A Beginner’s Guide To Leading Worship On Electric Guitar

You probably lead worship from an acoustic guitar. That’s a good thing. Acoustic guitars are basically reliable, there’s almost nothing to fiddle with, they’re capable of quite a wide range of sounds just by changing how you play. Acoustic guitars are the best when you weren’t good enough at the piano to lead worship from it.

But the acoustic guitar looks to be taking a back seat as more and more worship albums are made less by leaders and more by bands. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can lead to some interesting sound issues and technical problems that can be avoided by making the transition easy for everybody.

Get an amp that you trust

You want your rig to be reliable as all get out. I’ve had big problems happen in the middle of worship and it’s more stress added to a time when I’m already trying to make sure I get my words right and don’t say an accidental heresy.

Honestly, get a Roland Cube. The biggest one you can afford. They’re inexpensive, they sound amazing, and they have a direct out which will make life easier for your sound guy. Not only that, because they’re solid state, they sound the same no matter what volume you use[1].

Don’t get a bunch of pedals

While you’re leading, you need to have as little distraction as possible. Pedals are a distraction. And they’re mostly unnecessary if you’re the one leading. If you have to have pedals, keep it simple. Three or four max. Don’t be The Mars Volta or Slowdive.

Don’t choose a really clean sound

This is the second-best advice in this whole 500-word guide to leading worship with an electric guitar. Why shouldn’t you use a really clean tone as your base tone? Because expression. The big thing you lose with a really clean tone is the ability to change how it feels just by changing how you play.

When you use a tone that has a bit of dirt, then you end up with the ability to clean up the tone by playing lighter and you can emphasize parts of a song by playing heavier. This will help you translate a lot of your quirks on the acoustic over to the electric.

Some additional thoughts

Don’t fight your sound guy. Seriously, it will only bring tension and division and that has no place in the church. Keep your amp volume as low as you can handle it. The voices are the most important thing. The congregation needs to hear your voice and you really need to hear theirs. Corporate worship is about worshipping together. You’re there to lift up many voices as one church to the glory of the Lord. It isn’t about showmanship or even performance. It’s always, only, ever about Jesus.

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  1. There are some people who will argue this with you and me. Just ignore it. We’re leading worship, not playing for a room full of fans.  ↩
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Fingerpicking

I’m somewhat proud of my fingerpicking abilities as a guitarist. This is mostly due to the fact that I can Travis pick. Getting to where I am now with it took years of practice and really bad music-making.

But I cannot do anything even remotely close to this yet:

There is a movement in her playing that I can do if I’m not singing. Add singing in and something bad is going to happen.