Have you ever showed up to rehearsal and nothing seemed to jell? It is frustrating. No matter what you do, switch guitars, tweak EQ, change voicings, you can never seem to get things to mesh right.
Worse of all, you can’t seem to get a handle on what is wrong.
When this happens, the best thing to do is to take a take a step back and take a look at the big picture. Often times the problem is that we are looking at the pedal and not seeing the pedalboard.
I like to run through a mental priority checklist to help give insight into the situation and to see if it is me or if there is something wrong.
God First. As Christians and churchgoers we can hear this a lot, but it is important not to let it become cliché. The objective and purpose of making music isn’t really music at all. The objective is to draw people closer to God, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. Worship music does this and our guitar playing and attitude has a pretty important part to play in this.
Application: Pride and ego are out of the picture. We show up to serve not to bless people with our presence, talent and really great tone (even though these are all blessings). Be willing to defer to leadership and other members of the worship team.
Song and Vocals Second. I wish this weren’t true, but Sunday morning music isn’t about our guitar playing. A lot of the music in modern worship music is guitar based.
Application: All musical elements, from stage volume, guitar solos and even delay, should be set to compliment and enhance the worship experience, not distract from it.
Tone Third. Tone should be as good as you can get it without compromising the previously mentioned priorities. The thing with tone is that it can be the difference between a good/average guitar part and a great guitar part. Good tone just makes everything we do better.
Application: Research and Experiment. Ask around on forums, in guitar shops (this will exclude Guitar Center), or with friends you have who just sound good. Searching youtube for clips of pedals or artist interviews is a great way to find tips.
Here is Andy Timmons talking about settings and sounds he uses for his BB Preamp:
Technique Fourth. If you can’t play the perfect Lincoln Brewster solo don’t worry. You can still be a very accomplished worship guitarist. Luckily for us, Hillsong and Passion riffs are quite a bit easier. You don’t have to be a virtuoso, but you do have to have solid technique.
The essential quality to master from a technical standpoint is good timing. You must be able to play a lick or riff evenly, smoothly and with expression. In other words, every note should be deliberate and have the proper dynamic (volume) applied to it.
The best way I know how to acquire this talent is through the use of the metronome. Sit in your little practice space with a metronome set to about 20 to 50 BPMs less than the original tempo of the song. Play it at that tempo until you can play it smoothly while being as relaxed as possible. Then start upping the tempo about 10 BPMs and repeat until you get to the original tempo.
Hope this helps you to keep things straight.
Keep things sharp.