As a guitarist, it’s easy & quite likely to have malfunctions or surprises come Sunday morning – And it’s frustrating to be troubleshooting equipment problems & frantically running around looking for a quick fix instead of preparing for the upcoming worship service.
Photograph of Sound Recording Equipment from the Division of Motion Pictures, 1941 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)
Here’s a list of things I like to have on me every Sunday morning
- Pen – I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for all musicians to have a writing utensil on them during rehearsal. It’s so important to make note of that upcoming key change or impending a capella section. Don’t be that musician.
- Staff Paper – Not a necessity for every musician, like those who don’t read music, but often I’ve had to transcribe something from a recording or from another musician to use during the service. So, to avoid the risk of forgetting the musical passage, the staff paper fixes all.
- Extra Picks – Kind of a no-brainer; however, you don’t want to find yourself bending & twisting your old university ID card in attempts break it & to turn it into a picking device. Yes… I’ve done it.
- Extra Cable – You never know when you’re going to get a short in that quarter-inch cable you’ve been using for the past 5 years. Best to keep a spare!
- Filed Sheet Music – If you serve at a smaller church, like myself, and are responsible for keeping up with your music. Invest a couple of bucks into an accordion style folder that has those alphabetized tabs – After being handed that setlist, it’s proven to prevent headaches!
- Extra Strings – Almost a no-brainer, but I’ve been nearly late to leading worship at Life Group because I had to run to Guitar Center to grab strings after breaking that high E. It’s best to keep a set handy at all times.
- Tuner – Not something I keep on me because my pedal board and acoustic guitar have one built in, but you should have access to one! Definitely have the pianist give you a reference E if you find yourself without a tuner.
- Batteries – Does any of your equipment run off these? Your pickups, wireless device, fx pedals, tuner? Better add this to the grocery list.
- Audio Recorder – For a while when I had borrowed one (from a friend…for a couple of years), I’d often bring the audio recorder to set up next to my monitor or amp for reference. While the Spirit may over come you during the service, it never hurts to check the audio recorder at home after the service for some things you can clean up in your playing.
- Extra Guitar – This is just something that I do that I thought I’d mention if you have the means. A lot of churches are made up of volunteer musicians, and often, I don’t know if I’m playing with an ensemble made up of ‘bass & drums’ or ‘acoustic guitar & djembe.’ So, it certainly makes a difference to have the option of my acoustic over my electric if need be for orchestration purposes.
- Worship – Not an item, but a way of preparing yourself. We’ve been taught to already be worshiping when we show up. Whatever that may be for you, get your heart there. Don’t forget, you’re lead worshipers; therefore, you should be worshiping first!
- Bible – Just sayin.’ For the King.
Are you a worship musician? What are some things you find essential for Sunday morning?
Leading the church when you’re short of a full band
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I think more times than not – I’ve been in praise in worship bands that are missing at least one key instrument on Sunday morning. And if you’re a worship musician, you’re like “c’mon.. really?” – And if you’re the worship leader, you’re simply doing the best with what you have to work with while secretly hoping Animal will walk through the sanctuary doors to play drums for you because your band seriously lacks charisma too.
In a situation like this, the most important thing to do is keep your focus on the Lord – for both your benefit and the congregation’s – you really should not portray anything but the unhindered worship of God.
Guitar and/or Piano, Bass, & Drums is typically your normal core ensemble; however, things can get tricky with contemporary worship when you’re missing one or more of these
Here’s some tips for various scenarios your worship band may be in
- Guitar and/or Piano, & Bass – If you’re missing a drummer, my biggest suggestion is to keep things rhythmically simple. This can be best conveyed through the bass playing straight quarter, half, and whole notes. The guitar/piano have a bit more freedom in rhythm, but because there isn’t any percussion, the bass has a new role in helping keep that pulse there.
- Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric), Bass – Definitely the most dreaded – the “rock band without a drummer.” As above, the bassist has the job of keeping that pulse there – quarters, halves, and whole notes are you palette. The acoustic guitar work doesn’t have to change that much – simplicity is gold. I might also suggest keeping your chord voicings to the standard open chords when possible – You’re using all six strings and keeping the texture full this way. The electric guitar should stay away from distortion as much as humanly possible. Depending on the harmonic rhythm (how often the chords are changing), you may be able to supply some higher atmospheric chords through the use of appropriate amounts of reverb, delay, and/or slow phaser. If you’re playing a hymn or anything that has very quick chord changes, do stay away from the reverbs & delays – Your best bet here is to play higher voicings of what the acoustic guitar is playing – otherwise, things will get real muddy real quick.
- Guitar, Piano, & Drums – While you have a bit more freedom rhythmically all around, the pianist may want to play lower on the piano than usual as to keep the sound full in the absence of a bassist. This is really not a bad ensemble situation to be in. Be sure to communicate well with each other – there’s a lot you can do dynamically here.
- Guitar (acoustic), Guitar (electric), Drums – I’d most likely suggest here that you keep the acoustic guitar to the full open chords – the acoustic is as much bass foundation as you’ll likely get here. The electric guitar should keep things relatively simple – higher voiced chords if clean; long swells & single notes with delay/reverb with a light creamy distortion work well too. For drums – if you’re playing a kit – simple is the theme of this post so let’s stick with that; however, if you have a djembe available, go with it & perhaps a shaker. These work incredibly well together and provide an organic & intimate feel to worship.
Of course, these are all simply suggestions & wisdom from my years of playing in praise & worship bands. The above are the most common scenarios I’ve run into – Be creative with whatever comes your way and make the best of it – It’s worship, after all.