Why should I consider using loops in my worship service?

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I deal a lot with worship loops on Our Rising Sound blog. More and more worship leaders are becoming interested in using loops but many still don’t see the point, think it’s too complicated or a waste of time, or don’t understand why anyone would use instruments that aren’t live. All of those are valid questions and I’d like to attempt to answer them. The purpose is not to convince everyone that they should use loops but rather to explain the idea, concept so you can make a more informed judgment on whether you should consider it.

Move in Creativity

Worship leaders need to push themselves, stretch and reach creatively. You’ve been blessed with a musical gifting, you’ve been called to lead a body in that art, you serve a creative God who is deserving of all praise and you have been appointed to reach the lost. The culture around you is moving creatively, music is not stagnant, if you stand still you make yourself increasingly irrelevant to the culture around you and isolated in your church bubble. The tension between leading a congregation and staying relevant to culture musically and reaching the lost is intense and we shouldn’t ever shy away from it.

It’s a challenge and balancing act we probably won’t ever get right, but we have to seek God in it and not just rely on where we feel comfortable.

Raise the level of musical excellence

Loops help raise the level of musical excellence in at least a few ways.

1. Repetition in arrangement

Now this might be a reason many don’t consider loops due to the thought of playing a song with a set in stone arrangement. First off if you use Ableton to play your loops you aren’t set in stone on the arrangement, you are more set in moldable clay. Secondly if you come from an environment where there’s a lot of spontaneous elements like sermonettes and random prayers and such in the middle of your set then you’ll have a harder time programming loops, it’s not impossible but much more difficult.

Playing with a set arrangement makes your band much tighter and actually allows for more creativity within the parts because there’s less to worry about in the overall song arrangement. Musicians know when you’re moving from verse to chorus, what gets repeated and what doesn’t, so your band spends less time staring at the worship leader wondering where to go next. Additionally not only will your band spend less time staring at the worship leader but so will your congregation. They will know where the song is going without you singing intros to each section or waving your arms and can worship with much less band distraction.

2. Instrumental and Tonal Diversity

The church has been accused of many things, but being musically diverse is not one of them. A problem all bands will face is how do we make this song fresh, we’ve played it a lot, people are tired of hearing it played like this so how can we breath life into it. There are things you can do arrangement wise of course or changing the tempo and overall feel that may work, but that ignores the greatest tool you have. Introducing new tones, sounds and textures does a lot more for reviving songs than any arrangement change could do.

Introducing these new instruments and sounds not only helps songs individually but also prevents sets from becoming monotonous tonally which causes tired ears. Tired ears occur in the congregation and band when your set has no tonal or instrumental diversity. The same frequencies are being hit continually and eventually people’s ears stop hearing what you’re actually playing, in other words they unintentionally tune you out.

Spending time programming loops allows you so much room in experimentation and creativity. You have an avenue to add texture and layers to your songs that you’d never be able to do with your live band configuration.

3. Playability

Your loops will be mistake free, have perfect pitch and perfect time. I don’t care how much your band practices you’ll never accomplish all 3 of those. This assumes you actually take the time in your loop programming to insure they are mistake free, you’re playing the correct notes and you are quantized.

There is an added risk layer and learning curve for those who don’t regularly play to a click however. You may find a lot of your past mistakes are now being exposed with a click or that your harmony you always sing is actually flat now that you have some accompaniment in the loop. There is also risk of computer melt down, but that’s why I only recommend Macs.

Feedback

I hope those loop skeptics out there at least consider what I have to say here. I’d love feedback from skeptics and supporters of loops on any pros of loops that I’ve either misrepresented or missed. Have you considered using loops? Why or why not?

Copyright 2009 @ Our Rising Sound



is the Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church, where he mentors, oversees and helps lead Family and Student worship environments. He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community and at HighestPraise.com.

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