What A Week Of Skiing Taught Me About Loops

Featuring Loops In Worship Posted on February 28, 2012

Pastors and Bloggers really have it hard. It’s the curse of observation. In everything you do, see, hear and experience you’re drawing out sermon illustrations and potential blog posts. This leads us to the over abundance of “What ______ talk me about ________” posts. Yes I’m guilty even now. But with this curse comes great responsibility… So as I descended the slopes of Breckinrdige Colorado a few weeks ago I couldn’t help think about what skiing has taught me about using loops and technology in worship. And yes I agree with you, I am a complete nerd.. but hopefully through this excerise in my nerdiness we’ll all walk away a little more enlightened..

1) Get the Advice of Experts

If you think you can hit the slopes for the first time ever and get skiing immediately.. then you’re in for a huge surprise. It ain’t gonna work that way . If you’re a beginner skier you’ve got to take lessons. Don’t get on the slopes and think you’ll just figure it out. Seek out the advice of Experts. This trip I spent over an hour with two different exceptional skiers who analyzed my abilities and provided a few tips/techinqies to take me to the next level.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me how badly a DAW, or plugin sucks because it’s too complicated. I then typically proceed to ask what they’ve done to learn it. What training and advice have you sought out? Have you read the manual, checked out Youtube, found a website of an expert and followed it for a few weeks? If not, then yes that software WILL probably suck. Sacrifice some time and effort to learn from experts that know more about what you’re trying to learn. Here are a few things that may help you find that expert:

-Google. Before anything Google what you’re looking for. Odds are high Google will return websites talking about what you’re looking for. Subscribe to them using an RSS reader and see what they have to say. Check out the archives for more info.

-Find a local expert. If there’s a big church in the area, they probably have a “loop guy” or an “ableton” guy. This can potentially be a scary thing, because you may encounter a “expert” who wants to charge you $300 an hour to teach you how to use loops..he’s probably a scam. But you may stumble upon a fellow nerd friend of mine that would love to take time out of their day and show you a thing or two about Ableton.

-Check out Youtube. If you search you’ll probably find someone explaining a concept or showing how to do something for FREE! Again a bit of a warning here: One of the best parts of the internet is that it gives everyone a voice.. that’s also one of the big downsides! I’ve found more then a fair share of videos explaining how to do something in “Session View” in Live, meanwhile they’re working out of “Arrangement View”. Plus there seems to be certain areas where there’s a huge quantity of information. For Example if I see one more video on how to use a Ability controller for Worship I may lose my mind. If you’re thinking about posting your video, don’t we’ve got plenty :)

-Offer to pay someone for their advice. As someone who is identified as an expert in a certain field I often get the “Hey man I’d love to grab a coffee with you and pick your brain about loops”. I’m extremely busy. You’re extremely busy. If you want to make the most of your time and get the best possible training, offer to pay someone who’s an expert in the field you’re seeking knowledge. If you find that local Ableton guy that’s an Ableton ninja, then offer to pay him $50 bucks for an hour’s worth of training. It will be far worth your time.

2) Learn the Basics

I’m on my way to skiing down a Black slope. It didn’t happen this year and I don’t know if it will happen next year, but I will be heading down a black (double black if I’m lucky) soon. The reason I’m convinced I will is because I’m working on getting the basics. You’ll never be able to ski with any sort of success if you can’t stop, turn and control your speed. Once you learn a few basic things, you’re on your way to accomplishing even the trickiest slopes. As I learn to use the hill and my turns to control my speed, I’m realizing I can ski almost anything. Of course it’s going to take me mastering this before I can do it.. but I’m taking the first steps now. If you want to learn any software program to the extent of being effective  on it, you’ve got to learn the basics.

How do I record?
How do I edit audio?
How do I export audio?
How do I adjust the basic controls of my tracks?
What are the essential key commands?

Learning the basics in one program will help you get the basics faster with another program. Once you learn the basics everything else will come a little easier. You’ve got to start somewhere and start with learning the most basic skills and commands to get you started off on the right foot (*er…ski).

3) Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Skiing becomes fun when you have mastered the basics ( or so i hear!). I know as I’m learning to manage my speed and gain control by making wider turns, I’m enjoying it more. My feet are more sore, I’m a little more tired then when I started, but I feel more in control. I enjoy the experience more. It’s essential-in order for you to progress, to spend time working on improving. It’s going to take time for you to practice getting comfortable triggering loops. It’s going to take time for you to learn how and when to start the click. To figure out the right time for transitions and the best transitions between your songs, it’s going to take a bit of time.

Keep working at it, because the only way you’ll get it, is to keep doing it. It’s important to note before we move on that it’s not only important to practice, but to practice the right things. Remember “Perfect Practice” makes perfect..not just practice. Don’t get stuck fiddling around, work on the areas you need to get comfortable with.

4) Don’t Look at your Feet

As the hill got steeper, I got more and more fearful. I started to look at my feet. Instead of looking ahead and trusting that my feet would go where they’re supposed, I stared at my feet. I looked to make sure I wouldn’t mess up and guess what I did? I messed up again and again. Trust is essential to skiing. Trusting that what you’ve been taught by the experts will hold up. Trust that your stance, your balance, and your weight distribution will take you where you need to go.

As you learn more and more about technology and implementing loops, you’ve got to learn to trust your tools. I know this may sound a bit new-agey…or a bit self-helpy… but I’ve found when I trust that Live will do what I’ve told it to do, things turn out better. Think of it this way: If you spend your entire time leading worship worried that your computer will mess up, do you think that you will be  most effective? If you simply trust that everything will work properly and if you’ve put in the time up front, and done your due diligence then things will probably work okay. And you’ll be far less stressed and far more effective.

This goes with your volunteers as well. If you’ve got a band member that you’ve trained to start/stop the loops and clicks then give her the freedom to fail. Give her your trust. Trust that if you’ve put in enough time with her up front, making sure she’s properly trained that she’s going to get it. If you over do it and don’t give her space and trust that things will work out, then odds are high something will go wrong. Don’t look at your feet once you get on the slope. Trust that everything you’ve learned and practiced will pay off!