Wednesday, 10 July 2019

That Worship Sound - Worship Essentials for MainStage Review

Worship Essentials


Worship Essentials, from That Worship Sound (Abel Mendoza) is a set of keyboard patches that can be used in Logic and MainStage for use in worship sets. I've been using this for a couple of years now and it's an unbelievably good tool. In fact if you've got a set of MIDI keys and a Mac, getting MainStage and Worship Essentials is as invaluable as an iPad is with onSong!

Worship Essentials has come a long way since it was originally launched and has improved markedly and excellently! See some of the early YouTube videos (which are still very useful for learning MainStage) on Abel Mendoza's channel.

I wrote a review on That Worship Sound saying that this is good for amateur use (people like me!) through to more professional users aiming to nail some of the worship sounds we find in a number of tracks by people like Bethel, Hillsong and Elevation Worship etc.




Worship Essentials comes with a range of patches (see image, left column). These all have a varied range of sounds from pads, different pianos, EP sound, synths, basses etc.

Within the patches are usually up to 7 different sounds which of course can be assigned to your MIDI keyboard faders. As usual, you use the 'Layout' tab within MainStage to assign your MIDI keys to the concert in MainStage.

Note that I have also added a transpose function before now to one of the concerts, with a +1, -1 and 0 function, so that I can easily transpose (and then restore the keys to the correct pitch, using the 0 function). This is fairly easy to do within the Layout mode. There is also a YouTube tutorial showing how to do this - https://youtu.be/Oxc1sEendfM

This is not shown on the image below as I'd set this up in an older, now disused concert I'd developed. I did find that the transpose function in MainStage when assigned to buttons was occasionally a bit flakey - nothing to do with Worship Essentials - but a MainStage issue.


In terms of sounds, one of the huge strengths is the 'drone' function. A drone pad is a synth pad sound that sits underneath your mix or worship set and 'pads' it out a bit and gives it more character and dimension. I use pads constantly in worship when playing alone or with a couple of others, even if we have a keyboard player.

The pads in Worship Essentials (from now on 'WE') are absolutely outstanding, especially in v2.1 of the concert. They are smooth, silky and have some controls within the drone tools centre on screen. These can add intervals and octaves, on top of the existing pad sound. It is beautiful and very easy to control. I've assigned the pads to my 'drum pads' on my Novation Impulse MIDI keyboard, which I've then labelled with masking tape and pen, showing the keys. I've used only the most common keys!

I've also assigned the MIDI keys to scroll within the patches.


As you'll see, I've also labelled many of the assignable functions within WE - namely the commonly used ones rather than all of them. You could easily assign them on a MIDI keyboard using the extra banks



Back to Worship Essentials, I've found that there are a good number of useful sounds 'out of the box' so to speak. Of course you can assign new sounds over on the channel strips, as I have done for some of the tracks we use with 'stabs' that needed to be more aggressive. But I'd go as far as to say you don't really need to change any of the sounds within WE, they are that good.



You do have some options for each sound as you'll see on the screenshot above, showing the Perform page for the patch 'Massive Side Chain'. You can see that, for example, the Piano has options for 'octave', 'bright' and 'soft pedal' where the bass (as another example) has options for 'verb', 'delay 2' and 'arp' (short for arpeggiator).

These additions to each sound change, so for example in the screenshot below (showing the Piano and Delays patch), the individual settings for Pad contains options for 'Drone', Air' and 'Mod', slightly different than the options within the Massive Side Chain patch.



The patch 'That Worship Sound' has an arpeggiation on the quarter note that reminds me of 'Chariots of Fire' - I can't help but play that every time I hear it!

What all this does mean is that unique sounds can be found and created even within each of the individual instruments within a Concert. Once you go up to the 'Concert' level there are also effects that can be applied globally - or more accurately to the patches that are set up to use these settings.

To explain more, at the top of the screen, you'll see (top left) the Piano Verb, Pad Vern and Shimmer. At the top left you'll see things like the Delays. If these are switched on (as the Verbs and Shimmer are in the screenshot above) then you can control the amount of reverb on the pads and piano - plus the amount of shimmer on the pads.

Within each patch, the sounds differ. So when you read options for 'synth', these synths are not all the same. Some patches contain the 'bass' setting, another may contain and 'organ' setting but obviously not all patches are the same!!

Tap Tempo works very well and is incredibly useful especially if playing with a delay or arpeggiation. Other slight tweaks I've made have been to the split keyboard, giving some patches the bass a bit higher up the scale etc but essentially very few changes have been made by myself - which is probably for the best!!

Responsiveness and speed have never been an issue playing live. I've never had an issue playing live either in terms of the Concert being sluggish or crashing. This is with a MacBook Pro which is over 3 years old.

The patches are also available for use within Logic when you download WE. There are also (as of version 2), two separate concerts - one which remembers global settings and another which doesn't. Check the website for more info.

I cannot recommend WE highly enough. It's been incredible in worship when I've just used the pads, or dropped in on ministry times where I've moved to keys away from my usual electric guitar. The reverbs and shimmer give the pads an epic sound when playing live and the ability to slide piano and other sounds in and out have been effortless - by the software - maybe not by the piano player, ha!

WE is very well thought out, has already had some amazing upgrades and does what is says on the tin - essential for worship.


Monday, 8 July 2019

Worship Guitar Essentials 2.0 (with a nod to 2.1) mini review

Worship Guitar Essenitals


Worship Guitar Essentials was reviewed by a friend when on version 1. Since then this concert for MainStage has been upgraded and improved steadily by the creators over at That Worship Sound.

I have used version 2.0 of Worship Essentials (with MainStage 3.4.2). There are a range of guitar options (from single coil to humbucker). There is an increased range of amps and improved controls across the pedalboard. All of this can be controlled with a foot controller.

There are so many options within Worship Guitar Essentials (on/off - tap tempo - double delay controls - several pedals from overdrives to vibe to reverb to delay and compression) that you'd need something like the Behringer FCB1010 which has 10 foot pedals (although you can assign more than 10 patches to those pedals) and two volume/wah type assignable pedals. You'll need all of the assigning you can get!

Sound quality is excellent from the clean sound to the settings created. The overdrives (often the place where sound quality can fail in any pedal or digital interface) are certainly much better than the in-built overdrives to MainStage which are average at best.

I don't use MainStage 3 live with guitar. I know some people do, like I believe one of the guitarists at iHop KC. I would be concerned about latency type issues (which would be admittedly be minimal if using something like a Focusrite or a Gio Apogee) and just prefer a pedalboard in front of me on the floor. 

Other people have very useful tips to manage MainStage 3 playing live (for example click here for 13 tips from a guy called John Mike). 

The good thing about the Worship Essentials series generally is it uses minimal processing power with lots of buses used rather than loaded channels. If you keep your sound fairly basic (don't use too many pedals) you'll always be good to go!

Remember this is good for electrics and for bass!

For recording and home use or practice, this would be outstanding for anyone - this is how I've used it. And for $40 US (so about £32) it's a great value and updated product.

This is version 2.0 where I was using a 'rhythm matchless' preset. It's nice to have varied electrics which are definitely different and I'd say quite accurate in my limited experience. There are also varied bass guitars and a couple of acoustic guitar settings too.




Below is a screenshot of version 2.1 with the added drones and no guitar plugged in.



All in all, a highly recommended worship guitar concert!!

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Free 2019 Worship and Ambient Pads

Worship and ambient pads are amazing for sitting in the mix of your worship set or songs. They provide a nice base to the song, a smooth flow and give great ambience too.

Many times these are fairly 'straight' pads sounds on the root note which is great. I often have to play solo, or with a couple of others and often don't have a keyboard player (unless I play using the amazing pads and sounds from there amazing Abel Mendoza and team at thatworshipsound.com).

So my pads tend to have a bit more 'movement' and harmonics, motion, arpeggiators in them in order to give the worship a few more dynamics beyond a simple pad sound. These latest pads add a few more of these dynamics which may help you. All for free, enjoy!

Direct link - https://youtu.be/U9lQhHLdl18

Our playlist of free pads can be found here...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6K429HuBcs&list=PLOBi-HWvRc_c07fBQ7WR2B7-UMOifY2sr

Really hope and pray these help some people!

We've also now added a few 'minor' keys - these are layers of various pads but only using the root notes so can also be used for major scales! Result!

Direct link - https://youtu.be/klfOoVJOe7Q




Friday, 4 January 2019

TC Electronic Sub 'N' Up MINI Octaver Pedal Review

TC Electronics do a number of interesting pedals, a bit like Electro-Harmonix. When it comes to octave pedals, there's little doubt that the EHX POG leads the way (although Boss may have something to say about that).

What's important in an octave pedal is that the pedal plays both the octaves but also tracks the note accurately and responsively. This is where EHX have led the way in my view.

So what of TC's version of the micro POG - the "Sub N Up"? This comes in a couple of versions - the 'regular' size pedal and the mini pedal.

The difference between the two, other than the physical footprint is that the regular Octaver has two sub bass control knobs, whereas the Mini Octaver only has one. The regular Octaver also has a switch for its 'Poly Toneprint Classic' sound.

Both have the ability to beam TonePrints to the pedal, as well as a mini USB input. The regular one also has the ability to be true bypass - or optionally can be set up to be a buffered bypass.

A buffered bypass is often used at the front of a pedal chain with lots of true bypass pedals and considered to punch the sound through the bypass pedals more effectively). On my pedalboard setup I have a sadly discontinued Open Road overdrive at the start of the chain and this is a buffered bypass. Does it make the sound better? Hard to tell but I think it probably does.

The Octaver Mini itself has three control knobs... The top one controls the wet and dry signal. If the knob is turned fully to the right it is completely dry (so the pedal is not heard). If the knob is turned fully to the left, the signal is fully wet (so the original guitar sound isn't heard). I've left the pedal in the middle position mostly.

Below this there are control knobs for the octave sub (left) and the octave up (right). The more these are turned clockwise, the greater the amount of effect will be added. Simple.

The other good thing is that one of TC Electronic's TonePrints will allow you to have the octave Up pedal as a separate sub, so you can use the pedal to go down 1 and 2 octaves. Otherwise your sub pedal gives you an octave down and the up gives an octave up.

Of course in use with a delay and reverb (and even a chorus), this pedal will help giving a swelling shimmer reverb sound if wanted.

For me, the pedal now finds its way at the start of the pedal chain on both my acoustic (when playing solo or as a duo) or my electric board. On acoustic, the pedal can act to give me a bass line while my partner in musical crime carries the chords. Or on both acoustic and electric, the octave pedal thickens up a lead line, either to give a specific effect or simply as a 'boost' to thicken the tone.

In practice, I find that the Mini Octaver tracks single lead lines perfectly well for my need anyway!

With chords it's more tricky for any octave pedal as it has to separate out each string and apply the effect simultaneously. I have to say that the Mini Octaver tracks even chords impressively. Here I'm talking about worship songs which generally have a fairly standard rhythmic strum pattern. But even with both the sub and up activated I find it works well. There is a slight bit of latency on some of the bass as you'll hear in the clip but as long as you don't overdo the amounts (when using chords at least), I think it works fine!

Conclusion


Overall, my conclusion is that the pedal works very well. It actually reproduces bass well on a completely wet setting. With chords, it's more varied, especially the higher the settings you use as you'd expect). It can begin to have a slightly detuned, chorusy type of sound. But for adding something else to the tone and adding character, it works very well.

YouTube Sounds Review



'Best' Worship Songs from 2018

Don't you dislike words like 'best worship songs'...! What does that even mean? For us, it's just a title, nothing more. We all recognise that various songs work in differing contexts, groups, churches and occasions. Songs rise up and fall back, others stay longer, some come for seasons and in certain churches.

But from my church, worship events and local area within the missional Anglican and charismatic church, which songs have really been 'taking off'? What songs have I seen God use to really speak into people's lives and seen people sing with a passion in church? Which worship songs have seen God's anointing on them? New songs, old ones, songs somewhere in between....

In no particular order....

Living Hope

Written by Phil Wickham and Brian Johnson, this is a song that has really taken off in 2018. The words are really anointed as is the construction of the song. This is sung with more energy by Phil Wickham compared to the more mellow Brian Johnson. Cross Point Church have done a great version (and electric guitar tutorial). All versions work equally well. This is a song that can cross over between band in a charismatic church and in a more traditional evangelical church. It's a song I find myself singing to myself over and over.

What A Beautiful Name

The bridge still has an incredible anointing on it as we corporately declare who God is and the fact that he has no rival and no equal. Love that. The song has fallen back in use, possibly due to over-use. Still such a powerful song, lyrics and tune.

O Praise The Name

Another incredible Hillsong tune and one that is still going. The chorus is so powerful and can be used and attached to many other worship songs. This is used and declared with passion wherever I go.

Surrounded (Fight My Battles)

A Housefires song that has taken off in 2018, the song is about how we fight our battles through worship. The declaration is that 'it may look like I'm surrounded, but I'm surrounded by you' is a message to a world often hostile to Christianity and an encouragement. The song is simple and powerful.

Reckless Love

Still being used and still loved, especially the chorus and bridge. The song speaks to a generation that is often confused and needs God's comfort. The only reckless thing about this song is the silly fuss some people online have made about it. Thank goodness God calls us to the throne of grace, not to the throne of 'theological perfection', to paraphrase Mike Bickle. Part of the power of this song is the use of the word 'Reckless' which gives the song its anointed edge. If you don't like the song, don't use it and move on!

This I Believe

Hillsong's declaration of the creed and what we believe is brilliant. We often use this for communion. Similar to this song is 'O Come To The Altar' by Elevation Worship which we've occasionally used.

Great Are You Lord

I like All Sons and Daughters and they've done some great songs in their own unique ways. But 'Great Are You Lord' seems to have actually risen up in 2018 if that makes sense. Again, it's another song that declares who God is. These songs are needed in the church in a dark world and remind us, encourage us and give us boldness as we know our God.

The bridge 'All the earth will shout your name' is also powerful. The chord structure for that is 1, 1sus, 4, 1.

Personally I like the way All Sons and Daughters (the final time around) go: 1, 1sus/6, 4, 1. Try it and see!

10, 000 Reasons

Still going and still loved. It's being sung less but still retains that Psalm 103 praising God at all times vibe. It's more of a hymn as we know and so has an appeal across church traditions. Thinking again of the chord structure,

I heard Hunter at Bethel Music (I think) sing the final chorus with a replacement chord, as follows, which I've done and works well... The normal way is: Bless the (4) Lord, oh my (1) soul, (5) oh my (6) soul...

The way Bethel did it was: Bless the (4) Lord, oh my (1) soul, (3) oh my (6) soul...

Take Courage

We've found ourselves singing this from Kristin DiMarco at Bethel quite a few times. The song has spoken to many people who find themselves in a time of waiting, of hoping, trusting and desperately in need of God. The Bible tells us in places like Psalm 27 and 37 that it's good to wait on the Lord. But sometimes the waiting just seems endless, as I know from personal experience. But this chorus moves from 'Hold onto your hope, as your triumph unfolds' through to 'Hold onto your hope, watch your triumph unfold.' It's active waiting and I've seen many people crying or just holding onto God as this sung sung over them and into the core of their spirit.

Stand In Your Love

'My fear doesn't stand a chance, when I, stand in your love..." I was at Exeter University Great Hall when the excellent Josh Baldwin led his song in October 2018 and the roof nearly blew off. To be fair, it did with every song. The passion for God was incredible. The semi-country, semi-worship style with the electric guitar riff using a slide on the A-shape just adds to another powerful declaration. This time it's for a generation where fear is rising but God is bigger!

Tremble

Co-written by Mariah McManus, this is another tune that has risen up and again when sung at church (and at the Bethel event at Exeter Uni), the passion and worship of God was almost overwhelmingly powerful. I actually find myself walking around and working, singing and declaring "Jesus, Jesus, you make the darkness tremble" constantly. The bridge of 'Your name is a light that the shadows can't deny. Your name cannot be overcome' is another declaration and powerful truth that needs to be sung, heard, spoken out and seen manifested in life!

Yes and Amen

Another Housefires song that has seen real traction, again due to a declaration of a truth in God's Word. This time from 2 Corinthians 1.20 that "All your promises are yes and Amen." The inspired shout of "Faithful, you are..." only adds to another song of declaration. Again, when Hunter Thompson sung this at iHop's 2018 OneThing, there was such a passion of worship.

PS check out Morgan Faleolo's version of this (and 'Do It Again' by Elevation Music). Amazing - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys01143j3uA



Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Tips for solo musicians, duos or worship leaders. Increase your sound!

Not enough sound coming from just your voice and acoustic? Want to add more sound or instrumentation to your sound? Here we'll look at seven ideas - Pads, BeatBuddy, Stomp Box and tambourine, multi-instruments, vocal harmonisers, OnSong, FCB1010, backing tracks, pads with beats...

One of the things that happens when you play or lead worship on your own or perhaps with just a couple of you, is that you may find the sound isn't as full as it can be. This happens with myself and a friend who play acoustic together. This is where pads can sit in the mix underneath your playing.

Here are some options to increase your soundscape....

1. Pads


These sit 'under' your mix and are not he root / tonic note. They can be a plain synth sound or have a variety of arpeggiations / pentatonic notes to add to the variety. I make some for free - visit https://www.youtube.com/user/zerofourzulu/videos and generally have them at around 25mins per track.


2. BeatBuddy


You can use the BeatBuddy to add beats for your songs. This is one thing I do. I've set up 'worship patches' on my Beat Buddy using the associated software.

The advantage is that you can programme to play different parts of each song. Disadvantage is that you need to programme it using the computer - and then work it (correctly!) when using live. This takes practice but adds a lot as it plays back real drum samples. Just practice, practice, practice and buy a separate foot pedal to trigger play back etc.


3. Stomp Drum / Tambourine


You can use a stomp box / stomp drum (same thing). I use one from Beat Root (off ebay) which is OK but needs some serious sub bass and EQ-ing to get a good sound. My friend uses a slightly bigger and better one from Acoustim8 off Amazon which is physically bigger and produces a better thump for sure. A professional musician friend uses an even better one from Logjam (the Logarhythm).

The advantage is that you can play it and choose when to come in. You can get different sounds depending on where you stomp down. The disadvantage is that it's only one sound (a 'kick drum') and it can get tiring on the foot / leg playing it, especially when standing! You may also need to tie it down as it can often move meaning you're dragging it back towards you mid song!

To go to the next level of this idea, one worship leader once had a kick drum as the main beat and got the bass player to play a tambourine on the floor (mic'd up with a condenser mic and a ton of reverb) as the 'snare'. It worked well.


4. Multi-instruments Simultaneously


Idea 1 - I have one friend who manages (brilliantly) to play a keyboard with one hand playing the basic melody line or the chords - and a cajon with the other hand. This provides a great extra bit of sound with two sound sources. He also sometimes uses a Novation Mininova in the background as a 'pads' sound, or jumps between his keys and the Mininova.

Idea 2 - Another friend has used a Novation MiniNova as a bass sound with one hand (sometimes holding down the sustain pedal to keep the bass note), while using his electric guitar (with a ton of reverb) using the other hand. A capo helps him to play in the right key.

Idea 3 - I have often done a combo of playing pads on a MIDI keyboard using MainStage (Worship Essentials by Abel Mendoza), using the sustain pedal or using the Drone Pad tonic note pad within Worship Essentials - while playing acoustic guitar.

Idea 4 - On a more limited level, you can use more than one sound source for pads. For example using two iPads playing back sounds or samples or triggering Garage Band. Or using pads on an iPad and playing a synth. Or you could run a MIDI pad triggering drum samples and pads.

The advantage of this is having two sounds. The disadvantage is that you need to be able to do this well and it may prove too much for some. Can be tricky to sing at the same time too!


5. Vocals - using a Harmonizer


For vocals I also use a TC Helicon Play Acoustic and run the vocals through this. You will also need to run your acoustic guitar through this so the Play Acoustic picks up which key you're in. If you're playing a single key, then you can programme the Play Acoustic with this key.

I use the harmony sparingly and sensitively, with a relatively low db (volume level) so it doesn't sound too fake or too over-done. But this is a way of having harmony with your vocals and an encouragement to nail the notes every time - otherwise the harmony sounds terrible!


6. Triggering a MIDI synth / chords with a foot pedal and MainStage


Warning, this is a long and involved procedure but if you follow all the instructions and especially use the videos linked to, you'll find a way through! The Behringer FCB1010 doesn't have a MIDI to USB output built-in so you'll need to purchase a MIDI-USB adapter. Don't skimp!

However... If you intend to use the programme iFCB to edit the Behringer FCB1010,  you will need a USB-MIDI adapter or unit that is capable of transmitting MIDI SysEx. Many adaptors don't work with this including expensive and cheap ones. So find one that definitely will allow SysEx. The FCB forums here give some examples - http://www.wabbitwanch.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=6

If you're using OS Mojave then it's possible iFCB won't work (at the time of writing this, October 2018) as iFCB is only a 32 bit app. It may work but I've yet to test it.


To go beyond the normal 'pads' use of things, I created the following setup:



Unless you're in the States / Canada and can easily by the Looptimus foot pedal (which has pads already assigned to its foot pedal as one of its options), you will need a foot pedal MIDI controller that plays back MIDI notes. Trying to find this isn't easy and basically as of the time of writing (October 2018), your only options are the Behringer FCB1010 (the cheapest option) or the Roland FC-200 or FC-300, which I believe can play back MIDI notes. The Behringer FCB1010 definitely can.

So you'll likely need to first organise a set list in the same key - or in two different keys maximum. The reason for this is that we're going to use the FCB1010 to trigger not just notes, but chords from Apple MainStage. The FCB1010 has 10 available foot pedals for this use, so you can assign for example the top row of 5 pedals to play back chords in the key of E and the bottom row to play back chords in the key of C.

Using two keys will only work if the songs you're playing back don't have more than five chords in them. So I set up my FCB1010 to play back chords: 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 generally.

In order to do this, you will need to do two things. Firstly, you'll need to set up a concert in MainStage that plays back chords. Secondly, you'll need to set up the FCB1010 to play back MIDI notes and then assign the foot pedals within MainStage to the notes / chords you want to play back from MainStage.

Make sure you connect your FCB1010 and either follow the manual's instructions to set this up to send / receive MIDI note messages. Or visit https://mountainutilities.eu/fcb1010 and try their editor. Or pay $20 and get the editor from Rabbit Watch - http://www.wabbitwanch.com/iFCB.html or get it through the App Store.

Then follow this instruction video here to set up mapping the FCB1010 to MainStage if using iFCB:



If not using iFCB and you're up for the 'pedal dance' option of sorting yourself, this video may prove helpful instead:


I warned it was a little complex....!

Within MainStage, create a new drum pad concert, delete everything. Then from within the Layout tab and Panel Controls section at the bottom of the screen, drag on to the window ten drum pads in two rows of five. You can then label the channel strip as wanted in the Layout menu.

In the Edit tab, go to the mixer and replace the 'Ultrabeat' input with a pad of your choosing and rename - I used the Alchemy synth and navigated to the 'Hotel Endless' preset.

You can remove any of the other (musical) channel strips by deleting them. I then renamed the channel strip to 'Pad'.

Then still working in the channel strip, click on "MIDI FX' and select 'Chord Trigger'. Then the 'Instrument (Pad)' window pops up. This is where your notes will become your chords. But you will need to set this up. To do this, follow this video below (not done by me). You will need to follow the instructions but set up the chords however you need them to be. In the video, he uses a keyboard to assign the notes.

Note - you will be using the same principles (and notes displayed on the Layout and Edit tabs) to assign the chords to the relevant notes - e.g. C1, C#1 etc. These will need to be the same notes already assigned to each pedal from within the Behringer FCB1010 setup. You can change them in the FCB1010 easily if not the same.





To test if this is working, you can manually click while in the Edit or Perform tab of MainStage and see if these play back the correct chords.

Your next task once you've set this up is to assign the pads within your Layout window to the pedals on the FCB1010 (click assign, press the FCB1010 pedal, then click assign again). Do this for each pedal and you *should* be good to go. Save your concert in MainStage!

Now when playing live, you should be able to use your FCB1010 on the floor, connect up to MainStage and by clicking on a pedal you'll be able to play back chords from MainStage as you play them on the guitar. Now you're playing guitar and keys...

7. Pads with strings, sounds, and beats

One final idea that I use is to use my pads sounds from Logic but also add in a beat at a fixed tempo. I then organise a worship set with songs in a certain key and with the same kinds of tempos. The sound is then played back from the iPad in OnSong, triggered by the IK Multimedia Blue Rig foot pedal (you'll need to download and pay for the MIDI add-on within OnSong).

So as one example I did pads in E and put together a beat in Logic at 75bpm. I then used this to play back a few songs with similar tempos in the key of E - for example '10,000 Reasons' and 'What A Beautiful Name' and 'This Is Our God' and 'King Of My Heart' then 'When I Survey' (Tim Hughes version).

I have also done some specific timed songs - such as Reckless Love (Cory Asbury) or Guardian (Ben Cantelon). They are intentionally very minimalist as designed solely to be used by a single or duo set of acoustics for a specific song!

There is also a backing track for the KXC song 'Sing It Out (He's Alive)'.

To this end, I put some of my backing tracks like this onto Youtube in case they could be useful for anyone else. You can find them below...








Thursday, 4 January 2018

OnSong, Pads, iRig BlueBoard Case, Review of Sony SRS-XB40 bluetooth speaker, XB40 case


I recently replaced my old 'computer speakers' (Gigaworks T20s) with a bluetooth speaker.

How does this relate to worship, you ask?

Well, I lead in some small venues for groups, small churches and small events. Understandably, we don't want to set up a full band for these situations.

I've learned to be incredibly flexible in these situations being faced with people who don't understand sound, those who do PA but get flustered so need help, times where there is no PA or they need me to deliver PA, times where space is very small or there's no time to set anything up!

Over time I've learned to bring extras of pretty much everything! Spare leads, plugs, accessories, strings, about 7 types of spare batteries, power, iPad, nail clippers, the list goes on...

Back to the bluetooth speaker... I commonly use pads, beats and backing tracks (or have them loaded into OnSong). Where the PA allows, we use pads quite commonly in band at church and I regularly use the pads when I'm out in the smaller venues as well.

If you don't use pads, they add a huge amount of atmosphere to the sound and can help you transition between tracks.

I've also started using pads in combination with looped beats (up to 25mins in time) so that if you want to play a couple of songs together and have a beat around the same tempo, I've got that option. Unlike say using the BeatBuddy, you don't have the options to jump to a chorus or another part of the song but you do have more flexibility.

But what if there's no PA or no time to hook into the PA or you just need a quieter sound in a smaller room? This is where the portable speakers come in handy...

Cue the Sony SRS XB-40 and a powerful and bass sound with a smallish footprint (about 30cm by 10cm by 10cm to be relatively precise!)



To trigger the pads and sounds from the iPad, I use the bluetooth-triggered iRig Blueboard. This requires you to open the iRig BlueBoard app on the iPad and then swipe to open OnSong without closing the BlueBoard app.

Previously when leading in smaller venues,  I'd set up my mini speakers in the room and run a wire from the iPad to output the pads or other audio from those speakers. But now they are defunct, would I be able to trigger OnSong gestures and audio via the iRig BlueBoard and simultaneously send those sounds to the bluetooth speaker?

The answer is a resounding yes. Yes, you can simultaneously use the iRig Blueboard and output audio from an iPad (from any app such as Music, OnSong) to a bluetooth speaker.

So now the setup has the potential to be: guitar (sometimes into a PA, sometimes not), iRig BlueBoard pedal, iPad on iPad stand and bluetooth speaker playing back the pads. Ideal and fewer wires too!

As for the sound of the Sony SRS-XBO, I'm glad I spent a bit more money and got a physically larger bluetooth speaker and one with more bass. Out of the box, the sound isn't at all bad and you can control the EQ by downloading a Sony app to your device. The speaker flashes in time to the music by default but holding down the extra bass button for 3 seconds turns it off. You can also turn off the extra bass feature.

For what it's worth, the sound is phenomenal and will fill a small room without any problems. Very highly recommended. The speaker was used in an 18th century church which is probably around 30m by 15m and another 30m upwards and the sound was great.

I tested out various other speakers from JBL, Ultimate Ears, Bose and some cheaper ones that seemed to have good reviews but were not worth the money. The Sony SRS-XB40 stood out for me and was bought when it was on offer from Currys! The closest competition for price was the JBL Charge 3 but I felt the Sony had the edge in what I needed and was looking for. It also has an audio input in case you want to go wired. Very glad I didn't get a physically smaller speaker otherwise bass would have been compromised!

Sony SRS-XB40 Case


The Sony SRS-XB40 has purpose made cases available for it on Amazon and ebay which retail (currently) for around £15. It's made of a solid EVA material and fits the speaker like a glove. There is a section for the plug which is slightly small but fits fine. I bought this one - no affiliation so I don't get money if you click the link - https://www.amazon.co.uk/SRS-XB40-Powerful-Portable-Wireless-Khanka/dp/B073RF7377/

iRig Blueboard Case / Bag


I also spent a lot of time looking for a basic case for the iRig Blueboard. Who would think that finding a case for the Blueboard would be such a palaver! Absolutely nothing around. So in the end it called for some creative thinking. What about a drum stick bag? Or a flute case bag? Or a 'tupperware' type container? Any of these were possible but in the end I started looking at pencil cases. The perfect fit came from a WHSmith pencil case. Not really padded but fits really well - https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/whsmith-black-textured-neoprene-long-pencil-case/37714208