Surviving Praise and Worship Guitar

Okay, you've been asked to play for praise and worship for the first time. Now what? Maybe these ideas will help:

1. Pray that you play well and are able to check your ego at the door.

2. For a start, find a site with lyric/chord sheets and tab. Unfortunately, this will only help you if your song leader uses the same chords. Praise leaders are notorious for re-arranging songs to fit their own voice ranges (hehehehe). It's a funny little conceit offered by the position.

3. Your praise leader shouldn't expect you to "use the force" to play in front of a crowd, and, for that matter, he may not be expecting it. Remember what Paul said about doing all things decently and in order? Nicely ask your praise leader to provide you with copies of HIS lyric/chord sheets, just in case he's overlooked it or doesn't know you are uncomfortable. Ask him to rehearse. If your praise format allows it, ask for music a few days in advance.

4. Praise leaders are notorious for having a sense of timing discernable only to them. Start your adventure with a willingness to adjust meter in the middle of the measure. No kidding. Be ready and don't be embarassed if keeping a steady tempo sometimes makes you stick out. Some folks just don't understand that an instrumental ensemble typically reacts with intertia more akin to a tour bus than a sports car when it comes to curves. Oh well. Don't be surprised if musical measures, verses, and beats, spontaneously either show up or get dropped. Try to surround yourself with a little "bubble of professionalism" which allows you to adjust to anything pleasantly.

5. To quote my wise Mom, "It's better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are an idiot than open it and remove all doubt." Thus, don't be afraid to lay back and play quietly. Learn a light touch which allows you to come and go as needed. Remember, you are not performing, you are leading. Act like you know what you are doing and are comfortable, and the congregation and your fellow leaders will be more comfortable. To quote Joe Walsh, "If you just act like you know what you are doing, everybody thinks that you do." If you feel a little lost, drop back in volume, act like you are playing but don't, and try to catch up. What is it Tom Hanks said in That Thing You Do? "Smiling! Smiling! We are always smiling!"

6. Get a capo. A nice one. One which can be set with one hand. I use a Kyser. Praise music publishers are notorious for re-arranging songs to be keyboard-friendly, using E-flat, B-flat, and their cognates as keys. Of course, the result is that they are often guitar-unfriendly. The capo is your friend!

7. Learn to put on and take off your capo and change locations quickly, because praise songwriters are notorious for pulling a "Barry Manilow" (key change) before the last verse or chorus. That's a funny little emotional manipulation, isn't it?

8. Bring your own supplies (picks, spare strings, cords, pencils, etc.), even if the church offers to supply. Be like the old Boy Scouts were. In a pinch, you will be prepared.

9. Can't hear yourself, even through the monitors? You might want to consider investing in an acoustic guitar amp which has a line out for the P.A. Tuck it in close and run it just loud enough to be heard. Are you suffering through "monitor wars?" Things getting too loud and muddled on the stage? Look HERE and SUBTRACT.

10. In the book, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, for the Compleat Idiot, by John Muir, I read a most excellent quote: "Come to kindly terms with your ass (donkey), for it bears you." In this context, we are speaking of the sound mixer. The mystery is great.

11. In my experience it seems that the halls of the church are strewn with the bodies of musicians roasted, toasted, roughly handled, or burned out by supporting worship. It's funny that something which is supposed to be so positive can be so hard. Remember that in any ensemble, you are going to have at least as many opinions as you have musicians, maybe more. There will also be egos. Large ones. If it is at all possible, let others have the opinions, make the demands, show off the egos, and take the spotlight (in worship?), for where those are is where the pressure and controversy really live. Just support the effort as a service to the Lord and His body.

A Little Praise and Worship Humor