change-or-die-book555I have two boys in their 20s who helped start a church this year. It meets on Saturday night using someone else’s church building. As you might guess, the music is thoroughly contemporary. The music is also quite professional for a church of its size—less than one hundred. Technology is their friend.

There are five people on the church planting team. One plays guitar, one plays drums, one plays keyboard, and one runs several Macs and iPads to keep the whole thing running smoothly.

One son, Dustin, is a guitarist. Recently, the bass guitarist was absent, so Dustin filled in. I was watching him carefully and listening as he played. He got to a certain point where I guess the music became more difficult. I could see the frustration on his face. He stopped playing momentarily. I listened carefully and couldn’t tell any difference. Technology is our friend.

One time my attention was drawn to a xylophone sound that I assumed was coming from the keyboard. “That sounds really nice, I thought.” I looked at Chris, the keyboardist. He wasn’t playing the xylophone sound. I think he was playing some kind of string or pad sound. Where was the sound coming from?

My boys use what they call loops, or backing tracks. We have used these for years with soloists. We have all heard a soloist sing along to background music provided via CD or MP3. This is similar to that, only more sophisticated. It is a program that plays on the computer and has tracks of individual instruments. The band can use as many or few outside instruments as they choose—depending on their taste, and how many live musicians they have. If the drummer is out, they could use Chris Tomlin’s drummer via the track. What a time to be alive!

I pastor a small church in the country surrounded by farmland. It is forty five minutes from the closest stop light. About 20 or 30 people meet each week to worship God. I am quite familiar with the situation where the change to contemporary music is not a philosophical one, it is a practical one. We don’t have musicians who can play contemporary music. Technology is our friend.

One idea is to simply play along with a CD. Another idea is to sing along with the background instruments that would normally be used for a soloist. Another approach is an arranger keyboard. This is a keyboard that plays along with the live musician. It actually reads the chords that the musician is playing and provides a suitable accompaniment complete with drums, bass, strings, brass, and anything else as appropriate. There are hundreds of styles available. It is better than you might think. It is better than the pianist (me) playing without it. Technology is our friend.