Wednesday, July 6, 2011

New Blog!

Hey everyone,

I'm moving my attention to a new blog that I'm starting with my wife, Hannah. We'll be blogging about marriage, parenting, useful tech, and other fun stuff.

We hope you'll join us at Happily Ever After I Do.

I may still post here but if it's been a while since the last update, check the new blog for more recent posts!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dream No Small Dreams...

Today's blog actually started as a guest post for my new job at Growing Leaders. You can check it out at the Growing Leaders blog or just keep reading below!

“Dream no small dreams for they stir not the hearts of men”
I first came across this quote in a high school English class. It captured my attention that day and honestly, it’s never let me go. In the years since, I’ve posted it in various formats and locations from post-it notes to computer screensavers to index cards next to my bathroom mirror. Any time an ambitious new project comes up I find myself returning to this quote for inspiration and challenge.

Before joining the team at Growing Leaders, I worked directly with students on a daily basis. One student meeting centered around this quote proved to be the springboard for some incredible ideas that transformed our organization. After writing the quote across the top of a whiteboard and introducing the idea of dreaming big, I followed it up with a clarifying question: “If resources (time, money and people) were not an obstacle, what would we do?”

A lively discussion broke out as these students grabbed dry erase makers and began to fill the whiteboard with dreams outside the normal confines of “how it’s always been done.” Giving them permission to provide direction for the future of our organization moved their hearts and called them to action. While we didn’t use every idea generated that day (you should end up with some crazy ideas if you do this right!), the most influential idea that emerged was to give students a bigger stake in leading our organization.

Over the next few years, we implemented this idea with tremendous success. We found that as we cultivated leaders and gave them opportunities to lead, everyone benefitted. It all began with a dream and the desire to do something significant.

Another interpretation of this quote (Goethe originally wrote in German) states, “Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” A small change for sure but how often do we really consider the power that dreams have to move the hearts of those around us? It’s amazing what can be accomplished once hearts are in motion.

As a leader, one of the most powerful things you can do is unleash the ability to dream in those you lead.

How can you create opportunities for those you lead to dream big?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jake Sumner
Digital Engagement Coordinator
Growing Leaders

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sufjan Stevens at the Tabernacle - 11/6/10

 The first time I saw Sufjan Stevens was in August, 2005 at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I had fallen in love with his music several years earlier through listening to the "Seven Swans" and "Michigan" albums. When "Illinois" was released it was so different from his earlier stuff but so magical. I was excited to see that show but really curious how he was going to pull off all that elaborate instrumentation during a live set. Well, he and his band of Illinoisemakers did not disappoint that night and did an amazing job creating a live experience that managed to transcended the greatness of an already incredible album.

I went into Saturday night's show with many of the same questions. I'd listened to "The Age of Adz" several times over the last few weeks. Again, it's material that is so different from his early work yet still retains the uniquely Sufjan sound. I read up on the background for the new album and honestly was pretty confused about the whole deal.

The concert was completely different from what I expected but I loved it even more than I imagined I would. I never thought I'd see a Sufjan show break out into a dance party but that's exactly what happened. The shy, introverted singer-songwriter from just a few years ago has been replaced by a dancing, neon-accessory-wearing, captivating performer. Whereas a few years ago, Sufjan seemed almost reluctant to sing and speak into the mic, he now owns the performance. Elements that could seem contrived or gimmicky like the costumes or auto-tuned vocals had a deliberate, confident usage that led an odd sense of authenticity to such things.

The visuals were absolutely captivating. They were adapted from the works of Royal Robertson. This excerpt from Sufjan's bandcamp page gives a little background:

The Age of Adz refers to the Apocalyptic art of Royal Robertson (1930 –1997), a black Louisiana-based sign-maker (and self-proclaimed prophet) who suffered from schizophrenia, and whose work depicts the artist’s vivid dreams and visions of space aliens, futuristic automobiles, eccentric monsters, and signs of the Last Judgment, all cloaked in a confusing psychobabble of biblical prophecy, numerology, Nordic mythology and comic book jargon. Portions of the album use Robertson’s work as a springboard into a cosmic consciousness in which basic instincts are transposed on a tableau of extraordinary scenes of divine wrath, environmental catastrophe, and personal loss. In Robertson’s imagination, guns, lasers, gargoyles, and warring battleships upend the sins of mankind with the pageantry of a Hollywood B-movie. (A selection of Robertson’s work adds extraordinary color to the album art as well).

But Robertson was also a man of mundane circumstances (his primary media were poster board, magic marker, and glitter). Living alone in a trailer in near poverty, even his most fantastical work contains heart-wrenching references to hunger, fatigue, anxiety, food stamps, loneliness and the desire for intimacy, scripted with unabashedly affectionate grievances. In the same way, Sufjan sets his imagination on the splendor of high places (divine revelation, oracles, love, the cosmos, the Apocalypse) rending his heart in the mire of loneliness, self-doubt, or panic, while his body urges for the ordinary touch of a lover, a brother, or a friend.

 If you're a Sufjan fan or not, it's worth checking out the new "Age of Adz" album. I definitely appreciate it more after seeing the live show.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Waffle House Made My Wildest Dreams Come True!

I just got home from the most amazing night at Waffle House! We took the whole family up there to check out a rumor we'd heard that they were passing out something with mine and Mavis' picture on it. At first I thought maybe it was some sort of local promotion. I would never have guessed what the real story was!

Here's the deal: this week is Waffle House's 55th Anniversary. As part of the celebration, they have created a pin for all their employees to wear and given them a few extra to hand out to their favorite customers. Here's a pic of the card that the pin comes attached to:

I had no idea this was going to happen! About a year ago, I went to the Waffle House website and signed up for the Waffle House Regulars Club. There is a section of the site where they feature stories from other regulars. They had a place where you can enter your own Waffle House story and submit a photo. I decided to share my story and uploaded the photo of Mavis and myself. I really haven't thought about it since then.

Now, the story is up on their website. If you refresh the home page, a different regular shows up every time and eventually our picture comes up (or you can follow this link to go directly there).

While we were at Waffle House tonight, we tried to recreate the photo:

We also tried the new Apple Cinnamon Oat waffle and I have to say, it is quite delicious. Hannah actually said it was the best thing that she's ever had at Waffle House.

So, now that you know the whole story, go to your nearest Waffle House as soon as possible and ask for a 55th Anniversay pin before they run out! If you pick one up, leave a comment below and let me know where you got it - I'd love to hear where people are able to find them!

I called Waffle House corporate headquarters on Thursday to get some more information about the 55th Anniversary pin. I was transferred to Catherine in community relations. I started to introduce myself but she stopped my by saying, "I know who you are - I just read your blog." I replied, "Well, I guess you know what I'm calling about." We got to talk for several minutes about how the pin came to be. She said that they always try to use real pictures of real people and employees for their promotions. She had pulled our picture from the Waffle House Regulars and decided to use it for the pin. I let her know that I was excited they had chosen our picture! They really made the day for this Waffle House fan!

I found out that they created 40 pins for each of the 1600 Waffle Houses in America (about 64,000 total!). Catherine said they send me some extra pins so now I'm waiting for the postman to drop those off any day now! I was curious if they had used the picture in any other promotions and found out that they used it on the Annual Report this year! Unfortunately, they couldn't send me one of those because they are classified internal documents. I guess even Waffle House has to be on the lookout for corporate espionage!

It was great talking with Catherine and she was so helpful. I'm really glad I could find out more details about the pin. Who knew our picture would travel to every Waffle House in the country!

Speaking of pictures, if you liked that shot of Mavis and I, it was part of a family photo shoot we did with Andy Brophy last year. He is an incredibly talented Atlanta-based photographer. If you like ridiculously good photography, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter: @onenineimages. If you don't like ridiculously good photography, maybe this is more your speed.

It's been really fun hearing from people where they have gotten the pins.
So far, I've heard of people getting them in New York, New Bern, NC, Milledgeville, GA and the Atlanta area. I've also heard that people haven't been able to get them in Tifton, GA and Athens, GA. I can only guess that the pins were sent out at different times and not all restaurants received them on the same day. Since this weekend is the official anniversary, I would assume everyone should have them by now!
Let me know if you've been able to get one and where you found it!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Click Sound / Metronome to use with Loops

A few months ago, I made a video and posted it on YouTube that explained how I setup Ableton Live for use with a worship band. I've gotten a lot of great feedback about the video but one of the most common questions I've gotten is this:
Where did you get that click sound? Can I get a copy of it?
I know this probably sounds ridiculous to people who aren't familiar with using click tracks but a good click sound can really make the difference in being able to lock in with the tempo or not. When I first started using loops, I literally spent days looking for the perfect click sound. Out of hundreds of examples, I landed on using just 2 sounds.

The first one from the video is ClicksBeep.wav. I can't remember where I found this and I can't find it on the net now - so, if you created it and want me to take it down, let me know and I will. This click is a great basic sound that's easy to make stand out in the ear monitor mix.

When I need something more elaborate, I use Foundations from Loops In Worship. This is an awesome tool for creating great click tracks in Ableton Live (there is also a separate version available for Garageband. It is a fully functioning metronome incorporated into Live - you can adjust the subdivisions and accents. You can even use it to send one click sound to the vocalists and another to the drummer. Best of all, you can use your own click sound with it so feel free to drop ClicksBeep.wav right into it!

I posted another video about setting a 1-bar count-in on your click tracks that you use with sequenced loops. Check it out here if you haven't seen it yet.

Hope this helps - let me know if you have any questions. I'd love to hear what click sounds other people are using!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Run For Change - World Vision's 30 Hour Famine

Run For Change from stuart atkins on Vimeo.

Every year the youth ministry that I work with participates in World Vision's 30 Hour Famine. It is an incredible weekend event that raises awareness about the desperate needs of so many people around the world. Even better, we challenge the students to go out and raise money for people all over the world who are dying from preventable causes. Every year the number of kids dying from things like hunger, poverty and disease is going down...we can't help but think that's because of the work World Vision is doing through the 30-Hour Famine. With all the recent devastation in the world, you can imagine how great the need is right now.

This year, Stuart and Paige Atkins and I decided to do something a little crazy to raise awareness and money for the 30 Hour Famine. We signed up to run a half-marathon ! We are connecting our race to the Famine, and asking for support through donations. We've put together a video that explains everything in a more entertaining way - check it out for more info! We've dubbed ourselves Team "Run For Change." The money raised will go to providing food and care for people in need. The famine and race are only a few weeks away, so if you'd like to be part of making a difference in the world...act fast! Any amount you are able to give will be used to make an impact!

There are a couple of ways you can participate:

1. Be praying for the 30 Hour Famine Event at Sugarloaf UMC on March 19-20 and for the other 30 Hour Famine events that will be held at churches/youth groups all over the world.

2. Pray for Stuart, Paige and me as we finish our preparations for the the half-marathon.

3. Pass this message along to others via email, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace (is that still around?), US Postal Service, etc. We'd love as many people as possible to know about it! Here's an easy link to this post you can cut/paste:

4. You can donate online here. That will take you directly to our World Vision account.

5. You can also send your donations to:

Run for Change
c/o Student Life
1795 Old Peachtree Rd.
Duluth, GA 30097

Make checks payable to World Vision and put Run for Change in the memo.

Thanks in advance for your support! We really appreciate it.

Jake, Stuart & Paige
Team Run For Change!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Yesterday was the best day I've had in a really long time. I'm planning on uploading some video and stories soon but here's the twitter recap:

3/7/2010 10:38pm
Today=best day ever:SL Sunday,New Orleans team mtg, #passioncitychurch communion, listening to @passion268 Awakening! Heart=full,God=good!!!

140 characters don't do this day justice so just be on the lookout for a longer post.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pieces Volume 2 Release Party this Thursday at ALTAER!

This Thursday, we will release the 2nd Student Life CD at ALTAER. I'm so proud of all the students that contributed to the songs on this CD. There are 2 covers and 2 original songs on it.
Track Listing:
1. Chainbreaker (led by Matt Palmer)
2. Wake Up (written by Kelsey Avera)
3. Beautiful the Blood (led by Scottie Finlasyon)
4. Lift My Hands High (written by Casey Harper)

Available this Thursday for only $5 each. There are just 100 copies available so get yours before they're gone. We will also be selling a bundle that includes Pieces Volumes 1 & 2 for $10 ($2 off original price). See ya Thursday!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

DIY subkick mic

I've been wanting to get a fatter kick drum sound for a while and looking into options. We've used an Audix D6 on the kick for a few years and it is a great all-around kick mic but I'm intrigued by the double-mic technique that a lot of people are using - one mic is geared towards capturing the attack of the kick while another mic is used to accent the thump. I've seen many bands use a Yamaha Subkick with great results. At $400 it's a little out of my price range so I decided to improvise.

The Yamaha Subkick is basically a 6.5 inch speaker wired to an XLR cable with a nice enclosure and stand. I did a little research online and found out that it's pretty easy to make one yourself - maybe even with materials you already have laying around.

I had an old set of JVC speakers in my basement that weren't used very often. The low frequency speaker in them is 7.5 inches - a little larger than the Yamaha but it seems to work fine. I also had an extra mic cable that I cut off about 4 feet from the end with the male connector.
Before making final connections I tried a few different options and found that it sounded best when I wired Pin 2 to the positive connector and Pin 3 to the negative connector. I wired Pin 1 to the ground spot on the speaker.

I used a short boom stand to mount the speaker. I took the screw out of a standard mic clip and ran zip ties through the holes in the clip and speaker to secure it.
I place the subkick a few inches off the resonant head on the opposite side of the sound hole.
This mic is really hot! If you have an inline pad, I recommend using it. I have the pad turned on with my console and I still don't use any gain for the subkick. I adjusted the EQ to really bring out the "feel it in your chest" bass from the kick drum. I used no high pass filter, boosted 90 hz and cut 400 hz.

I still use the Audix D6 inside the drum about 2/3 inside the soundhole pointed at the beater. I put a high pass filter on it and swept the low mid and high mid frequencies until I found a spot that accented the attack nicely. Boosting 5.5k and cutting 400hz seems to do the trick.

I usually bring the Audix D6 up until I like the amount of attack I'm getting. Then I bring the subkick up to a level that complements the attack sound. I've really been pleased with the results!

Thanks to Wade's blog for the info, pics and sound samples! Thanks also to Trevor H. for all the soldering help!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Advice for high school seniors who want to be worship leaders

This year, I have several students that are graduating and considering pursuing worship ministry. Many of them are asking what they should do next - i.e. where they should go to school - Christian Colleges that offer worship/music degrees, secular colleges that offer music/performance degrees, specialized schools that equip worship leaders, etc. I'm trying to get some feedback from the worship community and see what preparation people have found helpful. I know there are a lot of valid paths that God uses to prepare people for His service. I would love to hear some personal recommendations from people that have actually attended different schools/events. I just want to be able to present the best options to my students that will prepare them for what God has next!

Here's my background. I attended a state school and got a degree in English with a Minor in Guitar while volunteering at a local church the whole time gaining valuable experience. I then attended seminary and earned a M.Div with a specialization in worship leading. I loved both my college and my seminary experiences - they were very different but prepared me in specific ways to minister in my current context.

I'm really thankful that I didn't get a full Music Degree - it would just be overkill for the amount of musical preparation that is needed to lead contemporary worship. I'm not knocking music education - just saying that I'm glad my seminary degree placed a higher emphasis on theological education. Of the two, I feel like theological education is a higher priority for the worship leader. Minoring in Music and taking additional music classes at seminary proved to be the right combination for me. Since seminary, I've grown to appreciate even more the theological and pastoral training that I gained. Those tools have proved truly useful in ministry.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I've also posted this question at the following forums so feel free to check what other people are saying at worshiptherock and the worship community.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Creative Team Meeting #1

I've been wanting to get a creative team started in our student ministry for quite a while and this semester it is finally time. We have some incredibly talented students that have worked on projects in the past like creating dramas, set designs, photography, etc. but I can't wait to see what happens when we unleash their creativity on a regular basis!

We went to beach camp last week in Orange Beach, AL so we took the opportunity to meet at a local coffee shop during our free time on Thursday afternoon. The Dizzy Bean provided the perfect atmosphere to get the conversation started (and they proudly display an autographed photo of an insanely ripped dude so you know they must be legit!)
We started the meeting by discussing the vision for the creative team: to create experiences that ignite authentic worship. We took a little time to unpack this. We have 2 weekly environments ALTAER and SLAM that we want create a consistent experience from the moment people walk in to the moment they leave. This can happen through a variety of ways including music that's playing as they arrive, how they are greeted, how the service starts, how announcements are made, the content of the worship set and the talk, the graphic design on the screens, the stage design and lighting, and how people are dismissed. All these details and many others create the experience and we must be intentional about using each element to make that experience consistent.
Our end goal is to ignite authentic worship. The theme verse for ALTAER is Romans 12:1-2: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."
We should look at the creative elements as pieces used to build the altar that God calls us to lay down our lives upon. We can't make anyone worship but we can certainly light the fire and prepare the altar in a manner that encourages people to experience Christ in a fresh and compelling way each week. Our goal is not just that they would worship on Sundays and Thursdays but through those experiences, they would be equipped to live out the second half of the passage - to be transformed by Christ's power as they worship with their lives day by day.
This gave us a lot to ponder and sparked some great discussion. We will plan on meeting once a month to get things started. During these meetings, we will look at the upcoming series and special events and divide into teams that can take care of different projects.
Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 27 at 2:00 pm at the Student Life Center. We will be discussing 40 and set design for the first series of Fall 09. Can't wait to see what comes next!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

hanging with Nick Kirk at 12stone church

Today I got the chance to hang out with Nick Kirk at 12stone church. We've been trading emails for a few months and it finally worked out for us to get together. I was really excited to check out their setup because 12stone has a full recording studio inside their church. We have been building up our studio at Student Life for a little over a year but I thought it would be helpful to check out someone who is a few steps further down the road.

At 12stone they are using Apogee converters to track into Logic. They also use an Mbox mini to edit drums in Pro Tools. They have an incredible selection of outboard mic pres (API 512c's, Focusrite ISA 428, etc), compressors, and EQ's. There is a dedicated control room, vocal booth and instrument recording room. It is truly an amazing setup and from what I heard they are getting impressive recordings.

Here are a few of the highlights I picked up:
Approaching a studio recording is completely different from making a studio album. It might be cool to perform an 8-minute song in a live worship context but that same song will bore someone to tears on an album. Tighten, shorten, consolidate - find the most important elements and eliminate everything else. Nick showed me an example where they shortened a 32-bar instrumental to just 8-bars (dramatic improvement!).

When recording drums the essential elements are good drums, a good player and good equipment (mics, pres, compressors, eq's). A studio drummer has to have a special set of skills that emphasizes to a few things really well. Locking into the groove, no too-fancy fills, clear articulation (example: snare hits). We talked about how most drum recordings are done on just a basic 4 or 5 piece kit (even though toms don't get used that much). Steven Jordan (of John Mayer Trio) was mentioned as a great example of solid studio drumming.

We discussed some options for drum replacement/reinforcement. Steven Slate came highly recommended along with BFD. We talked about options for using V-drums or a velocity-sensitive keyboard to trigger these.

One mic I keep hearing recommended over and over came up again today. The Shure SM7 is a great dynamic mic for a great price. Originally intended for broadcast use it's becoming a standard vocal mic having been used by Springsteen, Manchester Orchestra and a ton of others to capture both vocals and instruments. I've gotta pick one of these up before we start the next Student Life CD.

Speaking of mics, we also talked briefly about the AT4030 - another affordable mic used with great results by Sufjan Stevens.

For plugins, Nick recommended the Waves Mercury bundle and a bundle that included the API, SSL and Neve plugins. He also uses Massey plugins and the URS channel strip pro. We talked about how the plugins and virtual instruments that are included with Logic actually sound good and are very usable in comparison to what Pro Tools comes with.

We checked out Vintage King Audio, which looks like a great source for pro gear. I'm going to have to dig into it more.

SFLogicNinja's youtube videos are a great source for logic tutorials. I've got to watch these!

Another great youtube resource: hillsong tutorials for guitar!

Great presets to get a starting point for plugins or outboard gear: search google images for Chris Lord-Alge presets.

We talked about the next step for our studio being building 2 solid channels of outboard preamps, compressors, and EQ's and adding a couple of great mics like the SM7 and AT4030. I'm excited about the possibilities this could give our studio for the next album.

Finally, we talked a little bit about sample rate. For CD's, 24 bit, 44.1 was recommended. Nick ususally uses 24 bit/48 because they do a lot of video work but for our purposes, 44.1 should be fine.

All in all, I'm ecstatic about the information Nick shared with me. My head is kinda spinning trying to process it all but I know our next record is going to sound so much better as a result of implementing what I learned today. Thanks again, Nick!

Video Blog #1: review

Recently I found a great resource that has really helped our worship team. Check it out!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

SLAM - 06.28.09

Sunday Set List:
Neverending - David Crowder Band
No One Like You - David Crowder Band
From the Inside Out - Hillsong United
You Never Let Go - Matt Redman

Matt and the band brought it this morning. Over the course of VBS week, they went from being a band that struggled to play to a click to confidently locking tempo. Their playing is at a whole new level. I'm so proud of their progress. It's also helps that they are so fun to work with. Awesome job this morning!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last ALTAER of the semester!

Tonight was our last regular ALTAER service for our high
school students tonight. The band has come so far this year.
It's incredible to think about what is in store for next year!
(left to right) back row: Eric H./Bass, Tommy C./Tech, Kelsey A./Tech,
Jonathan N./Keys, Casey H./Vocals&Acoustic, Scottie F./Vocals & Electric,
front row: Brady F./Drums, Trevor M./chillin'

Tonight's Setlist:
Take It All - Hillsong United
I Will Go - Starfield
Solution - Hillsong United
for fun we changed it up and had
Casey lead "Solution" - sounded great!

Find A World - Jami Smith
Look up bass player in the dictionary
and this is the picture you will find:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Last epicenter service of the semester


(left to right) Harrison Hinson-Keys, Matt Bryant-Drums, Jake Sumner-Vocals/Acoustic Guitar, Andrew Von Essen - Acoustic Guitar, Hannah Sumner - Vocals, Jeff Nordeman-Bass, Sam Elgin-Electric Guitar

Tonight was our final weekly epicenter service before summer starts. We will have 2 summer services June 7 and July 12th. Then, we'll kick things back up with our regular schedule beginning on August 9th. It's hard to believe that we've had 17 services since we started on January 4th. It's been an exciting journey so far and I'm excited to see where the next season will take us!

The band did an incredible job tonight. We have been working on integrating loops and clicks. Tonight was the first set that we have done entirely with clicks on every song. It really tightened us up and kept us from speeding up on several of the songs.

Set List:
Happy Day - loop
Spring of Life - loop
Salvation is Here
None But Jesus - loop
From the Inside Out
Kingdom Come - loop

The band has done amazing this semester. I'm so thankful to be working with such talented musicians and great people. They have served faithfully this semester and it has been a joy to work with them on a weekly basis. I'm glad we have a break for a few weeks but I'm really looking forward to us coming back together in the fall!
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

New stage design for "Unwritten"

Here are a few pics from our latest stage setup for the "Unwritten" girls event we had last night. Hannah and Jenica led worship with a band of guys backing them up. Since it was supposed to be an "all-girls" night, we wanted to hide the band guys a bit so we found a place to buy cardboard circles. We zip-tied these together to create a "curtain". We were able to shine lights on and through the circles to get some cool effects. Overall, very effective and inexpensive (about $40 for zip ties and all the circles!).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Using Loops in Worship - The Journey Part 3

It's been a few weeks since I posted about our journey using loops in worship. Since then, we've made progress but it hasn't been an easy road. Our musicians are at a very comfortable point where they can show up for practice and play the music in front of them without a lot of outside effort. I'm excited that they are at this point - it's been a long time coming to get them this proficient and I'm proud of how far they've come. One of the most challenging parts of implementing loops is that it requires people who are not used to playing with a metronome to practice at home. There have been several rehearsals over the last few weeks where we have prepared click tracks and loops, tried them out a few times and realized that the band simply was not going to be able to pull it off. It's hard to just throw out the plan when there are hours of behind the scenes work that have been spent preparing but that is exactly what we've had to do.

Band practices have been hard for the last few weeks. We'll start our trying to play along to a click/loop and it hasn't worked out well. Sometimes, 30 minutes of rehearsal go by and we're still working on one song and haven't even started on the others. This has led to some very hurried, frustrating practices with little progress being made in the implementation of loops.

Last night at rehearsal, we had a breakthrough. I decided to run our rehearsal like normal with no loops or click tracks. We had four songs we were preparing that the band had played many times before. The preparation went quickly and within 30 minutes we had all four songs at a place where they were ready to go for the night. At this point, we still had about 45 minutes of practice time left so we spent that time working with just one song that had a click and fully sequenced loop. It took a few times to get the hang of it but eventually it fell into place. For many of the band members, it was the first time they had really experienced being locked into the click. It was pretty incredible to see them play at this next level. This will be our new approach to practice for the next few months. We are aiming at August as our goal for implementing playing with a click for every song. At this point, just focusing on one song a week is a much more manageable task than trying to make the transition all at once.

A few final thoughts on implementing loops with a band:
1. Make sure everyone can hear the click - it is annoying at first to just hear it in your ear monitor but it has to be loud enough so that each person can hear it over their instrument. I'm not advocating damaging anyone's hearing - I'm just saying it probably needs to be louder than you think at first.
2. Focus on implementing one loop per service. Simple, repetitive loops are the easiest - even if you get off the downbeat, it may not matter. Eventually move to playing along with a fully sequenced loop. *Triple-check the order of your chord chart - it must be absolutely correct.*
3. We've had success using loops on opening songs. In our services, unfortunately, the opening song is usually the signal for everyone to come in, finish their conversations and grab a seat. That puts less pressure on the song if there is any problem, it won't be as noticeable as if it were in the middle of the set. The plus side is that if the band does pull it off, the loop adds a lot of energy to the opening song - which hopefully starts to solve the problem of people not being engaged during the beginning of the service.
4. If at all possible, get the loops/clicks to people ahead of time. We use Planning Center to distribute our chord charts/loops. Allowing people the time to practice at home is critical - especially for the drummer and lead vocalist. We created metronome links for each song using WebMetronome. You can set the tempo, time signature and accent beats then just copy the link to your musicians and they can practice at home.
5. Prepare your other (non-loop) songs first. This will allow "extra" time at the end to work with the click/loop without stressing everyone out since the other songs are already rehearsed.

Progress is being made. More updates to follow!
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ableton Live Tutorial: Setting Up Live for Use with a Worship Band

AbletonImage via Wikipedia

Here's a video tutorial that explains how I set up Ableton Live for our worship bands. This setup allows a band member to easily start and stop click and loop tracks using only the numeric keys and space bar. Check it out here:

Ableton Live Tutorial: Setting Up Live For Worship Band from Jake Sumner on Vimeo.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

SLAM and the Wire - 03.22.09

Sam and Matt are getting ready for ukulele hero and bluegrassband

Today was a challenging day but a good one, nonetheless. We are trying to implement using loops and playing to click tracks. Rehearsal was short but we got a lot done. We ended up cutting several of the loops for the 2nd service or just using them to start the songs and it worked pretty well. This is going to be a process over the next few weeks so I'll keep posting our progress.

New Stage / Lighting Setup - Pictures!

Here's a few shots from this Sunday of the stage and lighting redesign we worked on last week. I'm pretty excited about the new look!

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Using Loops in Worship - The Journey Part 2

Today, I'm trying to get a little more sophisticated with our use of loops. I'm starting off today by getting some better click tracks. Most people I've talked to recommend creating click tracks in Reason using more percussive elements. We use stage monitors with our middleschool band so it will be nice to have a click track that sounds okay if it bleeds into the house mix. The built-in click from Ableton Live is piercing and sounds out-of-place if it bleeds into the house mix. Our other bands on Thursday, Sunday morning and Sunday night all use ear monitors so it won't be as bleeding into the house mix won't be an issue but I still think that people play better to a click that is more like a percussive element of the song (shaker, tambourine, etc) rather than a traditional metronome.

I'm also on the search for some pre-made loops to get us started before we jump full-speed into creating our own loops.

My first stop was at sacredloops. This site has a tremendous amount of stuff! It doesn't look like it has been updated recently but the content section of the site has loops, Live files, Reason files (unfortunately I can't open them with my Adapted version - maybe time to upgrade!). So now I have a ton of content to search through.

Next I headed over to DigitalWorship. The loops section here is really nice for a few examples. It looks like this guy went through the same process a few years ago that I'm just starting. He chronicled his adventure and there are some great insights he shares along the way. His journey starts here.

Finally, I landed at InteractiveWorshipLive. This is a pay service that is building a good selection of loops, clicks and fully-produced Live Sets that can be used to replace missing instrumentalists in your band. They have a free account you can sign up for (you do have to give a credit card no. and a crapload of personal info, though) and you get one free complete song and one free loop. I decided to give it a try. I downloaded "Salvation is Here" and the loop for "Holy is the Lord." I'll write more about when I get a chance to really check 'em out.

So, in summary, I picked up a lot of tips and samples to sort through. Tonight, I'm trying to put together basic click and and loop combinations. I'll post more about how it goes.
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Using Loops in Worship - The Journey part1

Ableton LiveImage via Wikipedia

I've been using loops in worship off and on for almost 3 years now. Technical difficulties, time and other factors have kept me from using them more but now, I am heading that direction full-on. In the past, we have used loops for 1 or 2 songs in a set but never the entire set. So, we have the technical setup - a Macbook Pro with Ableton Live 6.0 (still debating the upgrade) running out of the headphone jack into 2 channels. In Ableton Live, I set the click to come out the left channel and panned all loop channels to the right. Eventually, I may pick up an M-Audio interface so we can send out stereo loops and still have a channel dedicated to sending out the click. I also have Reason 3.0 Adapted for Digidesign (may upgrade this also) for loop creation and Logic Express/Garageband. I thought I would document the journey here.

Last night with our middleschool band, we used 3 basic loops from the Ableton Live library and and the built-in click from Ableton Live. Here's a screenshot:

Ableton has a cool feature where you can map anything to any key just by pressing the "KEY" button in the top right. I pressed this and assigned assigned the Master Column on the right to the number keys so one of the musicans could fire the next song just by hitting "1", "2", or "3" and could stop the song by pressing the space bar.
Here's a screenshot of that:

Thanks to Duane Mixon at for showing me that trick!

Another fun trick I figured out yesterday is how to change tempos in Live for the different songs. In the master column on the right, you control click on any of the numbers, select "Edit Launch Tempo" from the pop-up menu and voila! Anything you put in that row will start at the selected tempo!
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Busiest Week Ever!

This past week has been crazy! I guess it really started being busy last Monday when Aaron, Andy, Stuart and I attended a planning meeting for the Sugarloaf UMC Party with a Purpose. We emerged from the meeting with the responsibility of producing 45 minutes of entertainment for the night. Ever since then, we've been working together with the whole church staff to create a variety show based around an "American Idol"/"America's Got Talent" spoof idea. All of this was on top of our usual crazy weekly schedule of SHIFT, ALTAER, the wire, SLAM, and epicenter. Oh yeah, I almos forgot - ALTAER winter camp is this weekend.

Monday and Tuesday consisted of shooting video and editing short intro videos for each of the acts. Stuart has done a tremendous job with the video production. His skill level has increased exponentially over the last year!

On Wednesday night, Aynsley, Ryan and a student band led by Kelsey and Jonathan ran SHIFT for the 200+ middle schoolers. Meanwhile, Aaron, Stuart, Andy and I were in the Main Sanctuary directing the Party With a Purpose for over 400 adults. It was a wild night and a huge success on both fronts. I'll post footage from the evening soon.

Thursday, we had an extended night of worship during ALTAER. Trevor, Hannah P, Jonathan and Kelsey planned and led the student band into a great time of music and response. I'm so proud of how far each of them has come as worship leaders and musicians.

Today is Friday and I feel like I'm taking my first deep breath in a while. A student band consisting of Jonathan, Trevor and Hannah P. are leading worship at the ALTAER winter retreat. Stuart will be teaching this weekend. Yesterday, I got all the sound and lighting equipment together for them. Andy, Aynsley, Ryan, Paige and Gretchen are also going to camp this weekend. Aaron and I are staying behind to lead the wire, Fresh Start and epicenter on Sunday. I love doing youth ministry with our team - I don't know how we would do it any other way!

I'm back!

Okay, so it's been over a month since my last post. Well, I'll try to keep up a little better from here on out. Christmas holidays were great! Lots of time with friends and family. The new year is off to a very busy start but so far I'm loving it. Can't wait to see all that 2009 has in store.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the wire / SLAM 12/14/08

The band was phenomenal this morning! Not only was the music great, everyone did a great job leading worship. Today was by far, the most fun I've had playing in a while. This morning really set the bar for how we want every week at SLAM/the wire to be.

Brady F. - Drums
Jake S. - Bass
Scottie F. - Electric Guitar
Jon N. - Keys
Kelsey A. - Vocals, Acoustic
Trevor M. - Vocals, Acoustic

I Will Go - Starfield (new song!)
Sing Sing Sing - Chris Tomlin
Consuming Fire - Tim Hughes
To Speak Your Name - Jami Smith
From the Inside Out - Hillsong United

I'm so proud of the band for learning "I Will Go" this week! For a new song, they did an incredible job and this will be one song that we will continue to use as we head into 30 Hour Famine and Mission Trips in the spring.
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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Intense Youth Staff Meeting-All Problems Resolved!

j/k - i think we found more problems than answers...
Today, we had an incredibly intense staff meeting (in a really good way!). A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to take our annual trip to the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN. This weekend was filled with thought-provoking speakers and workshops all designed to challenge and equip people working in youth ministry.

Well, today we finally got the chance to discuss what we learned...

Here are a few questions we wrestled with this morning:
1. Where is the Church headed? Is the megachurch movement over? Will smaller ministries that focus on connecting people (and may even meet in public or rented facilities) flourish in the future. Is the American Dream dead? How do we lead parents/students through this transition?
(thanks to Tom Sine's seminar: "Where is the Church Headed and What's our Response?")

2. As a youth ministry, what is our response to the gay/lesbian community? Andrew Marin's approach: quoting Billy Graham: "it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love." How can we effectively and intentionally balance love/acceptance and presenting biblical truth?
(Andrew Marin - General Session with Tony Camp0lo and Shane Claiborne)

3. If we only have a limited amount of time, energy, resources, etc. is it most effective to invest heavily in the "few" that want to go deeper or the "many" who need to hear? Jesus did both but obviously invested heavily in the 12 disciples and even more intensely in just 3 of the disciples. Are we doing ministry to students or with students?
(Mike Pilavachi - General Session)

4. Is a big ministry a good thing? Jesus' teaching was upsetting to people and many left when they found out what He was really calling people to. Are we setting the bar for commitment to Christ much lower than where Jesus would have?
(Francis Chan - General Session)

So, we asked a lot more questions than we answered this morning. I'm glad we're thinking - I'm even more excited that we are doing this together.

I'd love to hear others thoughts - comment away!
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

the wire / SLAM 12/07/08

Band Lineup:

Eric I. - Drums
Jon N. - Bass
Trevor H. - Keys
Sam E. - Electric Guitar
Brady F. - Acoustic/BGV's
Matt P. - Acoustic/Lead Vocals
Jenny P. and Hannah P. - Lead Vocals

Set List:
"Neverending" - DCB
"Happy Day" - Fee
"How He Loves" - Kim Walker
"Hosanna" - Hillsong United
"From the Inside Out" - Hillsong United

This morning was quite an adventure! As we make the transition to a completely student-led worship team, there are a few setbacks along the way. The Wire had a few rough moments but it was like there was a totally different band playing at SLAM! Everyone really pulled it together and it is amazing to see this process unfolding.

We added a new song today - "Neverending" by David Crowder Band. It turned out really well - Matt P. did a great job learning it this week along with the rest of the band. Trevor H.'s electronic key sounds were awesome. Brady F. moved from behind the drums to play acoustic guitar and sing for the first time today. Sam E.'s electric guitar parts on "Hosanna" took the song to a whole new level! Jenny P. really got everyone participating in "Happy Day". Hannah P. brought the house down with "Hosanna". Eric I. nailed the drum beats for all the songs today and made some great smooth transitions. Jonathan N. did a great job jumping in on bass and gave a great spoken intro to "Hosanna".

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pro Tools 8 Sneak Peek Event!

Tonight I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the new version of Pro Tools before it is officially released next month. Jonathan N. accompanied me and we had quite a good time. There were about 75 people at Atlanta Pro Audio as one of the Digidesign reps walked us step by step through the new features coming soon. I've been to events like this in the past and honestly, I expected more a of a style over substance approach - you know, a big splashy presentation to get everyone excited about the new release but not a lot of details. What I got was exactly the opposite. The rep did a brief presentation about the history of Pro Tools but then he just opened a copy of the new version on a big projection screen and jumped right it. The tech-geek in me jumped for joy! We got to see how the new improvements in Pro Tools specifically impact the everyday use.

Here are some of the highlights:
* Darker, more modern overall look
* Ability to customize track colors, window size and arrangement.
* Extra plug-ins and virtual instruments
* Even more total tracks available
* Easier to create comp tracks from multiple takes
* Ability to lasso sections to make group changes faster
* Basic notation software included for creating sheet music

I have to admit I was simultaneously excited/dissappointed. I'm super excited about getting the new features that will improve workflow. I know that several of these features will save me time compared to the way I currently work in Pro Tools. The disappointing part is that so many of these features have been available in Logic, Live and other programs for years. It's frustrating to realize that Pro Tools is so far behind on some of these basic features that are considered standard in other DAW's. In many ways, Pro Tools 8 doesn't feel like a step forward as much as it feels like they finally caught up with the innovations others have enjoyed for quite some time.

Pro Tools is still the industry standard software for music production. I think it will stay that way for quite some time. However a few other programs have emerged that do many of Pro Tools tasks better/easier. So as someone who runs a project studio I'm forced to choose between innovation of newer projects or being confined to a very reliable set of features. In the end, I'm sticking with Pro Tools but I seriously wish they would incorporate new features faster rather than just maintaining their position.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Well, today was the preview service for epicenter - the new service our church will be starting in January targeted at 18-30 somethings. This is a demographic that is currently a very small minority in our church. We have a tremendous kids ministry, a vibrant youth ministry, and a solid core of middle-age adults. Unfortunately, we are missing those college, post-college and young families in our community. We hope to change all that with the addition of epicenter to our weekly schedule of events. There are three main components of this new service:
  • experiential worship
Hannah and I will be primarily in charge of designing engaging worship experiences each week. We'll have the help of a worship band comprised of musicians from the existing adult worship teams (many thanks to Larry, Harrison and Kendra for working all the details out on this!) and hopefully some new musicians that will be attracted to this service.
  • biblical teaching
Aaron Young will be the teacher each week and will focus on biblical messages that concentrate on biblical books or themes as opposed to topical teaching. Nothing against topical teaching but we are specifically focusing on a target audience that wants to grow deeper in their understanding and experience of God. We believe in-depth biblical teaching is the best way to achieve this goal.
  • intentional community
Each meeting will end with the entire group being broken down into smaller life-stage groups - college/career, post-college singles, young married (w/o kids), young married (w/kids) and adults. There will be a facilitator for each life-stage group and several assistant facilitators in case the groups are still large, they can still be broken down into groups of 8-10. In these small groups, the focus will be on getting to know others at epicenter and form meaningful relationships. Initially this will be accomplished by times of discussion but our goal is for community to develop. Our hope is that members of the life-stage groups will continue building relationships outside the service by going to dinner together and experiencing community outside the context of the epicenter service. Right now we are currently praying and searching for the right people to facilitate these life-stage groups.

Although we are targeting the 18-30 demographic, we're putting some wide boundaries on this age bracket. We recognize that this alternative service will appeal to a variety of people who don't necessarily fit neatly into a predefined age bracket. If this approach to worship, teaching and community resonates with someone outside the target group, we want them to feel like they have a place to connect with our church.

I'm excited about this new service. January 4th is the official launch date. It will be from 5:30-7:00 pm in the Student Life building. Check back for more updates and click below to join our facebook group. We hope to see you there!