Friday, June 24, 2011

Takeaways From Hillsong United

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I went with several people from FCC to see Hillsong United on Monday night. It was, of course, awesome. As with just about any high-quality artistic expression, there were several takeaways. Here are the biggest things that I took away from the concert:

1. Vocal compression: Without getting too technical, the compression on the voices was excellent. Rather than just being their voices but louder, the compression kept the voices from covering up the instrumentation, or from getting buried by it. Instead, the vocal compression kept the voices in a range where they could be a stable piece of the overall puzzle of the sound.

2. Supplemental instrumentation: Hillsong used additional percussion, additional guitar, additional synth, additional vocals, etc. to enhance their sound. Many of these small supplements would be difficult to pick out if you weren't paying close attention, but they add important details and support of the overall arrangement of the songs.

3. New arrangements of familiar songs: While keeping melody lines intact and familiar, the chord progressions or rhythms or instrumentation of familiar songs was changed to keep them fresh and new.

4. Attention to detail in arrangements: Often there were very minute things that a specific team member would play here or there. No one would ever notice if these pieces weren't in the mix, yet the fact that they were there added something to the overall. As mentioned in point number 2, these are things you would never miss in a song, but the addition of these parts of the whole make the whole better.

5. Excellence in execution: You could physically see how each team member gave deep focus to getting their part right. "Good enough" was not good enough. Even in the body language of the team, you could see how much they cared about bringing their very, very best execution of their part.

6. Customized weekly approach, rather than system-based approach: These last two points are just things I gleaned indirectly from Hillsong that have application to our team. Rather than creating a system with interchangeable parts, and it not mattering who plugs in where, I want to focus in a more customized approach to each week on the team. Rather than having systems where any person can do anything we do, I would rather look at the team each week, and say "Here is what we have this week. Let's leverage these specific talents in these specific ways." This will lead to more arranging on the fly, and collaborative experimentation, I think.

7. Apollo 13 motto: At one point in the movie Apollo 13, they are discussing whether or not fuel cells will burn in a specific way to correct the spacecraft's course. The engineers say, "They weren't designed to do that." Then the flight director says, "I don't care what they were designed to do, I care what they CAN do." Hillsong used singers for percussion, guitarists for synth players, etc. So rather than saying, "You're the rhythm guitarist today, that is all you will do," in certain situations, my motto might be "I know you are the rhythm guitarist today, but I could use you on the shaker for the first half of this song." I know what the team members are scheduled for, but there are more ways to tap into the skills the team members CAN do.

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