Pipe organ reed repair

Got a note that won’t play? Here’s how to potentially save your church a lot of money and time!

Occasionally all organs that employ reed-based pipes (most commonly trumpets) will run into trouble with a note that doesn’t sound. I’m not talking about a note that is out of tune – just one that doesn’t sound at all. When this happens it is worth checking out yourself if you are reasonably confident of your abilities working with slightly more advanced than medieval technology, and if you can physically fit into and work safely within the pipe chamber.

Put some ear-plugs in and have a friend at the console to play notes. Here is what you are generally looking for (follow your ears first):

The reeds in this picture are the silver pipes with resonators. They are tuned with a tuning wire that comes out of the block below.

Once you have located the non-working pipe, lift it out of position and carefully remove the boot that covers the reed assembly. You will now have something that looks like this:


On the right is where the air enters the pipe and causes the reed to vibrate. Because of the tight tolerances of the tongue of the reed and the shallot (the wood backing the reed), any little piece of dust that happens to enter and get lodged can cause the reed to stop vibrating, silencing the pipe. Take a clean piece of paper and gently insert it sideways, flossing out the area from the end of the reed to the point where the tuning wire presses against it. Replace the boot and reseat the pipe – it should be fixed and ready to go!

Sibelius 7 tips – fitting music on the printed page

I use Sibelius for music notation, and love the program. One common task and facet of good stewardship is how the music is presented to your musicians. Clarity of intent with logical page layout will save time and money, promote a more professional atmosphere amongst your worship team, and prevent dumb mistakes from happening due to awkward page turns and ill-placed key changes.

Here’s a quick 10-minute session on ways to handle page layout in Sibelius.

Airtable update – it’s like building a custom app

My first post on this updated blog, “Collaborative care for the choir” was an initial review of Airtable: www.airtable.com. Now that I have used it pretty solidly, here are my take-aways:

  • Collaboration tools are pretty good – we use it mostly to communicate changes and updates to our choir section leaders. The fact that Airtable puts a timestamp on record changes is really helpful.
  • It is fast. Syncing is instant, and works great on mobile or desktop.
  • The ability to create a web form is handy and really useful – and different from what you would do with a Google form. Google forms are great for collecting info, but Airtable forms are good for getting data into your own….
  • CUSTOM APP! Seriously, it’s like building your own app. Linked tables are the secret sauce to making it work.

Online form

Our choir had an awesome opportunity to sing with Michael W. Smith here in Knoxville for an event that Olympic ice skater Scott Hamilton organized. I put the signup form out via Airtable and had a custom app for the event where I could assign the singers their seating row and handle the number of passes and tickets needed.

I made this as a separate project in Airtable, but I should have made it as a table within my choir roster – and then folks could have simply checked their name off the list and I would already have their contact info at hand. Slick!

True database power

The most incredible use of Airtable is how we are now using it as the data backend for the Knoxville Area Handbell Festival. It now serves as registrar, checkbook ledger, financial reporter, music archivist, contact database, and legal document organizer. For the first time ever, I will be able to handle the duties of treasurer without having to lug around my computer and my black zippered binder stuffed with documents.

Using Airtable requires a bit of database understanding to really get going, but nowhere near as much as any other program I have ever messed with. Access? Forget it. Filemaker? Whatever. Fusion Tables? Still kind of intimidating. Airtable? YES.

Hey Airtable – think you could raise the limit on the number of rows allowed in your free version? Or maybe come up with a slightly lower price for the first tier of paid service? I don’t really know how much it would cost because of the whole “per user” charge thing. Just my 2 cents…

Cedar Springs Sanctuary Choir rehearsing with Michael W. Smith at the Knoxville Civic Colosseum

Read this: “Music Through the Eyes of Faith” by Harold Best

Soon after starting work at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church, our worship leader West Breedlove suggested that I read Harold Best’s book Music Through the Eyes of Faith. I borrowed it from his office, and after reading the first chapter decided that it is a book I need to own and take notes in.

This is a book for worship leaders and musicians of all styles, and has so much to say about musical pluralism and its connection to the Gospel. Not every chapter was as engaging as others, but there are chapters which are basically solidly highlighted in my copy.

I wanted to see what others have had to say about this book, and suggest the following reviews:

Each has a different angle and voice, so I encourage you to check them out and hear their perspective.

If you are involved in music ministry, this is a must-read.

Music Through the Eyes of Faith on Amazon (no affiliate link – this review is solely to spread the word about a genuinely helpful book)

MainStage: Free (and helpful) guides

While attending a Sovereign Grace Worship God conference in 2015 (Triune) I had the opportunity to attend a session on keyboarding that opened up a whole new world for me: MIDI controllers paired with software, specifically, Apple’s $30 MainStage program. Jonny Barahona (@JonBarahona) was the speaker in this session, and did a fantastic job blending teaching some of the basics of the program with real scenarios on how to leverage it in a worship setting.

I got home from the conference, dowloaded the program and hooked it up to my controller and got started very quickly. It’s very simple to setup and get started. However, it’s NOT that simple to get to the more advanced capabilities, so I have turned to the internet to find instruction. Here are some of the sites that have been genuinely helpful:

First off, visit Brian Li at www.BrianLi.com – he has assembled a great guide. Brian’s work is in Broadway and electronic music production, so he speaks to a great variety of styles and use cases. He also breaks down using MainStage into topic areas and explains the hierarchy of assigning and mapping controls.

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The second source I recommend is actually a paid service, Lynda.com – which is excellent for many different topics. If you are already a subscriber to Lynda, then you’re all set. If not, there are two free videos that are helpful. I have linked to their YouTube videos below.

The first one involves mapping controls:

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The second demonstrates playback plugins:

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Enjoy these sources, and feel free to chime in with additional items that have been helpful.

Soli Deo Gloria.