Leading Worship with iPhone Virtual Instruments

Zac HicksCulture, Worship Theology & Thought4 Comments

Someone in my worship network email list sent me this link.  This is fascinating, not simply because it’s “cool” but because of the cultural and philosophical analysis associated with it.  My own classical sensibilities fight stuff like this because it is “inauthentic.”  Anything not acoustic, not naturally amplified, plugged-in, or digitally processed somehow compromises the creative artistry of music-making, so those sensibilities say.

However, if you notice, they’re playing on fretboards, not simply pressing “on.”  They’re strumming and providing rhythm and dynamics.  The music sounds a bit forced and definitely artificial at some key points, but you can also look past this particular performance and see what it could become.  By now, most of us know that the iPad is providing these same things, only with a bigger screen size, which opens up new possibilities in virtual instrument playing. 

People have talked about how the iPad will revolutionize the publishing industry, school textbooks, and education.  It may very well revolutionize live music-making, too, for those open to it.  I keep wondering to myself, When is rock n roll worship going to be phased out by the next thing (as organ/choir-led worship has been, in many places phased out)?  And what will the next thing look like?  I’m sure people living in the early 1900s couldn’t have imagined what modern worship looks like in churches today.  So, too, I’ve wondered in the past whether laptops and sampling will replace our current instruments. It looks like we might have a different contender. It’s weird to think, but not out of the realm of possibility, that one day a worship band might be five people holding iPhones or iPads (or the latest versions thereof) in various positions, strumming, plucking, pressing, tapping, all sent wirelessly to a sound console.  

Much cultural exegesis needs to be done.  We need to “think ahead” of these things…but far too often we’re “thinking behind,” correcting things simply because we haven’t thought through what’s at stake if we go down these roads.

I’d love to hear some cultural exegesis from you folks on the positives and negatives of this potential new instrumental revolution.

4 Comments on “Leading Worship with iPhone Virtual Instruments”

  1. This is no different than singing along to a sequenced synthesizer, or a backing track, or a kazoo for that matter. Advances in technology do not make music less authentic. I thought it was creative and beautiful.

  2. The technology present in this performance does, in fact, change the entire definition of musician. There is some skill and techique involved with playing an Ipad, Iphone, or ipod, but to equate such a display with skill as a musician is to say that someone who picks up an Xbox guitar is even remotely as talented as one who actually plays a real guitar (or keyboard, organ, trumpet, ect.). To say that these ipod players are anything different than that is just incorrect.

  3. @fead68 I know what you mean – I feel the same way about all those people playing string pads on the keyboard. Just because you can press a button and have a nice string section doesn’t make you a musician.

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