The Electric: Less is More

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 Isolating Your Guitar Amplifier.

Less Is More.

When it comes to playing music in general, less is often more. When it comes to playing 2nd guitar in a church band. Less is almost ALWAYS more.

The reality is that this post could apply to both electric and acoustic guitar. The idea of 1st or 2nd anything comes from an orchestra, where if you have 3 violins you have the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd chairs. Usually, in a church worship band the rhythm guitar is the 1st guitar, then you could have a 2nd guitar (lead guitar) or a 2nd acoustic and lead guitar (electric).

How does “less is more” apply here? Well, if you have two acoustic guitars and an electric do you really need all three doing the same thing? Most church bands are either driven by the leader playing a piano/keyboard or a guitar. The leader will be doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. Our job in that 2nd guitar roll is fill in the sound. If the 1st guitar is strumming a lot, then I’m going to strum less. If we are playing in E and he or she isn’t using a Capo, then I’m going to throw a capo on 2nd fret and play in D.

If I’m the 2nd guitar and the 1st is playing rhythm then I’ll strum whole note chords, pick a little etc, but if I’m the 3rd guy in the mix then I’ll probably play even less.

The More Effects, the Less I Play

I have 9 pedals on my board, 8 of them can affect the sound (The other is a tuning pedal). The more pedals I have switched on, the less I play. This a mistake that is pretty common for younger players and one that I made for a long time. If you play the same with effects on as you do with a “clean” signal it’s not going to sound muddy.

If my delay is on then that means my guitar will now produce more sounds then I’m actually playing, this needs to be taken into account. If my tremolo is on a slower setting and I strum at a faster tempo it will sound discordant.

Learning restraint with effects is one of the greatest skills a musician can master.

When in Doubt, Don’t Play

This is easier said than done. One of my mantras is that “the hardest thing for a musician to do is not play their instrument”. This is true for me as much as anyone. I lead 80% of the time at Calvary:Arlington, but when I don’t I often find myself playing electric. It is really hard to not play. I’ll be posting a thought on dynamics in the coming weeks which applies here, but not only that, when you don’t play, the notes you do play become that much more

This Isn’t a Rock Concert

I hear this every so often, and in reality there are churches where it feels like worship has been turned into a performance. But often I hear this from people who, in my opinion, wrongly associate simplicity with holiness. This is a whole post unto itself but the short version is that I disagree. I want to get better at what I do. I want to be able to serve Jesus and His church better through my music. I want to encourage people to do the same. We aren’t a rock concert, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know how to rock.

Disagree? Have a different take? Lets talk, chime in with a comment.