The Electric: Simplicity

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 Simplicity in playing.

I love effects pedals. I have a few of them. I’d like more of them. In my free time I read blogs, forums and articles about them. But am I any good without them?

A lot of poor playing and sloppy technique can be covered by effects. It’s part of musical culture now? Can’t sing? Don’t worry, we can fix that, we have effects.

What would happen if you showed up one Sunday sans pedalboard with only your guitar and amp? Could you still do the job required?

Do you know the different sounds you can get from using the pick up selector on your guitar or adjusting your volume? What about your amp?

Maybe the next time you practice, go without the pedals and see what you can do. You may find that it stretches you as a player and that you enjoy the creativity that the simplicity enforces.

The Electric: When You Feel Unwanted

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.

Relevant Music

 

 

Relevant Not Attractional

Attractional isn’t a word. At least not according to my spell check.  It is, however, a real term; one that someone came up with to describe a certain type of church with a certain type of goal.

The Attractional church as you may have guessed has at its core the goal of attracting people to church. What people? All people, but especially the un-churched, usually with the stated goal to reach people in a way that is inviting to them.

Pastors wear causal yet hip clothes, and the worship band seems to be more of a rock show than a worship service.

You know the type. You’re friends may be part of such a church. You may be part of a church like that.

I like the heart behind such a church. I like the desire to reach the lost. I like the willingness to try new things. I like goal of doing things well.

What I don’t like though, is where I feel the attritional church misses the mark:

Jesus is what is attractional. Not a church service. Worship isn’t a concert for people, but a spiritual devotion from people for God. The band isn’t the center. The lights aren’t the center. The Hip Preacher in girl jeans isn’t the center. Jesus is the central focus.

I believe the Relevant church gets closer to that mark.

I know I’m playing in the world of semantics here, but I do believe there is a difference between Attractional and Relevant.

The Relvant church is just that. It lets the gospel do its own talking. It sees Jesus as the attraction. But it recognizes the times its in, the location its is in, the culture its in.

In the Booth’s day at the formation of the Salvation Army, brass bands were equivalent of rock ‘n roll. In the 70’s hippies got saved and the music of the church sounded a lot like Bread, America, and CSN. So in the same way, in our present day, folks pick up electric guitars and synths to praise God.

Technology changes. We went from the printing press to power point. None of these things are an end unto themselves but a method we use to point people and ourselves to Jesus.

I think the church that I’m a part of, Calvary:Arlington, is a relevant church. Especially in the area of worship music.

Consider the current worship set up.

Hymns & Modern. Country & Rock. Folk & Pop. Upbeat & Contemplative. Different leaders, different backgrounds, different styles.

Jesus is the center. Worship isn’t a concert, but the bands do strive to play well and to serve the people by providing live music for song worship in the church. Not only that, but by offering a variety of styles they include just about everyone in the church (metal and screamo kids… sorry 😉 )  A dear seasoned saint will hear the hymns she’s sung her whole life, while her granddaughter connects to the hymns through a driving beat. Then the next week her mom hears the pop music she’s accustom to, or her father hears the country sound he connects with. All for the purpose of freeing people to worship their God in a simple and straightforward way.

The goal is Jesus. To know Him and to make Him known. We aren’t attracting people to Him. We are people attracted by Him and we do church in the way normal people would. We sing songs in the music of our time. We fellowship over coffee and we use our minds as we study the bible together.

It’s not Attractional, it’s relevant and I love being a part of it.