Saturday, August 18, 2018
Top 10 - Advice For Worship Guitarists
I had a friend ask me today, “can you share with me your top 10 suggestions or advice for a worship electric guitarist.” So here you go.
10: Own great gear.
You don’t have to own the newest, most popular or even the oldest most vintage stuff. You just need to own quality gear. A quality guitar, quality amp or multi-effects pedal, and enough quality stand-alone pedals to be able to create the soundscape of the tunes you are being asked to cover. Sometimes that’s a solid body guitar, a hollow body guitar, single coil or humbucker guitar, or a combination of sorts.
9: Master your gear.
It is great to have a pedal board full of tools and toys but not knowing how to use them to make them work for you is suicide. Understand what does what and what to do to achieve the desired sound is essential. Understanding how each pedal works individually and how it will affect other effects will serve you well.
8: Be Prepared
Rehearsal is not practice. Rehearsal is coming together and combining what everyone has been practicing on their own time with their own gear, hopefully, and dialing it into a cohesive execution. Please don’t be practicing your parts for the first time, or worse listening to the song for the first time. Now as a worship leader, I’ve been guilty of throwing my team under the bus by uploading the wrong key or worse the wrong song (same name). But do what you can to come prepared and ready to rehearse.
7: Remember It’s Not Your Show
Worship is about creating a welcoming environment for your congregation to engage the presence of the Holy Spirit. That means they are not there to see you perform. Even if they say they came to see you. I would venture to guess they mean worship is one of their easiest ways to connect to God. You help facilitate that. So remember it’s not your show. The only thing on display should be your team’s love of worshipping the Creator.
6: Be Punctual
If you play with a ton of gear, get their early and get it dialed in so you are ready for rehearsal.
You are one of many on the stage that weekend so honor your band mates by being punctual. Some of them came off of 50-60 hour work weeks to serve with you. Some left a stressed out spouse trying to take care of all the kids heading into bedtime so you could come and volunteer your time. Others have labs, finals or tons of homework they really need to get back to, finally, some work the graveyard shift and are heading to work as soon as rehearsal is over. So don’t hold the train up by rolling in on whatever time is convenient for you.
5: Serve The Song
Some of the best guitarists can easily be identified by their tones. Their tone is often what the song is built around. Many guitarists want to be known for their sound, but because we are often playing covers of other people’s worship songs, we must be able to put our agenda on the back burner and play what the song needs. That would include the parts needed and the tones. Often silence can be the best part of a song or shortening or eliminating a guitar solo to prevent the congregation from moving into a watch and wait. Don’t take issue with the parts or lack of, that you are playing. They are not beneath you. If they require you to dial back your play or alter your tone to something you would not normally play, be ok with it. My second year as a worship leader, someone started me down a journey about tone. They played some of my favorite rock songs from when I was growing up. He pointed out, these songs never used as much overdrive as we thought they did. They were almost clean. But the emotion of the song made us remember them a certain way. Serve the song, not your ego.
4: Serve The Church
Depending on where you serve you may need to alter what you bring to play. Smaller churches may need you to play direct, other churches might ask you to have your amp backstage, make sure you have what you need to accommodate the church. You are serving them, and by doing so you are serving Him. Make sure you know the dress code before you show up in your Iron Man T-Shirt, Suit jacket, and Fedora. Make sure you are aware of the thickness of your sundress material before you step in front of that backlit floor stage light to sing and give everyone a different kind of show. When it comes to planning and scheduling software. Get to know it, and respond. Block out days you are not available, respond to whoever is doing the scheduling with and accept or decline. If something comes up, let people know ASAP. If you block out a date please remember that sometimes there is immense pressure on worship leaders to no lose players, so communicate enough to not violate your privacy, but enough to communicate that you are not about to quit.
3: What Ever You Do, Don’t Noodle
Stop, Look & Listen. The worship leader stops a song to make a change. And the guitar player keeps noodling. All I have to say about this is FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY….STOP PLAYING. Remember not everyone has a mic, so the worship leader may need to hear someone speaking to them off mic. Be respectful of the other players and singers on stage. Most of all, be respectful of your leader. A worship set with a stressed out worship leader is a non-functioning worship set.
2: Personal Worship Time
Sit with your acoustic guitar alone and just worship with the songs as if you were the leader. Let them sink into your spirit so you get a taste for what it will be like to be lead. I believe God will meet you and help you to better understand what will be appropriate or not when the time comes. But unless you are the leader, you still need to follow.
1: Take Time Off
Being off the stage, at church, and in the congregation when your fellow volunteers are leading you in worship is wonderful. It shows them support. It reiterates the worship values and culture of the team. It sends a very strong message to the congregation that you are also a worshipper and not just a worship leader. It also places some of the most critical listening ears in the congregation so when feedback needs to be given it is coming from someone that knows how to critically listen to a mix. Most of all it allows your team to serve you. Once we had been doing a song for months in our congregation and one weekend another worship leader did it and I was out in the congregation. It was then I realized, this song was horrible. No one could sing it, no one could catch their breath between phrases, not to mention the lyric slides trying to keep up. After a while, people quit trying and just watched the band until the song was over. It was unbelievably fun to play as a band but had I not been in the congregation when I was being led by it, I would have never gained that perspective.
Well, you might have noticed I didn’t talk about theory, inversions, chord voicings, tremolos, pedal board layouts or basic musical lingo. I am assuming if you are on a worship team, you are committed to constantly getting better. There are some great tools out there. I encourage all of you to be lifelong learners and take advantage of them. However, don't forget to be a mentor and find a mentor to journey with you down this road we are on.
Talk to you later.