Guitar: Large Worship Team


Earlier I wrote a post looking at how to play guitar in a small worship team. But what if there are many other musicians to fit in with, usually as a part of a larger church. For this scenario we will assume that there is a keyboardist, a pianist, a drummer, bass player, and maybe two guitarists, an acoustic and an electric, and a violinist to throw in for good measure. We will look at what to do for both guitars in a larger worship team. From experience, playing in larger teams is a lot more difficult, as it requires a lot more listening to make sure that you are fitting in, rather than competing over the same space.

What is your role?

What is theirs?

These questions well answer and give you a few ideas on things you can try next time you play.

Acoustic Guitar: What is my role?

In a large team, you may find yourself preferring to play acoustic sound, depending on the style and feel of the service you are playing in. Its unlikely you’ll want to play a thrash distortion on an electric guitar if the majority of your congregation are of an older generation.
If you are playing acoustic guitar, then your main role in the team is to compliment the rhythm set by the drums and the bass guitar. A tip to help keep things tight is to aim for your down strum to link in with the snare. Its important that you stay in time.
Once again, use of a capo dramatically improves your ability to play without having turn to barre chords, which are difficult to play on an acoustic. I always aim to change the “key” into G or C through use of the capo.
In turn, you may find playing arpeggios fitting for quieter times at the beginning or ends of a song. At times however, this may have been picked up by the pianist, so make sure you’re listening to where everyone else is.

Electric Guitar: What is my role?

If you are more of the electric guitar persuasion, I have a few tips. I’ve been playing the Electric guitar in morning service at our church for 3 or 4 years now.
Firstly, there are 2 effects pedals you need. One is a decent overdrive or distortion. This helps brings your guitar out to the front of the mix a bit more. I prefer overdrive as it gives you the crunch you need when you play a bit harder, but mellows out when you’re a bit softer with it.
The other effect you will want is a delay pedal. When used effectively, this can add a great amount of depth to the sound, whilst also able to bring an ethereal feeling to the sound. I use a Boss DD-7, as it allows me to tap in the tempo of the sound and matches the delay perfectly.

Your role as an electric guitarist is to add an extra layer to the sound. You don’t want to be competing with anyone. But at the same time, remember; its not all about you. As a general rule, you share the same sound space as the vocalists. So if there are vocals, the presence of the electric guitar should minimise. This could just be playing three note arpeggios in the chord, with a simple delay to fill. When there is a break in the vocals, that is when the lead switches to you. Don’t over do it. Keep to a simple riff and repeat it.
Some songs don’t require you to play lead guitar. If it is a bit more up beat, then your role is to support the rhythm section, without walking all over the acoustic guitars. Muted power chords with a bit of overdrive are a good way to add some support to the rhythm without dominating. When it gets to a chorus, nice open strums on the 1st beat of each bar adds in extra sound. Because there are a lot of instruments, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple!

What Are Their Roles?

As with any team, the drums provide the foundation and the bass guitar will lock in with them as well. The acoustic guitar, as mentioned will also slide into this role as well.
The keyboard should provide the main fill sound that fleshes out the sound. The piano should also work into this position, often providing instrumental support to melodies or introduction riffs for specific songs.
The violin will also be in the same space as the electric guitar, and so you will need to link in with them so that you don’t compete, but work together in that space.

Things to Try

Acoustic Guitar

  • As mentioned, try using a capo, up to anywhere in the range of 7th fret. Any higher and it begins to get difficult to fit your fingers in ( – but not impossible!).
  • Try using a reverb pedal or effect on the channel on the sound desk. It will fill out your sound and give your guitar much more presence.
  • Begin a song using simple arpeggios, individually picking notes of a chord in a regular pattern.

Electric Guitar

  • Learn your scales. Begin with the pentatonic box shape. This will allow you to play any song, in any key, without having to use the music at all.
  • In the box shape, find two string chords. Around the B and G, and G and D strings in the scale, there’s a cluster of double note chords that are really easy to fall back to in any song, to fade the electric guitar back into the majority of the sound.
  • Find a couple of riffs that you can use and repeat in certain songs. The congregation appreciate some familiarity as much as they appreciate something that’s a little different each time.
  • Learn some inversions, in E, A, and D shapes throughout the fretboard. I’m still learning these, but can see how they can improve one’s guitar playing.

I hope this gives you some ideas as to where you fit as a guitarist in a large worship team, and maybe give you some things to try next time you’re on stage.


Guitar: Small Worship Team


So you’re in a small worship team. There may be a keyboardist, a drummer and of course, you on guitar.

What is your role?

What is theirs?

These questions well answer and give you a few ideas on things you can try next time you play.

What is Your Role?

In a small team, you’ll no doubt want to play acoustic guitar. You’ll find that this fits with the mix a lot nicer. Your role is to play the rhythm and to do this you’ll need to lock in with the drummer. Try finding different strum patterns to master and stick with them in the song. Don’t play complicated fills or try and solo. It’s best in a small team to fill that mid range and rhythm with nice big, simple strums on open chords.
For keys that are a little more difficult to play open, such as F and B, use a capo and aim to transpose so you are playing in C or G which are easier. For instance, playing in G with capo at 4 will mean you are playing in B, and can add a nice feel and sound to your guitar.

What Are Their Roles?

In this instance, the drums provide the foundation and you will need to follow them. A basic guide is to make sure at least that your down-strum is at the same time as the drummer hits the snare drum. You’ll be surprised at how this tightens up the end sound.
The keyboard should provide the main fill sound that fleshes out the sound, and provide the additional pieces such as intro riffs or melodies.

Things to Try

  • As mentioned, try using a capo, up to anywhere in the range of 7th fret. Any higher and it begins to get difficult to fit your fingers in ( – but not impossible!).
  • Try using a reverb pedal or effect on the channel on the sound desk. It will fill out your sound and give your guitar much more presence.
  • Begin a song using simple arpeggios, individually picking notes of a chord in a regular pattern.

I hope this gives you some ideas as to where you fit as a guitarist in a small worship team, and maybe give you some things to try next time youre on stage.


Drumming With Your Team

It’s a good idea to get to know the people you are playing with. Spend time understanding what styles they like and with this knowledge you will be able to play together better. Especially the bass guitar and acoustic guitar (who holds the rythym with you).  This will help the whole team grow in confidence and the sound you create will become tight. It’s not always easy to get on with everyone, but at the end of the day, it’s all for God!

Know your role

I believe as a drummer you hold down the beat. You create the tone for the rhythm. If you start playing a rock rhythm or have a blues feel then everyone has no choice but to join you, its infectious! Obviously there are some songs where the acoustic guitar or keys will drive the rhythm and you will play straight, but generally you will be the one people will look to for the beat.  You will need to keep something strong through the songs, an underlying beat that everyone can revert to if they get lost during a song. If you change between playing 16ths and 4ths and then back again and then something different again it can confuse people, especially those who don’t have a good sense of rhythm. Some people will disagree but you also need to keep time for the team. Practice or even play with a metronome but you need to keep time steady. Again, team members will look to you for the timing of the song.


Hopefully you are wearing ear plugs or headphones when you play, if not, go and buy some now! You must protect your hearing! You will also get a clearer sound from your foldback as well, as the snare and cymbals wont sound loud and harsh. Get the sound person to put what you want in your foldback, not what anyone else wants. If you want everything in there, put everything in there. If you just want the bass, just have the bass. Its completely up to you. Try different combinations and see what works for you. I would strongly recommend putting the bass in there as that is the main instrument you need to lock in with. It’s really important to listen to what your team is playing so you can create a good atmosphere for the congregation.

Follow The Leader

Its a simple game, follow the leader, and implicating that game into your worship team should be just as easy. The leader signals to go to the bridge, you go there! But actually this is harder then it sounds sometimes. You may be playing your favourite song and all of a sudden the worship leader goes to the verse instead of the bridge and all goes out the window! You need to forget the structure of the songs. All you need to know is how to go from each part to each part. Remember, you’re not playings songs, you’re leading the congregation in worship.

RunKeeper to Keep Running

Ever since having to run the 2k run around the school each term, and multiple times during Cross Country season, I’ve actually quite enjoyed it. I still remember that I’d average about 12 minutes for that 2km.

Now that I don’t have to do it, I still enjoy a good run. This used to be in the form of a jog around the block, and I’d think nothing more of it. Don’t get the wrong idea – I don’t want anything more. I’m not inspired to run a marathon or anything. This is purely for personal enlightening. I also find that exercise helps me through the mild depression I go through every now and then.

My running was lacking something though. A jog around the block wasn’t enough. So I began to time myself. That became depressing because I’d set a fast time, and never be able to match it again. I even went as far as to plot my route out on Google Maps to work out how long it was. 2.64km to be exact.

Then I found it. Of course, it requires and iPhone, but it’s one of the first apps I install on my iPhone when I have to restore.

Run Keeper changed my running. It uses the GPS to log in my route. That calculates the distance that I have run, whilst I am running. Plug in the headphones, and Run Keeper will notify you of different updates about your pace, speed, time, and distance. You can set how regularly this occurs, by time, or by distance. You can set a play list for Run Keeper to play the music on your iPhone ( I have even set up a “Running” playlist which has songs in it of a certain BPM rate!) for you to enjoy as you run.
One of the features I adore on RunKeeper is the coaching. You can set up your own workouts, or use the workouts provided. I personally use the 20 minute easy workout, as I find anything more than 20 minutes I begin to die. But what the coaching does is sets up different paces for interval training. So for 1 minute, I run at a steady pace. Then for 1:30, I keep a slow pace. This continues until the 20 minutes is up. Couple this with the notifications every 3 minutes of my pace, distance and time.

If your’e serious about running, or even if you’re just doing it for fun or mental maintenance like I am, I would highly recommend you use RunKeeper.

500px And Why it Works

So a relatively new revelation in the online photography world is 500px. As if out of nowhere, it has appeared and taken a foot hold in the “professional” photography stage, a place once held down in monopoly by Flickr. At first I was hesitant, probably because I was upgraded to “Pro” in Flickr, and wasn’t about to pay to use 500px’s fully awesome features. But upon winning a years subscription, I began to get a little bit more involved. So here’s my thoughts on why 500px has taken such a foothold in the online world of photography.

Please take time to have a look through my 500px.com profile and my Flickr profile to see what I’m talking about.

1. Socialise: One of the most important things is making the experience social. People log in, interact, comment, favourite, like… All these things we have become used to with the likes of Facebook. 500px does this very elegantly and simply. Its very clear how to make comments, how to find and add friends, and how to build a favourites list. Flickr tried this with “Groups”. They don’t work.

2. Finding New Photos: A big part of the success of 500px is the ease it takes to browse through other’s photos. “New” photos are listed all the time, and are categorised under headings like Popular, Upcoming, and Fresh. Browsing through photos for inspiration has never been easier.

3. Look and Feel: Lets face it. Black is the new pink. I say this in relation to Flickr’s theme (which has remained unchanged since forever). 500px makes it easy to change the look and feel of your portfolio by introducing themes. All of this is important, because the end result is that the user’s photos look stunning, and people will continue to look and browse through their photos. On top of this, the general look and feel of the back end and admin area is very much following general design trends of 2010 onwards. Flickr seems to be stuck back in the nineties.

4. Trends: You can’t help but realise that part of the reason why 500px has become popular is because it is a trend at the moment. It is new and fresh and people want to try it out and utilise it as much as possible. Flickr is old hat. What it has done, it has done very well. But its like an old sportsman. They were once great, but the longer they struggle on, the less respect you have for them until they retire. Then you miss them.

5. Yahoo!: The reality is, Yahoo buying Flickr was the worst thing that happened. It became brutally annoying to sign up for a Yahoo account, and link it with your Flickr account and then have to keep on signing in because of Yahoo’s stupid 2 week login rule. Yahoo has been on the way out for a long time thanks to Google expanding their services.

There are some areas that 500px doesn’t have it over Flickr. Flickr allows you to stream photos to other websites through ATOM or RSS feeds. Obviously I’d expect 500px to begin to build this area within the next few years. All the other benefits that Flickr has is in result to the fact they they have been a monopoly in the market for so long, and so these benefits have been built. Things like the Flickr Lightroom Plugin is established, iPhone app, and WordPress plugins are all well established and work well for users. Given time however, and there’s no doubt that Flickr will start to lose its monopoly, especially when 500px begins to offer more and more of the services that Flickr currently offers.

For me: I will still continue to upload to Flickr, just as I will continue to try out 500px. At this stage, both have their benefits. I suspect however, that once 500px offers RSS feeds, WordPress plugins etc… I could see myself ditching Flickr all together and moving over to 500px permanently.

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When the People Respond

It can be frustrating. Ive seen it in a variety of churches. The team isnt always on top of their game, and the people theyre leading get into a hole. A hole when worship isnt hitting their hearts, where the norm is less than awe inspiring, and where Gods hand isnt in the worship. They listen to the songs, sing them blindly, but dont enter into worship from their hearts. But whos fault is that? See, people leading people is always going to leave you flat. And from the front, looking to the people youre leading for affirmation is going to leave you empty. People need to start following God in their worship. God-lead worship is so much more fulfilling.
When I am leading worship, it can be disheartening when the people dont respond. Maybe theyre thinking its too loud, or that the song Ive chosen is dumb, or that its going on too long. And its frustrating because all of these things are results of personal preference, rather than God-preference. Even more frustrating is that the chances are that those thoughts of what the people are thinking are completely false.
See… at the end of the day, I try to see my job as a worship leader is to provide an opportunity to worship. If people decide to use that opportunity, thats between them and God. If Im lucky, I get to use that opportunity to worship as well.
If this frustration is hitting you, remember: God is in control. He sees your heart. He sees your passion, and He has the answers. Press into Him, and He will give you the affirmation you are looking for. Press into Him and hope that He will rise up the people to respond in earnest worship.