expressive worship

Tom Jackson Joins Faculty of National Praise & Worship Institute

The time has come for Nashville and Christian music to have a school that will give in-depth relevant training to future Worship Pastors and Christian artists.

The National Praise and Worship Institute (NPWI) at Trevecca Nazarene University will meet that need and open its doors this summer with its first class.

I’ve reviewed this unique two-year program and believe that it is both solid in its well-rounded approach, and progressive in that every student will be in a band. [Read more...]

Be the Unique Person God Made You

Psalm 139:14 – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.

Taking risks can be a scary thing. In all the years I’ve worked with musicians and singers, I can’t recall one who didn’t have an invisible wall of fear – something they were afraid or uncomfortable to try.

But if you want to be the unique person God made you, using the special gifts and abilities you have, pouring your personality into whatever you do – you need to have the courage to take risks! You can’t always just “play it safe.” [Read more...]

Seeing the Music

I’ve worked with many singers who are trying to find and develop a unique vocal style. A great vocal coach can help with this. On the flip side, a bad vocal coach who only understands one style and tries to teach you that (whether your voice is suited for it or not), is a big mistake! You’ll never find “your voice” that way.

If you’re a guitar player who takes lessons from someone who can only teach one style (and it’s not the style you want), you’re with the wrong teacher. I’m not saying you can’t learn something from them, but you’ll never find your “instrumental voice” that way. You may find out what you don’t like, but it’s not the way to develop your own sound, your own tones, your own expression on the guitar.

The same thing holds true with expressing yourself visually onstage. Most artists don’t need to learn how to dance, so they don’t need a choreographer. They don’t need to take a theater class to learn what to do onstage. But there are fundamentals that everyone needs to learn to express themselves onstage. [Read more...]

Rules Don’t Limit!

There are rules for writing a song to be played on radio.

Some of those rules are obvious: a song shouldn’t be shorter than 2 1/2 minutes and shouldn’t be longer than 4 minutes. And generally you need an intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format.

There’s a plan, a form to get played on radio.

We willingly follow the rules for songwriting to communicate for the format called radio because we want people to hear our music and our message, we want to influence people, and (sometimes) we want to earn a living.

But most artists don’t know there are rules to communicate from another format called the stage. When it comes to the stage, most artists operate in ignorance and generally just “wing it.” Great athletes don’t “wing it.” They understand they don’t get four strikes in baseball or five downs in football. Rules bring a format and a context for the great athletes to shine! [Read more...]

Winging It, or Planning It?

Being in this music industry for at least… well, a lot of years, I’ve seen most people “winging” it. There’s nothing wrong with learning as we go, because that’s life.

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a show (a big show) and I watch the artist backstage with their band or producer, and ten minutes before the show they’re writing out a set list.

And, depending on where someone has to change a guitar or whatever, they put a big “T” for talk. Someone needs to talk there. [Read more...]

The Why, What, and When of Movement

The Why

Why move when you’re on the platform? I’m sort of philosophical. I want to understand the “why” before the “what” and “when.” “Why” is because your songs don’t sound the same, and so they shouldn’t look the same!

To those who are watching, if the songs look the same, and 55% of what you’re communicating is what they see, then the songs sound the same. And you start to lose them. No one wants to lose… they want to take their listeners on a journey – with a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

As singers and musicians, we know the content of our songs – what we want to accomplish. We need to communicate that to the audience.

By changing visually what we do onstage [Read more...]

Have Your Heart Right – But Do it Right Too

I’ve taught at a lot of worship conferences over the years. I love the desire of worship teams to learn!

One of my favorite worship conferences to teach at (besides my own) is the Christian Musician Summit. It’s held every year in Buffalo, Sacramento, Phoenix and Seattle. What I love about it is this: there’s real training going on at every one of them. People learn practical skills to make their worship team better.

I can’t say that’s always the case at every conference where I’ve taught. In fact, a huge theme at many of the others is “having your heart right with God.” Don’t get me wrong… I want you to have your heart right with God! In fact, you probably shouldn’t be on a worship team if your heart isn’t into it for the right reasons.

But I’m concerned about worship teams who [Read more...]

A Fine Meal or Goulash

I want to give my audience what they came for – and they came to experience moments!

As musicians, we assume the audience is there to hear some good music. We have some great musical moments for them, and some cool lyrical things going on. In one song there’s this awesome bass lick, and in another song the lead guitar is stellar.

But audiences can’t discern that stuff because they’re not musicians! It’s like a big plate of goulash to them. So we need to make it more obvious – [Read more...]

The Definition of Insanity

Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” He was a smart dude.

I don’t want that definition to apply to how you approach what you do on the platform. I want you to get out of the thought process of “singing songs,” and into the thought process of “creating moments.”

So does it have to be a song full of special meaning for you in order to create a moment? [Read more...]

I Don’t Want to be Interesting

One of the Facebook comments I get pretty often after people see me teach a conference class is: “I saw you at ____, and you were so interesting.”

My mind always goes a million ways when I read something like that. I’m glad someone saw me, and I certainly am glad I held their interest. I even appreciate that they found me on Facebook and thought enough of my class to comment!

But I’ve realized, I don’t want to be “interesting,” entertaining, or even fun for singers, bands, and musicians! At least that’s not my #1 priority. [Read more...]