Small Change Big Difference

I have another day job aside from my day a week with EBC, as a royalty auditor and royalty accountant. This generally involves sorting and manipulating huge amounts of data on big spreadsheets…which requires a decent computer and a good knowledge of excel shortcuts! Recently when I was out on an audit, my computer (which has been getting progressively slower) needed rebooting three times in order to work! I’d already got accustomed to getting into the office in the morning, switching on my laptop, then hanging up my coat, using the bathroom, making a cup of tea and checking through the post…by which point my computer was just about through booting and I could log in. Pile-of-Laptops

Clearly this wasn’t productive, the laptop is only a few years old and pretty high spec…so I got in touch with our IT support to see if it was something worth saving, or whether I just needed to invest in something newer and faster. To my surprise Simon at Response IT said “just replace the hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive), it’ll fix everything. We’ll pick it up and take care of the rest!” So they did…

Now I’m not by any means technophobic, I handle most of the IT issues in our office, and I generally have a good overview of how these things work. And I had already got a decent laptop on which I had doubled the memory…I didn’t think replacing the hard drive would make that much difference. But when I got the machine back…it was incredible!  My three year old laptop was now a sleek, speedy and capable machine again! When I switched it on…it booted in about 20 seconds. It was ready before I was ready. Programs opened seemingly instantly. There were no perceived delays when switching windows. It had no errors, no crashes, no need to reboot. It just worked…but like it did when it was new. I was simply amazed…so much so that my home tower is this week going in for the same treatment!

Small change big difference?

This got me thinking: are there other areas in church life where a small change can make such a significant difference? I’m not talking significant and expensive overhauls of equipment, programs and teams, but the small and life changing adjustments which can make a really large and readily discernible difference. If I look back over the past few years at EBC, I can identify a few small changes which have made a big difference to us.

Our Song List: we cut our regular list of Sunday songs from …well basically the contents of Songs of Fellowship…around 2,000 songs, to a smaller list of around 150, and ultimately we now operate a list of around 60 songs which are revised on a termly basis. Result: The band and the congregation know the songs much better as they are on a regular rotation, so we are all freer to sing them without thinking about them too much.

Lowering music stands: Now I am approaching the other side of 40 (41 this coming May), I am finding I have to resort to glasses when on my computer and reading. We used to be in the habit of having our music stands up pretty high on a Sunday morning…probably because we were still using the small print out of the Songs of Fellowship books and the rest of us needed glasses. But this creates a real barrier between the band and the congregation. So when we revised our song lists and stopped using Songs of Fellowship, we created our own song sheets on A4 paper in big print…so moved the music stands down more to waist level. Result: the congregation can see us worshipping and so follow, we can see the congregation. (in addition to this, when we did our main hall redevelopment we installed a comfort monitor which displays the words to all on stage…potentially eliminating the need for song words on stage at all.

Smiling on stage: So we reduced the height of our stands, and now everybody can see us. Us, the worship band, singing songs about love, happiness, isn’t life great…although we weren’t always reflecting this in our facial or bodily expressions. Now our bands (especially our singers) are reflecting far more what they are singing on stage, which models how to sing in worship to our congregation…and they soon follow. Result: A congregation who are far more understanding and in tune with our musical worship.

Service Orders: I have talked about this a lot before, so I won’t cover it too much here. But suffice to say, if you want your service to run smoothly, to time and coherently, having a planned order with timings, transitions and technical directions will make a big difference to your services.

What else?

There are many more small changes we have made, and are continuing to make which are making big differences to our services, and I know will continue to do so. And you’ll also notice from the small selection above, there was no significant financial impact, generally just a bit of planning and some printing! Why don’t you take a fresh look at how things are operating in your setting, and see what small change can make a big difference?

Play With Something New

One of my goals for 2015 is to spend more time practicing and learning guitar. I usually lead on a Sunday on guitar, but it is probably my least studied or practiced instruments (I was always the bass player in bands, and then picked up drums for University…something I had always wanted to do)  Guitar has always been a sideline…but these days is something I play more than anything else.

Take Your Pick?

Take Your Pick?

So I started trawling through some books; Fretboard Roadmaps, Playing in DADGAD, The Complete Guitar, and I also downloaded some courses on my iPad. And I am managing to put aside an hour a week to improve my playing, and it is, I think, improving. I am forever fiddling with my guitars, I set them up myself and probably get as much pleasure from tweaking them as I do playing them. I have been remarkably consistent with my choice of set up, I am a pretty strong rhythm player (years of drumming and listening to funk), so I have pretty heavy strings on my guitars (11’s) and use a medium pick (Dunlop Tortex Orange).

A Change Could Do You Good?

But this year, as another nod to “new” I thought I’d try something different. I did a little poll on Facebook to see what my fellow guitarists used, and then got a variety tin from Amazon which had 12 different styles, sizes and weights of picks (in a useful little tin). And it really does make a difference, in what I play, the way I play it, and the sounds that it creates.The Jazz III seems to be a particularly popular style of pick, and this was part of the collection, and it is a bit of a revelation. It is much smaller and thicker than my usual pick, and so requires much more accuracy with playing and a different sort of grip in the fingers. I don’t think I would use it as much for rhythm, but for lead work and speed, it is very rewarding.

Now I realise this post is getting a bit (or a lot) geeky…but bringing it back in to the non-guitarist rest of the world…is there something  you could change that will make you at least approach things differently?

Why Don’t You Try Something New?

Drummers, have you tried different sizes of sticks? Vater Manhattans are my absolute favourites, but I utterly destroy the wooden tips within days…so I generally use Vic Firth 5B’s with nylon tips…they last me for years. Using heavier or lighter sticks, brushes, hotrods…different tunings, different set ups…less toms. I went through a phase of emulating Gary Husband so tried playing open (with the ride cymbal to my left). Made for completely different techniques and patterns.

Bass guitarists, have you experimented with different strings? Using (or not) using a pick? I put a set of flatwounds on one of my basses…again, completely different sound and style of playing.

Pianists and keyboard players, do you try different sounds? My wife is a pianist and leads with our band, but she always used to just play piano, as iit’swhat she knows. But our good friend Colin who has been coaching the bands gently persuaded her to use some strings or pads underneath the piano sound…something  she initially resisted, but now has full control of…and it sounds great.

And let’s not focus this solely on musicians. For  everything you do creatively, try a small, subtle difference in your approach. Try a different TV show for media ideas. Experiment with different fonts in your overheads or graphics. Try an alternative program or app for your design (I’m writing this on a new app on my iPad while travelling on the train…I Usually write this from my laptop  or desktop….

So there you have it. Some small changes that can make a difference in your creativity, or at the very least freshen up your day to day.

Is there anything else that you can add?