When worshiping with others, there is one rule that should always be present, it’s not all about you.
You are gathered with a team, a group of people privileged to lead the congregation into worship. Sure, we’re to be in one accord with one goal, but you have to do your part to get there.
First things first, read your word. Learn to worship on your own without an instrument and make your declarations of praise personal with Christ. Get to that place that you want to lead your church to. Now, your role as a guitarist, with some teams, is a pivotal role. If you’re playing leads and solos, you’re a huge factor in crafting the melody and giving a song shape. Now, this responsibility can fall on other instruments like the keys or even the drums, but for the sake of this being a guitar blog, we’re gonna focus on what you came here for!
Let’s take a song like “Hosanna” from Hillsong UNITED for an example, a very melodic guitar song with leads in almost every portion of the song. The drums kick it off with a beat for about two bars, then in comes the famous lead that we’re all familiar with. From what I’ve experienced, as soon as that the guitar lead comes in, the church knows the song and where we will be going in this time of worship. Later, we have the guitar solo, cuts through the mix with high notes and can really stir up the atmosphere in the room, as if the chorus of the song hasn’t already done so! Depending on your team, there’s also the “For Those Who Are To Come” tag. We do this from time to time and it can really elevate our praise. If you haven’t heard it, here’s a link: http://youtu.be/8h2qZ-gRNcg
Now that is a small example of a guitarists role, here is how it plays into a team on four points:
Do not show off: This is not a time to display the new riffs or scales you just learned, how loud your amp can go, or the new effects you have on your board. Your job is to gel with your team and be observant of your teammates! Where is the song going? Are we repeating a chorus? What’s the Holy Spirit doing right now? One thing I learned listening to a panel from Bethel Music, is that my job as a musician is to make the song leader look like a genius. To back him/her up 110%.
Communication: There can be so much going on as a part of a worship team on the platform. One important factor of a successful team is communication. Hand signals, number systems, an MD (music director who usually has a mic set up on stage who directs where the band is going during a song into their in ear monitors), or even just a look helps from time to time. Not knowing where you’re going in a song can easily turn into a train wreck and can cause for some seriously awkward moments. Don’t get me wrong, get lost in worship, have your moments. But don’t lose focus of the goal of leading the church into His presence.
Fun fact: My signal (when I’m leading a song that is) to build up a song is to stomp my foot so my drummer knows that the dynamic of the song is going to change. I also tend to lower the headstock of my guitar to bring the song down, and also rotate the headstock to repeat a chorus, bridge, etc. Try it out! But make sure you let your band know what your signals mean prior.
Practice: ALWAYS practice. The moment you lose consistency in practice, it will begin to show. If not, wrong notes will be heard during a live set. I’m speaking from experience. Nobody is perfect, but we can strive to be prepared at all times. Set some time aside, practice a song or two or new material the team is working on. Guarantee a prepared guitarist for your team. This also means, practice outside of your scheduled worship team practices. Don’t need to be hours on end, but at least thirty minutes a day, get some serious work done with no extra time to play around and lose focus. I recommend thirty minutes, then guitar down.
Sensitivity: This is more of a personal one. Yes, you’re playing an instrument that should be played with excellence. But you’re also a worshiper. Know when the Lord is moving and when He wants to have the team change gears in the worship set or set camp on a few bars and let Him do His work. This could be an opportunity to play some leads out of the normal song structure, know that the Lord is doing something different in the room. This is called spontaneous worship. This is something I will post about in the future. If you’re already aware of spontaneous worship but never had the opportunity to engage in it, make sure you consult with your worship leader out of common courtesy. So they are not so surprised hearing something out of structure.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in honoring your team. No doubt there will be a part two in the future. I hope this has been some great insight and I’d love to hear some stories on how you utilized some of these attributes in your team!