Do you remember the day you knew? For me, it was a Christian band in concert; the first of my teenage life. It was epic. A great singer, an excellent band, and a fantastic show made for one life-changing night. That’s when I knew I wanted to play guitar.
What was it for you?
Regardless of where or when, something sparked that first desire to play guitar. And whether you realized it or not, that spark probably also gave you a target, a desired outcome that led you in a specific direction.
In your head, it probably sounded like, “I want to play like that guy!”
For many of us, wanting to play like “that guy” turned into, “I want to sound like me!” But how does that happen?
[If you are reading this and thinking, “hold on… didn’t you just say that creativity wasn’t allowed in church/worship guitar? And now you’re telling me I need to find my unique voice?”
From some of the feedback we received, it seems I might have been misunderstood in my previous article about parts and creativity in our regular worship environments. Learning the original parts is where we discover the musical tendencies of the players who influence the music we play. And as we learn parts, we can, in turn, find things of theirs to both make our own and to use to forge new ground.
Creativity, in the sense of how you approach your particular worship environment, has to be a part of things if you have a unique situation (for instance, if your whole worship team is a pianist and a guitarist). However, knowing the original parts when your context is more typical can help you and your team to perform the songs you are playing more consistently.]
Identify Your Influences
We are all standing on the backs of those who have gone before us. Whether you learned that Stairway riff or not, we all started with something we wanted to play. It’s a good exercise to identify those early influences and glean anything you can from them, especially if it’s been awhile. And if your inspiration is someone more recent, do your research and find out who their influences are. This will not only remind you of where you started, but will also help you see how far you may have already come. And it will help you appropriate those particular influences when you need them.
Commit To The Process
Once you have recognized your influences, it’s easy to get complacent and stay there. But finding your voice is also about a commitment to keep working. Honing, experimenting, and re-evaluating are all part of the process. In the digital world, it means finding the building blocks you like, but not using a preset. In the analog world, it may mean swapping out pedals or rebuilding your pedalboard entirely to find something that is uniquely you.
Once you’ve identified your unique voice, it can be easy to impose that voice on the world around you. Resist the urge! One of the most individual worship guitar voices I know is James Duke, but when he is asked to play at his home church, he is still being himself but in the context of that worship environment. Consider your context and play into that space. For instance, if your preferred voice is Joe Satriani-like, that may work for some worship environments, but it’s possible it won’t work all the time. Choose where and when to employ it.
By God’s hand, we are all uncommon. Innately different, wonderfully made by His great power. Finding your unique voice is part of figuring out what God has built into you and discovering an avenue to use those gifts for His glory.