This coming Sunday my good friend Colin is leading the band for our morning services. Now usually I take the opportunity to have a Sunday off and just “be” at church…something which is important to do, and something I encourage all of our musicians to do on a regular basis. But this Sunday (probably because of Easter holidays), we were really short on numbers so I became part of the band.
The songs were all familiar, (Indescribable, Happy Day, How Great is Our God, The Stand, Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here and Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)), and we had a nice little band line-up with drums, bass, guitar, keys and four of us sharing vocals duties (we were doubling up…there were only five of us in the band!).
I’m not saying I’m an accomplished player by any means, but I do know my way around a guitar, and this year especially am taking a bit more time to concentrate on different aspects of my playing. My musical background primarily was as a drummer and bass player, I kind of fell into playing guitar and leading by accident (probably wasn’t an accident…), so historically I always fiddled with the guitar but never approached it seriously. And these days, as I’m mostly leading the band on guitar, I concentrate 90% of my efforts on straight(ish) rhythm and remembering the words.
A time to Stretch
But for me this week, it was a great opportunity to stretch a bit as a guitarist. I didn’t have to lead the band, I wasn’t having to sing the tune to lead the congregation, I didn’t just have to play rhythm. My inner John Mayer could come out, I was able to play at the dusty end of the fretboard and employ much more of my pedalboard. We rocked! I didn’t even bring an acoustic to rehearsal, and I’m going full electric for Sunday!
Now I know this isn’t possible for everybody, that in some churches the band is the band, and there simply isn’t the space or opportunity to do anything other than lead/play bass/be the drummer. But where there is opportunity to play or contribute something different on a Sunday, I really encourage you to do so. We are fortunate to have several musicians in our team who can play different instruments, which we make full use of. Not only does it make putting the rotas together simpler, I also strongly believe (from my own experience) that having an understanding of different instruments makes you into a much more rounded player.
My background in drums and bass has meant my guitar playing is very rhythmic…possibly too much sometimes! And if you think of a band as a jigsaw puzzle, if you understand and or play some of the other instruments in the band, you will have a much better overview of how they fit together, and what your piece contributes. This week I was able to play the things I can’t think about when I’m leading…it’s a different challenge, and a different mindset from leading. But it was releasing, challenging, enjoyable and developed me further as a guitarist and musician.
Make an opportunity happen.
So try and make opportunities like this in your bands. If possible, don’t always lead, just be in the band. And if you’re usually “just in the band”, maybe you could lead some songs in a rehearsal and see it from the other side. Maybe you could sit in with the sound team to see what they do to make you sound great. Try a different hat. See what fits. It could all sound quite different.