I’ve never considered myself an “accomplished” guitarist. I’m no virtuoso, though I love guys like Eric Johnson who are, and would love to play like that at some level. But I just won’t let myself rest on the fact that I can do mostly what I hear played. And I don’t let myself slide by without working and practicing until I can do my very best.
All of this stems from a belief that I am, in any musical context, giving an offering to God, both as a worship leader or a musician in a band, doing what He’s granted me the talent and gifting to do.
As you can imagine, this didn’t really come out of a place of always doing every event well. More than once I have felt the sting of not having prepared well enough in advance to be really ready, especially for a one-off event with lots of new music. I would procrastinate with the best of us and would finally, maybe, be ready by the day of the event. Sundays were a little different story, but I haven’t always prepared well for those either! There was a season where I found myself getting my guitar out to play without having even touched it during the week! But especially over the last several years, I’ve discovered a deep desire to become the best guitarist/vocalist/musician I can be, for His sake and for His glory.
What I learned from my mistakes has helped bolster my desire to do better when given the opportunity. When I wasn’t prepared, I learned that I was teaching the sound guy not to put me in the mix. Being prepared beforehand helped him do his job better, and taught him he could count on me to execute the parts I was playing with precision. I still struggle to this day with procrastination, but I also know the reasons behind it and I know what my “preferred reality” is now, too; that of being a solid, well-prepared addition to any team.
Embracing Your Lack
When you’re young, you don’t know what you don’t know. As you learn and grow, you start to understand there is so much more that you don’t know, and that realization needs to be a catalyst for pushing you forward. My encouragement is, embrace that you don’t know everything, then do something about it! We can all keep learning and growing, and experience will teach us to be better, but we can also lean into it! Even after playing guitar for years, there are things I don’t fully understand and I want to know more. So, I challenge myself with a new piece of music or a particular style that I’m less comfortable with any chance I get to see if I can become a more skilled player today than I was yesterday.
As a magazine, our driving force is that we want to give you tools and advice to help you be “Better by Sunday.” And while this month’s column may not have as much practical info on how to build your tone or how to navigate this week’s setlist, I do believe it has a place for us as musicians. It’s too easy to excuse our procrastination and lack of drive to the place that we don’t improve, and therefore, are not giving our best offering to God musically. It’s my challenge that this week, you will strive to be more and better than you were last week when you bring a gift to God this Sunday.