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
- 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.
- 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.