Hello, not quite sure how to lay this out so I'll apologize up front if it is a bit disjointed and hard to follow; hopefully it can be waded through enough so that some can respond.
So, I am having a discussion with my Senior Pastor over breakfast and we are talking about some conferences he has been to recently. He mentions that the music is "rocky" and that he really likes that - I kind of get the drift that he would like our music to be a bit "rockier". I mention that we do a fair number of "up-tempo" songs and he agreed but said that they weren't what he would consider "rocky". I asked about the teams at the conference and they struck me as what might be found at a fairly decent size church with some pretty skilled musicians.
(Some details; I am at a smallish church the music team composition is two acoustic guitar players (yes, I am one of the two), a bass player, a keyboard player two to three times a month, a conga player when he doesn't have to work, and two to four singers. Last year I bought a T5 and use a cyber-twin to get some electric sound but have found I need much work work before I would ever consider myself at the low end of electric guitar skill, especially while leading.)
I am pretty realistic about my skill set and my initial thoughts are that we don't really have the people to pull off what he was thinking. But then I got my morning edition and thought, hey, I can ask the community what makes music rocky and are there any suggestions getting more of a rocky sound. So those are the two questions: What makes music "rocky"? Any suggestions as to get a "rocker" sound? I guess a third question might be - Is it ok to tell my pastor that we have done some self evaluation (which we will do) and were not sure that "rocky" is who we are as a team?
Not that it is pertinent, but most of our people say they like the music; of course they could just be being nice to me. Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide.
I think everyone's definition of "rock" will be a little (or a lot) different. My guess is he's hearing a full drum kit and electric guitars and identifying that with the sound he's looking for.
Perhaps you can encourage him to look on Youtube and give you examples of the style he is thinking of. If your team is small, you may want to try playing with some loops/backing tracks that have drums and guitars on them.
"Rocky" can mean different things.
To me, two main factors are energy and attitude. You can be 'rocky' in just about any band arrangement. Look at Elton John- that man can rock a piano like no one's business. But look at what he does it with- energy and attitude.
Energy doesn't just mean speed. It's playing with authority (a touch of swing and boldness), getting into the music (head bobbing, hand clapping, etc), and beefing up the rhythm behind the melody with some awesome groove. It's giving the music a chance to stand out instead of just a filler to lay a nice vocal melody on. You don't 'need' guitar and drums to be rocky, but you need some strong rhythm
The other factor is attitude- playing like you own it. That doesn't mean cocky, but confident. It's going off the beaten page a bit, playing with some animation. It's getting people engaged.
More importantly, there are some things that kill the mood for 'rockiness'-
- Musicians who just stand there staring at a music stand
- Musicians who are otherwise not enthusiastic or disengaged in the worship time
- Songs that are supposed to rock (have some drive, power chords, etc.) and it gets 'fluffed out' with a strummy little chord pattern or a piano melody line.
- Singing/playing all the songs in the same basic pattern and sequence
The last one is one I see probably more than others. Praise teams fall into one familiar style and they play every song the same way- the same speed, the same basic strumming pattern, the same 2-3 keys, etc. it's familiar, safe, and easy. Good for expediency, but bad for the 'rock' factor.
So, to me, 'rock' is about 30% the song, and 70% what you bring to the song.
Personally, it sounds like you're doing a good job of utilizing the resources you have right now as far as players. It might take some honest discussion with your pastor about what is/isn't realistic with the musicians you have. At the same time, see what steps you might be able to take towards the types of sounds he's looking for. I agree that click tracks (if you are on in ears) & backing tracks can help with this, but you could also try some different things with instruments. Does your conga player play kit? If so, you could try it for a week. If not, a cajon will give more of a "kit" sound than congas. Keep working on your electric skills & don't be afraid to try something different on a song to see if it works.
Just a few thoughts. Keep us posted!
Sometimes it depends on the song. But for me, "rocky" means driving riffs on electric guitars, high energy rhythms, up tempo, tight jeans and black leather vests. Ha. Just kidding on the last part. But a previous poster is right, attitude counts, and energy. A good band can make "How Great is Our God" rock-like.
Electric guitar solos, too. Strong, full vocals. Don't be afraid to get into it! I should talk, we don't do rock very much. Blessings!
All that hath life and breath, praise ye the Lord!
In His Name,
Thanks for the encouragement and good ideas. I'll ask about the example and see what he says as well as the specific songs he heard. As for the conga player, he tried a kit but couldn't really get comfortable with it enough to try it during a service. I encouraged him to but didn't want it be forced upon him. I'll do my best to put some of the suggestions into action as best I can. Thanks again and if anything else comes to mind please feel free to share. :-)
if you dont have electric guitars and drums right now go to you tube and search for acoustics versions of some popular rock songs. it is possible to play acoustic rock! and its very cool! your bass player can help you here as well, he should play full, driving and percussively. he should be "moving the song".
listen to "dust in the wind" by Kansas they do it well.
two words: More Cowbell.
Kidding...I think the other replies are fantastic!
My suggestions, this one is probably considered sacrilege but cut some singers. Go find me a "Rock" band that does six wispy voices starting and singing together. Not going to happen. Also the typical church setting is heavily weighted female. Female and Rock only works in a novelty setting "LeZ Zepplin". Even then it's one voice with a backup voice (or two at the most) singing harmony on PART of a line. Not harmony the whole song rarely even through the whole chorus.
As far as instrumentation I've seen "Rocky" with a single acoustic guitar. You don't have to wait til you find a drummer. To be technical "Rocky = The Downbeat". Not downbeat but The Downbeat. Don't worry about attitude or showmanship (or tight leather pants) yet. First take any/every song you are already doing and put all your energy and emphasis into the down beat. That's all it takes.
I need pictures of your drummer in his booth/cage/room http://drummersbehindglass.com
Shalom, brother Joseph! I agree with Trent. There are some excellent replies here. To reiterate mikeymo1741's point, yes...rock usually means full drums and electric guitars. Have you played electric guitar before? If you have the wherewithal to afford picking one up, you could facilitate part of the change in sound yourself. However, in my experience, leading from electric guitar can be more difficult than leading from acoustic. That's just my opinion, of course...fueled by years of leading from acoustic guitar and not much from electric.