LCU’s Best Friends 2017-18 Pt. 1

I’m back for my third and final year at Lubbock Christian University as director of the singing group Best Friends. Every year has been a fabulous experience. This 3rd group is a wonderful collection of young men and women and they’ve done a superb job representing the University.

We’ll be traveling to the United Kingdom in May for 3 weeks. We have eight cities lines up for the tour and we’re looking forward to it immensely. In the meantime, we’re in the process of shooting videos from our new album Risen. Here’s our first, entitled “This is Living.”

LCU’s Best Friends 2016-17 Pt. 2

The 2nd video from the new album in 2017 is called The River. It was shot on location at the Pecos River just south of Glorietta, NM. For those of you interested, the entire video was shot on my Google Pixel phone using an Ikan Fly-X3 Plus stabilizer.

This song has taken on its own interesting history. We had the opportunity to sing in West Monroe, LA at WFR church. We always stay in the homes of church members, and this time we wound up staying with Jase and Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame.

We stuck around a couple of nights. On the 2nd evening, after a great pizza party, Missy asked us to sing a song that she had missed at that morning’s concert. So the group stood up to sing The River. She said, “Wait, let me video this.” That was quickly followed by, “Hey, I’ll just live stream this. I’ll use Jase’s page – he never uses it.”

So they started singing live on Jase Robertson’s page. Within 20 seconds, 20,000 were watching live. By the end of the song over 50,000 people were watching. Less than 24 hours later, the video had been watched half a million times. Amazing! The platform the Robertson family has is incredible. And they’ve used it well.

This is not the video of them doing it live in Jase’s house, but it’s the official video. You can find the album this came from at this link.

LCU’s Best Friends 2016-17 Pt. 1

I directed the group for another year in 2016-17. We had the chance to record a really good album and shoot a couple of great videos, the first of which is shown here. It’s called Prayer of the Children.

I first heard this song when I was on tour with Acappella. Back “in the day”, before Microsoft was a thing, we used a program called Word Perfect for text editing. In the late 80’s, they sent out an update (via CD-ROM) for the program. Along with it, they included a sampler CD of some really good music. Most of it was stuff from Windham Hill or something similar. The last song on the CD was a haunting a capella song from someone named Kurt Bestor. It was Prayer of the Children.

Autotune was used heavily, as more of an effect than as vocal correction. This was before the world even knew what autotune was. It gave the vocals an etherial feeling and made this wonderful song even more moving. I knew then that I had to do this song somewhere, someday. This Best Friends combination was the group, and this is the video. The album can be found on iTunes at this link.

LCU and Best Friends Pt. 2

As promised in the earlier post, here is the 2nd video produced by Best Friends in the 2015-16 school year. This is a great song called Brother. I hope you enjoy it. The album can be found on iTunes at this link.

LCU and Best Friends

In 1983, as a sophomore in college, I was part of something new. John Paul Blankenship was forming a new mixed ensemble a capella group to travel and recruit for the college (Lubbock Christian College, at the time). I was recruited as part of the original group that became known as Best Friends and stayed with the ensemble for the next three years.

Thirty years later, what goes around comes around, I suppose. LCU has recruited me once again for Best Friends… this time as director. As I write this, we are drawing close to the end of the first year. It has been very enjoyable and has kept me busy and young at heart.

I’ve produced a couple of music videos for the group. I’ll post the 2nd one later, but here is the first. This is the title track to their 2016 album That Was Then, This is Now. The music, by the way, can be found on iTunes at this link. Hope you like the video…

Goodbye Facebook

thumbs downOk, so I guess it is time. I think I will be pulling back from Facebook for a while.

Because of my former self-employment with Moyers Design, I’ve needed to be heavily involved in social media.  I’ve done that for the past several years. Now that I’m employed at a church, my need for social media is greatly diminished. My desire for social media, on the other hand, seems to be as strong as ever. Social media is a drug. I’ve come to dislike it.

Facebook has become a portal that makes me mad more than anything else. 50% of the posts I see are reposts of things that I saw a year ago (usually video). Another 40% are nothing more than thinly veiled click-bait designed to get you to their website where they swamp you with ads that they get paid for showing.

Let’s see… that’s 90%. Since my percentage calculation is highly scientific, I would say that leaves me another 30%. Great.

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Make Your Worship Song Slides More Appealing

The First NoelIf you are a visual/tech person for an a cappella church, you may be interested in this post. Otherwise, this is a fun exercise in graphic editing.

Many churches are using worship song slides that include music notation. Quite often, there is somewhat of a debate between the people who like the notes and people who want pictures and words. Some need the intellectual stimulus of singing parts from a prepared arrangement while other prefer the visual stimulation of nature, colors, backgrounds, etc. It’s very hard to find common ground. This is a tutorial on how to create song slides that appeal to both tastes.

This will not be an all-inclusive tutorial. I will proceed on the basis that you are aware of some fundamental aspects of editing graphics, and I will be using Photoshop CC 2014 as my graphical interface.

To begin, you’ll need a song. Some churches create their own notation. If so, more power to you. That’s not what I’m covering in this tutorial. If you don’t have the ability to create notation from scratch, take a look at Paperless Hymnal or A View of Worship. Both offer excellent arrangements in pre-formatted slides. For this illustration, I will be using Paperless Hymnal’s version of In Christ Alone.

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Stay away from GuitarTapp Pro

GuitarTapp PROGuitarTapp Pro nuked me.

It’s not often I write inflammatory posts, but this one deserves it. I’ve even reached out to 8:45 Tools, the creator of GuitarTapp Pro, for help.

Silence.

Some background… for quite a while I was in possession of a very nice iPad. It belonged to a company I no longer work with, so I lost it when that employment ended. One of my most used apps on the iPad was OnSong (on which I’ve done a previous review that you can see here). OnSong is a great song chart viewer for live situations… sort of like a teleprompter with all the bells and whistles.

When I moved over to the android platform, OnSong was not available. Shame. Anyway, I had to find an alternative. I thought I had found it in GuitarTapp Pro.

For the past year or more, I have used that app heavily… at least once a week, if not more often. I have over 150 songs programmed into it, all of them tweaked to the way I like and prefer. I even have some alternate arrangements to songs that I liked to use.

It was going swimmingly until a couple of weeks ago. Either android did an update or GuitarTapp Pro updated. Either way, my entire song catalog is now gone. Over a year’s worth of work, disappeared. Talk about frustrating…

Consequently, I would encourage you not to use GuitarTapp Pro. It is most definitely NOT a safe platform. I am even considering getting back into an iPad because of this failure.

Motorcyclegear.com Video Series

MG ThumbnailAs many of you know, I have recently entered the world of motorcycles. Yes, I’m legally on a scooter… a 600cc scooter that goes 120 mph, but it’s still a scooter. Still, I went through a 3-day motorcycle class on a full fledged bike. I figure I count.

Anyway, because of my new hobby/habit, I needed to pick up some gear to make it as safe as possible. Enter motorcyclegear.com. A friend (thanks Buddy Mills) told me about this online company that carries a ton of gear at really great prices. As it turns out, their home office is about 6 blocks from my house here in Shallowater. Yes, I spent lots of money.

In the process, I struck up a friendship with the owner, Paul Thompson. He’s a really nice guy and a sharp businessman who knows his way around the world of e-commerce. Before all was said and done, we ended up working together on a new video series for his company.  Long range plans include at least 2 different types of video series and up to 100+ videos. Sounds like a lot of fun.

If you ride for any reason… commuter, touring, racing, whatever… you really need to check out motorcyclegear.com. Below is an example of the first video series. There should be many more to come.

If you are looking to add a video series for your business or organization, contact me through Moyers Design. I’d love to chat with you about it. Or just leave a comment below.

It’s Time for a Compulsory License for Musical Arrangements

Photo credit: Andrew Gustar via CompfightAs an arranger of musical works, I often feel as though my hands are tied behind my back.

I have arranged hundreds of songs for various events and groups, 99% of them being a capella in nature. I would love to publish these arrangements and make them available to the general singing public. How many have I published to date? One. Count them. One. Do not proceed to two.

The problem, as far as it concerns me, is in obtaining a license to publish. Now, any recorded work is a different story. If there is a song that I’d like to record that is something other than public domain, the tools are in place to obtain a mechanical license to be able to record and publish (thank you Harry Fox, Limelight, Loudr and others). Release on video? No problem, just get a sync license.

To release a written arrangement of a work… well that’s a horse of another color. There are no laws in place that allow you to do so. An arranger must contact the owner of the song and request a license to release the arrangement. The answer can be no. Or, the answer could be, “You want to release an arrangement that may sell 10 copies? Ok, that’ll be $2,000.00.” Might as well be a no.

Responses and processes are all over the map. All those composers who make themselves available to arrange that special song you’ve been wanting? Most likely you are breaking the law, since the majority of them do not seek permission and leave it up to you to request the necessary license. And who will most likely get zapped if the copyright police come calling? The arranger.

I read an article that sums up the problem quite nicely. Jonathan Minkoff wrote “The Legality of Arranging” in 2009 and it’s still applicable today (unless a law has changed since I wrote this in the summer of 2014). It’s worth your time to read, but I quote his last paragraph:

The best answer, as I’ve proposed in the past, isn’t a change in the behavior of all these arrangers. It’s a change in the law. It’s time for a compulsory license for musical arrangements. Composers get revenue, arrangers and artists get peace of mind and everybody wins.

I agree. And I’ve got loads of arrangements waiting on it. How about you?