently heard in a mix (even if the electric guitarist is playing an amazing, face-melting riff).

    Frequency balance is about creating balance along the entire frequency spectrum; Low-Mid-High. Again, this may differ from church to church, and even between services within a church.

    For example: A youth service may require (or perhaps, ‘desire’) more heart-pumping low frequencies, but this wouldn’t work in a more conservative or traditional service.

    Sound Tip!
    Music has dynamics and is always ‘moving’; it takes listeners on a journey. Therefore, your balance should always be ‘moving’ with the band. If you like to just set initial levels and leave them, I highly encourage and challenge you to take it a step further – start moving the faders together with your band!

    Awareness

    Awareness is not something commonly talked about, especially in the context of sound. However, it is something that really sets good sound operators apart!

    Even if you’re able to EQ a mic to sound amazing, but unable to un-mute it in time for when the Pastor picks it up and speaks into it, you already risk causing a distraction, even if just a tiny one.

    Another common scenario is when the band or a musician on stage has an issue and is frantically trying to get our attention. But our eyes are buried deep in the mixer, or worse – we’re not even there!

    As sound crew, it’s key that we do our utmost to ensure the service runs smoothly and seamlessly in the area of sound. Yes, sounding good is important, but so is ensuring mics and instruments are muted and un-muted at the right time.

    Some areas to prepare:

    • When will the service anchor / Pastor come up on stage (either to open the service or takeover from the band)?
    • Which mic will the pastor be using (especially if your church has multiple wireless mics)?
    • Will any of your musicians be connecting/disconnecting their instruments?
    • Is there going to be a video played that requires audio?

    Sound Tip!
    Yes, there may be lots to keep a lookout for, on top of having to focus on mixing, and yes, there may be unforeseen and sudden appearances on stage that may catch you unawares. If these are some of your concerns, work in pairs! Have more than one pair of eyes (and sometimes ears). There are many roles besides mixing, such as passing the right mics to the right people, or having someone position themselves near the stage, ready to assist the band. Some things to think about!


    Click here for more information and to apply to our Sound Stream, where students will immerse themselves in a practical course focused on developing their technical ability and training their ears to achieve an effective sound unique to their church. Students can expect to grow in their understanding of how the effective use of a technical area like sound can greatly affect, build, and enhance the atmosphere of worship.

    Click here for more information on our Sound Training Packages, specifically catered for churches who want to invest in the training of their Sound & Audio Teams for their worship services. Our Sound Consultant will train and mentor your sound teams to grow in their technical and practical knowledge of creating ideal environments for the worship context.