Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.
This week we’ll talk about being Turned Down in the Mix.
I was scrolling through a forum for electric guitar players, I stumbled across a thread for guy who play in church bands. Many of them had similar stories. They had been asked to play but where almost always non-existent in the house mix, or where never able to hear themselves in the monitors because the keyboard player or background singer complained, etc. They were men who wanted to serve and felt unable to do so.
I confess I understood where a lot of them where coming from and it inspired this post.
There were three general situations represented in that forum. I want to look at the causes and give some thoughts on responses.
1. The victims of sound men…
Their band leaders want them heard but the sound guys (for many possible reasons) don’t. I was a sound guy for many years so I know what a thankless job that is. If it all goes perfect then nobody notices, but if one little thing goes wrong it’s all their fault. Over the years I’ve been amazed how many people feel the freedom to go back and complain to the sound guys who are often only doing what they’ve been told to do.
That being said there are sound guys who see themselves as a “check” for the worship band, or who don’t get the vision for what’s going on. That can be rough, I’ve been there. This is where good, honest and open communication comes in. Talk to your band leader. Be honest, have dialogue, and maybe don’t do it during sound check before service ( 🙂 ). It’s possible that this is an issue that your worship leader is unaware of or is trying to work out already. More communication is generally a good thing.
2. We Like Guitars, kinda…
The guys who’s church wants an electric guitar player, but it’s not the emphasis… Most of the music I listen to is guitar driven, but that doesn’t mean the music your church band does is. A lot of churches are piano driven, many others have acoustic folk in their roots. The is where the “it’s not about you” or “are you here to serve?” comes into play. A lot of worship band players have been told this, especially electric guitar players. This is the situation where it really applies. Maybe you’re not up in the mix because you’re wanted to fill in the sound, but the music isn’t the music you’re used to. If you’re used to driving guitars, you may think it’s a personal thing when really it’s a sound thing.
Like I said earlier. Communication is a good thing. Communication up front to understand our role as guitar players in our church music community, and communication afterwards to head off any misunderstandings.
3. We Just Aren’t That Into You…
Then there’s the 3rd group, those who aren’t wanted… I feel for you guys. I’m not sure how you got in the church band, you may not be sure yourself, but you’re there and you feel like you might as well not be. That sucks, that really sucks.
Should you leave your church over it? Maybe and No.
No because a church should be a family. I still come to christmas dinner even though my mom insists on playing that terrible Josh Groban christmas album. (Haven’t you ever heard of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, or even Amy Grant Mom? 🙂 ) No because maybe God doesn’t want you to serve (for now) in music at church and maybe you’re supposed to teach kids in the sunday school or help mix the soundboard. Church should be a family and if you leave so quickly over this you weren’t part of the family to begin with. I you just take your amp and go else where, you may be missing out of the great things God has planned for you that you can’t see because all you can see is “your callings” as a musician.
Maybe this is a way for you to see that God is calling you somewhere else. You might that you find that the form and expression of your church doesn’t mesh with yours, and maybe that’s part of the problem in the band experience for you. For example: You come from a Pentecostal background and you’re serving/playing a baptist church, or you only play Classic Rock/John Fogerty style leads and the church you’re at is looking for something more along the lines of John Tesh. I find that a church’s style and expressions of worship and art are often linked (directly or indirectly) with it’s views towards evangelism, discipleship, community, and theology. It’s possible that something like this is God launching you out somewhere new. If that’s the case, then see the above about a church being family and leave in the light of that great truth.
These are just some thoughts. We have the great privilege of serving Jesus and His church through music and creativity, and finding our place in His service is part of our Christian journey. If you find yourself in this situation, as many of us have, know that you are not alone and this is a great chance for you to grow deeper in prayer, God’s grace, and the community God has called you to be a part of in the local church.