We were recently at a large worship conference where the headliner worship artist flew in by himself and opted to use one of the bands that was already there leading worship. At one point in the worship set, at the high point of the song, the worship artist stepped back from the mic and nodded to the guitar player (you know, the nod that means “dude, take a solo, have fun, worship!”). The guitar player looked like a deer in headlights and didn’t know what to do. The worship leader then gave him another bigger nod of the head (thinking that he didn’t see the cue), and then it was even more awkward. It was obvious that the guitarist did not know how to improvise a solo, or how to freely express himself on his instrument.
As a musician, one of my favorite scripture passages is 1 Samuel 16:14-23, which reads:
14Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16Let our LORD command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.” 17So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.” 18One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.” 19Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul. 21David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.” 23Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
Isn’t it interesting that Saul didn’t ask for a singer? He asked for a skilled musician; someone who could play well; and it was through an instrumentalist the evil spirit was cast out. I rarely see worship services where the musicians get a chance to express their hearts of worship musically in a solo. I grew up on Deep Purple, Kansas, Journey, Boston, etc., and solos for the most part were a melodic musical statement, a language of themselves. Solos were like singing, and created intense emotion that would move people. For worship instrumentalists that don’t sing, soloing can be a form of expressing their individual worship to God. It’s their voice, as it was for David.
When I witnessed this situation at this particular worship event, I vowed to myself that I would continue to teach all of my students how to solo on their instruments so that they can have freedom of expression in worship. When the worship leader gives them the nod, they will be ready, willing, and able to express themselves for God’s glory.
If you’re a youth leader or music teacher, try giving your students this exercise while practicing this week for Sunday’s service: While playing along with the songs, have them pick out the vocal melodies by ear with their instrument. This will give them many ideas for note choices, phrasing, etc. Once they know the notes, have them try doing an answer call (a repeat), after the singer sings a line. It’s a very cool effect. This will really open their minds to soloing and will be an amazing, effective training practice tool for developing melodic solos. Then they will be able to spontaneously express their hearts of worship on your worship team.
May you be blessed as you pour into the next generation of worship leaders and musicians!