As it turns out, there have been times in my life as a guitarist that I wish someone had warned me about. Things I could have done differently or should have already known that I just didn’t.
Today, in an effort to maybe help you avoid my own bumbling, here is a short list of things no one ever told me that I wish someone had!
Ok, let’s start with an easy one. So often, I have been guilty of plugging in my gear, turning everything on and just playing away. “I’m just making sure everything works”, I would tell myself.
But in worship environments that are usually very time-limited, I didn’t realize how much I was wasting other people’s time. Especially for an analog rig, you do have to make sure that everything is working, but limit yourself to just what you need to do to make noise, and value others as they’re trying to do the same. Your sound check will go more smoothly and your team will thank you.
Tune First (and often!)
This I learned from a studio session. There were two of us on the session, and before every take, the other guitarist would hit his tuner and check every string, sometimes re-tuning everything just to make sure it was correct. It seemed like an unnecessary waste of time. “Can’t he hear if he’s out of tune,” I thought, “and then if he is, we can fix it on another take?” But he wanted it to be right before we started so that as long as he played correctly, he didn’t have to go back and fix anything for something as simple as tuning. I followed his lead. In live settings, you don’t always have the luxury of tuning between every song, but if you start out in tune and check when you can, you can avoid the possibility of throwing everyone else off because you have a string out of tune. And if something does get out of whack in the context of the band, you can rest assured it probably isn’t your fault!
“Turn Down” Isn’t Character Assassination
It’s almost inevitable. If you’ve never experienced it, you just haven’t played long enough. Someday, someone is going to walk over to you and say, “Could you turn your amp down?” This is not an assault on who you are as a person. It does not call into question your character, nor should it be considered a judgment call on your tone as a guitarist. Unless you’re Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson, it’s bound to happen. There are definitely ways to handle the question that does not alienate your team or leader, and they should all be considered, especially in the context of a worship environment. I have learned I want to come in with the attitude that I am willing to do whatever it takes for the band and congregation to enjoy and fully participate in worship. This means being prepared for the question and having a solution or two in mind. And if I am stepping into a new environment where I don’t know the sound guy, I will usually preempt the question by saying, “Hey, if my amp is too loud, just let me know – I’ll be happy to figure out something that makes it easy for you to do your job!” This opens the door to an easy dialog about it and finding a solution that works for everyone.
Never. Stop. Learning.
Finally, remember that there is always room to improve your skill and knowledge base. Do read Worship Musician, do go online and watch lesson videos, do listen to things that challenge you as a musician. Don’t settle for learning only what you need to know to get by. It’s so easy to fall into a rhythm of complacency and lethargy, but our God deserves your very best, not just your average, mediocre, halfway-best. Reach, challenge yourself, ask for and accept feedback, look for ways to be better. Together, we can raise the level of our service to see God glorified in our work and in our worship of Him!