There are some great worship songs out there today, but some of them can be difficult for the "normal church go-er" to sing. Here is my take on how to make "One Thing Remains" from Jesus Culture more singable! I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and be sure to share! 

What an amazing Summer! We have had a blast leading worship for two camps in Oklahoma a VBS in Austin, several Family Worship Nights and many different Sunday morning church services. I know there is still a little bit of Summer left, but I couldn't wait to share this with you! I wanted to give you a little peek into what we get to experience when we lead worship for kids.
 When Tarrytown UMC talked to us last year about leading the music for their VBS this year, they told us that they were going to write their own curriculum. As we talked about the theme and what the daily lessons were going to be, we offered to write music to go with each day. We had a blast writing these songs and even stepped outside of our box a bit and wrote a hip/hop song! 
We wanted to share with you the joy we get from hearing the kids sing these songs. Here is short video from VBS! 

We sure had a blast with those kiddos! I'm glad you got to hear their sweet voices! 
Just as a side note, Michelle did an amazing job creating and leading the motions for all the songs. She is so creative and a wonderful leader! I am proud to be on her team! 

Thanks for hanging out with me today! If you would like to purchase or hear any of our new songs you can go to www.JustinGravesBand.com/store. I know you will love them and want to sing them at the top of your lungs too! I hope you have a great weekend! 

 

A while back I wrote about the use of secular music in church (see blog “Is this Controversial?”) and it raised a few more questions. In my blog I mentioned that I do not believe that we should be rewriting the lyrics to popular or secular songs to change them to “Christian” songs, but that we should be creative enough to use the gifts God has given us to come up with our own songs.

This statement not only sparked a small conversation on our Facebook page, but also in our own house. One of our Facebook followers mentioned the that many of the hymns we sing in church were taken from bar tunes of the time. This is something I have grown up hearing and have even used this argument myself defending the use of certain types of songs or music in the church today. I wanted to make sure that what I had been hearing all my life was actually the truth so I set out to do some research in order to defend my belief. What I have found has helped me better understand the history of church music and also help me discover the story behind the music.

Many of the hymns in our hymnals today were written by John or Charles Wesley or by Martin Luther. Many people have called them the fathers of modern church music, but did they just take the popular songs of the time and put new words to them? The answer I have found is a resounding “NO!” “What?!? How can this be?!? I have spent most of my life making the argument that they did and now I am finding out this is all not true?” These were my first thoughts. Then I continued reading and discovered that the reason for this popular belief. These hymn writers set out to write songs for the church that the common man (and woman) could sing. They wanted their songs to be easy to learn and remember. You see, much of the church music at the time was considered “High Church,” not something that the everyday man could easily sing along with (think opera music). The hymn writers of the 18th and 19th century wanted people to sing God's Word and internalize His truth in a way that was easy to remember and had some sort of repetition and rhyme similar to the popular music of the day. It would be easy to make the assumption that they just used the bar room songs and changed the words since their songs were similar in style and rhythm.

There were, however, some writers that did use traditional folk melodies popular at the time, one of which was William Booth, who wrote many of the Salvation Army songs. He is the one who was first quoted saying, “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?” These songs, however, were also not songs sung in bars or music halls, they were the cultural folk songs that people had grown up singing.

So after all these years here is what I take away from this conversation:

  1. Don't believe something just because everybody says it's true. Do your own research, dig, study and come up with your own opinions. You may be surprised to find out the real truth!

  2. Hymns were not written using the melodies of bar songs at the time. Yes, they were written in the same style or format, but neither of the Wesley brothers nor Luther used songs that were already written and then changed the words.

  3. God made us creative beings. He wants us to grow, develop, create & recreate, and use the gifts He has given us to bring Him glory! He gave us a HUGE imagination and wants us to use it!

  4. Like I stated in my previous blog, I am not against using secular music in a church service as long as it has a purpose. I do, however, think that we shouldn't be taking a popular song, changing the words and turning it into a worship or "Christian" song.

I would love to hear what you think about this! I want to know what some of your favorite songs are, please leave them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Thanks for hanging out with me today!  

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AuthorJustin Graves

Considering the crazy challenge I have ahead of me this weekend (see blog "Over the Edge"), I had to stop for a minute today to share something very cool. We received an email the other day telling us that there is a church near Manchester, England that is using our song “Strong and Courageous” with their children's ministry! This is not the first time we have received an email like this, but most of the time I forget to share this exciting news! We also know of a kid's ministry in Russia, ministries in Cambodia and the Philippines, churches in Australia and people all across the U.S. who are using and singing this song! How crazy is that!?!

We never imagined what we thought was just a silly little song written for a Sunday morning would have such an impact. We receive emails and notes through Facebook fairly often letting us know how this song has helped a child or family going through a tough situation. People tell us that this has become their family theme song, that it has helped them through a difficult time, or that it has encouraged them to overcome something that they didn't think they could conquer.

It is such an incredible blessing to know that people are using our music and, even though we may not know where, that God is using our songs to uplift, encourage and impact lives all across the globe.

If you don't know our song “Strong and Courageous” or just want to hear it again check out the video below!

We would love to hear how "Strong and Courageous" has encouraged you! Please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page and tell us your story!

Thanks for hanging out with me today!  

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AuthorJustin Graves
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I saw a conversation on Facebook the other day, and I may be way off, or opening a can of worms here, but I want to talk about the use of "secular" songs in worship services. This has been a popular trend lately, and there are usually two schools of thought on this subject. Typically, people are strongly for it, or adamantly against it. I seem to fall somewhere in the middle.

As far as using "secular" songs, I think there are some amazing songs that are not labeled "worship songs" that could be used in our worship services today. For example, U2 has many songs that could be used as worship songs. One of their more recent is 'Magnificent', an amazing song that talks about the majesty of our Creator and how every thing we do should bring God glory. There is also a Coldplay song called 'A Message', which tell us that Love should be the central message in all we do. Sounds a lot like Jesus' message in Mark 12.

On the other hand is the trend of singing the "popular" worship songs. Do we sing them because they are drawing us closer to our Savior and opening us up to see our relationship with Him in a new way, or are we singing them because they are on the radio or they are the newest one written by our favorite artist?  (See my previous post "Song Fatigue" for more of my thoughts on this subject.)

The use of "secular" songs in a worship service, in my opinion can be used to enhance the service. They can frame the theme or message in a way that helps the congregation see things in a different way. Or possibly, the next time the congregation hears that song they will think about the scripture or message that was related to it. However, I have seen songs used in a service "just because". I struggle with that. If we aren't doing something with purpose, why are we doing it? Just to be cool, hip and trendy, or say that we do "secular" music at our church?

I also struggle with the re-writing of "secular" songs in order to make them "spiritual" or turn them into "worship" songs. I admit, I have taken pieces of "secular" songs and weaved them together with hymns or "worship" songs and made kind of a 'mash-up' of songs. But what I am talking about is taking a song and changing the words to be more 'Christian' while keeping the same melody and music. I know I am not the greatest songwriter in the world and don't have much room to criticize other songwriters, but why not come up with your own tune and melody for the words you have created? Sure use these "secular" songs in your worship services, but use them the way they came, don't change them to fit what you think or want it to say. If the original songwriter wanted to say something different, they would have!

At the end of the day don't let little issues like what songs to use take your focus off of our goal as Worship Leaders. Our goal is to create an experience for the congregation to worship our Savior. Whether that means just one guy and a guitar playing praise songs from the 70's, a full choir and orchestra doing the latest Brooklyn Tabernacle songs or a smokin' praise band doing the all "secular" tunes, everything we do should be pointing to bringing glory to God. 

Those are a few of my thoughts. I would love to hear yours! Feel free to pass this on to your worship leader and pastor friends! Be sure to leave a comment here or on our Facebook page! Thanks for hanging out with me today!

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AuthorJustin Graves

As a songwriter it can be frustrating when things aren't coming out right. A few years ago I was struggling and it seemed like everything I was writing was awful! So, instead of quitting I did the only thing I knew to do...write a song about it! I wanted to share it with you just so you know what goes on in this crazy head of mine! I filmed this in the other day in the high desert of Acton, CA. so you could experience a little of the beauty we have been enjoying while we have been here!

Hope you enjoy! Please share this with your friends! Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook page! Thanks for hanging out with me today!

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AuthorJustin Graves

Your brain is amazing. It can process information at lightning speed, take multi sensory input and continue making your body function without you having to think about it! God created something fascinating when He created our brain. As we get older we learn what to do with all the input, we figure out how things work and our brain stores that away for the next time we need that information. When it comes to music our brains are even more fascinating. The way the brain can hear all the instruments in a song individually and collectively is amazing. The way it can translate rhythms and sounds and hear them as a cohesive unit takes more computing power than I could ever imagine. Even people who have had no musical training can tell the difference between good and bad songs! So when we, as worship leaders, go to create song sets for our services we have to take more into consideration than just what songs we like to sing.

Since our brain loves logical transitions, one way to help keep the flow of a song set and not disturb the worshipful environment you are creating is to use songs that are in complementary keys. If you aren't sure what that means or how to do that there is a cool little chart called the Circle of fifths. This is a reference tool that helps you figure out what musical keys are complimentary or how to transition easily from one key to the next. When I first started playing guitar it seemed like every praise and worship song was in the key of G, so it made it easy to transition from song to song. But these days worship songs are written in keys like F# or Bb to fit the voice of the recording artist. So, when we are creating our song set for the service we have a couple of options. We can change the key of the song to better fit into our set (See my blog “Do Re Mi” for more on this topic!) or we can use a musical interlude transition that will take us from one key to the next. It can be as simple as playing one chord to take you from one key to the next or, using the Circle of 5th's, create that transition that sets up the new key with a beautiful instrumental piece.

Do not fret (pun intended), even if your whole set is in the key of G that is ok! Selecting a song set list that flows musically and makes sense even to non-musical brains will help create a wonderful environment. If you have any questions or need help with figuring out transitions, I am here to help! Just shoot me an email or message me on Facebook and we will work it out together! I have included a PDF of the Circle of fifths and a link to help explain how to us it just incase you want to see how it works!

Thanks for hanging out with me today! Now let's go make beautiful music together!  


http://www.music-theory-for-musicians.com/circle-of-fifths.html

 
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AuthorJustin Graves