That is still the question. And I know someone who knows the answer.
And so do you.
This seems to be on the forefront of every guitar player’s mind. There is something about solos that really captures the moment. It’s like there is some emotion that is building in the room being inspired by the words, the melody, and the sounds of the song that just can’t really be expressed until…
It’s like a shout in your head saying “INSERT PERFECT GUITAR SOLO HERE.” …and you hesitate.
Why? It is the same question and doubt that has been asked since the dawn of electric guitar in church: to solo? Or not to solo?
If you haven’t experienced it yet, you will: the tension between what you want to do and what you should do. It’s like a mini-Lincoln Brewster is sitting on one side of your shoulder telling you to crank it up and go for it and on the other Paul Baloche is giving you “the eye,” which strangely enough looks a lot like your worship leader’s version of “the eye.” (Just so everyone is clear, Mr. Brewster and Mr. Baloche are friends.)
To get over this you need clear communication and direction. And the person to give it to you is: (you guessed it) your worship leader.
I don’t know what it is about being worship leaders, but it only takes a couple of weeks on the job for them to get an uncanny pulse on the congregation. My guess (and my experience) is that they hear all sorts of feedback from worship services from pastors, deacons, and that one guy who has never said a nice thing in his life and whom we musicians never hear.
Here are some tips for this communication.
1. Make it clear that your motivation is service. This is scary because it totally puts you at the will of your worship leader, but that’s okay. In fact, that can be very pleasing to God and become its own expression of worship (but that’s another post). When you make it clear that your motivation is to first serve your worship leader, the song, and your congregation, it eliminates any doubt of a show-boating, self-glorifying motivation (i.e. sinful motivation).
2. Try to develop a reputation of service. If you have one, great. If you don’t than take a close look at yourself and why you are playing worship to begin with. You play with your worship leader and band every week. You can’t fake service with them. So don’t.
3. Instead of talking in terms of how “cool it would be” talk in terms of what the song needs. The song might need a ripping solo depending on the arrangement, setting, and what your worship leader is going for. The song might need a popish “anti-solo.” The song might just need the guitar to stay on the progression while the vocalists do that improvised ‘yeah’ thing. When the discussion is about what the song needs instead of what you want to do, then it isn’t a “you vs. the worship leader” discussion. Trust me; you will lose those every time.
One thing that always helps is to follow the number one rule of guitar playing: sound good.
So sound good.