The Electric: Redial

 I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about dialing in and re-dialing your sound and settings for Sunday Morning.

Whether you’re playing Sunday Morning or at any other church service, I believe that everyone needs to dial in or re-dial their rigs and equipment for the worship service ahead.

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Think Outside The Box


One of the main reasons I started this blog is that other blogs about worship leading didn’t seem to cover the issues that I had dealt with over the years in ‘average’ churches. It makes sense. Most of the guys who put up these blogs have the time to do so because they are on staff at churches that are large enough to have a full time Worship Pastor, which generally means they are large enough to have more than one full band, and quite often have several fully staffed bands.

My background is both in large and small churches. I grew up at a church in Seattle that was around 2,500 people back in the 80’s and 90’s that (not surprisingly for Seattle) had an abundance of talented musicians (some of whom are in nationally known bands today). That church never had trouble putting a band together. Then when I was 18 in 2000 I was asked to leave Seattle and move to the UK to lead worship at a small church of 40 people. I was the only musical person in the church. Since then I’ve lead at churches of all sizes. Even at my last church which was around 800 people with a lot of musicians we often had trouble putting together a full band because of availability with work and we were sharing a lot of musicians with the youth ministry.

We can either see the challenge of staffing a full band as a problem but as an opportunity to think outside the box.

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Seasons

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven– Eccl. 3:1”

To everything there is a season the Bible tells us. What season is your church in? What seasons is the music ministry in? What season are you in?

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The Electric: Cutting Through The Mix

I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about Reverb, Reverb Pedals, and how that works in a church band.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes the sound guys don’t understand us. Sometimes the sound guys are not our friends. Sadly, sometimes the worship leader isn’t our friend either. This week I’ll want to talk about where we sit in the mix on a Sunday morning and what we can do about it. What do you do when you’re turned down so much you might as well not be on stage?

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About Capos

A Capo (short for the Italian word “capotasto”, which means head of the fretboard) is device that allows you to raise the pitch of a stringed instrument. If you put a Capo on at the 1st Fret then the key of E become the Key of F. Throw a capon on at the 4th Fret and the key of G become the key of B.

The joke is that worship leaders tend to use them so they can play “in G” no matter what key they are really playing in. There is some truth to that however. Let’s look at why Capo’s are used. What there Pros are. What their challenges are. Lastly we’ll look at what their drawbacks are.

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Monoliths

By and large a church’s expression in worship (song, art, prayer, etc) will tend to be monolithic. It has been established by the founding generation who see no reason to change things, and say “wrong if you think otherwise”. Perhaps the style of the church is controlled by a new generation who came, conquered, and put the old ones adrift on an ice berg.

Neither of these are good scenarios.

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Chasing or Challenging

Whether they know it or not most churches chase musicians and artists. They either chase after them or they chase them away.

Chasing After Artists

Have you ever heard of a church that pays a drummer from outside the church family to show up on Sundays?

How about a church that lets a guitar player stay on the worship team even after he’s left his wife and kids?

I know of examples of both of these situations. This is just my opinion but these churches seem to value “the artist” over community in the case of the drummer or people in the case of the guitar player.

I know of churches that have policies on who can be involved in the worship team but will break them without a second thought if they are a good enough musician. Imagine if we did that with the children’s ministry?

Chasing Artists Away

The flip side of the church that idolizes “the artist” is the one who shuns them. “Go be creative somewhere else,” they say. “The church isn’t the place for artistic expression” they might tell you. But they will often look down on the bass player when he joins a band that plays in the local bars or the graphic designer that falls in with a loose crowd of artists who don’t shun them.

Challenging The Artist

The goal I have is not to chase but to challenge. As the music director at my church I don’t want to chase after musicians. If I find out someone plays an instrument I’ll talk to them but I try not pressure and I don’t want to bend rules or policy due to talent.

But I also don’t want to chase them away. I want to find a place for the artists that God adds to our church family. I’d rather see them create for God’a glory in the context of our church family than outside of it.

I want to challenge our musicians and artists to be creative servants. I want to challenge them as family members to serve the same way we would a deacon or Sunday school teacher.

I will use and be thankful for the artist God gives us and I hope and pray that I challenge them rather than chase them away.

Don’t Be Afraid To Change The Song

Ever tried to learn a song and thought “this is way too high or way too low for me to sing?” Or “there are way too many chord changes for me” or something like that?

Change The Key

I’m always surprised how many worship leaders feel locked into the “original key” or the charts they got from another worship leader or Internet site.

I’m a baritone, the worship leaders at the church I grew up in were all tenors. The chords I got from them and that make up the base of my chord files are all for their range.

All songs have keys. The Majority of church songs are in G, D, E, or C. A song may be written in Bb for a singer with a high range (Phil Wickham) but most of us would need to drop it down to something singable. Also, women and men have different ranges. If you have chords from a guy worship leader and you’re a lady, you may find that a lot of the “standards” don’t work with your voice, that’s ok, just find the key that works for you. I’ve found that a lot of the songs in G that are two high for me work well in F.

Change The Chords

A lot of the older hymns or Christmas carols were written for pianos or organs with chords and chord changes that don’t work well for guitars or guitar music. Don’t be afraid to figure out what works for you and your band.

When we planted Calvary:Arlington we only had two guitar players to start. But our chords and arrangements were often for full bands from our sending church. So for a few of the songs I had to go in and change the chords and arrangements to work for something different, and as we’ve established a fuller band we’ve had to change other songs from simpler arrangements to ones that work for a larger group.

It Won’t Happen Overnight

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Getting your songs set up to work for you and your band will take time but it’s worth it in the long run. As for Christmas songs, I’m about to go start working on them in the summer so I’m not scrambling come the holidays.

The main thing is not to get locked into what worked for someone else. Be Biblical. Be Authentic. Be yourself

Random Thoughts

-If people come to hear the pastor preach, then what’s wrong with them coming to hear the band play?

-How many sermons have been preached about what “worship music is” by preachers who don’t know anything about music and who come in after the song worship is done?

-When you get up instead of sleeping in on Sunday: That is worship

-My pastor asked me to do a song I wouldn’t have picked. He doesn’t do it often and i really hated it he’d listen to my reasons, but it’s good for me to submit, especially this week where I’m feeling feisty.

-Its good to do songs you don’t like sometimes if it serves the people of God
-When you put the cash in the offering box that is often a greater acting of worship then any song you’ll sing that morning.

-Someone asked me once if the band Kutless was punk rock… They aren’t.

-We worship God with our minds when we listen to a sermon and with our whole strength when we choose to follow what the bible says.

-Read Revelation 5 as a worship service. It’s been heavy on my mind the last few days.

-if you’re the music director do you have a “direction” or just a vision for the status quo.

-I love reverb. More reverb.

No Offense But I Don’t Relate

The Reason I started this blog is that I was looking for blogs and podcasts about leading worship so that I could get better in areas I’m weak in. For me this would be admin, mostly, but I’d like to get better at team development, running practices, etc.

I found that the blogs and podcasts were not dealing with these issues or they were done by guys at a big church. There is NOTHING wrong with big churches, I grew up in a church that was around 2,000 people strong. But the reality is that leading at church of 700 or so and then planting a church that averages below 100 people, the dynamics are a lot different.

Also, a lot of the musical style and expression they were discussing was foreign to me. The expressions I found either leaned towards performance or towards a form of simplicity that was often a cover for laziness and lack of vision. In short I just didn’t relate.

I’m not trying to rag on every worship blog out there… one of the blogs that seemed to me to be from a very performance driven church taught me a lot about admin. One of the podcasts that leaned towards that rigid simplicity reminded me that I wasn’t a rock star. Both sides were used by God to bless, challenge and teach me.

I just felt that I had a perspective I could share here, and  that there might be other worship leaders like me out there who want to grow in their gifts and callings but don’t connect with the currently out there or are looking for a different perspective. I hope as I write more posts that it will be helpful to someone in some way.