The Electric

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about leading with the electric guitar itself.

“Switching from Acoustic Guitar to Electric Guitar can be a fun adventure as a musician and artist. Seek excellence with a servant’s heart, and I’m sure that it will be a blessing to your worship team and church.” — Brian Logue

What’s the Point?

I guess my first question is why? Why are you leading with an electric guitar instead of an acoustic. Most worship leaders I’ve met started out leading on an acoustic guitar. There are a number of reasons. 1. It’s cheaper to buy an acoustic than an electric and all the gear that comes with it. 2. When a church is starting out, acoustic instruments make more sense. 3. The church wouldn’t accept an electric guitar leading before now, and various other issues and reasons.

These are all valid reasons why a worship leader started out on an acoustic guitar. I’m challenged personally that my reason for switching instruments should be equally as valid. Some one said you should “Ask Why 6 Times” before you do a major change, and I think that might be valid here.

1. Why am I switching Instruments, is it for me or to serve others? 2. Does the style of expression in my church fit this change? 3. Does the Style of Expression at my church need to change? 4. Do the musicians in the band have the skill set to make this change?  5. What are the practical realities of this change? (PA/sound system, set up time, etc) 6. What are the positive benefits of this change?

You’re questions and Why’s will probably be different depending on the situation but it’s great to ask them and feel free to chime in with you list of “Why’s”

It’s NOT the Acoustic Guitar

It sounds like I’m stating the obvious right? An electric guitar is plainly not an electric guitar Adam, we all can see that. Yet I’ve seen many a church band leader make this mistake. For whatever reason they want to lead with an electric guitar instead of their acoustic, and  so they pull out their axe, plug it in, and start strumming away. The problem with this that it often sounds awful. The tones, timbres, and range of an electric are different than an acoustic, and if we don’t recognize this fact we’ll be starting off on the wrong foot before practice even begins.

We Need to Know What We’re Doing

Before we lead worship with an electric guitar it’s probably a good idea to do some research. Blogs like this one are a great tool, also reading guitar forums to see if there are any amp settings or effects that might be helpful. A few years back I was playing bass for a worship band and the leader (who was fairly new in the role) showed up one day with his electric and didn’t know why it didn’t sound right when we were practicing. When he asked me we changed his Pick Up selection and changed his effect settings. I didn’t mind helping out but it showed that he hadn’t recognized that he was now playing a different instrument.

Personally, if I were leading by myself with an electric I would be on the clean channel of the amp, using the Neck Pick up with a little bit of reverb an maybe (just maybe) my lightest Overdrive effect.

If I were leading with the band, I would probably have the amp set the same way, but use have both Pick Ups selected, with reverb and using light to medium overdrive on some (not all) of the more up tempo songs.

In both cases a small amount of tremolo might be good for some atmosphere, especially on a slower song that has a darker or more somber feel musically.

Tone

If you switch instruments your tone will change. An acoustic guitar has a different Tone and sonic signature than an electric guitar. There is nothing wrong with that, but in recognizing it we can make adjustments for it. If there is a week with no bass player in the band I generally tell the piano player to ride the “low end” of the keys. If I’m removing certain sounds from the music by switching types of guitars, sometimes I might want to replace them with a 2nd guitar player, or a what range the piano plays in or whatever musical talent you may have a your church to accomplish such a change.

Also, having communication with the sound guys is a big help here. They’ll have to mix things a little different and so having a conversation going on already should be helpful.

The End Goal

The point of all of this is to learn how to better connect people with Jesus. Music is a great tool for us to express things that mere words could never hope to do. If you read my post on “Who the Music is Geared To” you’ll see that one week using an electric set up would work well for connecting with one crowd and I would use the acoustic the next week to connect with a different crowd with the end goal being the same: Jesus.

For further reading, here’s a link to another blogs post with a different take on the same subject: Leading With Electric

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