The Crescendoing Mantra Bridge

Just an observation. If you are a lead worshiper/worship leader/music leader/pastor of worship arts/creativity prophetess (or whatever is the appropriate title), have you noticed how many worship songs have a repetitive bridge? Here are a few famous examples:

I'll never know how much it cost, to see my sins upon that cross (repeat)

Let Your glory shine around, let Your glory shine around, King of glory here be found, King of glory (repeat)

You give and take away, You give and take away, My heart will choose to say, Lord Blessed Be Your Name (repeat)

It's rising up all around, it's the anthem of the Lord's renown (repeat)

We lift our holy hands up, we want to touch You, we lift our voices higher and higher and higher to You (repeat)

It seems to be a trend for sure. Most hymns don't even have bridges. In fact, you're lucky to even get a chorus! I know sometimes people complain about repetitive lyrics. Usually these are the same people who complain that newer worship songs are too hard to sing... go figure. I happen to like these sorts of bridges.

My preference is to get some sort of crescendo or decrescendo going... usually I enter the bridge from the chorus and I take one of two approaches:

1. Come out of the chorus strong into the bridge and then decrescendo over 2-8 repeats, leading into a "vocals only" chorus, and a then a quick half or single measure build back into a final full blown chorus to end.

2. Cut the chorus off hard and start the bridge out pp, then crescendo the bridge back up over 2-8 repeats, climaxing in a full blown chorus. With this approach I like to hold back slightly on the previous choruses, so that the final chorus has that extra something.

Alternatively, I might make the bridge travel pp to ff back to pp, with slight variations in the lyrics. Or I might do the opposite, traveling from ff to pp and back to ff. Or any number of variations on this theme.

One bridge I like is from the song "Glory in the Highest" by Chris Tomlin. It is a good example of something I really like, which is to take a bridge and repeat it over the top of the chorus, giving the congregation a couple choices of what to sing. For example, in "Glory in the Highest", there is an alternate chorus/bridge that goes:

All the earth will sing Your praise, the moon and stars, the sun and rain
And every nation will proclaim, that You are God and You will reign

Glory glory, hallelujah, glory, glory to You Lord, glory, glory, hallelujah, hallelujah

This is sung slightly above the chorus which simply repeats:

Glory in the highest, glory in the highest, glory in the highest, to You Lord

All of this is done at the end of the song.

After the crescendo, which ends with "hallelujah", I have the band drop off dramatically to p, and I and my bgv will sing a variety of repeating mantra things. I usually will continue repeating "hallelujah" (the last word in the previous line) while she continues to sing "glory in the highest". They sort of play off each other and echo back and forth. Then we may come together to sing and repeat " You Lord" at the end... all with the band playing softly, to emphasize the words.

What this does is it allows those worshiping to choose from a couple of different options as to what to sing. They can follow me or the bgv. Ultimately what this reinforces is that they are free to sing whatever they want whenever they want. They don't have to follow what I am singing all the time. That is really the point. And it creates very special moments where the band drops out and the whole crowd is singing together in parts, some doing one part, some doing another, but in a very natural way.

I totally DO NOT like what some leaders will do to orchestrate a moment like that by saying "all the women sing X, and all the men sing Y" (yes, I realize the chromosomal pun. It was semi-intended). That sort of control feels very unnatural and manipulative to me. That's just me I guess.

OK, that's my observations on the Crescendoing (Decrescendoing) Mantra Bridge. Make the most of it.

Worship Design

Here is a quote from a recent Easum and Bandy discussion (

"Worship from AD 1000 through 1999 was designed for a Christian majority as an expression of the institutional church. Worship in the Apostolic Age and after AD 2000 is designed for a Christian minority as an expression of mission outreach. The only "good" worship is worship that helps people experience the transforming power of God, and motivates them to walk daily with Jesus."

As a pastor in the Northwest, I definitely understand the idea of being the minority. Many would say that the Northwest is on the leading edge of post-Christian culture in the United States. Is this fall toward secularism inevitable?

Here is a quote from McLaren's new book "Everything Must Change".

" postponing the essence of salvation to the afterlife, and by assuming God plans to destroy the earth, the conventional view leads us to assume that the world will get worse and worse, and that this deterioration is in fact God's will or plan. This assumption would tend to create a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only that, but in some versions of the conventional view, the worse the world gets, the better we should feel since salvation - meaning post-mortem salvation after the world is destroyed - is approaching. In too many cases, the conventional view can lead people to celebrate humanity's "progress" in self-destruction rather than seeking to turn it around.

To put it bluntly, in terms of humanity and this earth, the conventional view too easily creates - unintentionally, of course – a kind of religious death wish."

I want to lead worship that leads Christians to CHANGE the world, not succumb to it.

How Special Can A Guitar Be?

I finally bought the acoustic guitar I should have bought 18 years ago.

You see, back when I was 17, I bought an Ovation. It was a Legend, Model 1717. It wasn't cheap. It was one of the best Ovation guitars you could buy at the time. Only the Elites or the Anniversary editions were better. No cheap Celebrity was this!

All my favorite hair bands played Ovations. It was the late '80s, so only the old timers played Martins or Guilds, and only country and bluegrass pickers played Gibsons. Yes, to me, Ovations were the king of acoustic guitars. The OP preamp and EQ was top of the line. The plugged in piezo sound was the ultimate acoustic rock live sound. And my deep bowl Legend had a great unplugged tone as well. It looked cool. It was modern. It rocked!

I wrote so many songs on that guitar. Songs about love, about hate, about joy, about despair... songs about my past, my present, my future. I poured my heart and soul into that guitar. It was the best instrument I had ever owned. It was professional. It was special. So special that when it was stolen my friends and I beat a confession out of the thief. We then drove to his mom's house and took it back. Yeah, it meant that much to me.

A year later, when I went to prison, my girlfriend at the time (soon to be ex) had possession of it. It was in the trunk of her car when I got arrested. From the county lock up I remember the collect phone call promises that she would keep it until I got out. She was going to save it for me. A few weeks later she stopped taking my calls.

I figured the guitar was finally gone for good. I was at my ultimate low. I was in prison. Most of my so called friends had deserted me. And I deserved that. Even my parents and sister had written me off. But one friend, Neil, he never stopped writing me or visiting me. He was a guitar player, and we had been in bands together in high school. He loved the songs I wrote with that guitar. He loved that guitar almost as much as I did.

One day in prison I got a special letter from Neil. His cousin was getting married. They were going to pawn shops all over town looking for a good deal on wedding rings when Neil saw an Ovation acoustic hanging on the wall. He recognized it right away by the cat hair inside the sun-warped hardshell case, and he bought it. When I got out, he had it for me.

Six months later, I would use that old Ovation to write a song for my wife-to-be, and to serenade her on our wedding day. Neil was my best man. I have the guitar to this day. I use it to lead worship at our acoustic gathering every week. It still sounds great. Until recently it was the only acoustic guitar I had ever owned.

But all that has changed. I bought a minty used HD28 off Craigslist last week. I saved over $1100 off the price of a new one. It was such a good deal I just could not pass it up. I wish I had bought a Martin back in 1989. If I had, it would probably still be worth what I paid for it. Ovations have a terrible resale. Mine has probably lost 2/3 of its value or more. They're just not popular like they used to be. They've cranked out so much low end junk over the years that no one even cares about their good guitars anymore (except Melissa Etheridge).

So I am starting over. I am a Martin Man.

40 Worst Lyricists In Rock

Here is a short sample from a very funny article on Blender. You can check it out here.

03 • Scott Stapp
Just good friends with the Lord.

“The comfort of your arms around me/Your tender hands caress my head,” the Creed fisher of men sang to the Risen Savior on The Passion of the Christ CD. It takes no small amount of arrogance to imagine Jesus wants to make out with you—but Stapp seems to have missed the bit in Proverbs about how “pride goeth before destruction.” True to prophecy, Creed was eventually laid low by their frontman’s pious bombast.

Worst lyric: “When you are with me I’m free/I’m careless, I believe/Above all the others we’ll fly/This brings tears to my eyes/’Cause when you are with me I’m free” (“My Sacrifice”)

02 • Neil Peart
An ace on the rototoms, a train wreck on the typewriter.

Drummers are good at many things: exploding, drowning in their own vomit, drumming. But the Rush skinsman proved they should never write lyrics—or read books. Peart opuses like “Cygnus X-1” are richly awful tapestries of fantasy and science fiction, steeped in an eighth-grade understanding of Western philosophy. 2112, Rush’s 1976 concept album based on individualist thinker Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem, remains an awe-inspiring low point in the sordid relationship between rock and ideas.

Worst lyric: “I stand atop a spiral stair/An oracle confronts me there/He leads me on light years away/Through astral nights, galactic days” (“Oracle: The Dream”)

Whoa There, Cowboy!

This is a comment I received from David Golden on my last post, "Ken's Five Rules For Keyboards". I thought it was awesome! Good points, well written, and funny. I thought it deserved to be here on the main page for everyone to enjoy. Be sure to check out his thoughts on bass guitar in the last paragraph. Hilarious! Thanks David!

Whoa there, cowboy! I’ll tell you how to revolutionize your band, although I know you’ll never do it. Save up about 25 grand and buy a GRAND. Good old acoustic piano fits in anywhere (yes, yes, it can sit out some songs too). It can sound raw, it can sound refined, it can pad, it can solo, it can support, it can shine, it can rock. If Mozart, jazz, blues, country, etc are ever in the house, it can fit in most anywhere. A century from now when your current set up is languishing in a museum of musical oddities the piano will still be making music on the cutting edge.

My guess is you’re a little younger than me. I grew up standing on the main floor of the Portland Coliseum watching Keith Emerson claw out sweaty solos on a monophonic moog, with the funky patch cords sticking out everywhere, swooping and soaring until it shot out fireworks and smoke (literal ones, not just musical ones). How do people refer to that music now? PRETENTIOUS! Pretentious? How dare they!

You probably grew up watching Flock of Seagulls and Simple Minds play those nice one-handed, three-fingered riffs which you know so well. And pads. Texture. Background. Keyboard parts that say “I can’t believe it’s not a robot! Oh that’s right, it IS a robot!” Everyone and their dog playing a Yamaha DX-7 (digital of course, or maybe an analog of some kind if they have hand sanitizer available).

But on the other hand, you’re a blues man too. So you should have some soft spot in your heart for a good piano and a Hammond B-3.

A piano is a great addition to any band. But guitar players have trouble realizing that sometimes they can sit out on the verse, and just join on the chorus. Or sit out, then come in with a blazing solo out of the blue. Or even sit out a whole song, and let the piano carry it. And NO I am not talking about just ballads.

I realize there are no keys in punk or grunge. That’s because everyone assumes that if you play piano you’ve had lessons somewhere along the line, and you probably have more than a passing knowledge of music theory. It destroys that DIY mystique.

My perfect praise band would be structured like Soul Asylum. An acoustic guitar driving it with just some good folky strumming, and an electric guitar having fun with riffs, musical gymnastics, color. A piano (acoustic) and B-3 (I’ll even accept a synthesized substitute) giving soul and the universe of subtlety. And just some good back to basics bass and drums playing (bass player limited to 3 notes per measure, and no thumb slaps allowed, because they are not Christ-like). Everyone takes turns on lead vocals. Everyone gets at least one instrumental solo (yes, including the drums). And the whole thing unified with a “raw but fun” aesthetic.

I KNOW that’s what Jesus would do.

By the way, Flock of Seagulls RULES! (not.) And yes, I would take an old B3, Rhodes, or Moog in my band over a grand piano any day. And I love Keith Emerson and all the 70s prog stuff, Yes, Rush, Fripp, ELP, ELO, etc. But when I think of a grand piano in a rock band I can't stop the visions of a balding fat Elton John in a pink feather boa and rose colored glasses. Lord help us.

Ken's Five Rules For Keyboards

At Our Place our instrumentation for the "rockin'" gatherings is very simple: drums, bass, and electric guitar. That's it. We've been doing it that way for a long time, and I Iike the raw approach. I do have an opening though for my "dream band member". I would like to have a keyboard/ableton live/reason/dj person in the band. Someone to lay down pads and keep things ethereal, something for me to layer delayed guitars over...

Someone who knows not to play all the time. That has always been my frustration with keyboard players is that they have trouble NOT playing. Like some songs don't need keys at all, but a person behind a keyboard has trouble doing nothing for a whole song. Even harder for two songs. Or to just hold one note forever.

I want keys that are boring for the most part. Sometimes you just need keys to thicken a guitar part and that's it. I'd like someone who knows how to take a "producer" approach to things. A pad here, a sample there, a drum loop in the bridge, a spacey rhodes intro, simple, plain, unobtrusive. With a good ear for how to add to what's going on without changing direction.

Here are Ken's Five Rules For Keyboards:

1. Use one hand at a time.

2. Use three fingers or less.

3. Don't play eighth notes.

4. Especially don't play sixteenth notes.

5. NEVER play that piano/strings combo patch.

Get me? :-) Now don't get me wrong. Yes, I do like an occasional song led more by the keys, where the guitar plays a backing role, or doesn't play at all. In that case, the above rules do not apply. But most of the time I find "less is more" when it comes to keys.


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The Glorious Unseen

We have been doing this new song the last couple of weeks by The Glorious Unseen called "Hear Our Prayers". I have really been digging it. It is one of those songs that is easy to get lost in, not in a prog rock "where are we?" kind of way, but in a meditative jam kind of way. In fact, their whole album is like that. They took a very simple approach to the instrumentation, mostly guitars. Which I like. Song structures are simple, repetitive, deceptive. Perfect for how we lead worship at OP.

Check them out.

Ken Bussell
Minister of Music & Administration
Our Place Christian Church
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