expressive worship

Canned is For Campbells, Not Your Music

To not have a canned show takes work. Going from bad to good is easy. When I get a group that I work with that’s really bad, taking them to good is easy! There are so many things that can be fixed. However, going from good to great is messy. It’s reshaping things, taking bunny trails and trying ideas, listening for strong parts of the song and developing them.

Mistakes will be made, but that’s OK. I go to rehearsals and some of the best ideas by far when we record, happen when someone makes a mistake. They tried it and it didn’t work, but it stimulated an idea. If we’re always just trying to get it “right” then we’ll never get to the place that’s great. We’ll always be just good to mediocre. So get it right for the recording, but then mess it up. Try different ideas, reshape it. Follow your instinct.

Remember, going from bad to good is easy. Going from good to great is hard. Well, maybe not so much hard as it is tedious. It’s the little things.

Some of you have heard me talk about a hotel room as an example. What makes a great hotel room? A “good” hotel room has a nice bed, it’s clean, it has a bathroom, a TV, a place to put your clothes, maybe a little desk. Nothing creepy about it – it’s a nice hotel room. But what makes a good hotel room a great hotel room? It’s the little things. The mint on the pillow, fat towels, a soft robe, and my favorite amenity: a phone by the toilet! It’s not flying beds or a TV with 5000 channels. It’s just all the little things that make the difference.

Conceptually, it’s the same thing with what you do with your music. Every one of you reading this can say you have some songs, you can sing or play, you can talk, you move around the stage. You’re all “good hotel rooms.” You’re all good musicians. But what will take you to the next level? I’m telling you right now, it’s the little things.

It’s not having a canned show – it’s form, it’s spontaneity, it’s creating moments. It’s having the faith and courage to take those chances. By the way, taking chances and spontaneity – most people think you have to do that onstage. But, no, there’s a place for that spontaneity stuff even before you get onstage. Rehearsal is a place for a ton of spontaneity.

So are you a good hotel or are you a great hotel? Most of you would probably like to do music full time. So let’s look back at the hotel analogy and money. Who makes more money in the hotel business and what costs more? Is it a La Quinta $69 room, or is it the Hyatt or the Crown Center? Why are the Hyatts hundreds of dollars while you’re spending $79 for the Hampton Inn? Is there anything wrong with the Hampton Inn? No, I stay in them! But when I get to stay at the Hyatt or another high-end hotel, it’s pretty amazing. I don’t even want to leave the hotel room. (”Sorry guys, I can’t make it to rehearsal – I need to stay in the hotel bed ’cause it’s a pillowtop!”) It’s a bunch of little things that make an amazing difference in how it feels.

Is your show too canned? Too structured, too planned? Is it under-prepared or is it over-prepared? Is there no room for spontaneity inside it? Are you creating moments or are you just singing songs? Is your uniqueness coming out?

Your uniqueness, your gut instinct, is easier to follow the more you use it. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised. Every time I get an instinct – every time – there’s always resistance in my own head, let alone in the heads of the band I’m working with.

But when you listen to your instinct and uniqueness, when you develop that, you’ll find your music changing. This is what artist development is all about. There will be personal development as well. You’ll find yourself getting more confident about your ideas and your own uniqueness will grow. Whether you’re writing, singing, bringing a message to people – it will be unique rather than canned, planned, and safe.

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Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson, world renowned Live Music Producer, helps musicians and worship teams develop songs into “unique worship moments.” His Live Music Methods help create freedom in the room so your congregation can express their worship more freely and passionately than ever before! Tom has worked with nearly every genre from rock to pop to Christian Gospel, impacting major artists and worship leaders such as Jars of Clay, Casting Crowns, NewSong, Sidewalk Prophets, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Todd Agnew, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Parachute Band, The Martins, plus a multitude of independent artists.

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